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).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.
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.
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.
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.