Thursday, November 13, 2014

Arkansas: Mercy and Nepotism, A Tale of Two Governors

Today, the news is all about Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, who desires that his son be pardoned for an eleven year-old, non-violent drug offense.  The offense was so minor, the punishment was three year's supervision and a fine. See story here.

Governor Beebe has been the topic of many posts at this blog, because he is one of the few governors in the United States that takes the constitutional responsibility to pardon seriously. Beebe has not followed the Haley Barbour / Deval Patrick zero-integrity model of clemency neglect. Beebe has granted pardons steadily throughout his term. no one can accuse him of being ridiculously merciless. Nor can anyone fairly characterize him as unacceptable soft on crime or of setting dangerous criminals loose. Everything about Beebe's behavior suggests integrity and responsibility. It is not very likely at all that a lurid last-minute pardon bonanza is in his future. There is no need for one. He has not neglected his duty in this sphere.

Beebe's pardon of his own son is accompanied by a humble, detailed, articulate, public explanation / justification, which any reasonable person is free to accept or reject. But the point is Beebe respects the office, the power and the citizens of Arkansas enough to make the explanation.

Contrast Beebe with another Arkansas governor who went on to be President of the United States: Bill Clinton. Clinton ignored the pardon power like no other president since John Adams. At the end of the term he smeared the power perhaps as badly as any president in history. As he did it, Clinton pardoned his own brother - a guy whose autobiography barely suggests anything like remorse for his criminal behavior. he Arkansas Parole Board recommended pardon for Beebe's son, but Bill Clinton did not wait for his brother's application to be approved by the Office of the Pardon Attorney, in the Department of Justice. Indeed, Roger Clinton never even filled out an application for pardon! President Clinton offered no public justification whatsoever for this egregious act. The pardon was a straight-up rude, arrogant, in-your-face act of disrespect for the law.

Beebe is no Clinton.

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