Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Libby's prison sentence commuted

President Bush has commuted Lewis Libby's 30-month sentence for perjury, false statements, and obstruction of justice. I doing so, he characterized Libby's sentence as "excessive". This characterization was absolutely correct.

It has long been known that the Bush administration values loyalty over other virtues such as integrity. By lying to the investigators, Libby was doing neither more nor less than what Bush would have expected of him. So it is appropriate that Bush should take political heat for Libby's action, rather than Libby having to live the pain of prison. By commuting Libby's sentence, Bush is taking the responsibility on himself, which is exactly where it belongs. In this sense, the commutation was appropriate. If the American people want an Administration with integrity, let them elect one.

Lest anyone think that lack of integrity is strictly a Republican vice, let us remember that President Clinton, like Lewis Libby, also committed perjury. For this he was impeached by the House. The Senate then acquitted him -- not because they thought he might be innocent, but because they felt his perjury was too petty to warrant removal from office.

There is, however, one sense in which the Bush commutation is highly hypocritical. During his term in office, Bush has almost never used his pardon and commutation powers, and has generally pushed for stricter criminal sentencing. This strict sentencing has lead to other sentences which are just as unfair as Lewis Libby's. Yet the President has not commuted those sentences. The message, apparently, is that crime should be punished severely -- unless it is done in the service of the President.

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