Friday, January 16, 2009

Carter - Holder's Standard for "Reasonableness" in Pardon Matters

Yesterday, Attorney General nominee referred to Bill Clinton's pardon of FALN terrorists as "reasonable" and offered up as evidence the fact that it was supported by Jimmy Carter. Now there is a standard for what is "reasonable" in matters related to presidential pardons!

Carter seemed to view pardons as Christmas gifts and granted the highest number in the fourth and last year of his term. He was also especially generous in the final weeks of his term - you know, like a lot of really uptight persons are expecting President Bush to be. Along the way, Carter granted to clemency to Oscar Collazo, who attempted to assassinate Harry Truman at the Blair House. Collazo's co-conspirator and a guard were killed in the attack. Carter also granted clemency to the Puerto Rican nationalists who sprayed the House of Representatives with bullets and hit five members of Congress. Like the FALN terrorists, none of these individuals even applied for clemency because none of them were repentant. Carter's clemency was immediately identified as bare-faced electoral politics so, yes, he could certainly be sympathetic with the potential benefits of the FALN pardons for Mrs. Clinton.

It was Carter who also granted late-term clemency to millionaire Frederic B. Ingram in the face of what would have certainly been stiff opposition from prosecutors and members of the Department of Justice. But potential dissenters were simply left in the dark during the decision making process - something Mr. Holder can certainly relate to. And, of course, it was Carter who granted a pardon Democratic fund raiser extraordinaire Peter Yarrow in the final days of the term. Yarrow's application went through the DOJ in near record speed, skipping ahead of hundreds of others.

We are hardly surprised that Eric Holder would see Mr. Carter as a fitting standard for the "reasonableness" of decision making in matters related to clemency. They are both clearly "birds of a feather." See CNN report on Holder's comment here.


Anonymous said...

Professor Ruckman,

With all due respect, to describe that Eric Holder used Jimmy Carter's pardon record as a "standard" for his decision to support the FALN clemency is absolutely dishonest.

One merely needs to read the transcript of yesterday's Senate confirmation to see that your comments make no sense.

Fortunately, ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper has provided the relevant transcript portions of yesterday's confirmation hearing on the FALN clemency debate.

According to the transcript, Jimmy Carter was never mentioned as a "standard," but instead mentioned within an important group that supported FALN clemency. Holder said:

"I think it's a difficult decision that the president had. I think that there were a lot of people who were in support of that clemency request: Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Coretta Scott King, President Carter, Desmond Tutu, Cardinal O'Connor in New York."

Holder never singles out Carter.

So I ask, why do you single out Carter as the "standard" that Holder followed?

Why not Desmond Tutu, or Coretta Scott King?

And what do you think about the specific reasons he gave for his support for clemency on this matter?

Thanks for your time.

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

EDITOR:Anon, with all due respect, if you read the transcript carefully, as I did, it is perfectly clear that Mr. Carter's name is mentioned as a prelude to the conclusion that the decision to pardon the FALN terrorists was "reasonable" - in part, because Mr. Carter supported it. It made perfect sense to "single out" Carter because 1) he is a former president 2) he exercised the pardon power in ways that showed astoundingly poor judgement and 3) the parallels between some of Carter's pardons and Holder's record are simply fantastic. It would be dishonest not to admit to that.

GlennNYC said...

"Anonymous" is absolutely correct. Your implication -- that Holder suggested if Carter approved of it, it must be reasonable -- is utterly dishonest.

Hey, it's your blog, of course, and you can be as dishonest as you like. God Bless the First Amendment, and all that. But I have come here occasionally because you seemed to play things straight and have had good information on pardon law. That sort of credibility is pretty easily trashed with dissembling like this post.

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

EDITOR: GlennNYC, I did not "imply" anything at all. I clearly stated that Mr. Carter's name was cited as a prelude to the conclusion that the FALN terrorist pardons were "reasonable." No name calling can change Holder's clear use of the language.

Anon1 was dishonest in claiming that I said "Carter's pardon record" was "a standard for [Holder's] decision to support the FALN clemency." I said no such thing. I said Holder used Carter to prop up the position that it was "reasonable."

You are utterly dishonest in claiming I said "if Carter approved of it, it must be reasonable." I said no such thing. I said Holder used Carter to prop up the position that it was "reasonable." I assume you are not taking the position that Carter's name was mentioned as an attack on the pardon!

And there is no doubt whatsoever that I am right.

But, hey, we do have a First Amendment. Trash away!

Anonymous said...

Professor Ruckman,

It's clear that you are focusing on Carter, dismissing the many others who made up the list of supporters for the FALN clemency, and their reasons (which happened to be identical to Holder's).

Allow me to share with your readers these relevant facts:

"Thousands of people signed a petition and lobbied for the [FALN] prisoners' release, among them former President Jimmy Carter and prominent human rights leaders like Desmond M. Tutu of South Africa, the Nobel Laureate, and Coretta Scott King, widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Several Democratic lawmakers from New York also urged Mr. Clinton to release the 16 prisoners, including Representatives Jose E. Serrano, Charles B. Rangel, Nydia M. Velazquez and Eliot L. Engel. Among their arguments are that the prison terms were excessive and that the prisoners had already served long sentences." [NYT, Aug.27,1999]

From Holder's nomination hearing yesterday:

"I thought that [President Clinton's] determination was a reasonable one, given the fact that there was -- that these people had served really extended periods of time in jail. Given the fact that -- the nature of the offenses of which they were convicted, they did not directly harm anyone. They were not responsible directly for any murders."

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and allowing others to do the same.

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

EDITOR:Anon, you are correct. I have focused on Carter, because it makes perfect sense to do so. I did not mention him. Holder did. And, again, 1) he is a former president 2) he exercised the pardon power in ways that showed astoundingly poor judgement and 3) the parallels between some of Carter's pardons and Holder's record are simply fantastic.

I think most of the regular readers of this blog are well aware of the partisan and political nature of the pardons. but your excerpt might have been more balanced had it also mentioned the Senatorial campaign of Mrs. Clinton. Like it or not, that is part of the story.

As for the "excessive punishment" argument, I think that was well addressed in the memo from Roger Adams (the former U.S. Pardon Attorney) that was made public a few days ago.


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