President Bush's stunning decision to commute former White House aide Scooter Libby's 30-month prison sentence leads all the morning papers Friday.
While a possible pardon of Libby had been widely anticipated, the swiftness of Mr. Bush's action – just hours after a panel of judges rejected a request to let Libby stay free on bail while he appealed his conviction – "came as a surprise to all but a few members of the president's inner circle," said The New York Times
Justice Department officials, who were not consulted by the president, were "floored" by the announcement, the Times said. The Washington Post, which said the president made the decision largely on his own, notes that it was the first time in his presidency that Mr. Bush commuted a sentence without discussing the matter with Justice Department lawyers. He also did not seek the input of the chief prosecutor in the Libby investigation, Patrick Fitzgerald, as routinely happens in such cases.
Both the NYT and the WP said it's unclear what role, if any, Vice President Dick Cheney played in the decision to spare Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, from serving even a day in prison.
As would be expected, the move "pleased Libby's conservative defenders and enraged top Democrats," said USA Today.
In one of the more memorable reactions, the Los Angeles Times reports Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said, "Even Paris Hilton had to go to jail."
While Republicans mostly cheered the move, the Wall Street Journal suggested it "may hurt some Republican presidential candidates, who face the prospect of having to defend the commutation during the campaign."
In an analysis piece, the NYT called the president's decision "the act of a liberated man." With dwindling public support and just 18 months left in his term, he apparently felt he had little to lose and "might as well do what he wants."
British Attempts A Model For Next Attack In U.S.?
Could the next terrorist attacks on the United States follow the model of the relatively unsophisticated attempted car bombings this week in London and Glasgow?
That's what U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials believe, according to a Washington Post report.
The Post says such attacks, designed more to inspire fear and panic than to inflict major casualties, "require minimal expertise and training and are difficult to prevent."
Holiday Travel Woes
Those incidents in the U.K. could also add to problems for holiday travelers here in the States, reports USA Today.
Heavy holiday travel and increased security following the British terrorist attempts are producing "hassles for Americans flying on Independence Day getaways."
Cities "from Phoenix to Asheville, N.C.," are conducting more random vehicle searches and adding checkpoints at airport approaches, "increasing the time it takes for travelers to get to and from flights during the busiest travel period of the summer."
On the bright side, gas prices, while up 14 cents a gallon over a year ago, are down 23 cents since last month, encouraging more Americans to skip the airports and travel by car.
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