So he lifted excessive sentence but left convictions, fine, probation.
By Tony Snow
President Bush commuted part of Lewis Libby's sentence because he considered a 30-month stretch in prison too severe. Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury; was fined $250,000; must serve two years probation; and will likely lose his license to practice law. That qualifies as a stern penalty for a first-time offender with a long history of public service
The Constitution gives the president the power to grant clemency in a wide range of cases, at his discretion, with no restrictions. In the final hours of the Clinton administration, this unfettered authority was embodied in a mad rush to push through pardons with dizzying haste � 141 grants on Clinton's final day in office, part of 211 in the final nine weeks.
In contrast, no president in recent history has made more careful use of the pardoning power than George W. Bush: The president believes pardons and commutations should reflect a genuine determination to strengthen the rule of law and increase public faith in government.
The Libby case was one such situation. After a highly publicized trial, involving calm legal analysis in the courtroom (but vicious vilification outside), Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. In reviewing the case, the president chose to rectify an excessive punishment, and at the same time, the president made clear that he would not second-guess the jury that found Libby guilty. He believes it is important to respect the jury's work. The concept of judgment by a jury of peers forms the backbone of our judicial system. So the president left intact the felony convictions and two of the major punishments � the fine and probation.
Many analysts cleverly avoid grappling with either of these issues, and instead try to analyze the commutation as a raw political exercise. That sort of analysis is off-base. The president was not motivated by politics in making this decision. If he had made the decision based on opinion polls, he wouldn't have lifted a finger.
Instead, he did what he does normally, and what makes those of us who work for him proud. He proceeded on the basis of principle, and arrived at a sound and just decision � knowing he would take hits in the court of public opinion, but also knowing he was doing the right thing.
Tony Snow is White House press secretary.