Tuesday, July 14, 2015

White House: "Bold" on Commutations, Pardons "Another Story"

Sometimes, a White House Press Secretary can only be armed with so many talking points, and data.Yesterday, Josh Earnest bragged that President Obama has done a little better (one better actually) than some of the worst, most neglectful presidents in history (the previous four). Let's all hope that is not a sign of things to come - or not to come!

Q And if you look at the numbers, the President is behind some of his predecessors in this category in terms of commutations and pardons, although it appears he’s doing some catching up. Is this something that we should see or that we might see accelerate over his remaining time in office?

MR. EARNEST: What I would say, Jim, in terms of the raw numbers of commutations, the announcement today of 46 commutations is actually the largest number of commutations that's been issued by a President on a single day dating back to at least the Johnson administration. And this brings to I believe it's 89 -- that's the number of people who have received a commutation from the President of the United States, and that actually is more than the number of commutations issued by the four previous Presidents combined. So the President has taken pretty bold action when it comes to commutations. I think the point that you're raising --

Q Pardons, then, I guess.

MR. EARNEST: Yes, the pardons is a bit of a different story. But I think that the point that you're raising, however, is an entirely legitimate one, and that is that there are significant reforms that need to be implemented into our criminal justice system. And the President is hopeful that he can work with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill to advance a legislative solution to address some of those inequities. He doesn’t want to just have to rely on his constitutional authority as President of the United States to offer commutations. He actually is hopeful that we can develop and implement a legislative solution that would have a broader, more far-reaching impact in bringing greater fairness and justice to our criminal justice system.

(Note: Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan granted at total of 88 commutations of sentence. After six and a half years, Obama has "beaten" them ... by one. On the "other story" front, those four presidents granted 1,052 pardons. Should that now be the mark for Obama' "boldness" on this front? Maybe not. You see, Obama has only granted 64 pardons to date, a number that also happens to be lower than any single one of the four previous presidents. If winning by 1 is "bold," how shall we think of being behind by 988?). 

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