Tuesday, January 13, 2009

George Lardner on the Toussie Pardon (Non-Pardon)

We've have expected a Washington Post editorial from George Lardner for some time now. It has finally arrived. Lardner begins by saying the "most important step" President Bush has taken with respect to the pardon power came last month, "when he repudiated it." The reference, of course, is to the about-face Bush took on the pardon of Isaac Robert Toussie. But, amazingly enough, Lardner suggests any litigation on the matter will (or should) favor the President - "... if judges have any regard for history, they will side with Bush."

Lardner does not base his position on the dozen plus examples of cancelled/voided/revoked pardons and commutations that we have discovered (see posts here and here and here). Instead, he bases his argument entirely on Ulysses S. Grant's revocation of the pardons of Moses and Jacob Depuy. As a result, Lardner's position may have been strengthened by referencing Grant's additional attempts to revoke pardons.

But Lardner also sees a problem with the "clumsy and dangerous ways" that the pardon power is "administered." And he points the finger at Dwight Eisenhower, who came up with the idea of "master warrants" because he "was too busy, or found it too tiresome" to sign individual clemency warrants. Then, Lardner says, the Office of the Pardon Attorney began "acting" as though it were "acceptable to notify a grantee by phone and to follow up weeks later with a letter." As a result, the all important "delivery" of warrants more or less "went out the window."

Lardner says he hopes the Toussie revocation "sticks and results in a lawsuit" and appears incredulous that anyone would think that the "slovenly habits" of "making a call or reading a bunch of names at a news conference" would constitute "delivery." See Lardner editorial here.

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