Sunday, May 25, 2008

Context: Hamilton Jordan, R.I.P.

Hamilton Jordan, political strategist and the very closest personal advisor to Jimmy Carter died this week. He was 63-years old. Jordan made a run for the U.S. Senate after Ronald Reagan won the presidency and worked for Ross Perot in 1992. He was also in on the hefty criticism that Bill Clinton received in 2001.

In a speech at Georgia Southwestern State University, Carter called Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich a “disgraceful” and “serious mistake.” Carter also told his audience that, as President of the United States, he “never” pardoned anyone without a “complete investigation" by the Justice Department and a recommendation in favor of clemency. Carter was also critical of the fact that so many of the Clinton’s pardons were granted late in the term.

On the same day, Jordan wrote an editorial which appeared in the Wall Street Journal. He also rebuked Clinton for ignoring “certain procedures” that had been “honored and passed along from president to president.” He found it “extremely curious” that Clinton did not seek the “advice and perspective” of prosecuting attorneys in the Marc Rich case and suggested the “ethical atmosphere” of the Clinton White House had “sunk” to an “incredible” level where pardons were just another “perk of office.”

One would never have guessed from the speech and the editorial that Jimmy Carter had granted more individual pardons in the last year of his own administration than he had in any of the previous three years. In fact, Carter granted about one third of all of his pardons in the fourth year of his term and over 80 pardons in his final six weeks in office (more than he had in any single month of his administration). On his last day as President, Carter granted pardons to nine individuals, including Peter Yarrow, singer of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, who also happened to be a long-time Democratic Party supporter and activist. Yarrow had filed an application for the pardon just seven weeks earlier. Nor would one have guessed that Carter had granted his own controversial, late-term pardon to a wealthy individual (Frederic Ingram), with “inside” connections, and in complete opposition to the clearly expressed wishes of officials in the Department of Justice.

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