I knew it would happen, and predicted it a while back. But today Bush commuted Scooter Libby's 30 month prison sentence, saying it was "too harsh." I have a client serving almost 16 years in federal prison for being the boyfriend of a drug dealer, and thus part of a drug distribution conspiracy (she was working 4 jobs and did not get a dollar from any drug sale). Where is Mr. Leniency? For a republican who constantly backs the harsh federal sentencing guidelines, it sure is hypocritical for Bush to decide to use his pardon power to commute a sentence of one of his buddies who was facing a regular prison sentence within the suggested guideline range. The Bush administration just won an appeal at the supreme court arguing that a sentence within the guideline range, just like Scooter's, is "presumptively reasonable."
Now, I agree that 30 months for "lying" to a grand jury about a crime that was never charged is harsh. But Bush and the republicans established during the Clinton impeachment that perjury is an extremely serious offense. Had Clinton been sentenced to 30 months in prison for perjury, Bush, Libby, and the rest of their coterie of jackasses would be screaming about how "only 30 months" is way too lenient. Way too non-harsh. But 30 months for a Republican perjurer is just too harsh. Never mind that it obstructed the investigation of a potential federal crime versus obstructed a wife from bitchslapping her husband over an extramarital blowjob.
If this Libby sentence commutation will stand for the principle that quite often, federal guidelines sentences are too harsh, and that the executive branch will now begin to closely examine all federal prison sentences and commute those that are clearly too harsh based on the facts of the underlying crime and characteristics of the underlying criminal, I'll be quite happy. Unfortunately, we all know this is a one-off occurrence. Only a Bush crony will benefit from the executive pardon power during this administration. Everyone else sentenced to harsh, mandatory sentences, such as Weldon Angelos, or my bad-luck client now rotting away at a prison in Fort Worth, Texas, will get no such treatment, let alone executive review of their sentence for potential "harshness."
The other thing that amazes me is that the average president would be way too embarrassed to commute the sentence of one of his administration's cronies who was charged and convicted of perjury. It just looks bad. But as we all know, Bush doesn't care, nor do those who support him. Bush could literally rape a child, rob a liquor store, and steal ten million dollars out of the U.S. treasury and his followers would attack the rape victim, calling him a faggotchild, say the liquor store sold alcohol to drunk drivers, and flatly ignore the theft of our taxpayer dollars (they obviously don't care about that unless a democrat is in office). They'll ignore the de facto pardon of Scooter Libby, too, repeating over and over the talking point that this one lowball within-guideline sentence, out of the tens of thousands handed down each year, was "too harsh" to stand.