Friday, November 19, 2010

Sad. Just Downright Sad.

As if it is not already wretched enough that presidents have stupidly been pardoning fat turkeys for years, we have to also be cursed with extensive media reporting on where the turkeys come from, what they look like and where they are going ... ugh!

So far, President Obama has had 3,482 new applications for pardons and commutations of sentence and over 3,000 applications were pending at the beginning of fiscal year (2010). But the National media have given much more attention to the quirky names of pardoned turkeys.

In four days, President Obama will become the slowest Democratic president in history to exercise the pardon power. And he may very well pass the very slowest of them all, George W. Bush. Most presidents have granted the first pardon of their tenure well within 100 days. But, 600 plus days later, Mr. Obama has yet to grant a single pardon or commutation of sentence. Meanwhile, the media are keenly interested in how much pardoned turkeys weigh.

On the other hand, the Obama administration has "closed" over 700 applications "without presidential action" and fought doggedly in the court system - despite campaign rhetoric re "transparency" in government - to prevent George Lardner from obtaining minimal information regarding clemency applicants under the Freedom of Information Act. But, of course, what all we really need to know is whether or not pardoned turkeys will be retired to Disney or George Washington's home.

Before he was President, Obama was critical of mandatory minimums and disparities in crack cocaine sentences (remnants of the Reagan and Clinton administrations) and the manner in which they adversely impacted African Americans. Members of Congress had serious concerns about these problems as well, and recently changed the law to reduce the 100-to-1 disparity to a ratio of 18-to-1.

President Obama wisely signed the legislation but now, of course, he has the opportunity (and arguably the duty) to employ the pardon power in order to show his concern for those persons who have actually been imprisoned under the laws he so passionately (and sincerely?) attacked. There is no reason in this world why any federal prison anywhere should be detaining a single first-time, non-violent offender of the previous laws who has served more than a single day beyond the 18-to-1 mark. Can we just, for a moment, forget about the turkeys?

The current U.S. Pardon Attorney (Ronald L. Rodgers) is a holdover from the administration of George W. Bush. He came to the office after the previous Pardon Attorney (Roger Adams) was beat up for racist remarks regarding what most reasonable persons would probably consider an excellent candidate for federal executive clemency. Why didn't Obama - in his pursuit of "change" - choose his own pardon attorney? Does he not care? If the turkeys are eaten, does it really matter?

Obama campaigned on a theme of "Hope and Change." He was tirelessly critical of George W. Bush and continues to blame a majority of his own political misfortune and the economic woes of the Nation on Mr. Bush. And yet he has retained Bush's choice for U.S. Pardon Attorney and, when it comes to the exercise of the pardon power, Obama resembles no other president nearly as much as he does George W. Bush. The sooner the turkeys are out of the news, the better. It would be nice to see the media direct more time energy and effort to matters more significant, like the pardon power as it relates to humans!

* This post has been corrected from a previous version. See comments section. 


margy said...

"The more normal thing, at least for recent presidents, is to pick their own U.S. Pardon Attorney."

Not so, Peter. The only President in the past 100 years to to pick his own Pardon Attorney was Jimmy Carter, who picked Indiana lawyer John Stanish. Before Stanish, career prison officials had served as pardon attorney since the Eisenhower Administration. James J. Finch and Daniel Lyons served as pardon attorney for almost 50 years. After Stanish left at the end of the Carter administration, his deputy David Stephenson became Acting Pardon Attorney. I replaced Stephenson in the middle of George H.W. Bush's term, and continued through 5 years of Clinton, when I was replaced by Roger Adams -- who continued into George W. Bush's term.

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

EDITOR: And the irony is that I was remembering - or attempting to remember - your "Reinvigorating the Power" (February 23, 2009), which actually says, "President Carter was the last president to appoint his own pardon attorney." Apologies to all! best,

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

EDITOR: Readers may also want to see this previous posting:"

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