Pardon or Warden

The question has us all atwitter: Will the president keep Scooter Libby out of prison? But actually, here’s the tougher question: SHOULD Libby go to prison? I’m having great difficulty with this.

Let’s face it. This is a political conviction. The investigation into the leaks of Valerie Plame’s CIA identity was the result of a political uproar over the sleazy way her cover was blown as retribution. The administration had been embarrassed by her husband’s disclosure of the president’s Iraq weapons deceptions.

But should Libby go behind bars for lying and malicious conduct? If that’s the standard, we in Washington should be worried. Very worried.

It’s true, he was found guilty of lying illegally and under oath, impeding an investigation into a crime. But what crime? None was ultimately charged. None of the other alleged perps was legally accused of anything connected to making Valerie Plame a household name, much less convicted — not the president, not the vice president, or at the highest level of the government, not Karl Rove.

Only one person, Scooter Libby. Unless an appeals court, or President Bush, steps in, Libby will soon become a “detainee.”

For lying. And worse: Getting caught at it.