Par­don me, please

The departing pres­i­dent gets an ear­ful from seek­ers of clemency

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Po­lite­ness is al­ways wel­come, but it’s not ow­ing to an out­break of good man­ners that Pres­i­dent Obama is hear­ing a bar­rage of “par­don me.” Rather, it’s a sign that a pres­i­dent is soon to leave the White House, tak­ing with him his power and au­thor­ity to grant clemency to those on the na­tion’s naughty list. To yearn for re­demp­tion is hu­man na­ture, but the pres­i­dent must re­serve it for those who de­serve it.

Among the list of par­don-seek­ers is Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. Army sergeant who walked away from his unit in 2009 while serv­ing in Afghanistan and was held by the Tal­iban un­til swapped for five ter­ror­ists in a 2014. He faces court mar­tial in April and if con­victed could serve life in prison. The White House hailed the swap as an ex­am­ple of U.S. com­mit­ment to the prin­ci­ple of never leav­ing troops be­hind. Crit­ics called it giv­ing in to hostage-tak­ers.

Mr. Obama may be anx­ious to ex­cuse the sol­dier to put an end to the drama over an un­pop­u­lar act that might tar­nish the legacy he ob­sesses about. Do­ing so, though, would only serve to un­der­mine the mil­i­tary ethic that places above all loy­alty to coun­try on the bat­tle­field. The pres­i­dent should un­der­stand that such mis­placed mercy would be part of his legacy, too.

Although she hasn’t sought one, of­fi­cially, cer­tain pun­dits ask whether Hil­lary Clin­ton will re­quest a pre-emp­tive par­don. She got a pass from the FBI for her highly sus­pi­cious han­dling of clas­si­fied ma­te­rial as sec­re­tary of State, but the elec­tion re­sults con­firmed her con­vic­tion in the court of pub­lic opin­ion. Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump has mod­er­ated his cam­paign threat to ap­point a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to in­ves­ti­gate Mrs. Clin­ton’s mis­steps, and to “lock her up.” Mr. Obama might be tempted to nail shut the door to the Clin­ton closet, where bones still oc­ca­sion­ally rat­tle.

Ex­ec­u­tive clemency is an al­most di­vine au­thor­ity that the Framers of the Con­sti­tu­tion en­dowed in the high­est of­fice in the land. Ar­ti­cle II, Sec­tion 2, Clause 1 of the found­ing doc­u­ment states: “The Pres­i­dent . . . shall have Power to grant Re­prieves and Par­dons for Of­fenses against the United States, ex­cept in Cases of Impeachment.” It can take the form of a com­mu­ta­tion, which re­duces or elim­i­nates a sen­tence be­ing served with­out over­turn­ing it. Or it can be ad­min­is­tered as a par­don, which for­gives a crime on the as­sump­tion that the trans­gres­sor has ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for the mis­deed, and re­grets it.

Ev­ery out­go­ing pres­i­dent gets pe­ti­tions from sup­pli­cants say­ing they’re sorry, and Mr. Obama has primed the pump with his Clemency Ini­tia­tive, which en­cour­ages fed­eral in­mates to seek mercy. To show that he means it, the pres­i­dent has par­doned more than 1,000 pris­on­ers, most of them drug of­fend­ers, and more than his past 11 pre­de­ces­sors com­bined. “It makes no sense for a non­vi­o­lent drug of­fender to be serv­ing decades, or some­times life, in prison,” Mr. Obama writes on Face­book. No one should dis­miss the value of for­give­ness, but nei­ther should it be for­got­ten that drug crimes visit vi­o­lence on fam­ily and friends of abusers.

The pres­i­dent’s gen­er­ous ap­pli­ca­tion of con­sti­tu­tional priv­i­lege has prompted calls for a sweep­ing par­don for nearly a mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants who came to the United States as chil­dren and were granted tem­po­rary amnesty, the so-called DREAM­ers. The re­sponse from the White House is a re­luc­tant no. DREAM­ers don’t need clemency from a crim­i­nal vi­o­la­tion — they need le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

A pres­i­dent is not above tak­ing mat­ters in his own hands, though, as a pair of Thanks­giv­ing tur­keys at­test af­ter re­cently be­ing spared the White House ax. Pres­i­dent Obama should be com­pas­sion­ate, but care­ful that he doesn’t ex­tend his clemency to more tur­keys.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.