The editorial, published in Saturday's edition, suggests Obama's hesitancy to exercise the pardon power is, in part, "a reaction to Presidents Clinton and Bush, both of whom compromised the pardon power with cronyism" (ugh!), without noting Obama's appointment of Eric Holder as Attorney General. Holder brought more "pardon controversy" baggage with him to the office than any AG in history.
The Times also suggests Obama "may" have allowed himself to be "crippled by the pardon process itself:
That process is managed by the Justice Department, which receives applications for clemency and makes recommendations to the White House. Presumably, the president is willing to use acts of clemency to right the wrongs of the sentencing and judicial systems. Yet the same cannot be said of the Justice Department, which has a prosecutorial mind-set. It has undermined the process with huge backlogs and delays, and sometimes views pardons as an affront to federal efforts to fight crime.The Times also notes the department’s pardon office is "run" by:
... a Bush-appointed lawyer, Ronald L. Rodgers, whose professional conduct has been excoriated by the Justice Department’s own inspector general and referred to the deputy attorney general for possible administrative action. In 2008, in transmitting a proposed pardon to the White House, Mr. Rodgers misrepresented the views of both the United States attorney who made the recommendation and the judge who seconded it. The prisoner was denied a pardon.The solution? The Times recommends that the president "choose a person of stature and energy" to "steward his administration’s pardon duties." The Times also recommends "replacing the pardons office with a new bipartisan commission under the White House’s aegis, giving it ample resources and real independence." Regardless, "It is time for Mr. Obama to vigorously exercise this august and singular responsibility." See full editorial here.