Sunday, February 17, 2008

Context: How Soon We Forget!

In the aftermath of the humorous (but now all too predictable) comparison of Roger Clemens to Scooter Libby and the prediction of a "prospective" pardon by President Bush, many a news source claimed such an act would be the first since Gerald Ford granted a pardon to Richard Nixon for crimes he "may have committed." Yes, when you say the word "pardon," the media can hardly refrain from falling back on the old Nixon crutch. Of course, whenever you mention Nixon, you have to use language like "most controversial of all time" - you know, newsworthy language. But, before we go jumping back into history three or four decades, Robin, let's put on our thinking caps ...

Here is how The Nation described Bill Clinton's pardon of former CIA Director John Deutsch:
The most serious of Clinton's pardon excesses, that of former CIA Director John Deutsch, does not rise to that level, but it is odd that it has not been criticized. By pardoning Deutsch, Clinton ended an inquiry into how sloppily top secrets are handled at the highest level. The Clinton Administration had held former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee in solitary confinement for mishandling data that wasn't even classified as secret at the time. It was Lee and not Deutsch who deserved a pardon. But that would have meant enduring criticism, and Clinton only does that for well-connected people.
How dare The Nation suggest the Deutsch pardon was more "controversial" than current media crutch number two, Marc Rich! Here is what Jack Kemp had to say about the Deutsch pardon:

Similarly, President Clinton pardoned his CIA director, John Deutsch. The pardon of Deutch spared the former CIA director any criminal charges for mishandling secret information on his home computer. Deutch, had resigned in 1996 and had his security clearance stripped. He had been considering a deal with the Justice Department in which he would plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of keeping classified data on home computers when President Clinton provided a pardon.

And Kemp also noted other Clinton pardons with a "prospective" nature:

President Clinton pardoned each and every person convicted of anything in the investigation of former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy by independent counsel Donald Smaltz. Those persons included Tyson Foods official Archie Schaffer, whose conviction was pending on appeal at the time of the pardon. These pardons didn't go through the "normal" process at the Justice Department.
Bruce Fein wrote the following in the Washington Post:

Mr. Deutch's pardon, unlike Portia's mercy in "The Merchant of Venice," was twice cursed. It cursed both the giver and the taker. Mr. Deutch was less than 24 hours away from pleading guilty to a national security crime when Mr. Clinton's meddling shipwrecked law enforcement. Mr. Deutch's recidivism aggravated his disturbing offense. As a grandee at the Defense Department, he was guilty of the same disdain for protecting classified information from our nation's enemies. Moreover, Mr. Deutch was no unschooled sleuth. He had undergone repeated catechisms from national security watchdogs stressing the criticality of keeping national security secret secret. Think of the many CIA agents or informants killed by the Soviet Union because of Aldrich Ames' betrayals. ... What Mr. Clinton did and Mr. Deutch accepted inflicted evils on the CIA that will live long after the pair of miscreants and Marc Rich have faded from the scene.

Well, relax, Bruce. It appears most people have already forgotten. What on earth would the media do without the shadow of Richard Nixon to blur up a good pardon story? I just don't know.

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