Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Framing the Debate on Commuting Scooter Libby's Sentence

Among supporters of Bush’s decision to commute Scooter Libby’s sentence, Mitt Romney’ reasoning, as reported by the AP, strikes me as less than rigorous:
Defending Bush, Romney said at a campaign stop that "the president looked very carefully at the setting" before deciding to commute the 2 1/2-year sentence of Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted in the CIA leak case.
The prosecutor in the case "went after somebody even when he knew no crime had been committed," Romney said. "Given that fact, isn't it reasonable for a commutation of a portion of the sentence to be made?"
Actually, there was a crime committed, according to the judge and the jury: lying under oath to federal prosecutors and a grand jury. But perhaps we should give Romney the benefit of the doubt; after all, as a governor, he had experience in tempering justice with mercy:
During the four years Romney was in office, 100 requests for commutations and 172 requests for pardons were filed in the state. All were denied.
Romney took a particularly hard line in turning down one applicant for a pardon:
As governor, Romney twice rejected a pardon for Anthony Circosta, who at age 13 was convicted of assault for shooting another boy in the arm with a BB gun -- a shot that didn't break the skin. Circosta worked his way through college, joined the Army National Guard and led a platoon of 20 soldiers in Iraq's deadly Sunni triangle.
In 2005, as he was serving in Iraq, he sought a pardon to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.
Those voicing their support for going easy on Libby tend to veer into arcane legal arguments. But as TPM Election Central reports, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin gets right to the point:
Even Paris Hilton had to go to jail. No one in this Administration should be above the law.

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