The End of the Affair?

With his commutation of the sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby yesterday, President Bush certainly seems to have brought the Plamegate/Wilson matter to a close. I’m predisposed to stay out of these spitting contests. I think that the commutation is, at the very least, unseemly, I think it will tend to be damaging to Republicans, I think it was imprudent. I find myself pretty sympathetic with the position that the Washington Post editorial arrives at:

It’s true that the felony conviction that remains in place, the $250,000 fine and the reputational damage are far from trivial. But so is lying to a grand jury. To commute the entire prison sentence sends the wrong message about the seriousness of that offense.

From the very start of this matter I have been content to allow the legal and judicial process to work its course. In commuting Mr. Libby’s sentence President Bush exercised no power that he was not granted by law and, like it or not, consequently he, too, is a part of that process. This is not a perversion of the system. It is the system.

If you don’t think it should be our system, there are two recourses. We could amend the Constitution to strip presidents of that power. Or President Bush could be removed from office. If, prudently, Democratic leaders don’t want to do either of those things, I think they should limit their comments to disapproval of the actions while acknowledging that this is, indeed, our system. Anything else is just posturing.

After wandering into some areas in which I wouldn’t necessarily follow James Joyner arrives at a conclusion similar to mine:

If Reid and Pelosi think the administration should be held accountable for manipulating intelligence, the same Constitution that empowers President Bush to commute Scooter Libby’s sentence gives them a remedy: Begin impeachment proceedings. In my view, that would be about the dumbest thing they could do, politically. But that’s the appropriate recourse if they actually believe the administration lied to get us into a war. If, on the other hand, it’s just cheap political rhetoric, they should pipe down.

There have been other editorials on this story today:

The New York Times
The Wall Street Journal
The Chicago Tribune
The San Francisco Chronicle

All of the editorials are disapproving in one way or another.

2 comments… add one
  • I agree it was unseemly and certainly gives at least the impression of special treatment to senior officials. Still, looking at it objectively, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Politically, I think it may have been necessary for Bush. His base is the only thing he has now, and letting Libby go to jail would have damaged what little support he has left. It also would have done nothing to appease his political enemies. So I see the decision as one of pure political necessity, but time will tell if ends up hurting him more than helping him.

  • I would be interested in your posting the financial cost for a presidential pardon or commutation. How much did Lbby fork over to get his sentence commuted? Who actually ends up with the money?

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