OUR OPINION: Scooter scooted, but Siegelman, Scrushy wont

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 6, 2007

President Bush did a disservice to the American people and to his party earlier this week when he decided to commute Scooter Libby&8217;s jail sentence.

Here in Alabama, the decision comes right after former Gov. Don Siegelman and businessman Richard Scrushy were sentenced to more than seven years each for white-collar crimes.

Libby was the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. He was the center of a scandal that surrounded the outing of an undercover CIA agent. The outing was thought to be politically motivated, revenge for a former ambassadors unkind words about the Bush Administration&8217;s assessment of the global war on terrorism.

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Libby was charged with lying under oath, an offense that Republicans in 1996 thought rose to the level to demand impeachment of President Clinton. They, in fact, did impeach the president but fell short of removing him from office.

Now, however, it seems that the current Republican leadership believes lying under oath is not that bad. It&8217;s something that requires only a fine and a little probationary period.

We disagree. We believe Libby was the fall-guy for the real perpetrator of the leak, whomever that may be. Nonetheless, Libby knowingly involved himself in a cover-up, and for that he should pay the ultimate price.

Furthermore, with a Justice Department ripped with scandal over politically motivated prosecutions, we find Bush&8217;s timing to be ill-advised. Bush, says many, had no other choice but to commute his sentence when he did. If he had waited, Libby would have been sent to jail. They wanted to avoid Libby serving even a day.

Of course, in Libby&8217;s case, he was convicted and sentenced, then allowed to remain free and later report to jail. In the end, he won&8217;t spend a day of his sentence behind bars.

Compare that to the conviction and sentencing of Scrushy and Siegelman. Their prosecution has been tainted with the Justice Department scandal. Furthermore, they were whisked away to jail immediately.

Bush was wrong in pardoning Libby. Too, Siegelman and Scrushy should have been allowed time for appeal before being jailed.

But that&8217;s politics. And both parties take advantage of it. We&8217;re just not sure how much justice is really involved in any of it.