Fifteen seconds to curtain, Mr. Libby

I feel weirdly ambivalent about Scooter Libby's conviction -- partly because my default position is to assume that no one deserves to go to prison, and partly, I think, because of some hereditary adaptation that makes me sympathize with good-looking people. (I was feeling sorry for the guy, and Tali had to remind me that this is a man who, for several years, woke up in the morning thinking How can I help Dick Cheney achieve his goals today?)

My irrationality aside, though, the verdict raises an interesting question: Is George W. Bush more of a dick if he pardons Libby or if he doesn't?

Harry Reid has already called on Bush not to pardon Libby, saying "It’s about time someone in the Bush Administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics." And that's fair enough: obviously, pardoning Libby would be just another example of the administration's belief that they're above the law.

But I think we can all agree that Libby isn't the only person culpable in this Plame thing. The evidence against Cheney, Rove, etc. might not be enough to convict them in a court of law, but it's clear they're guilty of recklessly abusing the public's trust, at the very least. (I'm only talking about the anti-Joe Wilson smear campaign here -- obviously they're guilty of far, far worse things.) So now Lewis "Scooter" Libby, loyal capo, is the one to take the fall, while Cheney goes right on making plans to bomb Iran and Rove goes back to playing Sudoku or whatever he's been doing since the midterms, and there's something sort of arbitrary about that.

If you're GWB and you have the power to get the guy out of jail, the argument comes down to: Sorry, Scooter -- we really appreciate all the hard work, and we know it's going to be tough for you, not getting to see that sexy wife for four years. And of course this might not have happened if Dick had testified for you, but then he'd have been up there under oath and, well, I don't have to tell you what kind of shit that might've shaken loose. But Karl says that if we pardon you it would look really bad, and my approval ratings are in the crapper as it is. So, you know, thanks, Scooty-Scoot. You're a real patriot.

Obviously, it's a personal-loyalty-versus-larger-morality issue. I honestly can't figure out which choice I would respect less.

Update: Lawrence O'Donnell makes this should-have-been-obvious point:

From the start, Libby's hopeless courtroom defense has been about the pardon. Libby has conducted a defense that is very friendly to the White House. He has made it clear to the White House that he had the power to call the Vice President, but, good soldier that he is, he declined to put Cheney through that ordeal.