When Pardons Turn Political

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President Bush has pardoned 113 people during his presidency, including a Tennessee bootlegger and a Mississippi odometer cheat.

But none has drawn the public scrutiny, nor posed the same political challenge, as the candidate that many conservatives hope will be Bush presidential pardon No. 114: I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted of lying to investigators in the C.I.A. leak case and sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison....

Already, major conservative and neoconservative organizations, magazines and Web sites are expressing vexation that Mr. Bush has not granted clemency to Mr. Libby, who they say was unfairly railroaded for an initial leak that has now been traced to Richard L. Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state.

“I don’t understand it,” said David Frum, a former speech writer for Mr. Bush who is now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group with close ties to the White House. “A lot of people in the conservative world are weighted down by the sheer, glaring unfairness here.”...

Other presidents withstood calls for pardons from their supporters and survived with their legacies intact.

President Ronald Reagan faced very similar — albeit, pre-Internet — pressure from conservatives to grant pardons to Oliver North, John M. Poindexter and others indicted for roles in the Iran-contra affair. He never did so, leaving the matter to his successor and vice president, George Bush. (Mr. Bush did not grant clemency to Colonel North or Admiral Poindexter, neither of whose convictions stood; he did pardon six others.)

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