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November 1, 2010

Los Angeles Times calls out our "no-pardon president"

The reference to President Obama quoted in the title of this post comes from the headline of this editorial which ran in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend.  The full headline with the subhead was  "A no-pardon president; So far, President Obama hasn't approved a single request for a pardon or commutation of a sentence. That's a disappointment." Here are highlights from the editorial:

Just as a president is entitled to pardon anyone convicted or accused of a crime, he is free to dismiss any petitions for clemency without offering an explanation.  Indeed, he can choose never to issue any pardons or commutations of sentences at all.  Still, it's disappointing that President Obama so far hasn't approved even one request for a pardon or other form of clemency.

It's not that there is a shortage of claimants.  Earlier this month, Obama formally denied 605 petitions for commutation of sentences and 71 pardon requests.  It's hard to believe that none of those was deserving of approval....

Ideally, presidents would give great deference to the pardon attorney's recommendations and take a liberal view of the clemency power, exercising it often and on the basis of clear standards.  Their reluctance to do so likely reflects not the merits or demerits of particular petitions but the political liability of appearing soft on crime.  That reality has led some advocates of more pardons to hope that Obama is waiting to announce grants of clemency until after next week's election.  If so, we hope his first exercise of his clemency power won't be his last.

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November 1, 2010 at 06:29 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"[Presidents'] reluctance to [grant clemency] likely reflects not the merits or demerits of particular petitions but the political liability of appearing soft on crime. That reality has led some advocates of more pardons to hope that Obama is waiting to announce grants of clemency until after next week's election."

How's that? "...until after next week's election"? Is this anything other than cheerleading for political cowardice, and the avoiding (or long postponement) of accountability?

My goodness. And this from one of the many papers that blasted Bush for granting partial clemency (not a pardon, and not full clemency) to Scooter Libby. Now it bemoans that clemency has become the political liability it worked so hard to create (when the shoe was on a Republican foot).

I generally don't get all that excited about charges of hyocrisy, since they tend to be a substitute for substantive argument. But in this case, I have to make an exception.

I agree with the Times that there are probably some cases meriting a pardon. But I do not agree that the President should not have to take political blame/credit for acting on them. Let him do what he thinks is right, and then let the public decide BEFORE the election.

For a guy who haughtily campaigned on the theme that the opposition was unprincipled, Barack Obama is just astonishing.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 1, 2010 8:20:48 PM

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