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November 3, 2010

Seeking the best pitches (and pitchers) for the start of clemency season

The election season of 2010 is official over, and we probably have at least a few weeks before the start of the 2012 season start.  That fact alone, plus the coming holidays and the lame duck status of many Governors in many states, all adds up to make today officially the start of clemency season.  And, with the political conditions right, I hope readers might spotlight some of the best clemency pitches (and pitchers) as the season gets revved up.

November 3, 2010 at 07:45 AM | Permalink


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Since the election season is over, it's time for a re-cap.

1. I said yesterday that the Reps would win a net of 70 new seats. I was slightly off (by about 3-5). As Michael Barone writes this morning:

"[T]he House results indicate that Republicans have gained a net 61 seats (64 gains minus 3 losses) and are leading in 6 races currently undecided and trailing closely in 6 other races currently undecided. So the Republican net gain will be something like 67 seats—more than any party has won in any single election since 1948."

2. I also said the Reps would gain 8 Senate seats. Again, that was a slight overestimate. They will wind up with a net gain of 6 or 7, depending on Colorado and Washington. It makes no operational difference, however. They were never going to get a majority this cycle, and the only relevant question was whether they would get enough to maintain a fillibuster. They did. In the previous Congress, Obama could make a deal to pick off one or two Reps (usually Snowe, Collins or Scott Brown), and the Dems could beat a fillibuster. No dice now.

3. This was an historic win for the Reps and a massive rebuke to Obama and his big government agenda. The fact that the Reps are not all that popular (according to the exit polls) makes this fact even more stark: If the Reps aren't popular, what does this election say about the public standing of the Dems?


4. Mixed new for the Tea Party, and not such good news for Sarah Palin, who appears to have been beaten on her home turf. If her mortal enemy Murkowski wins, which seems likely, it will cap off a disappointing election for the most prominent Palin-backed candidates. Palin had an amazing primary season, with victories by Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Carly Fiorina, and Joe Miller in her home state. But all of them lost in the general. The Reps will correctly view this as a warning sign about nominating her two years from now.

5. The question now is whether Obama will seek compromise, on the model of Clinton after 1994. The answer is that he'll say he will, but actually he won't. Clinton was a more seasoned politician and less ideologically loaded. Obama is a man of the left, by rearing, education, instinct and prior political experience.

But it will not all be Obama's doing. All this blather about "working together to move America forward" (a common phrase in both parties) is baloney, because there is a vast and stark disagreement about what "forward" means. To the Dems, it means apparently unlimited borrowing and spending and a bigger, more expensive and controlling government. To Reps, it means exactly the opposite. There is no "working together" with that as the state of play.

Nor do the Reps have any incentive to compromise. They were sent there to stop Obama, not facilitate him. The Reps might be the Party of Stupid -- but not that stupid.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 3, 2010 10:31:34 AM

Margaret Colgate Love is the most versed in pardon/clemency law as far as I know. She has worked within the system and knows all its machinations. And she remains passionate about her work and never gives up.

Posted by: Mike | Nov 3, 2010 4:36:59 PM

Thanks to Mike for his vote of confidence. I just wish that we could stop reinforcing the faulty idea that the pardon power is some sort of perk of office that is useful primarily to distribute gifts on holidays. In this country, clemency has historically operated as an integral and regular part of the justice system, and has been a significant force for law reform. For example, parole grew out of clemency at the end of the 19th century, as did many defenses not known at common law. If we refuse to hold our leaders accountable when they decline to exercise their power out of fear of repercussions at the polls, we contribute to a debasement of the power that makes it useless for ordinary people, at a time when ordinary people have never needed it more.

Posted by: margy | Nov 4, 2010 1:20:01 PM


You have earned the vote of confidence Mike gives you. I disagree, however, with your statement that "ordinary people" desperately need for the President to exercise his pardon power.

"Ordinary people" don't wind up in prison. The overwheming majority of people, of all races and both sexes, don't go to prison. The reason they don't go is that "ordinary people" don't commit crimes, and if they do, they tend to be minor crimes (e.g., simple possession of pot, simple assault, DUI, petty theft, etc.) for which jail sentences are either very short or, much more commonly, non-existent.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 4, 2010 6:03:19 PM

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