Monday, July 11, 2011

Watch List: A Not So Impressive Plea

In the New York Times, Diane McWhortier, an author, makes a not-so-subtle (or impressive) argument that Chris McNair is deserving of federal executive clemency - a presidential pardon. McNair was convicted on 11 federal counts of bribery and conspiracy and received a 5-year prison sentence. He was also ordered to make restitution of more than $800,000 for the bribes.

Why is he deserving of clemency?

McWhortier argues McNair is a "symbol of the civil rights struggle" because, almost a half a century ago, his 11-year-old daughter died when the KKK bombed a Baptist Church. Says McWhortier:
Mr. McNair’s fall from grace violates the redemption narrative on which our national mythology has thrived since Lincoln consecrated the Civil War dead at Gettysburg: the belief that our tragic racial past can be converted into “a new birth of freedom.”
Or, for those less philosophical:
The pressures of destiny can sometimes cause presumptive saviors to balk or to stumble. 
For those readers still scratching their heads, McWhortier goes on to explain that McNair's legal defense sounded "too implausible" in her own mind, "to be totally untrue" in his own mind. And she claims that,"however dubious the ethics" of McNair's "relationships" were, "they were not without some socially redeeming benefit" because they "stormed one of the most resistant citadels of segregation: the dining-room table." This is all not to mention a possible "unconscious motive" for Mr. McNair’s "guiltless if not shameless acceptance of the contractors’ favors: The city owed him a debt." And, just when you might think a shabby argument could not get worse, McWhortier writes:
On the matter of clemency our first black president is not likely to be an easy touch. Mr. Obama has declined, for example, to issue a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, the black boxing champion subjected to government prosecution a century ago because of his affairs with white women — notwithstanding that the Congressional resolution urging the pardon (passed in 2009 and re-introduced this past May) was sponsored by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York.
God help Mr. McNair if his character and reputation, and suitability for pardon, are no better than the long-dead, whore-mongering, wife beating Jack Johnson! See editorial here.

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