I've always respected Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne, who has taken more than her share of abuse for standing up to PC. I always regarded the Halliburton taunts as grossly unfair. Cheney to me seemed to personify grace, dignity, intelligence and integrity, rare qualities among the political class. Now, I'm not so sure. What can you say about a political leader who allows his top aide to take the fall for a fiasco like the Plame affair? Everyone in Washington understands the unwritten rule that if push comes to shove, a staffer is expected to fall on his sword to protect the "boss". That usually means a hurried resignation and, in extreme cases, copping a misdemeanor plea. The staffer can always write a book or catch on at Heritage, or if he's a democrat, with one of the networks. No one is expected to serve 30 months of hard time and have their family bankrupted however. That's what's facing Cheney's former top aide Scooter Libby after Judge Reggie Walton's inexplicable sentencing yesterday. The court's own sentencing committee had recommended half that time. What did Libby do to deserve such a harsh sentence? He apparently got some details of phone calls with reporters wrong, at least according to the reporters. Oh yeah, he also didn't sufficiently grovel at the feet of out of control prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, this year's runaway winner of the Mike Nifong award for prosecutorial misconduct. OK, sometimes crap happens. And no one can blame this on the democrats. The Bush White House directed the Bush Justice Department to appoint the special prosecutor, who was a Bush appointee. The judge was likewise a Bush appointee. So this was another in a series of self-inflicted wounds. But that is history. Now the issue is Bush's failure to issue a pardon and terminate this travesty. His ability to issue a pardon is unlimited. It can be to correct an injustice, as here, or in response to the pleas of big contributors, as Clinton did with Marc Rich. The democrats would be hard-pressed to complain in light of Clinton's record. Why Bush is so adamant about not pardoning Libby is one of the great mysteries of Washington. An even greater mystery is Cheney's role. No doubt Cheney has asked for a pardon and been rebuffed, at least i hope he had the decency to do at least that. But now, the situation has changed. Cheney has an obligation to his former aide to do more than just ask. He should threaten to resign if Bush refuses to issue an immediate pardon. All this talk about "waiting for the appeal" is just cowardice. What good does that do Libby if he is waiting in prison? The irony is that threatening to resign is a win-win move for Cheney. If he gets the pardon, at some point it will come out that he put his neck on the line for Libby. If Bush refuses him and Cheney resigns, he will become a rock star among conservative republicans, who already despise Bush. It's not like serving out the last year and half in this awful administration is going to cover Cheney in glory. So what's it gonna be Dick?