Clemency for Libby

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.

9 thoughts on “Clemency for Libby”

  1. The Court of Appeals didn’t reject Libby’s appeal, it just refused to delay execution of sentence pending resolution of the appeal. By commuting the prison sentence instead of pardoning Libby, W leaves the appeal of the conviction intact. With a pardon, the appellate court would probably have mooted out the appeal. Now Libby has the opportunity to win a reversal.

  2. Thanks for the explanation, Bill. I hope Libby’s conviction is overturned. But why did Bush have to honor the corrupt prosecutorial process by citing Libby’s supposedly serious offenses? That’s what I don’t like about this whole thing. Allowing Libby’s prosecution was an act of executive weakness; so is Bush’s solemn acceptance of the verdict without even raising a quibble about the prosecutor’s corruption.

  3. Jonathan,
    Your feelings of happiness do not explain why Libby should have been pardoned? They only share the affect of said pardon. What are your thoughts — or have they been posted elsewhere for me to read. Thanks.

  4. Had President Bush not cited Libby’s offense, what justification would he have had to not grant a full pardon? Libby can only clear his reputation with a reversal and Bush’s measure grants him that. To say that Bush erred, you would have to create some sort of alternate scenario that would have preserved Libby’s ability to pursue a reversal in a better way.

    I can’t think of one. Can anybody else?

  5. Bush erred by acquiescing to the appointment of a special prosecutor as a political palliative. He erred again by not firing the prosecutor when the prosecutor went on a fishing expedition after not finding any prosecutable leaks.

    Libby should not have been prosecuted. And he should not have been convicted, since the only evidence of perjury — discrepancy of recollections between Libby and another witness on a minor point — was extremely weak, and the judge arbitrarily excluded expert testimony on the limitations of memory.

    The case was a charade from beginning to end. To say that Libby needs a reversal from an appeals court to clear his name is to give the judicial process here too much credit. It is also to expect too much from an appeals court whose scope of consideration cannot extend to the political context in which Bush foolishly allowed his Justice Department to make a foolish decision to appoint a special prosecutor. This case was a miscarriage of justice for which the President’s pardon power is an appropriate remedy.

  6. Let the word go forth: if you perjure yourself to cover for a VP or a president, go right ahead because you will get off free (Bush will I believe give a full pardon)…don’t worry about ethics or morals; you will have the power of the White House to make sure you can do whatever illegal thing you must do for your boss or bosses.

  7. Jonathan,
    ->Libby should not have been prosecuted.
    The Grand Jury thought differently.

    ->And he should not have been convicted
    A jury of his peers thought differently.

    ->The case was a charade from beginning to end.
    Yes, it was – Libby was the one whose behavior was insincere and intended to deceive from the very beginning giving false statements to the initial FBI investigation before Fitzpatrick’s time till the very end.

    ->a miscarriage of justice
    Mr. Bush’s commutation was a miscarriage of justice.
    He did not allow the judicial process to play itself out, as he promised he would do. Instead, he became judge and jury, determining that the sentence was too “harsh” and disregarding the jury’s decision. He acted above the law, a law which was passed by the Republican congress to promote a tough law and order stance against white collar crime. He could have allowed the process to play itself out through the appeals court. Just like it would have to do for you or me and 99% of all other Americans.

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