Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Barrett Attempts to "Bush" Walker

For decades, political scientists have been concerned that the media generally cannot be relied upon to report on matters related to executive clemency without misrepresentation, egregious errors of omission, sensationalism and the like. Politicians are, of course, well aware of the legitimate foundation of such concerns and - at the cost of fair and proper public understanding of clemency - exploit the circumstance for partisan advantage.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Tuesday's gubernatorial recall election "could see the highest turnout for that office in more than a half-century." So, for no legitimate reason whatsoever, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D), who is trying to unseat Scott Walker (R), says:
"I want to be certain that we're not going to have this election and he's going to turn around and pardon all these aides of his who have been charged ... I just want him to say that he's never going to pardon any of these people. These are close associates of his."
It was reminiscent of the over-the-top smears thinly disguised as thoughtful speculation which attended the end of the Bush administration. Bush was supposed to pardon every Republican in federal prison, as well as every one who might ever be charged from here to eternity. The speculation feeding frenzy was certainly a real treat for idiots (see our delightful chronicling of their stupidity here), but not very beneficial for the reputation of the pardon power and public understanding.

Unfortunately, Walker (who has yet to grant a single pardon!) has responded:
"I have said repeatedly I'm not issuing pardons on anything. Period." 
When, he should have said:
"I have used the powers of my office responsibly to date and no one has any reason to think that, in the future, I will do otherwise. As such I will neither be coached nor harassed as to how to use, or not use, the solemn powers vested in me by the State Constitution. I will use, or not use, the power exactly as I see fit."
That is the only serious answer any public official should give to those who want to soil such an important topic with the boots of political expediency. Run your campaign, Mr. Barrett. Just shut up about the possibility of preemptive, best-buddy, double secret, unprecedented fantasy pardons. See story here.

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