"At first I thought that commuting Libby's sentence was a reasonable compromisekeeping him from serving prison time, but letting the jury verdict stand. But now I don't think it makes any sense. There's an incoherence at the heart of the administration's case. It says that Libby's sentence was excessive. But technically, it's not. It's only excessive if you think it was a politicized prosecution and never should have happened in the first place. But if you believe that, then Libby deserves an outright pardon. The administration's middle ground can't hold," - Rich Lowry, NRO.
Yes, but the prosecution obviously wasn't politicized. It was initiated by a Republican Justice Department, it was prosecuted by a Republican appointed prosecutor, and the appeal failed in front of Republican judicial appointees. The jury obviously wasn't rigged. They liked Libby. But the perjury was so obvious, so blatant and so pathetic they had no choice but to convict. There is no coherent defense of this commutation; and no defense of a pardon. There's just elite privilege and rank, shameless abuse of presidential power. People in Libby's privileged circle simply don't believe the criminal law should apply to their friends. And the president has used his constitutional authority (and unconstitutional powers) to hide his own crimes and wartime deceptions.
More broadly, it's a mistake, I think, to try and find a coherent, principled reason for this commutation. I once gave Bush and Cheney this kind of credit and have learned my lesson. This was a brazen political act designed to prevent Libby from telling Fitzgerald more. Bush's loyalty, via Cheney, was already promised long ago. Just read Libby's letter to Judy Miller. This was fixed at the highest levels, regardless of the justice system. In retrospect, it's extremely clear.