Mr. Bush explained his clemency philosophy in Texas in his 1999 memoir, “A Charge to Keep.”What's different this time? Or perhaps he's just changed?
“In every case,” he wrote, “I would ask: Is there any doubt about this individual’s guilt or innocence? And, have the courts had ample opportunity to review all the legal issues in this case?”
In Mr. Libby’s case, Mr. Bush expressed no doubts about his guilt. He said he respected the jury’s verdict, and he did not pardon Mr. Libby, leaving him a convicted felon. And Mr. Bush acted before the courts had completed their review of his appeal.
“As governor, Bush essentially viewed the clemency power as limited to cases of demonstrable actual innocence,” said Jordan M. Steiker, a law professor at the University of Texas who has represented death-row inmates.
“The exercise of the commutation power in Libby,” Professor Steiker continued, “represents a dramatic shift from his attitude toward clemency in Texas, and it is entirely inconsistent with his longstanding, very limited approach.”
The evidence doesn't seem to suggest he's had a fundamental shift in belief.
In the six years that George W. Bush was governor of Texas, a state that executes more people than any other, he commuted a single death sentence and allowed 152 executions to go forward. He also pardoned 20 people charged with lesser crimes, said Maria Ramirez, the state’s clemency administrator. That was fewer than any Texas governor since the 1940s.So, for me, the 64-thousand-dollar question is this: Why was Mr. Libby's case so different?
As president, Mr. Bush has commuted three sentences in addition to Mr. Libby’s and denied more than 4,000 requests, said Margaret Colgate Love, the pardon lawyer at the Justice Department for most of the 1990s. He has also issued 113 pardons and denied more than 1,000 requests. “His grant rate is very low compared to other presidents’,” she said.
And, I'm still wondering why President Bush didn't just pardon Mr. Libby, but that is a different issue altogether. Or is it?