[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 July 2007, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
US papers react to Libby decision
Lewis Libby
Libby is one of the most senior White House officials ever convicted
US President George W Bush has intervened to prevent Lewis Libby, a convicted former vice-presidential aide, from serving a prison term.

Mr Bush described as "excessive" the 30-month sentence Libby was facing for obstructing an inquiry into the leaking of a CIA agent's name.

Though no longer required to go to jail, Libby is still due to serve a period of probation and pay a fine.

US newspapers have been reacting to the president's decision:


We agree that a pardon would have been inappropriate and that the prison sentence of 30 months was excessive. But reducing the sentence to no prison time at all, as Mr Bush did - to probation and a large fine - is not defensible...

The probation office, as the president noted, recommended less time - 15 to 21 months. But Mr Bush, while claiming to "respect the jury's verdict," failed to explain why he moved from "excessive" to zero.

It's true that the felony conviction that remains in place, the $250,000 fine and the reputational damage are far from trivial. But so is lying to a grand jury.

To commute the entire prison sentence sends the wrong message about the seriousness of that offence.


When he was running for president, George W Bush loved to contrast his law-abiding morality with that of President Clinton, who was charged with perjury and acquitted. For Mr Bush, the candidate, "politics, after a time of tarnished ideals, can be higher and better".

Not so for Mr Bush, the president. Judging from his decision yesterday to commute the 30-month sentence of I Lewis Libby Jr - who was charged with perjury and convicted - untarnished ideals are less of a priority than protecting the secrets of his inner circle and mollifying the tiny slice of right-wing Americans left in his political base...

Mr Bush's assertion that he respected the verdict but considered the sentence excessive only underscored the way this president is tough on crime when it's committed by common folk...

Presidents have the power to grant clemency and pardons. But in this case, Mr Bush did not sound like a leader making tough decisions about justice. He sounded like a man worried about what a former loyalist might say when actually staring into a prison cell.


By failing to issue a full pardon, Mr Bush is evading responsibility for the role his administration played in letting the Plame affair build into fiasco and, ultimately, this personal tragedy...

These columns have had cause to defend the Bush presidency from what we've seen as often meritless or exaggerated partisan attacks, notably over national security and the Iraq war. This, however, will stand as a dark moment in this administration's history.

Joe Wilson's original, false accusation about pre-war intelligence metastasized into the issue of who "outed" his wife, Valerie Plame, as an intelligence officer. As the event unfolded, it fell to Mr Libby to defend the administration against Mr Wilson's original charge, with little public assistance or support from the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell or Stephen Hadley.

In no small part because of these profiles in non-courage, it was Mr Libby who found himself caught up in prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's hunt for the Plame leaker, which he and his masters at Justice knew from day one to be State Department official Richard Armitage. As Mr Fitzgerald's obsessive exercise ground forward, Mr Libby got caught in a perjury net that we continue to believe trapped an innocent man who lost track of what he said, when he said it, and to whom.

Mr Bush's commutation statement yesterday is another profile in non-courage... Mr Libby deserved better from the president whose policies he tried to defend when others were running for cover. The consequences for the reputation of his administration will also be long-lasting.


Lewis "Scooter" Libby seemed to have no constituency save the Republican base. That also happens to be the president's only apparent anchor and one to which he continues to respond. The Bush family image is of one that honours loyalty, and Libby was nothing if not that to the beleaguered president...

But this decision will affect Bush in the near term. With his signature issue of immigration in tatters, his foreign policy under relentless attack, the president in a real sense had little to lose...

History cuts both ways. Gerald Ford was damaged badly by his pardon of Richard Nixon. George H W Bush not at all for his pardon of Caspar Weinberger. And while Bill Clinton was skewered for pardoning the rogue financier Marc Rich, his wife, Sen Hillary Clinton of New York, floats well above the other Democratic presidential aspirants in all national opinion polls.

Bush very much seems resigned to a fate that he hopes history will be kinder to him, marking him as resolute and principled when so many forces had converged against him...

The country is not with Bush in general, and taking care of Libby might be seen as the least and the most that he could do.


With his decision to keep I Lewis "Scooter" Libby from going to prison, President Bush has provoked a firestorm of controversy but avoided what might have been even more damaging to his presidency: defections of Republican loyalists who are among the last to support the beleaguered White House.

Bush's action shows that, with a little more than 18 months remaining in his second term and his influence at its lowest ebb, he is still willing to rely on his signature leadership style - one that risks polarising the country to take stands that satisfy his conservative base...

Bush's decision is not likely to be a defining moment for his presidency the way President Ford's term in office was irrevocably linked to his decision to pardon Richard Nixon for crimes in connection with the Watergate scandal.

But it may be a moment that presages the tone for the rest of Bush's term.

On this and other issues, Bush has signalled that he will remain combative and fiercely loyal to his lieutenants until he leaves the Oval Office.

Political backlash at president's intervention

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific