I stole this headline, right off of White House.gov.
The Summary line is copied from the site, as well. Summary: “Today, 273 individuals learned that the President has given them a second chance.”
Between 400 and 550 pardons and commutations is somewhat normal, Clinton had 450, Reagan 406, Carter 566, while Bush 41 had only 75. As of today, Obama is at 1,597, and they have announced more to come.
Now, I am a believer in repentance and redemption. I also am a believer in natural consequences to one’s actions. Even in Scripture, we read of King David being a man after God’s own heart, yet he also suffered the consequences of his actions when he strayed.
Sometimes people are just evil and unrepentant, and of course, others do change. Some just get caught up in a bad situation and made a fateful choice they have regretted since. This is in peoples’ hearts and we are not always able to discern what is fact and what are feelings.
We also have issues with the victims. Some victims are able to move on while others are not. For example, a pardon or commutation of a murderer or other violent criminal can put a deep fear into a victim and their family. And rightfully so.
My point here is simply that there are many dynamics involved in a president’s decision to pardon or commute the sentence of a convicted criminal. Additionally, this action can send a message to subsequent offenders that their criminal activity is not that bad, or even justified.
Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich was one of the biggest slaps in the face of the average citizen. Rich was a wealthy tax evader who was living abroad after leaving the country during his prosecution.
Big in the news today is the commutation of Bradley Manning, who was convicted of leaking sensitive information to Wikileaks. I’m sorry, he may want to be called Chelsea, but no chromosomes were changed, and when he committed the crime he was still Bradly.
Speaker Ryan said, “This is outrageous.” Senator Tom Cotton said, “We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr.” Even some Democrats have voiced their disapproval of this action. In my opinion, the biggest issue here is the message it sends to those who might consider doing something similar. Manning has not spent very much of his sentence, and now will be released soon.
But there is a larger issue at play in yesterday’s announcement.
In 1999, Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 FALN terrorists. Actually, two of those refused to accept their commutation. One of those two served their time and has been released. The other was Oscar Lopez Rivera, who Obama commuted again yesterday
Who or what is FALN?
The English translation is Armed Forces of National Liberation. FALN is a paramilitary organization that “fought” for Puerto Rico independence. Between 1974 and 1983, FALN was responsible for 120 bombings killing six and injuring and maiming dozens of others, primarily in New York City and Chicago. Hmmm, Chicago and violent Marxists, I wonder….
This was such a big deal at the time, that Congress actually backed an investigation. They voted 95 – 2 in the Senate and 311 – 41 in the House to condemn Clinton’s action. However, the Justice department blocked the FBI from testifying, and Clinton cited executive privilege and refused to turn over any documents related to the commutation.
The US Attorney’s Office, FBI, Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Fraternal Order of Police all criticized the move. The supposition that there was some sort of quid pro quo related to Hillary’s Senate run couldn’t be proven. Clinton granted clemency based on the condition that the individuals renounce violence.
That condition may have been the straw breaker for Oscar Lopez Rivera.
In “Dreams of My Father,” Obama stated that he sought out the “Marxist professors, the Chicanos, politically active blacks….” Oscar Lopez Rivera fits the mold of the people Obama hung with.
I have watched, with interest, the lengths to which some media are searching the connections and ties between Donald Trump and those with which he has had any contact or relationship in the past.
This is a good thing, BUT, it must be done for all. Have you seen anything done regarding Obama and all his connections? No! What about Hillary and the Clinton Foundation? No!
© 2013 Private Manning Support Network, Flickr | CC-BY
A president can clearly commute the sentence or pardon anyone, for anything relating to an offense against the United States, except impeachment. Historically the power to pardon comes from Royal English Prerogative of Kings. The king’s power was absolute and was often given in exchange for money or some sort of service, often military. Parliament tried to limit the king’s power and in time passed the Act of Settlement exempting impeachment from the king’s power to pardon.
Since our form of government did not follow the divine right of kings to rule, I’m sure the founders did not see such danger in keeping the same power. However, they also hinged much of our republic on a free press who would help keep leaders accountable.
What we see today, not only in the reprieves given, but the other associations that plague our republic is a press that sees things through tinted glasses with some, and a microscope with others. You likely heard about the Manning commutation, but did you hear about Rivera? I suppose Manning did at least exhibit remorse at the “unintended consequences” of his actions. Rivera apparently did not want to renounce violence as a condition before – there is no word as to whether there is a condition for this offer.
What lies ahead? Until noon Friday, it could be anything or anyone. Possibly ALL marijuana offenders? Bowe Bergdahl? Roman Polanski? Edward Snowden? We will know soon enough.
Photo Credit: “Barack Obama – Caricature,” © 2012 DonkeyHotey, Flickr | CC-BY