Today at the White House press briefing, I got into a somewhat heated (on my part) dispute with John Gizzi, political editor of the right wing web magazine HumanEvents.com. It happened like this…
Earlier in the briefing, the press was asking Tony Snow some pretty good questions about Bush’s commutation yesterday of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence. Questions like (this is a paraphrase): “What is it about this particular case that makes it so special that the president commuted the sentence without Libby even petitioning for a commutation, when there are 3,000 actual requests for commutation currently languishing at the Justice Department?” Tony’s (paraphrased) answer: “This case is just really, really special.” However, I was puzzled that all the reporters were referring only to Libby’s perjury convictions, and not to his conviction for obstruction of justice. So when Tony called on me, I asked:
Won’t this encourage other members of his administration to obstruct justice?”
I got another chance, though, later on, during the following exchange:
Reporter: But is even one day in prison excessive for this kind of a crime, when people have spent time in prison…
Tony: This crime. Not this kind of crime, but this crime.
Reporter: Why not some jail time served?
Tony: Tell me why.
Reporter: I’m asking you.
Me: To deter future obstruction of justice. He was convicted of obstruction of justice.
Another reporter: For lying.
Gizzi: (sitting next to me) He was convicted of perjury.
Me: (appealing to the audience) Am I right? He was convicted of obstruction of justice!
Other reporters: (silence)
I had a little more back and forth with Gizzi in private. He said he was sure that Libby had not been convicted of obstruction of justice. I didn’t know yet who he was, and when I looked at his press badge to get his name, Gizzi gave me his card. I’ve just emailed him this link from, you guessed it, humanevents.com.
As I left the White House, two members of the Pink Police were standing on the sidewalk outside the gate, shouting into bullhorns:
Georgie Porgie’s soft on crime.
Scooter Libby should be doing time.
For he’s a jolly good felon,
For he’s a jolly good felon…
Update: Here’s the White House transcript for the above exchange. My lines are in bold:
Q One day is too much for this particular crime?
MR. SNOW: The President decided that it was too much for this one.
Q Why not some jail time served, as was —
MR. SNOW: Tell me why.
Q I’m asking you.
MR. SNOW: No, it sounds to me like —
Q — obstruction of justice, is why —
MR. SNOW: You don’t think —
Q — convicted of obstruction of justice.
Q For lying, perjury.
Q He was convicted of — am I right? He was convicted of obstruction of justice.
Q He was convicted of perjury. He lied about leaking.
MR. SNOW: — running high in the press room today.