W the uniter. It’s hard to imagine how just one decision could provoke the kind of unanimity that the President is sustaining for having commuted the sentence of Scoter Libby. “Soft on crime,” growled the New York Times (link), adding:
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 Times may be predictable. But W’s enablers at the Washington Post are almost as critical. “Too Much Mercy,” says the Post (link). Amplifying:
To commute the entire prison sentence sends the wrong message about the seriousness of that offense.
Thing is, the President isn’t doing much better among the running dogs on ther right. Here’sThe New York Post (link):
It's a shame that Bush allowed the circus to go on as long as it did. He should have pardoned Libby as soon as he was indicted, let alone convicted.
There’s a ton more that I won’t pretend to detail here; you can find a good summary at Memeorandum (link). A lot of this stuff is vacuous or repetitive, but you can pull out a couple of points worth noting:
- Commutation of the sentence now doesn’t bar him from continuing his appeal to seek a full reversal;
- Commutation now doesn’t bar a full pardon later;
Since the decision remains under appeal, Libby’s handlers may continue to avoid commenting on it by the assertion that it is still sub judice.
There are also some tantalizing discussions on the question of how it might relate to his Fifth Amendment privilege, but I don’t think that one has sorted itself out yet. For myself, let me offer a meta-point. That is: we always talk about how you let out bad news on, say, for example, a Monday afternoon just before a holiday (link) (and in a written statement, at that)—as if this will bury the story and buffer the criticism.
In the age of the perpetual news cycle, it seems to me that maybe just the opposite is the case. We seem to be in 24-hour Libby mode just now precisely because it is a (n almost) holiday and (correspondingly) there’s nothing else to talk about. How much less attention it would have received had they made public the decision at the same time as, oh, say, Paris Hilton got out of jail.
Fn.: Well, re Fifth Amendment privilege, I guess that the important point is that he wouldn't have it any more after a pardon. Presumably he retains it as long as he is still under sentence and on appeal. Whether it can be wrestled away from him without a pardon is above my paygrade.
Fn.: Whoda guessed it? These guys get it right.