Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Libby's Free Pass
Yesterday George W. Bush commuted the prison sentence of I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby without him having served a day in jail. He did it without consulting the Justice Department in violation of strict guidelines that he had loudly trumpeted on entering office in the wake of Bill Clinton's highly scandalous pardon of fugitive billionaire Marc Rich on his way out the door. I think a reduction in his sentence was justified. In fairness the prisons sentence was extreme and seemed to ignore a number of extenuating and mitigating circumstances. Thus I would have been ok if it was reduced to say one year. However, I would feel a little better about it if it came from someone who had not firmly established the reputation for being among the most unforgiving presidents in history.
Bush has issued fewer pardons (a little over 100) and commutations (only 3) than any president in modern history. Per capita he holds the record for the fewest. His administration has consistently demanded that US Attorneys seek maximum sentences in all criminal prosecutions irregardless of extenuating circumstances, and that Federal Judges stick to the sentencing guidelines which Republicans crafted with a lock em up and throw the key away mentality. Those sentencing guidelines were scrupulously adhered to in Mr. Libby's case. All of which causes me to ask, was this a case of helping out a buddy or was it a case of buying someone’s silence? Neither appeals to me. Based on his record I am not inclined to accept that this was just George’s humane nature shining through. How does one square this sudden act of mercy with Bush’s extreme reluctance to use the clemency powers of his office?