Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Obama: Countdown to Infamy

658 days into his administration, President Obama has shown no sign that he is aware that the Constitution gives the president clemency powers. To date, the president has not granted a single pardon or commutation of sentence. On the other hand, the U.S. Pardon Attorney (a holdover from the Bush administration) has denied record numbers of clemency applications. In 14 days, Obama will pass Bill Clinton and become the slowest Democratic president in history to exercise the pardon power - readers may recall what a mark his administration made in the matter of pardons!

Obama's negligence is anomalous for many reasons. Democratic presidents have generally been more generous with pardons than Republicans. Former lawyers have also been more generous. Obama did not come into office in the wake of a major pardon controversy left by his predecessor (as did Bush, Clinton, Eisenhower, etc.) and he should not bring the reticence one might expect in a former governor. Throw in the fact that Obama has explicitly criticized mandatory minimums and disparities in crack cocaine sentences and, well, it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Maybe, one day, someone in the national news media will bother to ask the President about this matter directly. Meanwhile the countdown is on!

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