But that's not the worst part...
The public and the editorial pages across the nation are enraged.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And there's more on Thinkprogress.
We now know that Bush, as opposed to normal practice and procedures did not consult with the DOJ or the prosecutor prior to his decision. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald was not silent on the matter.
It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.
Unfortunately that principle doesn't guide George W. Bush, who has quite possibly never before commuted a sentence of someone who has not even served a single day of jail time, not to mention the other normal requirements such as having exhausted all appeals, and having shown "remorse" for your actions.
Libby fits none of these.
We all know that justice is more equal for some than others, but isn't it amazing that not even Judith Miller or Paris Hilton weren't able to receive the "justice" afforded to Scooter Libby?
It's even possible that this action by Bush just might have push him past the tipping point eroding away the last vestiges of his public support in the same manner that the Saturday Night Massacre essentially doomed Nixon.
But then again there's Fred Thompson, who in 1998 voted to convict and remove Bill Clinton, but now sits as a member of the Scooter Libby Defense Fund.
I am very happy for Scooter Libby. I know that this is a great relief to him, his wife and children.
While for a long time I have urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the president’s decision.
This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life.
"A Good American" you say?
Yes, certainly let him "resume his life" because it's not like Joe Wilson who risked his life to save other Americans in Iraq as the first Gulf War started is a "Good American", and it's not like Valerie Plame-Wilson who'se career as a covert CIA operative tracking weapons of mass destruction is a "Good American" or that hundreds of other agents and assets at Brewster-Jennings who were compromised by Libby's actions were "Good Americans" -- they're just F-ing HEROES is all.
But Fredrick isn't the worst thing - just listen to what Novakula has to say.
“Bush is blamed by friends of Libby for losing control of the Plame investigation by putting it in the hands of a special prosecutor — the U.S. attorney in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald. In his decision sparing Libby jail time, Bush did not say a word of criticism about Fitzgerald.”
Yeah, right... Bush should've fired Ashcroft (like Archibald Cox) for even suggesting a Special Counsel was needed. This is how they view things in the psychosis laden "no underlying crime" world of Toensing and
Since these guys consider fantasy to be me more valid than fact maybe someone should point out to them that even in the first episode of Alias (the only show on TV that's ever had every one of it's episodes approved by the CIA) Sydney Bristow walked right through the front doors at Langley. Even on ABC/GOP/TV, they know that CIA agents don't avoid Langley like it's the plague.
What could be worse is what Kagro X posits, that Bush could continue to use this strategy to void all possible threats and looming prosecutions against his key advisors such as Alberto Gonzales (who is currently at risk for Perjury over the NSA Wiretaps, as well s Obstruction and Witness Tampering with Monica Goodling) or Condoleeza Rice, Harriet Myers and Sara Taylor (who are at risk for Contempt of Congress for refusing to respond to congressional subpoenas).
But I don't think that's the worst - I think, as was discussed on Rachel Maddow last night, that the reason Libby wasn't pardoned outright was to further protect the Bush Administration from scrutiny. Y'see, if Libby had been pardoned he would no longer be able to evoke his fifth amendment priviledge against self-incrimination. He's already been incriminated.
All leverage that Fitzgerald might have had to find out what really went on in this case and what's really hidden in those big Mosberg Safes, such as a reduction in sentence in exchange for a proffer against the Veep (aka Fourthbranch) has been foreclosed.
Even though the House Judiciary Committe is already planning to look into the circumstances of his commutation with hearings, this move just might be Check and Mate for Shooter in his ongoing battle against the Rule of Law.
We're seriously looking at a situation where the President and Vice President could effectively evade any and all accountability for a failed policy that left us wide-open and vulnerable on 9-11 and has led us into an unneccesary, obscenely costly and pointless Civil War in Iraq.
At this point there's only one move left for Congress to make and hold this Administration Accountable.
The only question is, without the ability to make subpoenas or Contempt of Congress Stick, or the ability to get a Special Prosecutor to look into the NSA Wiretaping and/or the DOJ Purge and produce hard incontrivertable evidence (as the Nixon tapes did so long ago) - how will Congress actually get the smoking gun that they still need (yes, I know many disagree that this is needed, but IMO and likely the opinion of both Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers it is) to bring formal Impeachment charges against Cheney or Bush directly?
Cheney being a Dick and jerking around the White House Staff is annoying, but as long as Bush lets him - not a crime. Bush commuting of even pardoning Libby is not a crime. Bush firing US Attorney's is not a crime. But there clearly have been crimes committed (War Crimes, Torture, Election Fraud) and the trick is how do you catch a major criminal mastermind (Cheney) in the act when he's running the government?
P.S. Judge Walton's response to the commutation indicates that it is self-contradictory. Someone can not serve probation without first serving jail-time under federal guidelines, and LithiumCola points out that the judges encouragement to legal counsel to gain "clarification" from the White House on the meaning of Libby's non-status status just might unveil The Wizard of Cheney hard at work manipulating the levers behind the curtain.