Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Analysis: Do you think the president's decision will have any political impact on him or the presidential candidates?

By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - President Bush spared former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby from a 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak investigation Monday, delivering a political thunderbolt in the highly charged criminal case. Bush said the sentence was just too harsh.

Bush's move came just five hours after a federal appeals panel ruled that Libby could not delay his prison term. That meant Libby was likely to have to report soon, and it put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.

"I respect the jury's verdict," Bush said in a statement. "But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison."

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald disputed the president's assertion that the prison term was excessive. Libby was sentenced under the same laws as other criminals, Fitzgerald said. "It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals," the prosecutor said.

Libby's attorney, Theodore Wells, said in a statement that the Libby family was grateful for Bush's action and continued to believe in his innocence.
Bush's decision enraged Democrats and cheered conservatives — though some of the latter wished Bush had granted a full pardon.

"Libby's conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq war," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's decision showed the president "condones criminal conduct."

Unlike a pardon, which would have wiped away Libby's criminal record, Bush's commutation voided only the prison term.

The president left intact a $250,000 fine and two years' probation for his conviction of lying and obstructing justice in a probe into the leak of a CIA operative's identity. The former operative, Valerie Plame, contends the White House was trying to discredit her husband, a critic of Bush's Iraq policy.

Bush said his action still "leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby."

Libby was convicted in March, the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair roiled the Reagan administration in the 1980s. Arms were secretly sold to Iran to gain freedom for American hostages, with the money funneled to anti-communist guerrillas in Nicaragua in spite of a congressional ban. Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, issued pardons for six former officials shortly before leaving office in 1992.

Testimony in the Libby case revealed the extraordinary steps that Bush and Cheney were willing to take to discredit a critic of the Iraq war.

Libby's supporters celebrated the president's decision. "President Bush did the right thing today in commuting the prison term for Scooter Libby," said House Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri.

"That's fantastic. It's a great relief," said former Ambassador Richard Carlson, who helped raise millions for Libby's defense fund. "Scooter Libby did not deserve to go to prison and I'm glad the president had the courage to do this."

Already at record lows in the polls, Bush risked a political backlash with his decision. President Ford tumbled in the polls after his 1974 pardon of Richard M. Nixon, and the decision was a factor in Ford's loss in the 1976 presidential election.

White House officials said Bush knew he could take political heat and simply did what he thought was right. They would not say what advice Cheney might have given the president.

On the other hand, Bush's action could help Republican presidential candidates by letting them off the hook on the question of whether they would pardon Libby. Bush said Cheney's former aide was not getting off free.

"The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged," Bush said. "His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting."

A spokeswoman for Cheney said simply, "The vice president supports the president's decision."

The White House said Bush came to his decision in the past week or two and made it final Monday because of the ruling of the appeals panel, which meant Libby would be going to prison soon.

The president's announcement came just as prison seemed likely for Libby. He recently lost an appeals court fight that was his best chance to put the sentence on hold, and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons had already designated him inmate No. 28301-016.

Bush's statement made no mention of the term "pardon," and he made clear that he was not willing to wipe away all penalties for Libby.

The president noted Libby supporters' argument that the punishment did not fit the crime for a "first-time offender with years of exceptional public service."

Yet, he added: "Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable." Bush then stripped away the prison time.

The leak case has hung over the White House for years. After CIA operative Valerie Plame's name appeared in a 2003 syndicated newspaper column, Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald questioned top administration officials, including Bush and Cheney, about their possible roles.
Nobody was ever charged with the leak, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage or White House political adviser Karl Rove, who provided the information for the original article. Prosecutors said Libby obstructed the investigation by lying about how he learned about Plame and whom he told.

Plame believes Libby and other White House officials conspired to leak her identity to reporters in 2003 as retribution against her husband, Joseph Wilson, who criticized what he said was the administration's misleading use of prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Attorney William Jeffress said he had spoken to Libby briefly by phone and "I'm happy at least that Scooter will be spared any prison time. ... The prison sentence was imminent, but obviously the conviction itself is a heavy blow to Scooter."

A White House official notified the trial judge, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, of the decision. Walton, a Bush appointee who served in the White House under the president's father, had cited the "overwhelming" evidence against Libby when he handed down his sentence. A courthouse spokesman said Walton would not comment.
Associated Press writer Matt Apuzzo contributed to this report.


Vlad said...

I believe that George Bush's decisions will have little impact on him politically. George Bush has 563 days, as of July 6, 2007, left in office. This may seem like a long time, but it may not be enough time to remove him from office if more people start to dislike him. But the President's decisons will have a large role for the presidential candidates. The candidates' views on the President's decisions will show the American public more about the candidates' personalities and this public display will play a key role in the '08 election. I recently read that George Bush limited the discussion of Libby with a few "close" aides.

Megan B said...

