With unerring skill, President Bush has chosen the worst of the three options open to him in dealing with Mr. Lewis Libby's conviction (The Prison Sentence ... Is Excessive, Washington Post, July 3, 2007, A4).
He could have done nothing which would have enraged his base but signaled his wish to uphold the rule of law. He could have pardoned Mr Libby which would have enraged his critics, but energized his base. Or he could have, and did, show clemency for Mr. Libby by reducing his sentence. This has enraged his critics and done much to signal his contempt for the rule of law -- as if another signal were needed.
His decision to reduce the sentence has also damaged Mr. Libby. By stating that he respected the jury verdict, he has seriously jeopardized Mr. Libby's ability to appeal the verdict. By reducing the sentence, he has jeopardized the carefully thought out balance between the seriousness of the crime and Mr. Libby's prior service. By appealing to our sympathy for Libby's wife and children he has undermined universalistic principles that underlie our laws. After all, many felons have wives and children who are not considered when sentencing occurs.
With all the legal talent at his disposal, how could he have made the worst of choices? By not seeking out or listening to advice. Yet another example of his administration's addiction to "groupthink."
Sent to Washington Post