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Pardons aren't just for turkeys!
Its that time of year again wherein I complain about pardons and clemency during the Obama Administration. Yes, I said complain.

As many of you know, this has been a subject we've been covering here at Daily Kos for three years now. Since last year's update, the president issued 17 pardons last spring, which comes close to the total number of pardons he issued his first four years in office. Melissa Harris-Perry was the first establishment media personality to pick up on the subject, last Thanksgiving. Much thanks to her for that. But this year, for the first time that I can see, the Beltway Establishment, in the form of Ron Fournier, is noticing President Obama's historic lack of mercy when it comes to using the pardon power:

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.

Fournier notes the White House is considering reforms of the Pardon Office for non-violent drug offenders, but that no other changes as to how the current pardon process works are being considered.

Why has the number of pardons dropped so drastically under President Obama, making him, and the data proves it, the least merciful president in history? Note:

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.
Think Progress notes the same thing, and even throws in a few compelling applicants. They're all deserving.

When you're matching a couple of dead guys who didn't even finish a year of their terms, there is a problem. Unlike many other historic presidents, however, modern presidents don't review requests for mercy directly. They are passed along to them for review from the Pardon Office, which has essentially taken control of the unlimited authority of the pardon power. Modern presidents don't get to see who is actually applying for a pardon. Only those applications the Pardon Attorney deems worthy of approval are sent on to the White House Counsel's office for political review.

A significant part of the problem is Pardon Attorney Ronald L. Rodgers. Last year an inspector-general's report noted that the Bush Administration holdover had botched a perfectly deserving pardon application. The IG reports notes that Rodgers misled the White House Counsel's office as to the particulars of that case. Rodgers' legal experience constitutes 20 years as a military lawyer and judge, and then as a narcotics prosecutor at Main Justice. Rodgers was appointed to his job in the Bush Administration by former Reagan-appointed judge and Giuliani-deputy prosecutor Mike Mukasey.

Rodgers has pretty much had it in my view. He should have been gone a long time ago, but he has most assuredly overstayed his welcome after last year's scathing IG report. Appointing a more fair-minded person who has had experience as both a civilian defense attorney and federal prosecutor would give more confidence to those who seek the president's mercy that they will be treated fairly. Certainly, Bush Administration appointees have no business in this administration five years in.

Seems to me reason enough to justify a nice comfy federal retirement for Mr. Rodgers. That's certainly more mercy than he's ever offered anyone else.

Originally posted to Triple-B in the Building on Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 10:45 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  President Obama (7+ / 0-)

    ought to fire Melinda Haag and all the other people under the U.S. Attourney General's office that ignore the Administration's instructions to stop going after legal marijuana dispensaries and growers.

    States rights, and common sense!

    Marijuana WILL be legal nationwide in the next few years. Why continue to throw otherwise taxpaying-citizens in prisin?? It is just so stupid!

    Thank you, President Obama, in advance. It's time to clean house.

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 10:59:57 AM PST

  •  One of the most bracing terms in our politics (9+ / 0-)
    Bush Administration holdover
    The IG reports notes that Rodgers misled the White House Counsel's office as to the particulars of that case.

    What a shock that is. At this point, having established beyond a reasonable doubt that you cannot assume good faith on the part of a Bushie or a Movement Conservative, I think Democrats need to lance the boil on such holdovers.

    If you cannot fire them because of civil service rules, ship them all to the same office out in the middle of nowhere and give them the option of going or resigning.

    I would hope that President Obama would exercise his pardon power more frequently, and I certainly don't blame his lack of mercy on this character, but the combination of a President who is loathe to pardon combined with dug-in people who will royally fuck up perfectly deserving candidates for a pardon, and may do so deliberately because of their ideology and agenda, is a bad combination.

    As somebody who voted for the President both times, the deportation figures run up under his watch have always bothered me. This bothers me as well. When you come out ahead of the first President who didn't have people to pardon, and two of the unluckiest Presidents in US History, you probably need to re-think your hardline stance on clemency. Certainly you also need to take a look at who is deciding what cases and what individuals ever get to ever cross your desk for such consideration down river as well.

    There are people who are worthy and deserving of it.

    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.
    I wonder. Were they more generous because they were pardoning friends and allies, or people who Conservatives would cheer receiving it? There was a lot of shady shit that happened in both men's runs, and both administrations were pretty cynical about 'for me, but not for thee' being a part of how they rolled.

    I am a Loco-Foco. I am from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party.

    by LeftHandedMan on Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 11:04:37 AM PST

  •  It is my impression that the President is (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunbro, FG, Words In Action

    generally averse to having the executive make up or compensate for deficiencies in the other branches. If the laws are unfair, then Congress should correct them. If the judiciary is over-worked, then there should be more judges. If the law is wrongly applied, then the courts should make corrections.
    Also, a pardon implies an admission of guilt. People who aren't guilty should not plead.
    Clinton's last minute pardon were a blot on his administration and didn't help Hillary in the long run.
    Given that Barack Obama has little more to accomplish to burnish his reputation, if there is to be a legacy, Michelle's ambitions should be realized. If Nunn in Georgia reaches the Senate and Carter attains the governorship, then that will be a good start on the theme of family dynasties, which Democrats should be able to do better than the Rands.

