COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who as Massachusetts governor refused to pardon an Iraq war veteran's BB-gun conviction, on Tuesday called President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence "reasonable."
Defending Bush, Romney said at a campaign stop that "the president looked very carefully at the setting" before deciding to commute the 2 1/2-year sentence of Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted in the CIA leak case.
The prosecutor in the case "went after somebody even when he knew no crime had been committed," Romney said. "Given that fact, isn't it reasonable for a commutation of a portion of the sentence to be made?"
As governor, Romney twice rejected a pardon for Anthony Circosta, who at age 13 was convicted of assault for shooting another boy in the arm with a BB gun - a shot that didn't break the skin. Circosta worked his way through college, joined the Army National Guard and led a platoon of 20 soldiers in Iraq's deadly Sunni triangle.
In 2005, as he was serving in Iraq, he sought a pardon to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.
In his presidential bid, Romney often proudly points out that he was the first governor in modern Massachusetts history to deny every request for a pardon or commutation during his four years in office. He says he refused pardons because he didn't want to overturn a jury.
During the four years Romney was in office, 100 requests for commutations and 172 requests for pardons were filed in the state. All were denied.
While campaigning Tuesday, Romney also threw a barb at former President Bill Clinton, who issued 457 pardons during his two terms in the White House.
"Wasn't it Bill Clinton who was handing out pardons like lollipops?" Romney said.
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