Now it gets serious.
On Thursday afternoon, federal district court Judge Reggie Walton ruled that he will not put off sending Scooter Libby to jail. Last week, the judge sentenced Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff to 30 months and a $250,000 fine for obstructing justice during the CIA leak investigation. Libby’s lawyers asked for Libby to remain free on bail while they appeal the conviction. Walton said he would entertain the request, though he indicated he was not at all sympathetic to their legal arguments. He did not change his mind.
His ruling was a routine legal decision. Walton usually sends criminals convicted in his court (who are not flight risks) to prison once the Bureau of Prison notifies him it has selected a prison for the convict. That process tends to take 45 to 60 days. So unless Libby’s layers can persuade an appeals court to overturn Walton’s decision, Libby will soon be reporting to a federal penitentiary.
Which means neocon pardon-mania is about to hit.
The Libby Lobby has long called for George W. Bush to pardon Libby–even before his trial and conviction. And the neocons and conservatives have amped up their demand for a pardon in the days since Libby was sentenced.
On June 5, The National Review reiterated its call for a pardon:
[Libby] is a dedicated public servant caught in a crazy political fight that should have never happened, convicted of lying about a crime that the prosecutor can’t even prove was committed. President Bush has the power to end this ridiculous saga right now. He should do so.
Days later, William F. Buckley suggested this was an issue involving Bush’s manhood:
Mr. Bush will have to exhibit the courage for which he is loved and hated, by doing the right thing, and letting Mr. Libby get on with life.
Today, P.S. Ruckman, writing for The National Review, proposed that Bush issue a "respite" that would delay Libby’s jail term while Libby’s appeal continues.
The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page, too, has been in the forefront of the free Scooter movement. Three days ago, it opined:
With Mr. Libby, what is Mr. Bush afraid of–jeopardizing his 33% approval rating? A pardon would be a two-day story. His opponents can’t hate Mr. Bush more than they already do, and his supporters would cheer to see the President standing by the man who stood by him when others in his Administration cut and ran.
Days earlier, The WSJers proclaimed: