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October 22, 2011

Clemency policy and practice as symbol of failed Obama presidency

Regular readers know I have long been critical of modern presidential failings in the use of the constitutional clemency authority.  Though I understand why President Bush and now President Obama have been disinclined to make real use of their clemency powers following Bill Clinton's out-the-door pardon debacles, prior abuse and misuse of a constitutional power by a former president does not justify disuse of that power altogether.  Moreover, as I have stressed in prior posts, it strikes me as not merely misguided but truly very bad politics for modern Presidents to fail to showcase leadership and their core values by essentially ignoring the many thousands of persons seeking better justice or merited mercy through their clemency requests.

Regular readers likely recall that during the early months of the Obama presidency, I was regularly urging the president to give symbolic expression to his campaign themes of hope and change via his clemency powers:  President Obama could have showed he meant what he said on the campaign trail simply by changing one crazy-long federal prison sentence and thereby showing the hope in a former offender's ability to become a productive law-abiding citizen.

The main point in making this provocative point is that, by placing short-term (and short-sighted) political calculations ahead of demonstrating actual leadership and core values in the exercise of his historic clemency power, President Obama through his clemency (lack of) action instead demonstrates that he apparently lacks the core convictions and political courage which I had hoped could and would enable him to be an increadibly successful President.

October 22, 2011 at 11:07 PM | Permalink


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you're beating a dead horse. political fallout too damaging. Bill and federalist Mikein Conn. types would crucify him.

Posted by: anon1 | Oct 22, 2011 11:56:51 PM

anon1 --

I have neither the need, desire nor power to crucify anyone. But if a point be made of it, I have done more to actually secure executive clemency than you have or ever will.

I will welcome any rebuttal you care to make, by your giving your name, affiliation, and specific description of any effective action you have taken on the clemency front. When may I expect to see these things?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 23, 2011 9:45:42 AM


"Failed presidency?" That's a little harsh, partisan, and premature considering the mess he got left with by his predecessor.

I'm starting to remember why I stopped regularly coming here.

Posted by: speaking just for me.... | Oct 23, 2011 10:45:20 AM

speaking just for me --

What specifically does Obama's CLEMENCY record have to do with the prior administration?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 23, 2011 2:14:06 PM

Speaking just for me-

Obama is on the same course if not worse to leave his successor in a bad situation.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 23, 2011 7:55:04 PM

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