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November 2, 2012

"Obama Has Granted Clemency More Rarely Than Any Modern President"

The title of this post is the headline of this story by Dafna Linzer of ProPublica, which tells a tale familiar to regular readers of this blog (and a story which I hope and tentatively predict will change after next week). Here is how the lengthy piece gets started:

A former brothel manager who helped the FBI bust a national prostitution ring. A retired sheriff who inadvertently helped a money launderer buy land.  A young woman who mailed ecstasy tablets for a drug-dealing boyfriend, then worked with investigators to bring him down.  All of them and hundreds more were denied pardons by President Obama, who has granted clemency at a lower rate than any modern president, a ProPublica review of pardons data shows.

The Constitution gives the president unique power to forgive individuals for federal offenses. While pardons do not wipe away convictions, they can restore a person's full rights to vote, possess firearms and obtain business licenses, as well as remove barriers to certain career opportunities and adoptions.  For many applicants, a pardon is simply an opportunity for a fresh start.

But Obama has parceled out forgiveness far more rarely than his recent predecessors, pardoning just 22 individuals while denying 1,019.  He has given pardons to roughly 1 of every 50 individuals whose applications were processed by the Justice Department.  At this point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan had pardoned 1 of every 3 such applicants. George H.W. Bush had pardoned 1 in 16.  Bill Clinton had pardoned 1 in 8.  George W. Bush had pardoned 1 in 33.

Obama also has been stingy with commutations, applications for early release by those still serving federal prison sentences.  Under Reagan and Clinton, applicants for commutations had a 1 in 100 chance of success.  Under George W. Bush, that fell to a little less than 1 in 1,000.  Under Obama, an applicant's chance is slightly less than 1 in 5,000.

Though the data above covers familiar ground for those who follow these matters, this press story goes on to report a lot of notable new information.  Here is a sample:

Several administration officials who agreed to discuss pardons on the condition of anonymity said the president pardoned nearly every person recommended by Rodgers for approval in his first two years in office, but that such applicants were few and far between.  While the number of applicants has increased in recent years, Obama — based on Rodgers' recommendations — is denying more people more swiftly than any of his recent predecessors, the data shows....

Currently, two government officials said, there are about a dozen positive recommendations and hundreds of negative ones waiting for the president to act on.  At least one commutation request is pending.  The White House also has asked for a fresh review of the case of Clarence Aaron, who is serving a triple life-sentence, without parole, for his role in a drug conspiracy.  ProPublica and The Washington Post published a story about Aaron's case in May.

November 2, 2012 at 05:05 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Be patient for the pardon bonanza after the election, especially if he loses. He's not about to do pardons now, anymore than he's going to give a straight answer on whether he denied military help to rescue our people fighting the terrorist attack -- uh, make that spontaneous mob -- in Benghazi.

He's a Chicago politician. Just be patient.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 2, 2012 5:32:26 PM

Bill, you seem very intelligent--all the more reason for me to be disappointed in your drinking the Benghazi coolaid. Are you a Rush Limbaugh groupie too? Truly disappointed. I'll look at your other comments with much more scepticism.

Posted by: anon1 | Nov 2, 2012 9:24:01 PM

Bill agree that no pardons now; he's not stupid--to give fodder to the right wingnuts. But I disagree with you did of O'Bama-- your comments suggest you are an acolyte of Michelle Bachman? Sarah Palin? Murdoch? Akin? West? Limbaugh? Do you believe God intends women who are raped to give birth? Do you believe women who are raped should be forced to give birth? Fess up, now!
All stallwart Republicans--such paragons of vitue--such advoctes of "limited" government--except in the bedroom--what a disgrace

Posted by: Tammy from Texas | Nov 2, 2012 9:32:33 PM

anon1 --

"Bill, you seem very intelligent--all the more reason for me to be disappointed in your drinking the Benghazi coolaid."

Four Americans were killed in Benghazi in a terrorist attack for which the Administration was unprepared, and against which it has not retaliated. It has, however, given constantly shifting stories, starting with the fake story that it was a spontaneous mob.

