Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thinking About Black: Same Old Mistakes

Colin Perkel of the Canadian Press has written an interesting article on the prospects of clemency for Conrad Black, who, it appears, filed an application for a commutation of sentence with the Office of the Pardon Attorney on November 10. A somewhat unusual group of "experts" are cited in the piece. Peter Henning, a professor of law at Wayne State University Law School, says, "I don't see that there's all that much appeal for granting a pardon or commutation to a CEO who abused his position, especially in this current climate." Indeed. That would be something like taking a "tough stance" on terrorism and then granting pardons to Weather Underground members and FALN. Rick Powers, associate dean at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, says Black is "grasping at straws" and rates his chances of success as "infinitesimal." See article here.

Predicting success or failure in the clemency application process is risky business. But what really stands out in this article and dozens of others just like it that are starting to appear everywhere, is the complete lack of imagination in prognostication. It is as though Scooter Libby never happened! Remember how the media couldn't say enough times that Bush would have to pardon Libby, or Libby would go to prison? Remember how Libby did not go to prison, but Bush did not pardon him? If I were making a prediction regarding Black - which I am not, and will not - I would be mindful of options other than a commutation which springs Black from prison, or a full and complete pardon. Bush could also commute the sentence to a later date. That is, he could reduce the sentence, by a little or a lot, and Black could remain in prison. The President would certainly be criticized and Black and his supporters would still be unhappy. But ... does that ring a bell? Sound familiar at all?

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