- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2007

President Bush yesterday said he will not rule out a pardon for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., while political blowback from the left, critical of his decision to commute Libby’s 30-month prison sentence, reached a crescendo.

“As to the future, I rule nothing in or nothing out,” Mr. Bush said, after visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he awarded three Purple Hearts.

However, Mr. Bush said that some of the punishments that were given to Libby — such as a $250,000 fine and probation — were “adequate.”

“I felt the punishment was severe, so I made a decision that would commute his sentence but leave in place a serious fine and probation,” said Mr. Bush, who admitted it had been “a very difficult decision” to make.

The president’s decision sparked denunciations by Democratic politicians, outrage and organizing among the liberal grass roots, and praise mixed with calls for a full pardon from conservatives.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted in March on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI and grand jury in an investigation into the disclosure of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Libby is appealing the verdict.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said he would not rule out a presidential pardon because “Scooter Libby may petition for one.”

Meanwhile, Democratic congressional leaders, presidential candidates, advocacy groups and bloggers clamored to denounce Mr. Bush’s decision.

“I’m outraged,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, in a letter asking supporters of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which he chairs, to sign a protest petition.

All the major Democratic 2008 presidential candidates issued scathing criticisms of the president.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, called the commutation a “clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice.”

All but one of the leading Republican candidates commented approvingly of the president’s decision, but only former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson appeared genuinely enthusiastic.

“I am very happy for Scooter Libby. I know that this is a great relief to him, his wife and children,” Mr. Thompson said. “While for a long time, I have urged a pardon for Scooter. I respect the president’s decision.”

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney offered more subdued praise, with Mr. Romney calling the commutation “reasonable.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, was silent on the issue, and a spokesman said there would be no statement from the campaign.

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