You dismiss this as "coolaid." Have at it.

"Are you a Rush Limbaugh groupie too?"

Are you a Jeremiah Wright groupie?

"Truly disappointed."

Yeah, I know you were a big fan.

"I'll look at your other comments with much more scepticism."

Am I supposed to be worried about the skepticism of some anonymous nobody posting on the Internet?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 2, 2012 10:38:31 PM

Tammy from Texas --

"Bill agree that no pardons now; he's not stupid--to give fodder to the right wingnuts."

Some of us think a leader should be willing to act in the ways he thinks responsible regardless of the inevitability of criticism in a democracy. To wait until after the election is shrewd, for sure. It is also cowardly.

"But I disagree with you did of O'Bama..."

Who's "O'Bama?" An Irishman or something?

"...your comments suggest you are an acolyte of Michelle Bachman? Sarah Palin? Murdoch? Akin? West?"

Feel free to quote anything I have used from any one of them, or any post in which I have even referenced them.

"Do you believe God intends women who are raped to give birth?"

I don't speak for God and neither do you.

"Do you believe women who are raped should be forced to give birth? Fess up, now!"

I believe it's a clever tactic for the Democrats to seize on one of these social issues (you know, the ones that they otherwise denounce as "divisive" when it suits their purposes) to divert attention from unemployment, glacial growth, gargantuan debt, falling incomes, the looming fiscal cliff, and higher taxes -- you bet.

"All stallwart Republicans--such paragons of vitue--such advoctes of 'limited' government--except in the bedroom--what a disgrace"

What goes on in the great majority of bedrooms is nobody's business. What goes on in Jerry Sandusky's bedroom, for example, is something else again. Not that I expect you to have any objections to that case -- except, that is, to the Nazi prosecutors who rudely put Mr. Sandusky in the slammer over the stalwart objections of his heroic and ever so honest defense attorneys, not to mention those of you speaking up for his "privacy" rights.

Go for it, Tammy.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 2, 2012 11:05:40 PM

Bill writes " anymore than [the President] is going to give a straight answer on whether he denied military help to rescue our people fighting the terrorist attack -- uh, make that spontaneous mob -- in Benghazi."

This is sentencing listserve and blog. Spew your right-wing political trashtalk somewhere else: plenty of opportunity on Ann Coulter's, Rush Limbaugh's, or Sarah Palin's websites.

Posted by: onlooker4 | Nov 3, 2012 1:13:43 PM

Bill, you write that the President "denied military help to rescue our people" For a man of your superior intelligence to believe that nonsense is to suggest indeed that you have drunk the Kool-Aid. I suggest you stop watching FoxNews ("always fair and balanced")--and turn off Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: Peter not a lawyer | Nov 3, 2012 1:21:53 PM

onlooker4 --

"Spew your right-wing political trashtalk somewhere else: plenty of opportunity on Ann Coulter's, Rush Limbaugh's, or Sarah Palin's websites."

Didn't know you made the rules for this blog, but you learn something new here every day.

BTW, Obama's failure to give any very responsive answer to questions about his pardon policies is illuminated by his similar failure to give such answers about the terrorist attack that left our people dead in Benghazi.

If you think it's impermissible for me to say so, you go right ahead and enforce that. Should I wait?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 3, 2012 2:20:55 PM

Peter not a lawyer --

"Bill, you write that the President 'denied military help to rescue our people.'"

I wrote no such thing. What I actually wrote was, "He's not about to do pardons now, anymore than he's going to give a straight answer on whether he denied military help to rescue our people..."

Surely you undestand the difference between stating that Obama denied help, and wishing that he would give a straight answer on whether he did or didn't.

Panetta actually did give a straight answer -- that we didn't know the situation on the ground well enough to take the risks of sending in troops as reinforcements.

If Panetta can give a straight answer, why can't Obama?

"For a man of your superior intelligence to believe that nonsense is to suggest indeed that you have drunk the Kool-Aid. I suggest you stop watching FoxNews ('always fair and balanced')--and turn off Rush Limbaugh."

