Beeler: The Obama pardon we all expect to see
posted at 11:00 am on November 27, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Which turkey will the President pardon this Thanksgiving? The Columbus Dispatch’s Nate Beeler predicts it will be this one:
On a more serious note, Ron Fournier wonders when Obama will start using his real pardon power to correct a few injustices. At the moment, he’s on track to be the stingiest President since Washington with this power, and Fournier has a good place for him to start:
Angelos was sentenced in 2004 to 55 years’ imprisonment for possessing a firearm in connection with selling small amounts of marijuana. He didn’t brandish or use a weapon, nor did he hurt or threaten to injure anybody. And yet the father of young children and an aspiring music producer was given an effective life sentence because of a draconian federal law requiring mandatory minimum sentences.
Even the judge on his case, Paul G. Cassell, found the sentence “cruel and irrational.” While urging Obama to reduce Angelos’s punishment, the Republican-appointed judge wrote, “While I must impose the unjust sentence, our system of separated powers provides a means of redress.” …
According to an analysis of Justice Department data published by Reason.com, only three presidents made less use of the clemency power than did Obama during their first terms: George Washington, who had little cause to grant clemency in the nation’s first days; William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia a month after taking office; and James Garfield, who was shot four months into his presidency.
After granting 17 pardons this year, according to the DOJ website, the total for Obama’s presidency stands at 39 pardons (which clear people’s records, typically after they’ve completed their sentences) and just one commutation (which shortens a prisoner’s sentence).
As you can see from the graphic, Obama still ranks at the bottom historically, and his record extends a trend of presidential intolerance that dates to the tough-on-crime demagoguery of Presidents Nixon and Reagan–both of whom, ironically, were more generous with clemency powers than Obama.
The political incentives are all set against the use of pardons at the presidential and gubernatorial level, but Obama won’t be running for office again. A pardon in this case won’t become a midterm election issue, and it’s doubtful that any pardon would be except for a member of the Obama administration that gets caught up in one of the scandals erupting this year.
Of course, it doesn’t help that Obama has Eric Holder in his Cabinet and involved in the pardon process. Holder was involved in one of the most notorious presidential pardons ever, that given to Marc Rich while still a fugitive from justice after his Democratic-donor former wife campaigned for the action. But that’s Obama’s fault for appointing Holder in the first place.