Sunday, January 20, 2013

SHOCK: Obama's Pardon Disaster. The Merciless Term

Barack Obama's first term has come to an end and we are now ready to report that his four-years as president represent the least merciful term for any modern president (Democrat or Republican) and, quite possibly, the least merciful in the entire history of the United States (see footnote below).

This is, of course, an incredible distinction for a president who repeatedly notes that America is a place where people get "second chances," from a president who complained bitterly about overly-harsh sentences given to criminal defendants simply because they were African-American, and from a president who promised us "hope and change."

Will the second term be like (or worse than) the first? Frankly, there are very few signs that anything will change in any significant way - save the conventional wisdom that presidents tend to wax irresponsible in the fourth and final year of the term and are subject to a world of pressure from interested parties (resulting in last-minute pardon splurges). In sum, we appear to be on the track to an equally merciless second term and/or a Clintonesque pardon disaster.

THE LEAST MERCIFUL 4-YEAR TERMS IN AMERICAN HISTORY

President
Term
Individual Acts of Clemency
(Pardons, Commutations of Sentence, Respites)
1
George Washington *
First
0
2
Barack Obama
First
23
3
George Washington
Second
28
4
George W. Bush
First
31
5
John Adams
Only
37
6
Thomas Jefferson
First
48
7
Bill Clinton
First
56
8
George H.W. Bush
Only
77
9
Thomas Jefferson
Second
80
10
James Madison
Second
112


* These data are based on Professor Ruckman's original data set, collected from copies of State Department clemency warrants found on Microfilm Set T969, National Archives, the Annual Report of the U.S. Attorney General and a CD set of clemency warrants issued by the Office of the Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice. Recently, George Lardner has uncovered additional acts of clemency in the first term of George Washington, suggesting State Department records may be incomplete, at least for that administration. There is no additional evidence of overlooked actions in any other administration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

4 modern day P's in the top 8 out of what 57 terms..? Yikes. Certainly the days of forgiveness are long gone.

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