Let's see - Bush can pardon Libby this Christmas season, or he can let "Should Bush pardon Libby?" be asked of every candidate at every appearance from now until the election.
The Decider lives for these tough choices.
My two cents: If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly. One reason to get this over with is that right now the CIA is clearly at war with the world; Bush's pardoning spin can depict Libby as a victim of a 2003 rebellion. Now, where is that old Howard Fineman link? And let's put Doc Drezner's contemporaneous thoughts in the mix.
Bonus Wrinkle If I Were Spinning This For Bush (if?): If Congress wants to chat with Libby they really need to set a side a few minutes to sort through Ms. Plame's varying stories about the circumstances under which Niger trip was initiated and her husband nominated. And maybe they can even get the CIA Counsel to finally opine on her covert status, and clue us in on the latest dates for which she received credit for service abroad on her pension - how cool would that be? In the meantime we are filing that under "As If".
A Point To Ponder: A Libby pardon might give Congressional Dems and their currently alienated friends at the CIA a chance to re-bond and reunite on the fantasy that the Plame outing was consequential. Awkward, since right now the CIA seems even more miffed with posturing Dems.
MORE: The Captain is tough on Libby and his supporters:
This will take some wind out of the sails for Libby supporters, Thompson included.
I will never lack for wind.
...His supporters claimed that the commutation was not the end Libby or they sought, but an intermediate step to keep an innocent man from the injustice of imprisonment. They raised funds for his legal costs in part to help him meet that burden of complete vindication.
Now Libby has chosen not to pursue vindication at all. A felony conviction with no prison time apparently suffices for him. Will that change of heart produce a similar shift in opinion about Libby and his conviction for obstruction and perjury? Will people see this as a tacit admission of guilt?
Good question. I would like to rally a table pounding defense, or even a sensible answer, but I am stuck on the fact that I more or less considered Libby to be guilty of some of the specific acts with which he was charged. My hopes for an appeal essentially rested on technicalities, such as whether Fitzgerald had proper authority to undertake this investigation, and were based on the notion that Libby was caught up in a burst of political opportunism that allied the Democrats with the CIA in a tussle against the White House.
I also think that the Fitzgerald "investigation" did not lack for dubious characters - a full accounting would have:
1. clarified whether David Gregory of NBC News got a leak (Ari Fleischer said he did, and Gregory has never denied it);
2. clarified whether Andrea Mitchell had received a leak; she said she did, and she was reporting on the right topic with the right people, but Fitzgerald never asked her.
3. resolved the Tim Russert puzzle. If either David Gregory or Andrea Mitchell had received a Plame leak, Russert would have been in a bit of a jam - Russert insisted he could not have leaked to Libby because of his own ignorance of the Plame story, but also insisted that he would have been tipped if either Gregory or Mitchell had been. However, Fitzgerald helped Russert conceal his cooperation with the FBI, Fitzgerald helped conceal the David Gregory / Ari Fleischer situation, and he helped keep Andrea Mitchell off the witness stand.
Well, that is just at NBC News; Ms. Plame was not a trial participant but she has her own uninvestigated credibility issues.
That said, I think the truth would have set Libby free, and that he lied to conceal Cheney's involvement and keep Dick on the ticket for 2004 - neither Cheney nor Libby faced any criminal penalties (prior to testifying) but the political embarrassment might have prompted Bush to annoint a Vice-Presidential successor, rather than go with the Ticker Guy. Mission accomplished.
Grr - I will trail off here, as time does not permit...