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July 03, 2007

Bush and Tucker

"Even as he publicly declined to comment on the case," reports The New York Times, "Mr. Bush had privately told his aides that he believed Mr. Libby’s sentence, to 30 months in prison, was too harsh."

As we discuss Bush's acute empathy for poor Scooter Libby, I also want to remind folks of George W. Bush's callous mockery of Karla Faye Tucker -- a women condemned to death for a grisly murder, but who'd found God in prison, married her chaplain, and reformed herself as fully as anyone could have asked. This religious conversion should have been especially poignant to Bush, a born-again evangelical who believes in God's saving grace. He certainly hid his empathy well. From a 2000 Talk magazine profile of the President:

While driving back from the speech later that day, Bush mentions Karla Faye Tucker, a double murderer who was executed in Texas last year. In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. 'Did you meet with any of them?' I ask.

Bush whips around and stares at me. 'No, I didn't meet with any of them,' he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. 'I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' 'What was her answer?' I wonder.

'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill me.'

I must look shocked -- ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel, even for someone as militantly anticrime as Bush -- because he immediately stops smirking.

'It's tough stuff,' Bush says, suddenly somber, 'but my job is to enforce the law.'

A reporter should ask Bush when his job ceased being to enforce the law and became second-guessing it.

July 3, 2007 | Permalink


Wait. She married the prison chaplain? I'd heard the story about Bush's reaction to "please, don't kill me," but I hadn't known that detail about Tucker. That's not kosher, no pun intended. I don't think decisions of the heart of whatever you want to call them should be above examination and criticism, but even if they are, don't prisons have policies about staff and volunteers getting so close to prisoners?

This might as well be off-topic. It doesn't have anything to do with the merits of either Karla Faye Tucker's situation or I. Lewis Libby's. Just one bit of weird trivia about the place of religion in our culture, I guess.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jul 3, 2007 10:40:53 AM

I'm starting not to care for this Bush fella.

Posted by: Jason | Jul 3, 2007 12:17:36 PM

Her reform, if real, was good for her whether or not she was executed. (Is this an example of the death penalty working?) (Too flip?)

I can only imagine what you might (would) say if he spared a fellow born-again Christian.

Posted by: slickdpdx | Jul 3, 2007 12:25:01 PM

Scott Lemieux made the same point as you, slickdpdx.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jul 3, 2007 1:23:34 PM

A reporter should ask Bush when his job ceased being to enforce the law and became second-guessing it.

A reporter might not ask out of fear of being perceived as liberal and hence biased (working the refs has worked out quite well for the right, eh?). However, why aren't our Democratic leaders asking this question?

Instead you have Sen. Reid going on the radio and accusing Bush of being nice to people in his administration and of going outside the bounds of reason with a pardon. Reid's practically setting up the GOP spin machine: "Bush is protective of his own just like he's protective of the US ... and a strong leader sometimes has to just get things done ..." etc.

Leadership is in large part about communicating to people to where you want to lead them. Why is our Dem. "leadership" so bad at doing this?

Posted by: DAS | Jul 3, 2007 1:51:29 PM

I can think of some reasons why Democrats might not be pushing too hard on this...

Posted by: slickdpdx | Jul 3, 2007 2:04:44 PM

A reporter should ask Bush when his job ceased being to enforce the law and became second-guessing it.

The clash with his past statements and acts has been pointed out in the press, and is the most obviously indefensible aspect of this. It's wrong for other reasons too, but they're easier to defend than this point, given his past.

I can think of some reasons why Democrats might not be pushing too hard on this...

I wonder how hard H. Clinton will press it.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 3, 2007 2:30:45 PM

And that Talk piece was written by Tucker Carlson, whose daddy Richard led the Free Poor Scooter fund. Small world.

Anyway, Sister Helen Prejean's NYRB piece on Bush as Texas death-dealer is a worthwhile read, not least because it calls attention to Abu Gonzales' role in making it easy for Bush to sign off on some lovely state-sponsored killing:

To make sure that he never had to examine death sentences seriously, Governor Bush used a legal tactic similar to the one used by the US Supreme Court to block death row petitioners' access to constitutional claims. He restricted the standard for clemency so severely that no petitioner could qualify. He stated that since the courts had "thoroughly examined" every obscure detail of a death row petitioner's claims and found no grounds for injustice, it was not his place to "second-guess" the courts.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Jul 3, 2007 3:10:49 PM

I'm proud to report that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an example of real journalism today. There's a front page banner headline: "Scooter Skates," over 2 of Bush' previous quotes about the importance of respecting the legal system and (I think) about how he wanted to know who had outed a CIA agent. For some reason, this display is not on the website, but it's a fine showing of Bush' hypocrisy and malevolence on this issue, and I loved it.

Posted by: beckya57 | Jul 3, 2007 5:24:04 PM

Given the high value Bush places on loyalty, and how he increasingly seems to equate loyalty with propping up his delusions and protecting him from reality and the consequences of his action, Bush probably identifies with loyal staff members as an extension of himself, since they work just as hard at keeping reality at bay, and deflecting responsibility and projecting the inevitable anxiety created by the administration's policies.

Libby's conviction was as intolerable for Bush as having to own up to any mistakes of missteps in office. Just as much as he has to keep convincing himself that he "made the right choice for America" staff who function as extensions of him have to be shielded in much the same way Bush has been all of his life. Else, the delusions topple like dominoes.

Posted by: Terrance | Jul 4, 2007 5:29:08 PM

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