Obama Ends His Pardon Drought. Meekly.

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

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.

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13 Responses to “Obama Ends His Pardon Drought. Meekly.”

  1. #1 |  Kevin3% | 

    “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 incidence of any of these secret from the public and the other branches of the federal government.”

    How is that hopey-changey thing working out?

  2. #2 |  pam | 

    well, to quote just one prosecutor in Arkansas, “Arkansas has never convicted an innocent person”. I’m sure no other state has either. Case closed.

  3. #3 |  K9kevlar | 

    A pardon for adultery? He has really crossed the line.

  4. #4 |  random guy | 

    Its truly remarkable, given all the claims he made on the campaign trail, I expect Barry’O to at least keep some of them. Even giving him a healthy 50% bullshit margin. Yet he has continued to disappoint on every single campaign promise he made.

    I hated Bush’s terrible policies but at least he was honest about them. I think I’m done with voting, the whole system is rigged to let the public flip a coin between honest authoritarians and closeted ones. Maybe I’ll get to express these concerns to Mr. Obama when he appears at my school tomorrow. The whole thing pisses me off because hes just there to get some PR about how education incentives are going to help the economy when two thirds of the classes are filled with people who are only there because they can’t get a job.

  5. #5 |  rapscallion | 

    It should be a scandal to give pardons to people for any reason other than innocence or to correct a manifestly unjust sentence. It’s not reported that any of these people were likely innocent, just that after conviction they seemed like good folks; that’s pathetic. For the non-drug offenses, all the violated laws seem fairly reasonable, though perhaps not wise policy. As far as the drug offenses, there are many examples of far more unjust sentences.

    I can’t believe it’s become common practice to give pardons to people just because they seem nice. It makes a mockery of the justice system and the rule of law.

  6. #6 |  ktc2 | 

    The United States does not have the rule of law. Absolute immunity is antithetical to the concept of the rule of law. You cannot have both.

  7. #7 |  Matt | 

    The message I get from this is that Obama doesn’t take the pardon power very seriously. Is it possible the White House generated this entire selection of pardons in response to the criticism after Thanksgiving, when it was observed that he only pardons Turkeys?

  8. #8 |  claude | 

    I think it may have to do with one particular cable network tearing him down all day every day over any little thing they can. If he were to pardon someone for say… drugs, i could imagine how they would try to make it a headline issue every day for a month. So, he has to be careful. Under that circumstance, i think he should have pardoned some gun crime charges, and let that network try to deal with that.

  9. #9 |  Mattocracy | 

    Obama has proven to be just as bad as W in every which way except for one. Obama is increasing the debt faster that W. Other than that, a pretty fucking awfule track record. I’m sure he’ll be listed up with Woodrow Wilson as a great president despite all of the awful shit he has done.

  10. #10 |  Nick T | 

    #8
    Bing bing bing! There it is again! As always defenses of Obama are never ever ever on the merits, they’re about political pressure, or needing more time, or things being so tough or Bush was worse!

    If Barack Obama had campaigned on all the things he did, BUT THEN said “unless Fox News says a whole lot of really mean stuff about me everyday” would you have voted for him, claude?

    Radley, don’t be so hard on Barry O. *he just needs more time” to..uh… take more time to pardon people!

  11. #11 |  Brandon | 

    Matt: Is it possible that there is any other reason?

  12. #12 |  Z | 

    Obama reminds me of an Onion article. This one to be exact:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/porn-director-fights-ratings-board-for-singlex-rat,826/

    And words of wisdom for Mr. Obama from said article:

    “”A XX is just wishy-washy,” Thomas said. “If you try to toe the line and cater to both the casual, single-X porn-goer and the more specialized niche market of utterly depraved XXX-viewing scumbags, you’re just going to wind up getting nobody off.”

  13. #13 |  Arthur | 

    # 8

    Uhmmm…shouldn’t pardons be based on a question of justice for individuals and fairness of the system, rather than winning or losing political points?

    Of course, with a President lacking any moral integrity whatsoever I guess it doesn’t.

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