Feature

Libby

No jail, but no one’s happy.

Republicans love to fume about being tough on criminals'”unless, of course, 'œthe criminal is one of their own,' said Robert Scheer in The Nation. Then they suddenly 'œbecome bleeding-heart liberals'' who feel the miscreant's pain. Witness President Bush's cynical commutation two weeks ago of the prison sentence of I. Lewis 'œScooter' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. Libby faced 30 months behind bars and a $250,000 fine for lying to a grand jury about his role in leaking the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. A jury convicted of him of perjury and obstruction of justice, and his sentence was consistent with judicial guidelines. But Bush'”who as president has denied more than 5,000 requests for commuted sentences and pardons'”bent to the demands of the far right, which was horrified that one of its own was headed for a cushy federal prison. Calling Libby's sentence 'œexcessive,'' the president let the fine and conviction stand while giving poor Scooter a 'œget out of jail free'' card.

This weaselly quasi-pardon smells, said E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post. Libby illegally disclosed Plame's identity as part of an orchestrated smear campaign to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had publicly attacked the administration's justifications for the Iraq war. Ol' Scooter knows exactly what role Cheney and political guru Karl Rove played in leaking the name of the undercover CIA agent, which is why Democrats in Congress were contemplating subpoenaing Libby to testify. Now, because Bush didn't pardon him outright, Libby can 'œuse the pending appeal of his conviction'' as an excuse to avoid testifying about any related White House skullduggery. 'œIt's an airtight coverup.''

Just listen to the hypocritical outrage coming from Democrats, said Jack Kelly in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Where was their indignation when their patron saint, Bill Clinton, abused his authority with a slew of disgraceful pardons to Democratic contributors and old allies on his last day in office? Clinton himself lied to a grand jury and ultimately got away without a day in jail. And yet the left and the media still hail him as a hero. 'œFor most journalists, a scandal isn't a scandal unless a Republican is involved.''

If there's any real scandal here, in fact, said Rich Lowry in National Review Online, it's Bush's failure to give Libby the full pardon he deserves. Libby committed no real crime; he simply couldn't remember what he said to which reporter several years earlier. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald indicted him only to justify his lengthy and pointless investigation of a non-crime. Bush had a 'œresponsibility'' to undo that travesty of justice by issuing a full pardon, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. But he lacked the guts to face the outraged howls of the media and the Democrats. What a 'œprofile in non-courage.''

Frank Rich

The New York Times

Byron York

The Washington Post

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