Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tribune: No Shortage of Opportunities for Mercy

Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune's Washington Bureau is writing about the fact that President Bush "will have a chance to spare legions before leaving office in January." Why? Because requests for clemency at the Justice Department have passed the 3,000 pending mark. Writes Silva:

... this president's pardons have tended toward lower-profile wrong-doers. P.S. Ruckman Jr., a professor of political science at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill., and an expert on executive clemency, said, "If you're a betting person, and you look at the numbers and the fact that most pardons have landed in December, I think there is every reason to expect there are some pardons ahead" ... Bush, like presidents before him, has proven most forgiving in December. Nearly half of his acts of clemency came during December, by Ruckman's count.
Silva also notes that, in February of 2001, Bush said, "Should I decide to grant pardons, I will do so in a fair way. I will have the highest of standards." Washington Attorney Margaret Colgate Love agrees that Bush "has been very cautious" and has "done very little that would get him into any trouble" on pardons.

See distribution of George W. Bush's pardons and commutations by month here. See distribution of pardons and commutations by month over the last 40 year here. See Mark Silva's story Tribune story here. At The Swamp, Silva provides additional information on clemency in the administration of George H.W. Bush:
If Bush's father was just as sparing with the power of clemency, Love says, it had more to do with his Justice Department recommending relatively few for consideration. With fewer than 1,500 petitions received during the father's term, he granted just 77, denied more than 1,000 and closed more than 500 without action.

"He cannot be faulted for a parsimonious pardoning record, because there were not as many applications then,'' Love says of her former employer. "And he did not get that many favorable recommendations from the Justice Department. He granted all of the pardons that were recommended to him by the Justice Department.''
See the distribution of George H.W. Bush's pardons here - notice most were granted during the fourth year of his term and a very large percentage of the total were granted in the final six weeks of the term.

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