Me parece que el decisión del presidente dar sr. Lobby un castigo más pequeño, fue un decisión mal, pero no me parece que el decisión doleré el presidente. No me parece que el decisión doleré el presidente porque ahora el presidente no es una persona que muchos le gusta, de hecho mucho odian presidente Bush por sus conclusión de otras temas. Cuando estás al parte más abajo, no puedes ir más abajo. Por los otros candidatos me parece es un oportunidad mostrar que ellos no están de acuerdo con presidente Bush y que ellos les parecen que un presidente necesita la hablita a hacer decisiones sin emociones personales. Esta es un momento perfecto para mostrar sus diferencias con el presidente, especialmente por los Republicanos.

MorganJ said...

I believe that Bush's decision to commute Libby's charges will have no impact on Bush's politics nor the presidential candidates. First and foremost, this issue does not have any direct impact on today's citizens. In America, people only take notice to issues that impact their personal lives or ones that are scandalous. Libby's charges do not apply to either scenario. Through out Bush's term of office many things have occurred- September 11th, No Child Left Behind Act, the War on Terrorism, major tax cuts- his decision to commute Libby's charges is vary minute in comparison.

As to the impact on the presidential candidates, the 2008 presidential elections are more than a year away and the chance that this issue will be a focus point during the elections is slim to none. As I stated earlier, there are many other topics that are more popular among the American people. During campaigning politicians mainly focus on the issues important to the people; therefore, the Bush-Libby matter will gain very little if any recognition among the 2008 presidential candidates.

ericag said...

I agree completely with morgan. The election are way too far away for people to be thinking about what Bush did or didn't do for Libby. Not too many Americans actually care how many people Bush lets go. The only way this will effect the election is showing how [[srry... bush fans...]] many wrong decisions the Republican party made in the 8 years Bush was around.

JamieW said...

I don't think the president's decision SHOULD have any political impact on the presidential candidates. Regardless of party, each canidate should have a fair chance of receiving votes. Unfortunately, the majority of America feel that if one Republican made mistakes, that if they vote Republican in the next election that the new president will make just as many mistakes because he or she is republican. It's very possible that a Democrat could take office and make even more mistakes than Bush did. But getting back to what the question is asking- yes. i think the president's decision could have gave the Democrats a slight advantage in the presidential campagin. I don't think the situation with Libby will be the main cause for voters to think twice about the Republican Party. I do however think that the Libby case could very well be one of Bush's actions that will irritate America enough to change their minds and vote Democratic.

KellyH said...

I believe that George Bush's decision will have a very short-term political impact on him. Many democrats responded to the news with complaints about accountability and lack of justice. There was some outrage but soon most will push this issue back to clear the way for larger concerns, like the war. Many republicans and supporters of Libby recived the pardon as good news, and the president won some minor brownie points.

As far as the impact of the decision on presidential candidates, I believe it will fuel the fire of the democrats a little more. When the democrats bring up all the bad things they believe have happened, at least those stemming from the president, they now have another fact to back up their arguments of what he's done wrong. Republican candidates, as said in the blog, will now be able to avoid the first question of would you have pardoned Libby, but now will probably have a new question to answer; do you agree with the president's decision? Mostly though, I believe the impact on the candidates will also be short-term.

Johnny B said...

I believe that there are bigger issues going on such as the war that make his decision right now not as big of a deal as it might be in a different situation. Instead, the effects will probably be minor. Republicans will probably like the decision while Democrats will disagree. Overall, any impact made on George Bush because of this will be minimal.

As for presidential candidates, I think it will impact a little bit. For example, this topic could be used for discussion among the candidates at a debate asking what they would've done in the situation.

Erica C said...
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Erica C said...
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Erica C said...

George Bush cannot hurt his image any more than he already has. For those who are already against him, this decision will surely only cause more distrust and frustration. For those who still back the president, it is likely that they will see this as yet another action that was made for the greater good. In short: Bush has nothing to lose.

However, there are several Republican candidates who do have something to lose—-their place as the Republican Party nominee. In a Republican presidential debate occurring on June 5, the GOP candidates were asked if they would pardon Libby. Giuliani, Romney, Brownback, Tancredo, and Thompson stated that, if given the chance, would pardon Scooter Libby. For the candidates that chose to agree with President Bush, there may be major heat for them to face when it comes to democratic criticism.

For those candidates who will argue that Libby’s sentence was excessive, it is possible that they will be faced with questions regarding a man named Victor Rita. Rita was facing charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. (Sound familiar?) He was convicted and sentenced to 33 months in prison. (Libby was sentenced to 30 months.) The case made its way to the Supreme Court who found the sentence to be REASONABLE on June 21, 2007. Democrats may decide to use this case to show that the Bush Administration was trying to protect one of its own while Republicans will argue that the two cases aren’t comparable. Regardless, it is very possible that Republican candidates will need to prepare themselves to answer questions such as: “Why was Scooter Libby given special treatment?” and “What makes Scooter Libby’s sentence more unreasonable than that of Victor Rita?”


RyanO said...

I think that Bush can't hurt his image any more than he already has. Much of the GOP has attempted to distance themselves from Bush in my opinion, but now may be reconsidering this. This decision was rather popular in the GOP, and could cause some candidates to be influenced by Bush (as if they aren't already).

mente said...

I agree with much that has already been said.

