WASHINGTON — Call it "Six Degrees of Political Separation" or "the Kevin Bacon Game Goes to Washington."
President Bush's commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence highlights some interesting connections between Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, a former fugitive from justice, an ex-president and two leading 2008 White House hopefuls.
Before entering government, Libby was a private attorney who represented billionaire international commodities trader Marc Rich. Rich was indicted in 1983 by then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani on charges of tax evasion and illegal dealing with Iran during the American hostage crisis.
Rich fled to Switzerland. He also occupied a spot on the FBI's Most Wanted List for many years.
Giuliani, former mayor of New York, is now a leading Republican presidential candidate. He endorsed Bush's decision to spare Libby jail time even though he'd tried to put Libby's client behind bars.
"After evaluating the facts, the president came to a reasonable decision, and I believe the decision was correct," Giuliani said in a written statement Monday evening.
Rich's fugitive days ended when President Bill Clinton pardoned him in January 2001, a move that prompted a congratulatory call from Libby to Rich. The pardon raised questions about whether large donations to the Democratic Party and the Clinton Library by Rich's former wife, Denise, had anything to do with the pardon.
Clinton, of course, is married to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who is the Democratic front-runner for the White House. She blasted Bush's decision on Libby, leaving out any mention of Libby's connection to Rich — or Rich at all, for that matter.
"This commutation sends the clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice," she said in a written statement Monday night.