Much as I dont

Much as I don’t want to run out into the middle of the highway with a blindfold on, I think I must on the matter of the Marc Rich pardon.

Like so many other episodes in the Clinton saga, the profound folly of the ex-president’s original action is quickly buried in a heap of sanctimonious outrage and over-statement about it.

The driving story today is Bill Clinton’s New York Times Op-Ed defending the Rich pardon. The column has already unleashed yet another mini-blow-up – this over the former president’s statement that

the case for the pardons was reviewed and advocated not only by my former White House counsel Jack Quinn but also by three distinguished Republican attorneys: Leonard Garment, a former Nixon White House official; William Bradford Reynolds, a former high-ranking official in the Reagan Justice Department; and Lewis Libby, now Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff.

Referencing Jill Abramson’s article in today’s New York Times, my friend Mickey Kaus, calls this an “apparent astonishing lie.” And Kaus is hardly the only one saying this — just the easiest to link to.

Well, let’s start with Libby. We’ll get to Len Garment (“I don’t know why he did it, but I think Clinton did the right thing.“) and Brad Reynolds later.

Tom Brokaw, NBC Nightly News, on January 29th : “Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff,

Lewis Libby, also once represented Rich and also tried to

arrange a pardon for him during that time…”

On February 5th The New Yorker wrote that Libby had been one of the “most aggressive lawyers” seeking clemency for Rich and continued to work on his behalf until taking his new job at the White House.

As the New York Daily News blurbed the New Yorker story:

Mary Matalin, Cheney’s communications director, said when asked about Libby’s role in seeking a Rich pardon: “He was part of the team that represented Rich, but I don’t think he wants to talk about the particulars of the case. We’re moving forward, not looking back.”

We’ll talk later about the accuracy of the former president’s statement. But can repeating an undisputed statement in the public record be an “astonishing lie”?