Friday, July 06, 2007

Those crazy, crazy presidents

President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence, which he claimed to be excessive, was unquestionably a clumsy political move. But a travesty? Impeachable? As far as presidential mercy goes (along with its attendant explanations) Bush's exercise of it was better than a few P.S. Ruckman Jr. at National Review could name:

The government section of the public library must be a spooky place for those who find Bush’s explanation of the lowest-grade quality. In the Annual Report of the attorney general, one can see pardons have been granted because criminals were “reformed,” promised to reform, or because their release might cause others to reform. Pardons have been given to those who were insane, went insane in prison, and those who might have gone insane if put into prison. Pardons have also been granted so criminals could take care of someone else who went insane, was going insane or did not want to go insane. Benjamin Ogle (convicted of manslaughter) was pardoned by Abraham Lincoln, in part, because Ogle was “rather remarkable for his good-humored disposition.” Now, imagine if Bush had written that! Lincoln was also moved by John Lawson’s “reputation for honesty.” Lawson (alias John Lassano) had been convicted for passing counterfeit money. If you think Bush’s explanation was among the very poorest, you just don’t have a library card.

Reductio ad Lincolnium doesn't do it for you? Then here are a few more presidential examples:

As long as presidents swear to uphold the law and pardon those who have violated it, we can complain about inconsistency and hypocrisy. George Washington argued ignorance of the law was a “frivolous” plea, but justified his first pardon on the ground that the recipient had not “informed himself” of the law. Vice President John Adams was angry that Washington pardoned the Whiskey Rebels. But, as president, Adams pardoned participants in Fries’s Rebellion. William H. Taft argued it was “necessary” for rich criminals to serve out their sentences, but pardoned some of the wealthiest people ever convicted. Rutherford B. Hayes pardoned Ezra Heywood because he thought Heywood had been wrongly convicted for “obscenity.” After Hayes got a good chewing-out from his wife, he refused to “nullify” the law or “intrude” when persons were convicted for similar behavior. Grover Cleveland had pardons for vote fraud committed in favor of his own party. Otherwise, it was a “barefaced and wicked” offense. Dwight Eisenhower took Harry Truman to task for last-minute pardons, then followed suit.

Might I also suggest that if Bush were issuing a pardon or clemency for the crime of leaking Valerie Plame's identity--rather than for apparently inconsistent testimony from a politically-charged fishing expedition--those complaining might have a bit more of a leg to stand on.

But it would be silly of me to think that liberals believe that's what Libby was convicted of, wouldn't it? It would be like liberals thinking that people like me believe 9/11 was orchestrated by Saddam Hus...

Wait a sec.


1 comment:

Margaret said...

Crazy is the word for it. I like your style and the way you see things politically through this one page of blog posts. You sound a lot like I do on these matters.