Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Comment: Daily Hearld and the Limits of Limited Intelligence

Today, the Daily Herald wonders "whether the presidential power to pardon and commute sentences should be somehow limited -- whether the pardon power itself has become a source for cynicism about our government." It is indeed, one of those classic questions that everyone ignores for the first 3/4 of an administration, or until the aftermath of a particular pardon they do not like. The Daily Herald has already come out against the possible (although not particularly likely) commutation of former Governor George Ryan's sentence. Such would be, in the words of the Hearld "unthinkable." Why consider limiting the pardon power now? The Herald says there is a "growing recent history" that "suggests" that it should "at least be debated and considered."

But, if anything is certain, it is that that the Herald's levels of knowledge are unthinkably low and its pitiful memory banks are only "recent." Were the lenses more wide, the Herald would discover "unthinkable" pardons are a great American tradition, stretching back to the administration of George Washington. Where Alexander Hamilton clearly saw opportunities to get tough with public hangings (none of the 76 month sentence stuff) and to send the right "message" to lawbreakers and all that, George Washington saw opportunities for mercy ... at the last minute, right before he left office.

But the Herald complains that "in the recent era," the pardon power has "been used to aid political friends and supporters." Which is so true if you are not familiar with the way Thomas Jefferson pardoned the editors of the newspapers that supported him. And "the recent era" is great to beat up on if you have no clue what the Whiskey Ring was all about. Here is your clue Daily Herald: the pardon power was used that way in England for centuries and American presidents simply picked up the ball from there and ran with it accordingly, from the get-go.

The Herald notes the pardon power is "subject to abuses that undermine our rule of law." This would, of course, be true of any other power, in any other branch of government and hardly constitutes a reason for limitation. But some limitations are considered:

A widely suggested modification of that power would be for pardon applications to be reviewed by an advisory commission, which would deliberate publicly ... Just the other day, the liberal political blog Daily Kos itemized several options in a viewer poll. Among them: giving Congress power with a two-thirds vote to revoke a pardon; prohibiting pardons for anyone holding a public trust; and requiring pardons to be approved by a special committee made up of members of all three branches of government.
Public deliberation of clemency applications. What an awesome idea. Imagine all of the support there would be out there for convicted felons! And maybe we should allow the victims of crimes to testify too. Imagine all of the politicians lining up to support them! Imagine how immune such public spectables would be from "politics." Imagine the praise that would be heaped on the commission as it made its many, many favorable recommendations! How about this Herald: just remove the pardon power altogether or let the American public vote on pardon applications American Idol style?

Congress? A check on the pardon power? The Daily Herald clearly has no clue how closely tied Congress is to the pardon power and how much Congress contributes to its abuse. Here is your free education Daily Herald. Yeah, if Congress were 90 percent Republican, that would sure put a halt to any Republican abuse of the pardon power. Duh! See Daily Herald disaster here.

No comments:

blogger templates | Make Money Online