Monday, January 5, 2009

The President: Silence is Not Golden

If George W. Bush never grants another pardon, his clemency legacy would be as follows: He continued the long, steady decline in pardons. Like most presidents before him, he granted the highest number of pardons in the fourth and last year of each of his two terms as president. Texans did pretty well in the small pool of grants. And the two most prominent points of interest - by far and away - were the commutation of sentence granted to Scooter Libby and the pardon / then non-pardon of Isaac Robert Toussie.

The worrisome thing is that Bush might very well consider that legacy worth keeping - as is. While future discussions of Bush pardons might focus on the potential impropriety of pardoning someone so closely connected to the White House (Libby), any comprehensive look will have to also consider the withdrawal of a pardon at the "discovery" of the mere potential for impropriety (Toussie). That is to say, Toussie just might be the neat book end, the convenient punctuation mark.

Columnist Debra J. Saunders (who has tirelessly supported clemency for Clarence Aaron) worries that
... the negative fallout from the Toussie story will prompt Mr. Bush to issue fewer pardons and commutations. Mr. Bush has been too stingy with this power, even as the foolish inflexibility of federal mandatory minimum sentences has created many worthy recipients.
We think these concerns are well-founded. See Saunders editorial here.

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