    Obamacare at your fingertips: 1-800-318-2596; TTY: 1-855-889-4325

    by hannah on Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 11:06:47 AM PST

    •  What?! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jayden, hannah, Words In Action, kurt
      It is my impression that the President is generally averse to having the executive make up or compensate for deficiencies in the other branches.
      -- A list of 23 executive actions on gun control?
      -- Non-prosecution of certain illegal immigrates?
      -- Delaying the ACA employer mandate for a year?
      -- The individual insurance policy cancellation "fix"?
      -- Obama did say, though, that if Congress fails to enact a "market-based solution to climate change"—meaning, something resembling the cap-and-trade bill that passed the House in 2009 but then died in the Senate—he will take executive action to address the issue himself.

      And so forth and so on.

    •  Not how the founders imagined it. (7+ / 0-)

      In The Federalist, the pardon power was specifically included so that the president could correct miscarriages of justice, realizing that doing so via Congress or the Courts could lead to justice delayed. Which is justice denied.

      Yes, there will be instances when the awesome power of the pardon will be abused. So what. All the branches have abuses of justice, courts and Congress. That's no reason not to use to fix problems in the justice system.

      They also imagined that it was a good thing for a nation to show mercy to its citizens.

  •  Every single non-violent drug offender (10+ / 0-)

    should be pardon immediately, esp when the drug is pot.

    Much much less expensive and more humane to pay for rehab (if needed). Many of those arrested for pot should just be pardoned, period.

    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

    by JayRaye on Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 11:41:34 AM PST

  •  I was so wishing that you wouldn't have... (14+ / 0-)

    ...to write about this again, or that, in writing this time, you would be able to say that the number of pardons and clemency grants had soared. Sigh.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 11:59:42 AM PST

  •  Fact of life for liberal governors and presidents (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    misslegalbeagle

    that they do not have the same freedom to issue pardons as conservatives. All that has to happen is for one person pardoned by President Obama to commit a serious crime and Darrell Issa would be starting another investigation, which would seriously slow down the legislative agenda. Hopefully this situation will improve after the midterm elections.

    •  So the only real "window" for this POTUS... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, Words In Action, Woody

      ...is after Election Day 2016 and before Inauguration Day 2017.

      Maybe Siegelman gets his long deserved pardon then? Along with hundreds, if not thousands of others?

      Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 12:40:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bradley Manning was sentenned to .. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, Words In Action, LuvSet, Woody

    ..35 years
    If a pardon is too controversial, for whatever reason,  then clemency could be an option or at least commutation:

    Commutation is when a person's sentence is reduced.
    Read more: http://www.ehow.com/...

    Another move would be to:

    Pardon All Federal Convictions of Defendants Who Were Charged With the Federal Crime of Following State Medical Marijuana Law.

    Pardoning all victimless marijuana crimes would be better imo, but this last petition would be a start

    Both these moves could also garner political/electoral gains as well as being a good thing to do in advance of a move to make a Federal law that overrides marijuana prohibitions by any states - Iow's don't leave it up to states to one by one legalize marijuana, but outlaw the prohibition  

    Thx BBB

    P.S. Not just Ronald L. Rodgers. but every Bush/republican holdover that doesn't get with the Dems program should be removed. Maybe with the recent Senate rules changes new appointments can happen.

    Clear out the obstruction and get things moving with a team whose goals are in sync.

  •  Incredibly disappointing (4+ / 0-)

    This is one of those areas where the President has complete discretion.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 01:41:59 PM PST

  •  Merciful topic, thank you BBB (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn, imchange

    i submit Don Siegleman who is a victim of Karl Rove. for a Presidential pardon.

    To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 06:58:58 PM PST

  •  No Hedge Funds Were Harmed in the Making of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn, raboof, imchange

    this pardon.

    Somebody should get this message over to the neoliberal admin looking for ways to motivate the base in a midterm year without ruffling the feathers of the beast.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 07:10:33 PM PST

  •  As anyone who has read my comments can (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    imchange

    testify, I am practically a no excuses supporter when it comes to POTUS (Syria). However, this does raise serious questions.

    We can discuss this and wonder what to do about that, but in the end, the ONLY thing that matters is voter turnout. Ya CAIN'T go to the dance if you AIN'T bought your ticket! Go team go.

    by franklyn on Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 07:18:30 PM PST

  •  As a democrat, if you really want to ruin your (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raboof

    Legacy keep the GOP holdovers.

