President Bush owes Lil' Kim and Martha Stewart an apology.
The famous rap artist Kimberly Denise "Lil' Kim" Jones spent 10 months in prison for lying to a grand jury.
The business and media star Stewart served five months in federal prison for four counts of obstructing justice and lying to investigators.
But fellow perjurer I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, won't serve a day of the 30-month sentence he received for lying to a federal grand jury, thanks to the selectively kind heart of President Bush.
But if you listen to some sympathizers on the political right, Libby should have received a full pardon. It's amusing to watch staunch, hang-'em-high conservative editorial pages and presidential candidates go all squishy when one of their own has been convicted.
Bush stood firm, sort of. Instead of a pardon, he let stand Libby's two years of probation and $250,000 fine for lying to federal investigators in the investigation of the 2003 disclosure of the name of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame.
That's Bush's idea of a compromise. He called Libby's sentence "excessive."
Maybe he should also consider a similar commutation or an apology to Victor Rita, a North Carolinian whose very similar sentence was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court less than two weeks earlier.
Rita was sentenced to 33 months in prison for making two false statements to a grand jury about a parts kit he had purchased, allegedly to make an illegal machine gun.
Rita is a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars and has no prior criminal history. Seeking a reduced sentence, Rita's lawyers argued that he was in poor health, had performed valuable government service and could be in physical danger of reprisals in prison for criminal justice work he had performed in his government job. But the Court upheld Rita's sentence in an 8-1 decision, ruling that it was "presumptively reasonable" within federal sentencing guidelines.
Sentencing is a remarkably arbitrary decision. How do you define justice? In days? Months? A lifetime? Cash? With as many deep-pocket contributors as Libby has funneling money into his defense fund, it is doubtful that Libby will ever pay a penny of his fine out of his own pocket.
What about other big fish such as presidential adviser Karl Rove, who also leaked Plame's identity to reporters and got off scot-free? That point has been raised and it's a fair one.
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald decided that he could not build a winnable case against Rove or Libby for knowingly revealing a covert CIA agent's identity. But that does not reduce the seriousness of lying to a grand jury. Perjury is not a petty offense. Truthful testimony is the bulwark of our justice system.
Bush appears to understand that. If he has any reason to think Libby was railroaded, he should give him a full pardon. People appreciate a president who stands on principles, not just politics. After all, this is the president who dubbed his 2000 campaign jet with the title "Accountability One." That slogan sounded like a little dig at the fuzzy ethics of then-President Bill Clinton.
Early in the Plame investigation, Bush also vowed to oust anyone who took part in the outing of Plame's identity. Yet Rove, who disclosed classified information about Plame to two reporters, kept his job and Libby left the Bush administration only after his indictment in 2005.
Look who's getting all fuzzy now.