In six years as governor of Texas, George W. Bush issued 20 pardons and commuted one death sentence. As president, he seemed to be hewing to the same standard, granting 113 pardons (against more than 1,000 appeals) and commuting just four sentences. The fourth commutation sends the Times in search of the reasoning that led to Scooter Libby's new fate.
In his 1999 memoir, Bush seemed to defer to the courts, saying that knowing whether they'd had "ample opportunity to review all the legal issues" helped him make clemency decisions. Libby's appeals weren't exhausted when the president issued his commutation order Monday, a decision a law professor calls "entirely inconsistent with his longstanding, very limited approach."