Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Clueless: Michael A. Lindenberger on Barbour

In this classically tone-deaf editorial at Time, Michael A. Lindenberger further promotes the Police Squad-like script that former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour represents all that is right and has, somehow, become the victim of unwarranted criticism and attack. And, for dramatic effect, Lindenberger professes concern that Mississippians (who are "calling for blood") could "do real damage to an important safety valve in the American justice system."

On the other hand, Lindenberger is not at all concerned that Haley Barbour all but completely neglected this "important safety valve" for eight long years. No, not a word on that. Nor does Lindenberger display even the slightest concern that any of Barbour's last-minute decisions were made in haste (despite all of the missing information in the clemency warrants, the typos, the lack of detail, etc.). Lindenberger says he is concerned about pardons that have the feel of an "unappealable decision" or seem to hide "secrets" from the public. But it doesn't even dawn on him that dumping a huge pile of pardons just before one leaves office (after ignoring the pardon power for eight years) would clearly encourage any thoughtful person to suspect that unappealable decisions had been made in secret.

No, in Lindenberger's not-so-parallel universe, Barbour has done the reputation of the pardon power a great favor ! And Barbour deserves our praise.

Why, even Bill Clinton's most staunch cheerleaders were not so brazenly obtuse.

Stumbling over his pom pom gear, Lindenberger lectures us that Barbour was merely trying to "introduce the human element of mercy into law." Where was Lindenberger during Barbour's first merciless eight years in office? Nowhere to be found. A useless mute. No editorials. Zip. Nothing to say whatsoever about the honor and necessity of mercy in Mississippi.

To wield Lindenberger's insulting rhetoric, why did he sit by and silently support Barbour's bloody reign for eight years? I mean, did Mr. Lindenberger remind us of the importance of mercy, the great "safety valve," during any of the nine executions that took place during the Barbour administration?

Barbour's defenders, and those who merely seek attention by sticking their nose into the topic, need to get it straight: the manner in which Barbour used (and did not use) the pardon power deserves little or no praise. Barbour ignored the power for eight years and (well within the memory of Bill Clinton's dishonorable last-minute pardon stunt) hastily dumped lots of pardons just before he left office. While it is true that most of them were granted to people who had the recommendation of the State's parole Board, it is also true that the Board did not dump all of those recommendations on Barbour at the last minute. It follows - even for a person of Lindenberger's limited capacity - that Barbour had recommendations for mercy and sat on them. And for how long? Who knows? Months? Years? An entire term? And during that time people who were deserving of clemency suffered. That is the cold, hard reality Lindenberger so easily ignores.

Put all of the rouge that you want on the whore, Mr. Lindenberger, but that is hardly the face of laudable mercy. It is the face of selfishness, incompetence, callousness and disregard for the basics of justice. It is Pilate pardoning Barabas, at best, and very little more.

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