President Bush commuted Scooter Libby’s prison term, leaving in place a large fine and the conviction itself. I agree with Ed Morrissey and disagree with Paul Mirengoff: this gesture was neither useful nor appropriate.
Either Mr. Libby’s conviction or sentence was incorrect, or it was not. If it was, the appropriate response was to clear Mr. Libby’s name. If not, then the conviction should stand.
Many people might be said to have been punished disproportionately or inequitably. That’s because judges have authority to issue sentences that are just in their eyes. While I understand that the appeals process is long, that Mr. Libby is not a public danger, and so on, I have no powerful guardian, and if I committed perjury, I would pay the fine and serve the time. Sentences, even arguably excessive ones, are up to judges, except (I submit) in extraordinary circumstances that lead to a pardon or commutation.
The president appears to have exercised his legal right to commute Mr. Libby’s sentence not to right an injustice or protect the Union, but to do a favor for a friend. President Bush can pardon whomever he likes, but this case creates an appearance of unwarranted privilege that is far from helpful in today’s political climate.