Friday, July 13, 2007

Why Scooter's pardon matters

I've been following some of the commentary following the Prez's decision to overturn Scooter Libby's prison term for perjury. I don't think a lot of people grasp what this is actually about. All politics aside, a lot of our legal system is based on the concept that people don't lie under oath -- that when someone promises to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, that we can then believe what they say. This is really a pretty naive foundation upon which to base a justice system, but it has generally worked so far. As a practical matter, our justice system works to exactly the extent that people trust it and believe in it. And this faith tends to collapse when people stop believing in the concept of honesty under oath.

The President, in explaining his action, said that he felt the 30-month prison term was unnecessarily harsh punishment. But perjury needs to be punished harshly. Perjury should be one of the most harshly-punished crimes, because it not only breaks the law, it violates the fundamental trust upon which our legal system rests. And nobody seems to be talking about this. At its root, perjury has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with faith in the system. And this faith must be maintained for the system to continue to function.

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