Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Get Rid of the Pardon Power?

Thomas Kostigen of has makes the argument that we should "take away" the "archaic practice" of presidential pardons. The primary thrust of the argument: the pardon power "takes time and energy away from a person who should be focused on innovation and leadership, not favors and forgiveness" (as though the criminal justice systems is in no need of "innovation and leadership"). But what led Kostigen to this conclusion? Nixon, Vietnam, Marc Rich and Scooter Libby. That is to say, Kostigen's view of the pardon power is largely shaped by what he reads in the newspapers!

And that is too bad. Kostigen should consider writing down the names of the 179 individuals who have received pardons and commutations from President Bush. Each name should be placed on a separate card. Kostigen should then place the cards in a bag and draw names randomly, until he comes up with one that he knows. On the other hand, he may have neither the time nor the interest in such an exercise, because it would disrupt his warped view of the pardon power. See Kostigen's full editorial here.


Anonymous said...


I'm not exactly a big fan of pardons, either. Marc Rich remains the prime example, although Scooter Libby's Get Out of Jail Free Card isn't exactly a favorite either.

A bit of constructive criticism, if I may: You run a fine website and none offers more information on the pardon process than this one. Rather than a brief dismissal of the anti-pardon argument, would you please offer a bit more expansive position as to the benefits of pardons in our system and how, despite the Marc Riches, Dick Nixons, Scooter Libbys, and, it sadly appears, Mike Milkens of the world, the pardon remains a viable, useful, and just tool of the president.

Perhaps you've already offered such a cogent post before and I just missed it. If not, please provide one now.

Thank you.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

EDITOR:I would suggest that my "dismissal" was "brief" only because the separate and distinct arguments of the piece were so few and weak.

On the other hand, you are probably correct to suggest that I have not provided an "expansive" defense of this Constitutional power on this blog. Perhaps I am too shy to try to out-do Hamilton, in the Federalist Papers.

But, to cut to the chase, I have never felt a particular burdern to defend the power in any "expansive" manner. We have a government with separated powers and checks and balances. I think that is great. Pardons are check on the legislature and the judiciary. So what is the problem? The pardon power can be be abused? That is an argument, is it? So, we should get rid of judicial review too, right? And the power of Congress to conduct "investigations" as well?

So, march out Rich, Nixon, Libby and maybe a dozen more people who "may" be pardoned (of some 20,000 plus persons who have been the individual recipients of clemency) and I would still say, "So what?"

I'll take the checks and balances routine. It is a normative choice I gladly cling to. Burning down the house to roast the pig simply is not intuitive to me. I cannot be more "expansive" than that.

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