Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chronicle: Helping by Not Helping

The San Francisco Chronicle features one of those kind of self-defeating editorials that must have thousands of federal clemency applicants thinking to themselves, "Oh no. Not now. Thanks. Thanks a load!" The editorial notes:
On Monday, in what we hope will be the first of many farewell pardons, Bush pardoned 14 individuals who had paid their debt to society and turned their lives around. With a Bush pardon, they now are free from criminal records that might prevent them from voting, owning a gun or getting the right job. And they are liberated from the onerous label, "ex-con."

On Monday, Bush also commuted the sentences of John Forte and James Harris, two nonviolent offenders who had been sentenced, respectively, to 14 years in 2001 and 30 years in 1993 for cocaine trafficking. The Washington-based Families Against Mandatory Minimums praised Bush, noting, "There are currently many low-level first-time nonviolent drug offenders who are serving sentences that do not fit their crimes and who would be incredibly grateful if the president gave them a second chance and a fresh start. He has countless opportunities to provide them before he leaves office."
Wow. Could anything be more appropriate? And more encouraging? What a great case for more generous use of the pardon power. And then comes this:
Bush has shown that he can be compassionate when it comes to political operatives, such as convicted perjurer Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.
There ya go. Soften old Bush up and then slap him with sarcasm and insult. Exaggerate a singular into a plural. Focus on one act of clemency at the expense of 178 others. Act like it is all about Libby, Cheney, Rove and the Dark Side! Very helpful. Very helpful.

In an attempt to regain its composure and focus beyond its own nose, the Chronicle says the clemency application of Clarence Aaron is "of special note." But Aaron probably wishes his name did not appear in an exercise in political mud slinging. It's too bad the people who supposedly support greater use of the clemency power are not more wise in how they go about cheering for it. See Chronicle editorial here. To see another example of the same stumbling and bumbling from the Chronicle, see post here.

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