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 07:19:40 PM PST

  •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 07:28:03 PM PST

  •  pardons (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ref, imchange

    Spare me the agita over pardons. If you look at the last 30 or 40 years of them, you'll find mostly Wall Street crooks, tax evaders, white-collar criminals, and friends of the President.
    How about Clinton's pardon of Arthur Borel and Douglas Borel, who'd been convicted of "odometer rollback"?
    How about Daddy Bush's pardon for Elliot Abrams?
    Pardons will matter when they're extended to some guy who got caught with a joint in his sock at 18 and had to do 10 years. Or some black kid who, with no other options, got coerced into a gang.

  •  Who Bush burrowed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    imchange

    Every administration "burrows" political appointees -- changing them to civil service so that they are immune to the spoils system. At the end of Bush, I expect all of his burrowing to be in Justice or Defense. I was shocked when the New York Times reported that almost all of it was Interior. It was, overwhelmingly, Bureau of Mines and the thing that gave out licenses for oil drilling that has gotten its name changed since the BP disaster.

    I thought, "Well, this shows that his real debt is to his old pals in the energy extraction industry, and it shows where his stock holdings are."

    I didn't think "The transition meetings have told him that he doesn't have to worry about prosecutions for war crimes or privacy violations or any of the hundreds of other things, because Obama is planning on keeping all that executive power and not giving back any civil liberties." I'm starting to think it now, though.

    Everyone's innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 08:07:22 PM PST

  •  point of clarification (0+ / 0-)

    The Pardon Attorney is a career position, not an appointed position.

    It isn't completely accurate to refer to Ronald Rogers as a Bush appointee. Nor can a career employee be removed by fiat.

    The position is listed on page 92 of the Plumbook.

    •  Accurate, but out of context. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raboof, imchange

      'Career' implies that Rodgers started in the Justice Department and worked his way up. That's not true. In fact, he was plucked from his previous position as a drugs prosecutor in a different department by Mukasey. As were a lot of people reassigned during the Alberto Gonzales/Mukasey reign at Main Justice. He had no experience at all handling pardons of any sort. Not 'career' in any meaningful sense of the word.

      What you have here is exactly what happened under Bush, and quite frankly I don't have a problem with it: finding people in the bureaucracy who agree with your political beliefs, promoting them and assigning them to senior career positions. Reassigning those who don't agree with you somewhere else.

      And trust, when the president demands a resignation letter, even from a real career public servant, that letter appears. Its not difficult at all to fire even a real career official. Ask Shirley Sherrod.

  •  Many things come to mind... (0+ / 0-)

    Don Siegelman, Leonard Peltier, Mumia, Lynn Stewart, ...
    pardon me if I can't remember all the names of all the atrocities commited by our (in)justice system, but those football players who were framed for sitting under a tree supposedly reserved for whites only a while back in somewhere like Miss or Ala, the rest of the  Louisiana / Quentin / Dog patch /  3, 8, 7, 5  or 6 ... whatever their touted assigned media names...
    Let these people go.

    The other thing that hit me when I saw this on TV (it's also in the "Think Progress" photo) is how Obama uses his hand like a Catholic priest blessing some congregant.  What does it mean?  Mere unconsciousness?  Let's hope so.

    "...the wish to believe over-rides ... reality" James Howard Kunstler

    by dharmasyd on Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 08:13:42 PM PST

  •  Too many people are in jail who should not (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    imchange

    be there, and too many people who should be in jail are not there. Our system isn't working as well as it should. Presidential pardons won't really fix very much of it.

  •  Obama's deference to the "wise old men" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Subterranean, imchange

    and "best and brightest" is almost farcical in its obviousness. Does the man even have the ability to make up his own mind about anything without first needing to be told what to think and then do about it? He takes delegation of responsibility to a whole new level. As always, a cipher, even unto himself.

    Everything he does, is reactive. EVERYTHING.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 10:03:44 PM PST

  •  Of Course (3+ / 0-)

    ...if the President were to start exercising this power regularly and judiciously, Ron Fournier would be leading the pack of insider stenographers baying about how "soft on crime" he was becoming.

    Eat, drink, and be fat and drunk.

    by Ref on Sat Nov 30, 2013 at 04:49:35 AM PST

  •  true (0+ / 0-)

    I've been saying this since O's election.
    Too many of shrubbs[bush jr]appointees are still there and it is curseing this administration.IMO.
    Fire all of the legal eagles[chicken-HAWKS] that infest the DOJ.
    Peace.

  •  The System Works! (0+ / 0-)

    Why should Obama pardon anyone? The justice system works perfectly. Just like the intelligence system, the Pentagon's procurement system, the drone system, the banking system, the Drug War system... Why should he undo the good work of executives or judges? After all, Republicans.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Sat Nov 30, 2013 at 11:53:10 AM PST

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