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The Collective
Monday, July 2, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

I was on the road today, and hence slow to respond. I must confess that I was surprised when I heard on the news this afternoon that President Bush had commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence (quite surprised, and yet not surprised, if that makes any sense). If you were even more out of the loop today than was I, you can read the details at CNN: Bush commutes Libby’s prison sentence.

I started the day with a Morning Edition story that noted the Libby’s request to stay out of prison pending his appeal had been refused and then later in the afternoon caught the news that Bush had commuted the sentence whilst trolling for radio stations in the car.

I was not surprised that Bush acted (and I will not be surprised if Bush eventually pardons him) but I was rather surprised at the swiftness of the action. The conventional wisdom seemed to be that Bush would let Libby twist in the wind for a while, but I suppose when one’s approval ratings are Nixonian, what does one have to lose? Further, the base that is sticking with Bush wanted Libby to be pardoned, so this should placate them for the moment. Given the way Bush values loyalty, I suppose that there really oughtn’t be any real surprise here.

I have said before that this whole thing seems like a “waste” to me and I continue to feel that way. By that I mean, I never understood why Libby lied-it seems like such a pointless act. Why risk his entire professional life in this way? Is the man just stupid? Was it arrogance? Is there more to the story? What’s the deal?

This is not to say that he didn’t deserve conviction. One cannot lie to a grand jury and since he was a public servant at the time, that would seem to make the lying all the more problematic.

In regards to the commutation itself, I find Orin Kerr’s comments appropriate:

I find Bush’s action very troubling because of the obvious special treatment Libby received. President Bush has set a remarkable record in the last 6+ years for essentially never exercising his powers to commute sentences or pardon those in jail. His handful of pardons have been almost all symbolic gestures involving cases decades old, sometimes for people who are long dead. Come to think of it, I don’t know if Bush has ever actually used his powers to get one single person out of jail even one day early. If there are such cases, they are certainly few and far between. So Libby’s treatment was very special indeed.

Indeed. And it is unclear what warrants such treatment.

Kerr was also struck with the speed of the decision.

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7 Comments

  1. Bush Libby Commute Solidfies Bush’s Status As Polarizer In Chief

    Hasn’t it come time to say it?
    In the history of the American republic, it’s difficult to find a President who has proven to be as consistently polarizing and seemingly dismissive of the feelings of Americans who do not belong to his party…

    Trackback by The Moderate Voice — Tuesday, July 3, 2007 @ 2:07 am

  2. [...] -My DD has this roundup of Democratic Presidential candidate reactions (both parties). -Powerline:“This strikes me as an excellent resolution. To my knowledge, it was first advocated by Paul’s friend Bill Otis, a former federal prosecutor, in an op-ed in the Washington Post. The idea quickly gained support. I also think the President’s commutation of Libby’s sentence will go over well with the party’s conservative base and will contribute, to some degree, to a restoration of Bush’s standing with conservatives.” -Political scientist Steven Taylor: I was not surprised that Bush acted (and I will not be surprised if Bush eventually pardons him) but I was rather surprised at the swiftness of the action. The conventional wisdom seemed to be that Bush would let Libby twist in the wind for a while, but I supposed when one’s approval ratings are Nixonian, what does one have to lose? Further, the base that is sticking with Bush wanted Libby to be pardoned, so this should placate them for the moment. Given the way Bush values loyalty, I suppose that there really oughtn’t be any real surprise here. [...]

    Pingback by Articles — Tuesday, July 3, 2007 @ 2:39 am

  3. Libby Commutation Reactions

    As one would expect, last evening’s news that President Bush has commuted Scooter Libby’s jail sentence has spawned a huge amount of controversy in the blogosphere, with some decrying it as the greatest outrage since Waterga
    From the Left:

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway | OTB — Tuesday, July 3, 2007 @ 7:42 am

  4. [...] You can fool some of the people some of all of the time: Firedoglake, White House, TPMmuckraker, The Raw Story, At-Largely, Jules Crittenden, Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, PoliBlog (TM), Angry Bear, Needlenose, All Spin Zone, TalkLeft, The Moderate Voice, New York Times, Sentencing Law and Policy, Patterico’s Pontifications, The Daily Whim, Captain’s Quarters, Political Radar, Taylor Marsh, The American Mind, Political Insider, The BRAD BLOG, The Impolitic, KnoxViews, Dr. Sanity, The Newshoggers, The Anonymous Liberal, Donklephant, The Democratic Daily, Happy Furry Puppy Story …, Jay Currie, Brilliant at Breakfast, The Next Hurrah and Rook’s Rant [...]

    Pingback by The Heretik : Law and Order — Tuesday, July 3, 2007 @ 8:37 am

  5. [...] On the one hand, the criminalization of political disagreements should stop, but on the other, it should stop for everyone. Decriminalizing only the prominent is what got Rome in trouble back in the day. Poliblogger, as expected, agrees. African American Political Pundit can be expected to be more pungent, though he has yet to weigh in, but, again, I come back to the lead-in, which is that none of these people have been even qualified supporters for a very long time. The fall-out may indeed be limited. [...]

    Pingback by Pros and Cons » On “spectacular pardons”, commutations really. — Tuesday, July 3, 2007 @ 8:52 am

  6. [...] I look at the Libby situation in a fairly narrow way: Libby was convicted of committing perjury-he lied to a grand jury. Setting aside the underlying crime issue (and I agree with James on that one-i.e., that there never was an underling crime in Libby’s case) and all the rhetoric from the Democrats (which, to me, is predictable background noise at the moment), I can’t get away from the fact that Libby broke the law (and as I have written as early as yesterday, I don’t understand why-it seems quite pointless). As such, I fear that he has to face the consequences and Bush’s commutation (and, it wouldn’t surprise me, eventual pardon) simply sends a signal that one of his cronies can get away with criminal behavior. [...]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » More on Libby — Tuesday, July 3, 2007 @ 8:59 am

  7. Scooter Libby- Two wrongs

    The reaction of the conservative blogosphere seems predictable to me.

    Trackback by The Florida Masochist — Tuesday, July 3, 2007 @ 9:34 am

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