I’m happy to hear that President Bush has commuted Lewis Libby’s prison sentence.
However, I don’t understand why Bush didn’t grant Libby a full pardon.
Bush cited the harshness of Libby’s sentence — and it was indeed harsh — as his rationale. But in this case the flaws in the sentencing pale in comparison to the much greater flaws in the decision to prosecute Libby in the first place. That is why Bush should have pardoned him.
Bush will now be blamed by his political opponents for giving Libby special treatment. Meanwhile, by paying lip service to the notion (or perhaps he is sincere in this belief, which would make him appear naive to the point of foolishness) that Libby committed a serious crime, he effectively bolsters the Democrats’ argument. By splitting the difference, Bush appears to be acting from expediency, denies Libby the full support that he is due, and will pay the same or greater political price as if he had pardoned Libby outright.
Also, unless his conviction is overturned on appeal, Libby will still have to pay a fine and serve two years’ probation, and will have a felony record that may prevent him from practicing law again. And all this for doing what — remembering a long-ago conversation differently than someone else did?
This outcome is vastly better for Libby and his family than prison would have been, but it still seems incomplete.
UPDATE: Not everyone agrees with me. See the discussion in the comments.