Here's another cogent argument for why there is simply no principled or coherent defense of the commutation of Libbby's sentence. Whatever your views about the case, the underlying crime and the prosecution, you cannot get past these facts about the commutation process:
The DOJ guidelines [for commutation] also contain a substantive component: They describe the factors ordinarily to be considered when assessing whether to commute a sentence - that is, they describe the very unusual circumstances under which the President can justifiably single out one person for special treatment, in a way that does not undermine public confidence in the bedrock concept that all persons should stand equal before the law.
To begin with, the guidelines admonish that commutations ordinarily should not be given until the individual under consideration has served some period of time in jail, and has either exhausted or given up his or her appeals. Furthermore, the guidelines emphasize that commutations should be reserved for individuals who have accepted responsibility and expressed remorse for their criminal conduct.
The reason for these limitations is clear and inarguable.
Because a commutation does not call into question the underlying conviction, it is expected that commutations will be reserved for people who are genuinely remorseful - as opposed to those who continue to deny guilt, through the legal process or otherwise. In addition, because the individual has committed a felony, there is an expectation that he or she will serve at least some jail time before being given a break.
Scooter, of course, does not come within a country mile of qualifying for these preconditions set forth under the guidelines. Let's suppose, following some Republicans' arguments, that we were to exempt him from the jail-time requirement on the theory that any incarceration would be too much given that the offense is purportedly so minor. It is still clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Libby has shown no acceptance of responsibility at all, much less any remorse, for his criminal conduct. Under the DOJ guidelines, this omission would be the end of the story.
Read the whole thing. What we have witnessed is a president's contempt for the justice system and rank favoritism for a friend and acolyte. It fatally undermines the very concept of equal treatment under the law. It is the mark of a monarchy, not a republic.