The quality of mercy

From the Bard’s The Merchant of Venice, when Portia speaks to Shylock in Act IV, Scene I:

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

Mercy is one of our Lord’s pre-eminent virtues, and, as Shakespeare wrote, His mercy does indeed “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.” Mercy in a man’s heart is a gift from God, and, although God will also judge us using His enduring standards, He will always show us mercy while so doing.

All this is preamble to what has been bothering me about the Scooter Libby prosecution, trial, conviction, and sentencing. And now it looks as though Mr. Libby will be denied his freedom while he appeals; the trial judge just doesn’t seem to think that allowing the clearly dangerous felon to remain free (hmm, can’t find the HTML sarcasm tags…).

Let’s be brutally honest here: Scooter Libby lied under oath; he was prosecuted; he was convicted. He shouldn’t be exonerated of guilt because he did what he did in a noble cause, and against some fairly slimy characters (Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame). Fair enough; that there was no underlying crime does not change this. Neither, however, is it justice. And most certainly it is not mercy.

Mr.Libby was prosecuted by an overly-zealous prosecutor who appeared to be out to score political points; he was handed a Draconian sentence by a judge who seems to lack a shred of decency or mercy.

Is Scooter Libby guilty? Yes. As for punishment, he has already suffered financial loss in defending himself against the excesses of the state; he has suffered the embarrassment of conviction and the likelihood of his ever holding high appointed or elected office again. In short, he is now a convicted felon. Enough is enough.

Since the judge lacks mercy, President Bush should commute the sentence. No, not pardon him. Just apply some Christian mercy. Mr. Bush can call it something else; perhaps Shakespearian mercy…


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