'We Now Know Full Well What [Bush's] Beliefs Are'--Libby Gets Clemency

Monday, July 02, 2007 at 08:31 PM

"We now know full well what his beliefs are" is what Andrew Sullivan wrote about President Bush in his The Daily Dish blog about the President's decision today to commute Scooter Libby's entire prison sentence.

That's right, no jail time at all, though he still has to pay the fines and serve his probation. The news of the sentence commutation was, not surprisingly, released toward the end of the day today, not long after Libby's request for bail, which would have delayed the start of his prison term pending his appeal, was dismissed by a federal appeals court.

Here's the text of the official clemency order, posted on the White House web site:

Grant of Executive Clemency

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

WHEREAS Lewis Libby was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in the case United States v. Libby, Crim. No. 05-394 (RBW), for which a sentence of 30 months' imprisonment, 2 years' supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and a special assessment of $400 was imposed on June 22, 2007;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, pursuant to my powers under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, do hereby commute the prison terms imposed by the sentence upon the said Lewis Libby to expire immediately, leaving intact and in effect the two-year term of supervised release, with all its conditions, and all other components of the sentence.

IN WITNESS THEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this second day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand and seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.


Bush expanded on that cryptic proclamation with an official statement to the press, which said, in part (emphasis added):
This case has generated significant commentary and debate. Critics of the investigation have argued that a special counsel should not have been appointed, nor should the investigation have been pursued after the Justice Department learned who leaked Ms. Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak. Furthermore, the critics point out that neither Mr. Libby nor anyone else has been charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, which were the original subjects of the investigation. Finally, critics say the punishment does not fit the crime: Mr. Libby was a first-time offender with years of exceptional public service and was handed a harsh sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury.

Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable. They say that had Mr. Libby only told the truth, he would have never been indicted in the first place.

Both critics and defenders of this investigation have made important points. I have made my own evaluation. In preparing for the decision I am announcing today, I have carefully weighed these arguments and the circumstances surrounding this case.

Mr. Libby was sentenced to 30 months of prison, two years of probation and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.

I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison.

My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting.

The Constitution gives the president the power of clemency to be used when he deems it to be warranted. It is my judgment that a commutation of the prison term in Mr. Libby's case is an appropriate exercise of this power.

The reference to the probation officer's having recommended a lesser sentence sounds good until you realize that he recommended 15 to 21 months in prison, while the President's order results in Libby spending zero time in prison. If Bush included the reference to make the point that the sentencing judge was being too harsh, the exact same reasoning would apply to indicate that Bush's sentence of zero jail time is way too lenient. The fact is that the judge's sentence is closer to the Probation officer's recommendation.

I also find it pretty odd that he goes out of his way to assure us common folk that he respects the jury's decision, while obviously having no respect for the judge's decision. Another example of pretending to be the friend of the common man while demonizing judges?

As for Libby's reputation being "forever damaged," how long do you think it's going to take for him to corral a very good-paying job with some Republican outfit? Does he have one already?

So back to Andrew Sullivan and his comment:

... as far as the president is concerned...I retained some minimal respect. No longer. We now know full well what his beliefs are: the law is for other people, not himself, his friends or his apparatchiks.
It's perfectly legal. And it will mollify many of the rabid rightwingers who have been excoriating Fitzgerald, the sentencing judge, and everyone else who dares to consider Libby a real criminal rather than a political prisoner.

But it's another in a long string of decisions by this president that reflect far more concern for friends and power than for the rule of law. And in this case, the commutation of sentence stands in pretty stark contrast to the President's statements at the beginning of the investigation about how committed he was to finding anyone who committed a wrong in leaking Plame's name, and seeing to it that they paid the consequences for doing so.

Personally, I can't wait to hear what the Republicans on the national stage have to say in public about the clemency. Bush is immune from direct political consequences; they are not.