The Washington Times complains that President Bush’s commutation of Lewis Libby’s jail sentence was excessive, writing that “A jury… handed down a very supportable verdict.” But soon after the trial, at least two of those jurors (#9 and #10) who participated in the verdict repeatedly called for the president to grant Libby a full pardon. Indeed, they said that there was broad sympathy for him among the jurors. A pardon goes well beyond Mr. Bush’s commutation since it eliminates all punishment, while the president’s decision still requires Libby to pay $250,000 and remain on probation for two years.
There is a great distinction between the task of a jury — to determine that the accused committed a crime — and the task of the judge — to hand down a suitable punishment. Mr. Bush stated that he respected the jury’s finding: the jury performed their task properly, but Judge Reggie Walton failed at his. It is the judge, not the jury, who was overruled by the president’s commutation of the sentence.
Commuting I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s sentence could be seen as a tactical move by President Bush. As long as Libby is appealing his conviction, he can plead the Fifth and refuse to testify. A complete pardon now would have placed Libby in the uncomfortable position of having no fig leaf of immunity.
The big question remains: who was Libby protecting? Why did Libby feel the need to mislead the grand jury in the first place, if there was no underlying crime to cover up? Many of us suspect Libby fell on his sword to protect higher-ups. Now we may never know if anyone committed underlying crimes.
I don’t believe that Mr. Bush was concerned about a “just sentence.” There is nothing just about zero days in jail. Even Paris Hilton had to spend a few days there. No, Mr. Bush was concerned about what Libby might start staying when actually looking into a prison cell. Mr. Bush is also sending a message of reassurance and hint of a reward to others to keep their own traps shut: “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you.”
If you remember, Libby was originally going to call his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, to testify as a witness in his defense. That was logical. Then, suddenly and oddly, Mr. Cheney’s name was dropped. Many of us suspect this was when a secret deal was made. Later, reporters noted that Libby smiled confidently when his sentence was read. Now we know why.
Does anyone doubt a full pardon is part of the deal, too, and will be issued as Mr. Bush leaves office? In fact, there may well be an avalanche of pardons at that time.
Iowa City, Ia.
A ‘One China, One Taiwan’ policy
Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian (“Beijing’s ‘One China’: The Cross-strait Jacket” Oped, Tuesday) states that “After 10 years of experience with ‘one country, two systems’ in Hong Kong, the public’s expectation of electing their executive chief and all legislators has not been met.”View Entire Story
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