Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Campaign 08: Clinton, Pardons and Terror

Today's Wall Street Journal contains an informative editorial which revisits Bill Clinton's pardon of the FALN terrorists and Hillary Clinton's resulting antics. The New Republic blog provides this background on FALN:
FALN, a Puerto Rican terrorist group that was resonsible for a string of armed robberies as well as 146 bombings that killed 9 people and injured hundreds in its quixotic fight for independence from the United States. Some 25 years before another, far more devastating terrorist attack on Lower Manhattan, FALN planted a bomb in the Fraunces Tavern restaurant which detonated during lunch-hour, killing 4 and injuring 60, it's most infamous and deadly attack (link).
Among other things today's Wall Street Journal piece says:

The [FALN] prisoners were convicted on a variety of charges that included conspiracy, sedition, violation of the Hobbes Act (extortion by force, violence or fear), armed robbery and illegal possession of weapons and explosives -- including large quantities of C-4 plastic explosive, dynamite and huge caches of ammunition. Mr. Clinton's action was opposed by the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. attorney offices that prosecuted the cases and the victims whose lives had been shattered. In contravention of standard procedures, none of these agencies, victims or families of victims were consulted or notified prior to the president's announcement.

... Given all this, why would Bill Clinton, who had ignored the 3,226 clemency petitions that had piled up on his desk over the years, suddenly reach into the stack and pluck out these 16 meritless cases?

... Hillary Rodham Clinton was in the midst of her state-wide "listening tour" in anticipation of her run for the U.S. Senate in New York, a state which included 1.3 million Hispanics. Three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- Luis V. Gutierrez (D., Ill.), Jose E. Serrano, (D., N.Y.) and Nydia M. Velazquez, (D., N.Y.) -- along with local Hispanic politicians and leftist human-rights advocates, had been agitating for years on behalf of the FALN cases directly to the White House and first lady.

Initial reports stated that Mrs. Clinton supported the clemencies, but when public reaction went negative she changed course, issuing a short statement three weeks after the clemencies were announced. The prisoners' delay in refusing to renounce violence "speaks volumes," she said. The Clintons were caught in an awkward predicament of their own making. The president had ignored federal guidelines for commutation of sentences, including the most fundamental: The prisoners hadn't actually asked for clemency.

... Meanwhile, Puerto Rican politicians in New York who'd been crowing to their constituents about the impending release of these "freedom fighters" were enraged and insulted at Hillary Clinton's withdrawal of support. "It was a horrible blunder," said State Sen. Olga A. Mendez. "She needs to learn the rules."

The first lady called her failure to consult the Puerto Rican political establishment before assessing the entire issue a mistake "that will never happen again" -- even as the cops who had been maimed and disfigured by FALN operations continued to be ignored.

... On the campaign trail, the Clintons like to say that Bill is merely supportive and enthusiastic, "just like all the other candidates' spouses." Nothing could be further from the truth. Returning Bill and Hillary Clinton to the White House would present the country with the unprecedented situation of a former and current president simultaneously occupying the White House, the practical implications of which have yet to be fully explored. The FALN clemencies provide a disturbing example of how the abuse or misuse of presidential prerogative, under the guise of policy, can be put in service of the personal and private activities of the president's spouse -- and beyond the reach of meaningful congressional oversight.

See full Wall Street Journal article here.

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