The Corner

Perjury and Consistency

Rod Dreher suggests (seconded by Mark Shea) that conservatives who think Libby should go free because there was no “underlying crime” are guilty of inconsistency, since they accepted no such excuse in the case of Bill Clinton. I think Dreher is right. But plenty of conservatives* have argued for a pardon for Libby without claiming that perjury is no big deal. They argue either that the jury got it wrong, or that it was not allowed to consider all the factors that militated in Libby’s favor. One can consistently regard Clinton’s admitted perjury as an offense while thinking that Libby didn’t commit perjury.


* UPDATE: Want examples? NR’s editorial argues that Libby should be pardoned on the theory that the jury didn’t see all the evidence that he didn’t lie. It doesn’t at any point make light of perjury based on its subject matter. The Journal’s editorial doesn’t address this point head-on, but seems to take the view that Libby wasn’t dishonest–not that his dishonesty would have been excusable. Tom Sowell argues for reasonable doubt on perjury. Charles Krauthammer makes a mixture of both arguments. That said, it is also true that many people are, at least in passing, making the it-wouldn’t-have-been-a-big-deal-if-he-lied argument, which is why Dreher’s remark was right and worth passing on.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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