So, seven years in prison strikes Talent as "too short." Manning would have been eligible for parole in three years anyway and:
... the parole process is designed to consider the kinds of mitigating factors that Manning’s supporters urged upon the Obama administration. That forum would have been the better one in which to consider her claims for mercy.Talent congratulates Obama for clemency decisions that don't "smack of the kind of personal corruption that tainted many of Bill Clinton’s last minute pardons." But the "timing" of many of his grants is "still very suspect." He writes:
I am a believer in the pardon power. It should be used aggressively, and without apology, where the executive believes either that a miscarriage of justice occurred in the courts or that the equities tip strongly in favor of clemency. I believe the American people would respect an executive who acted decisively and transparently in using the power, even when they disagreed with a particular decision.
But these last minute commutations smell; they are yet another reason, for those looking for such reasons, to be cynical about the institutions of government and the leaders who populate them. There is a simple remedy available. Congress should consider a constitutional amendment making clemency decisions during presidential transitions provisional only, subject to reversal by the new president within 60 days after he assumes office, and inoperative, unless confirmed by the new president, until the 60 days had passed. (Special provision could be made for death-penalty cases.)Talent concludes presidents "should have the power to extend mercy when they think it’s justified." But they should also "be required to show some principle, and some courage, in how they do it." See full editorial piece here.