President Obama finally ended his pardon drought last week. Only George Washington and George W. Bush went longer before issuing their first pardon. Obama granted nine pardons, but kept with the recent trend of granting pardons to the people least in need of one.
P.S. Ruckman, who runs the Pardon Power blog, isn’t impressed. Ruckman points out that the average time between the initial offense and last week’s pardons was more than 28 years. Six of the nine people Obama pardoned didn’t commit an offense that merited incarceration. The maximum prison sentence among the nine was two years. One of the nine was pardoned for defacing coins in 1964, an offense for which he was punished with probation and a $20 fine.
Like his predecessor, Obama has assumed and asserted a host of constitutionally questionable presidential powers since taking office, including the power of detain people indefinitely without trial, to render people over to other countries where they might be tortured, to assassinate U.S. citizens, and on the occasions he uses any of these powers, the power to keep it all secret from the public and the other branches of the federal government. And also like his predecessor, Obama at the same time has proven stingy—to the point of becoming a historical outlier—with one of the few powers the Constitution actually grants to him explicitly.
It’s worth noting that the questionable powers he guards zealously allow him to detain, torture, and kill, while the power he’s eschewing bestows mercy or, when used properly (and it usually isn’t), acknowledges the flaws in the federal government’s criminal justice system and the people victimized by them.