New York Times:
Until he commuted the 30-month prison sentence of I. Lewis Libby Jr. on Monday, President Bush had said almost nothing about his philosophy in granting clemency while at the White House.
As governor of Texas, though, Mr. Bush discussed and applied a consistent and narrow standard when deciding whether to issue pardons and commutations. And that standard appears to be at odds with his decision in the Libby case.
Mr. Bush explained his clemency philosophy in Texas in his 1999 memoir, “A Charge to Keep.”
“In every case,” he wrote, “I would ask: Is there any doubt about this individual’s guilt or innocence? And, have the courts had ample opportunity to review all the legal issues in this case?”
In Mr. Libby’s case, Mr. Bush expressed no doubts about his guilt. He said he respected the jury’s verdict, and he did not pardon Mr. Libby, leaving him a convicted felon. And Mr. Bush acted before the courts had completed their review of his appeal.
“As governor, Bush essentially viewed the clemency power as limited to cases of demonstrable actual innocence,” said Jordan M. Steiker, a law professor at the University of Texas who has represented death-row inmates.
“The exercise of the commutation power in Libby,” Professor Steiker continued, “represents a dramatic shift from his attitude toward clemency in Texas, and it is entirely inconsistent with his longstanding, very limited approach.”
LSB: A compilation of excerpts from some of the columnists at HuffingtonPost.com on Shrub commuting the prison term for Scooter Libby.
Jeffrey Feldman: Is there anyone — anyone, that is, besides the terminally brainless Tucker Carlson – who actually believes that Bush plucked "I-know-all-the-dirty-secrets-that-can-bring-you-down" Lewis Libby from the iron jaws of jail for any other reason than, well... to make sure he keeps his lying mouth shut on the encyclopedia of felonies and crimes committed by Bush and Cheney? … Here's how it will go down for "I-do-Dick-Cheney's-bidding-and-he-takes-care-of-me" Lewis Libby: He will pay the measly $250,000 fine (which is measly for these guys), he will forgo luxury golf vacations abroad for two years (oh...the humanity!) and then when it is all over, he will get a $10 million book deal outlining how liberals framed him as part of their plan to destroy America by siding with the terrorists (it's true, you know...I do it everyday). Then, by sheer force of his powerful writing, "I-see-no-shame-in-making-a-fortune-off-crimes-against-the-Constitution" Lewis Libby's book will become a best-seller, thanks to the help of the Republican publishing machine that is powerful enough to make sure even blathering idiot Ann Coulter stays atop the best seller list. And then, with gobs and gobs of money already in his bank account, FOX will give "I-lied-for-a-living" Lewis Libby a TV talk show with some smarmy title like "THE REAL TRUTH with your host Scooter Libby."
Craig Crawford: President George W. Bush's commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's jail sentence means that only reporter Judy Miller spent time in the slammer — and that was for protecting Libby, the leaker. The former White House aide let Miller sit in jail for nearly three months last year without revealing to prosecutors that he was the source she was refusing to name. While Miller was no angel in this matter, she was not convicted of a crime. And Libby goes free despite being convicted and sentenced for perjury and obstruction of justice. The president now says jail would be an "excessive" punishment for Libby, but he showed no such concern when a reporter was incarcerated for protecting his White House. The most lasting legal significance of this case will be its chilling effect on journalists – even on those who, unlike Miller, try to protect whistleblowers and other sources who are genuinely serving the public interest.
Jeralyn Merritt: At the same time Bush has his Attorney General calling upon Congress to make every federal crime subject to a mandatory minimum sentence, thereby preventing judges from imposing an individually tailored sentence based on their view of the offender's character and mitigating factors, he has no qualms making an exception for a single member of his Administration.
Ari Melber: Libby's special treatment is a microcosm of current U.S. policy. Libby is basically receiving a post-conviction protection that the Bush Administration now routinely extends to many potential criminals in the U.S. government. The administration successfully pushed legislation last year granting immunity to officials who might someday be prosecuted for war crimes or torture. It is a policy that embodies the administration's distinctly un-American view that powerful government officials should operate above the law. … The same legislation, the Military Commissions Act, strips constitutional rights and habeas corpus in a direct attack on the protections that have grounded the rule of law in America since its founding, 231 years ago this week. The unconstitutional act, like the administration's illegal detention, torture, spying and secret prisons, will continue as long as the federal courts ignore the administration's criminal conduct in deference to claims of executive authority in the Global War on Terror.
Marty Kaplan: My, what a clever boy he thought he would be. He wouldn't pardon Libby: oh no, that would be repeating Gerry Ford's Nixon mistake, and who'd want to risk that? Nah, he'd commute the sentence, that's the ticket. The base would cheer, the libs would scream (don't they always?), and the media would praise him as prudent, as searching for common ground, putting our long national nightmare behind us the right way, not the wimp way. … America is not just a nation of laws. It is a nation of trust. You can't govern unless you have the trust of the people. If before today he retained an ounce of that trust, George W. Bush no longer does. If it weren't so tragic, it would be laughable.
Bob Cesca: Scooter Libby's sentence was "excessive," President Bush said. In other words, two-and-a-half years in jail for perjury is just way, way over the line in a case which involved the undermining of our national security; exposing a CIA agent's cover; and potentially damaging this agent's covert operation to track unaccounted-for nuclear material (loose nukes) – all orchestrated by the vice president and Libby to sucker punch Ambassador Joe Wilson. So the president all but pardoned Libby by commuting his prison sentence. … What's excessive? President Bush, who suddenly hates excessive punishments, once refused to commute the death sentence of a 33-year-old mentally retarded black man with an IQ of around 60 and the functional skills of a 7-year-old boy. … Regarding the record 152 executions during his two terms as governor, Bush "wrote" in his autobiography, A Charge To Keep, "I don't believe my role is to replace the verdict of a jury with my own." … No, the president's decision had everything to do with: 1) a likely deal between the vice president and Libby's attorneys in which Libby promised to keep the scuttlebutt away from Vice President Cheney in exchange for the VPOTUS promising to see what he could do about the sentence; and 2) Scooter Libby isn't poor, black or retarded. …
DemocraticUnderground.com: On Thursday's "Countdown" Keith Olbermann talked with the Washington Post's Dana Milbank about President Bush's "Wizard of Oz-like-winged monkeys" who are out in force clamoring over President Clinton's pardon of Mark Rich. They probably should have done a little more homework and as Keith puts it, for the Bush Administration to throw the Rich pardon out there is "almost too funny for words."'