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“When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained.”     Edward R. Murrow

November 29, 2010

Hope n’ Change: Pardon Edition

by Stephen Littau

Thus far, President Obama has pardoned 4 turkeys and 0 people. Does anyone else have a problem with this?

George Lardner Jr. writing an article for The New York Times entitled “No Country for Second Chances” does:

If by tomorrow [November 23, 2010] he pardons no one but turkeys, President Obama will have the most sluggish record in this area of any American president except George W. Bush. He’ll have outdone George Washington, who granted a pardon after 669 days. And he will also have outlasted Bill Clinton, who took three days longer than Washington to grant his first pardons. If Mr. Obama waits until Christmas Eve, he will make even his immediate predecessor, who waited until Dec. 23, 2002, seem more generous.

Last month, President Obama turned down 605 requests for commutations — from prisoners who wanted their sentences shortened — and 71 for pardons.

Lardner reports that the Obama administration has requested some hope n’ change with regard to clemency recommendation standards but apparently doesn’t want to grant clemency to anyone (other than turkeys) until then.

The article continues:

It’s difficult to understand why the president has been so unwilling to grant any clemency. As someone who has taught constitutional law, he knows that the founders gave him, and him alone, the power “to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States except in cases of impeachment.” It is likely that he also knows that a disproportionate number of federal prisoners are black, that mandatory sentencing guidelines have left many of them with excessive sentences and that at least a few of them deserve clemency, whether they’ve asked for it or not.

The president has not only the power but also the responsibility to grant clemency when it is warranted. A pardon can help a worthy former prisoner qualify for a job or a license. But mainly it restores the person’s civil rights, including the right to vote.

This puzzles me as well for many of the same reasons. This is one area I thought Obama actually would be a positive force for change but sadly he seems content with the status quo. The status quo being that only politically well connected individuals* or those whose cause for clemency become political causes** in of themselves ever have a realistic chance of success (regardless of merit or lack thereof).

Surly, out of the 4000+ clemency requests, there are at least a few hundred that are worthy of a presidential pardon. Off the top of my head, I can think of one.

Hat tip: The Agitator


*Richard Nixon, Marc Rich, Scooter Libby, etc. etc.

**Ramos and Compean

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3 Comments

  1. [...] H/T: The Liberty Papers FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Doug Mataconis, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics [...]

    Pingback by Four Turkeys, Zero People: The Case Of Barack Obama’s Missing Pardons — November 29, 2010 @ 1:05 pm
  2. If you were to just examine this extremely quizzical tradition, it is a complete mystery how this disgusting gag is advisable under any realm of public relations whatsoever. On its face, pardoning turkeys appears as a borderline scornful to the criminal justice system and the popular concept of executive power, as well as an open allusion to scorn of a President’s responsibility.

    The history of this tradition is probably interesting.

    Comment by procopius — November 29, 2010 @ 4:58 pm
  3. This is one of the few presidential powers I would like to see used more often (at least a few times a month) to correct obvious failures of the criminal justice system. I wouldn’t mind the turkey gag so much if the pardon was more often used the way it was intended.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — November 29, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

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