Yesterday, President Bush spared Scooter Libby from a 2.5-year prison term, issuing an order that commutes his sentence. Libby will never have to go to jail, but his felony conviction will stand, and he will still serve two years probation and owe $250,000 in fines.
In March, Americans opposed pardoning Libby by a 3 to 1 margin. Today, at least 13 major newspapers editorialized against Bush’s decision, highlighting national disapproval of of the commutation. Some examples:
The New York Times:
Presidents have the power to grant clemency and pardons. But in this case, Mr. Bush did not sound like a leader making tough decisions about justice. He sounded like a man worried about what a former loyalist might say when actually staring into a prison cell. [Link]
The Washington Post:
We agree that a pardon would have been inappropriate and that the prison sentence of 30 months was excessive. But reducing the sentence to no prison time at all, as Mr. Bush did — to probation and a large fine — is not defensible. [Link]
But in nixing the prison term, Bush sent a terrible message to citizens and to government officials who are expected to serve the public with integrity. The way for a president to discourage the breaking of federal laws is by letting fairly rendered consequences play out, however uncomfortably for everyone involved. [Link]
Dallas Morning News:
Nearly a decade ago, a GOP-led House impeached President Bill Clinton for lying under oath and obstructing justice in a civil deposition. Yesterday, a Republican president commuted the sentence of former top White House staffer Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted of the same thing in a criminal investigation. Republicans are known for being tough on crime. Apparently there’s an exception when the criminal is a member of President Bush’s inner circle. [Link]
San Francisco Chronicle:
In commuting the sentence of former White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby, President Bush sent the message that perjury and obstruction of justice in the service of the president of the United States are not serious crimes. [Link]
Rocky Mountain News, Detroit Free Press, The Denver Post, New York Daily News, The Arizona Republic, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, and Seattle Post Intelligencer also condemned the President’s decision.
UPDATE: E&P has more.