"Kool-Aid" is for druggies, about whom the Left is so enraptured. Not my style, really.

As for Fox, it is, according to a recently released Pew Foundation study, considerably less partisan than the leftist flame throwers at your favorite, MSNBC. See, http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/tv/z-on-tv-blog/bal-pew-study-suggests-msnbc-really-is-more-partisan-than-fox-20121102,0,7266571.story

Maybe you should turn off Rachel Maddow.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 3, 2012 2:46:20 PM

Better, more comprehensive data here: http://www.pardonpower.com/2012/07/clemency-grant-rates-recent-presidents.html

Posted by: P.S Ruckman, Jr, | Nov 3, 2012 5:55:58 PM

Rather than regurgitating the Kool-Aid line over and over, perhaps one of you could illuminate why Bill is wrong about the Bengazi attack?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 4, 2012 12:25:25 PM

MikeinCt,

Bill Otis has made the charge by innuendo that the President "denied military help to rescue our people fighting the terrorist attack" in Bengazi. Having made the charge, as he and you should know, the burden is now on Bill (and you) to prove the charge. I'll make it easy. How about this. Instead of regurgitating anonymous sources from FoxNews, cite one official with knowledge, by name who states on the record that he requested the President to provide military help to rescue our embassador, and that the President refused. I know that newspapers are calling for investigations, and they should. I too want to know exactly what happened. But investigations are ongoing--Let's wait for the results of those investigations before we assert or suggest that the President "denied military help to rescue our people."

Posted by: disgusted with Rush Limbough types | Nov 4, 2012 2:51:45 PM

disgusted --

You do not rewrite my posts for me. I choose my words, you don't. This is what they were (emphasis added): "He's not about to do pardons now, anymore than he's going to give a straight ANSWER on WHETHER he denied military help to rescue our people..."

Surely you understand the difference between stating that Obama denied help, and wishing that he would give a direct answer on whether he did or didn't.

When I want to make a charge, I make it. I don't need and don't use the cheap and absurd innuendo your side has been using about my supposed use of Kool-Aid, i.e., for those of you from the Sixties, LSD.

Take your ginned-up outrage elsewhere.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 4, 2012 4:48:11 PM

MikeinCT --

I notice that the majority of commenters here are more interested in yammering about Rush Limbaugh and Kool Aid than they are in denying the likelihood of a spurt in Obama's pardons, shrewdly timed to come after the election and thus to escape political accountability.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 4, 2012 6:06:02 PM

Bill, sorry, but I have to this one to disgusted and the others above.

You write that "He's not about to do pardons now, anymore than he's going to give a straight ANSWER on WHETHER he denied military help to rescue our people..." This is like saying the defendant refused to give a straight answer on whether he molested the 3 year old. It is indeed an assertion by innuendo that the defendant did molest his daughter-or its damn close to it. Your statement does indeed suggest that you entertain the belief that Obama could well have been asked to provide troops to those in need, and refused. A heavy charge to make without any evidence.

Posted by: onlooker | Nov 4, 2012 10:13:19 PM

"disgusted with Rush Limbough"
Use your real screenname please.

I don't know whether Barrack Obama allowed Americans to die, but forgive me if I don't believe the official story given the facts. The administration's story keeps changing, first blaming a spontaneous reaction to a video for an attack by over 100 armed men. There were hours when Americans could have been saved but no one intervened. The ambassador was left almost defenseless in a very dangerous city in a country that had just experienced a civil war. After all this the administration still won't point out anyone who should have done better. I would have been willing to believe someone further down the chain of command screwed up had they admitted that early on.

