So, he did it. He really did it. The convicted purjurer Libby is guilty still, but the president found the prison sentence "excessive," so he commuted it (Scooter still has to pay the fine, though--see, crime doesn't pay). In making the decision, the president opted out of running it through the normal channels (and it's highly unusual for sentences to be commuted before being at least partly served). David Brooks is pleased. Andrew Sullivan is not. Doesn't look like Patrick Fitzgerald is thrilled either. Ditto for the Times' opinion page.
Lakes of ink have already been spilled on the happy subject: Libby is a good man, his friends say. And he deserved better--from his superiors, who seemingly hung him out to dry, and from the judge, whose sentence was quite tough. For all I know, they're right. But even good men commit crimes. And the judge in this case--a Bush political appointee--called the evidence against Libby "overwhelming," and sentenced him accordingly. I suspect it would have been reduced on appeal, but after the court rejected Libby's request that the jail sentence be suspended until the appeals process was complete, the president apparently couldn't wait for a punishment more in line with his thinking. So by splitting the difference--already rather amusingly being called an "elegant" political compromise--Bush has demonstrated, like Clinton before him, why this particular presidential power ought to be seriously restricted, or done away with altogether. Presidential pardons: what are they good for?