Watchdog Blog

George Lardner Jr.: No Pardons, No Commutations.

Posted at 11:56 am, April 3rd, 2009
George Lardner Mug

President Obama wanted to hit the ground running when he was sworn in, but there are thousands of federal convicts and ex-convicts waiting for him to wake up and take notice of their requests for pardons or commutations. Of all the powers granted to him by the Constitution, his authority here is complete. Yet he has shown absolutely no interest in exercising it. And no one in the media has asked him about it.

As a result, Obama has just succeeded in making Calvin Coolidge look good. He has an even shabbier record when matched up against James Buchanan, the president whom many would rank as the worst in American history. According to data compiled by P. S. Ruckman, a leading authority on the pardon power, Obama has just been outdistanced by Coolidge in his failure to exercise clemency. Coolidge granted his first pardon after 67 days in office. Obama has done nothing. He makes Buchanan look even better. The president whose weaknesses led to the Civil War was at least dutiful enough to grant his first pardon after 37 days in office. Obama has been ensconced at the White House for more than 70.

More than 2,100 petitioners were left hanging in the wind by President Bush and another 300 came over the transom in the first six weeks after Obama took office. About 60 per cent of them are still in prison, seeking commutations. Surely some of them were too harshly sentenced or unjustly convicted. How much longer is Obama going to keep them waiting? Is he going to keep up Bush’s tradition of almost always saying no?

How much longer will it be before the sleepwalkers in the White House press room ask him about it?

One Response to “No Pardons, No Commutations.”

  1. David says:

    While sentence commutations are worthy to consider, I would like to think our President is focusing on more pressing, big picture issues. There will still be at least three years to commute sentences.

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