In the end, they're acting like they're hiding something. And no, I don't feel bad for suggesting a US president could be liar, an idiot or just plain treasonous. All Obama has to do is lay out the facts to prove I'm wrong.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 4, 2012 10:21:52 PM

MikeinCT and Bill Otis:

THINGS THAT I DON'T REMEMBER HAPPENING AFTER DEADLY 1984 US EMBASSY BOMBING IN BEIRUT WHEN REAGAN WAS PRESIDENT AND HUNDREDS OF MARINES MURDERED:
1) The Reagan administration being criticized. (Nope)
2) Reagan being criticized (Nope)
3) Diplomatic security detail being criticized. (Nope)
4) ANYONE being criticized! (Nope)
5) Anyone demanding enquiry into how Reagan handled the situation (Nope)

THINGS THAT I DO REMEMBER AFTER SAME US EMBASSY BOMBING:

1) Reagan ordered Full US Troop withdrawal from Lebanon
2) Nobody criticized Reagan for being soft on Terror
3) Nobody criticized Reagan for making America look weak.

Could the difference be that Reagan was White and Obama is Black?

Posted by: onlooker14 | Nov 4, 2012 10:34:22 PM

onlooker --

You don't rewrite my words for me any more than anyone else does. But if you had such a prerogative, it would be best to use it sensibly.

You say, "This is like saying the defendant refused to give a straight answer on whether he molested the 3 year old."

Nonsense. I have never analogized the President to an accused child molestor, and such an analogy is absurd. As you know or ought to know, a grand jury must first have found probable cause to believe the defendant -- a child molestor or anyone else -- did the act. Has a grand jury or any similar body found probable cause to believe that Obama gave a no-rescue order? Have I ever claimed that or anything similar? Where was that?

"It is indeed an assertion by innuendo that the defendant did molest his daughter-or its damn close to it."

A better example of ipse dixit would be hard to find.

"Your statement does indeed suggest that you entertain the belief that Obama could well have been asked to provide troops to those in need, and refused."

I do indeed entertain that belief, as do many, many other people. But my writing a sentence "suggesting" that I "entertain" a "belief" is a far cry from STATING THE BELIEF IS A FACT. You don't get this? Really?

"A heavy charge to make without any evidence."

That's why I never put it as a charge. But it's possible, sure. Do you deny it?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 4, 2012 10:50:06 PM

onlooker14 --

"Could the difference be that Reagan was White and Obama is Black?"

No, the difference is that you have a terrible memory.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 4, 2012 11:23:54 PM

MikeinCT --

Notice that the fruitcake left is quick (1) to re-write other people's words to suit their stawman versions, and (2) to start bellowing RACISM!!! at any criticism of Obama.

Quite a group.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 4, 2012 11:31:18 PM

There's a simple reason regan got away with it with no media pressure. While our new president's dont'

Back then we still kinda trusted our govt. Today after 30 years of lies, fraud and out and out CRIMINAL acts.

Not so much!

We've went from a we give them the benefit of the doubt unless there is evidence of lies.

to

IF they are talking they are lieing!

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 5, 2012 1:56:52 AM

@onlooker
I find it telling that you don't respond to anything I said, but bring up a terrorist attack from almost three decades ago and accuse the president's critics of racism. Could it be you have no other defense of the man?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 5, 2012 6:45:35 AM

Bill, you wrote to "disgusted" as follows:

"When I want to make a charge, I make it. I don't need and don't use the cheap and absurd innuendo your side has been using about my supposed use of Kool-Aid, i.e., for those of you from the Sixties, LSD."

While drinking the Kool-Aid does have the meaning you imply; it more generally refers to those who drank poison at Jonestown supposedly at the behest of their leader--hence, it refers to anyone who believes stupid and false things and does self-destructive actions simply because he's mindlessly following the crowd or a charismatic but misguided or evil leader

Posted by: oldtimer | Nov 5, 2012 11:11:13 AM

oldtimer --

It seemed unlikely that those on this thread who have accused me of drinking Kool Aid meant to imply that I was committing suicide, which is what happened at Jonestown.

The Administration is not saying a lot about what it plans to do about pardons after the election, and it is also not saying a lot about what the President himself knew in real time about the attack on the compound in Benghazi and what his orders were, if any. That too, it seems, we will have to wait until after the election to find out.

It is perfectly fair to ask why the reticence about either. That is not drinking Kool Aid in any sense.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 5, 2012 12:36:56 PM

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