I don't think that Bush can really harm his image anymore. Those who dislike him will take Libby's pardon as just another wrong move, and those who, for some reason, still believe in his presidency will think that he did the right thing. We are essentially a country divided as such.

As for the presidential candidates, the democrates will probably take opportunity as further evidence for the necessity of an administration change, and the republicans will probably say that the pardon was justified and Bush was just being fair. Granted, I am sterotyping a bit, but past dictates basically that result.

CoreyA said...

No. Just no. Bush used one of his powers as president?! Let us all turn on his political party! Why? He was given certain powers as president and granting pardons is one of them. He did not even grant a full pardon. Not to mention the presidential candidates have next to nothing to do with any of this. Bush's approval ratings mean next to nothing as well at this stage of the game. What is going to happen to him? People are going to boo him? People are going to complain? The only way this would hurt the political candidates would be if the candidates said this was a great idea and then the public disagreed. But they are politicians and politicians know what to tell people and should be smart enough to not dig themselves into that kind of a hole.

katiekso said...

I believe that the president's decision will have a political impact on him. I think many people are going to question President Bush's decision to wave Libby's prison term. As Fitzgerald said, "Libby was sentenced under the same laws as other criminals." His original sentence with the prison term is what any one who had commited the same crime would have gotten. It seems unfair that the president could just step in and changed Libby's sentence becuase he feels it was too harsh. I don't think that decision should have been Bush's to make.
I don't believe that the president's decision will have much of an impact on the presidential candidates. they might be asked a couple questions about what they would have done in this situcation,but it was Presidant Bush's decision so I think the blame will fall mainly on him.

Heather S said...

Bush has done so much damage already to his politics and this isn't the worst he has done. I really don't think this will be brought up in debates between the candidates for the 08 election. I do believe that Libby deserved some harsh sentence, he broke the law and as normal everyday citizens, if we break a law, we have to serve our time. Now, when you are in a public office, I do believe sentences should be harsher since you have some kind of power over us. So if anything people might look at Bush's decision as an abuse of power. But overall, no I do not think this will play a vital role on the presidential candidates.

Stevel said...

President Bush's decision to release Libby of his charges will not affect anything except news broadcasts. The whole incident will fly over in a few short weeks unless the democrates keep trying to uncover more dirt about the CIA leak. Like many of the others have said, the election is too far off for a little issue like this to play a role. Granted it does raise a red flag in many people's minds, they won't stay raised for long. It's simply a little more controversy to surround the Bush administration for a short time.

kora d said...

no i dont think it will have a political impact, but i dont think its right, people should have equal treatment, thats what america was founded on, libby shouldnt get special treatment because the presidednt feels bad for him.

shannond said...

I’d like to start off by saying that any decision the president of the United States makes, no matter how minor, will affect him politically. Every step George W. Bush has taken in office has been either criticized or applauded, depending on one’s beliefs and ideologies. To answer the question bluntly, yes, the president’s decision has a political impact.

To Republicans and conservatives, Bush’s decision is viewed as a loyal and correct one. Republicans will view this not as a pardon, but as a correction to an intensely harsh penalty for a first offense. Bush is a good man for lifting Scooter Libby’s 30 month prison sentence though his decision lacks legitimate reasons. Maybe Bush’s decision has something to do with keeping Scooter Libby quiet about certain events in the vice president’s office of the White House. Hm.

As far as Republican presidential candidates go, their opinion of the Scooter Libby trial outcome carries no more pressure in future debates. Republicans will see their presidential candidates agreeing with our president’s decision which will create the image of loyalty; loyalty is a necessary quality of a true Republican. Bush aided his party’s candidates with his decision.

Democrats and liberals are a whole different story. They view Bush’s decision as suspicious and biased. After all, shouldn’t Scooter Libby be treated like any other equal American citizen? Democratic candidates can use this decision and generalize it as an example of how Republicans overuse, and maybe even abuse their executive power. This will strengthen their argument of why America does not need another Republican president. Support from Democrats and liberal-minded Americans will grow stronger.

In essence, Bush has helped all of the 2008 presidential hopefuls. As always, he has earned both criticism and applause from the general American public. I see a continuing pattern…

jzurko said...

The president's choice to take away Libby's prison sentence is just fanning the flames for more disapproval towards him. This is just another black mark on a presidency already riddled with so many other problems. However, I doubt this will have any long term political impact on him. People are far too concerned with issues like the war in Iraq, health care, tax cuts etc, to worry about an issue the American public has been growing weary of.
I also seriously doubt this would have any real political impact on the candidates so far away from a primary or election. Approval or disapproval of the president's actions won't have any real impact unless it's completely against the candidate's character.

Alex the Great said...

i believe that the presidents decision will have a major impact on the way people see him. leaking secrets from the cia is a serious offense and should be dealt with severely. by pardoning libby it looks as though he is pardoning a friend, which would be immoral and unjust.

TyKant said...

I believe that George Bush, no matter what his decision is, that he will still be viewed the same politically. Enough people already dislike him, and i highly doubt that would have changed due to his choices that he decides to make politically.