WASHINGTON Following is editorial reaction in U.S. newspapers on Tuesday to President George W. Bush sparing former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby from a 2-1/2 year prison sentence for obstructing a CIA leak probe.
Democrats accused Bush of abusing power in a case that has fueled debate over the Iraq war. Conservatives in Bush's Republican party had pressured him to pardon Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.
NEW YORK TIMES
"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 president ... 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."
"He has repeatedly put himself and those on his team, especially Mr. Cheney, above the law."
"There were mitigating factors in this case. After two years of investigation, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald charged no one with a crime for leaking (CIA operative Valerie) Plame's name."
"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 offense."
NEW YORK POST
"Now the president should go all the way -- and grant Libby a full pardon ... It would be the right thing to do, because Libby was the victim of an out-of-control prosecutor."
WALL STREET JOURNAL
"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."
"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."
MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL
"In the six years that George W. Bush was governor of Texas, 150 men and two women were executed by the state. In each case, Bush got a so-called clemency memo. He allowed all but one of the executions to proceed.
"In commuting the 30-month sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby ... President Bush said Monday that the sentence was "excessive".
"The irony here would be laughable if the message the president sends with this action was not so damaging ... There are indeed two standards of justice -- one for the powerful and well-connected and another for the rest of the country."
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
"Perhaps the president felt he had nothing left to lose, given his unpopularity. But considering how much trouble the White House faces in regard to congressional subpoenas, the last thing this president needed was to further antagonize Capitol Hill regarding abuse of executive power."
"Fitzgerald's investigation was about the conduct and truthfulness of the Bush administration. It involved the nation's top leaders, the use and misuse of classified information and the misleading of the public and Congress as the nation moved toward war in Iraq.
"Now the president has commuted the sentence of a man who obstructed that investigation ... he has raised anew questions about his judgment and about all of the actions that were the focus of Fitzgerald's investigation."