Despite his platform grin and bouncy walk, Obama is notoriously uptight. Accredited journalists and news photographers have recently protested the White House’s defensive rigidity so extreme that a NYTimes photographer compares it to the Soviet Union in the bad old days. Maybe if Obama had let some early air and light into the govt website he might not have screwed the pooch. Lord knows what Daddy was paying attention to. It certainly wasn’t his Christian duty.
Obama makes a big deal of his religious faith. “I am a Christian. “I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith….So, I’m rooted in the Christian tradition.” And so on. He seems to have forgotten that a Christian’s duty is to forgive and pardon.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15.
In the six years Obama has been president he has pardoned or commuted the prison sentences of exactly 39 people while denying 6700. (A pardon implies justice gone wrong; a far simpler commutation means no opinion but release on time served.)
As noted by visiting Harvard law professor Sanford Levinson, “Harry S. Truman pardoned his first prisoner eight days after taking office. In contrast, Mr. Obama waited 682 days into his presidency before using his power…”
Look at the contrast with Ronald Reagan who only in his first term pardoned and commuted more than ten times Obama’s number. George H.W. Bush three times as many. Former Republican governor Haley Barbour – in Mississippi! – pardoned 215 last year including convicted killers. “Christianity teaches us forgiveness and second chances,” the very conservative Republican Mr. Barbour explained.
Let’s remind ourselves that Obama begs us to give his messed up Obamacare a “second chance.”
Half of the 210,000 federal prisoners are behind bars due to nonviolent drug related crimes. Many older non-violent inmates, some in their 80s and 90s, are under insanely harsh, federally mandated “Maximum Bob” sentences. Attorney general Holder openly crusades against these medieval sentencing guidelines; his boss simply doesn’t care.
The executive’s right, nay its duty, to pardon was built into the Constitution since 1789. The President can be a good Christian and also save the country $66,000 per elderly low risk (usually very sick) prisoner.
If Obama really wants to go crazy and think creatively why not show a little generosity by pardoning those arch-traitors (or people’s benefactors depending on your bias), Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning who brought down the imperial pillars of Hercules all by their lonesome and a couple of computers?
Since I dislike “activist” presidents who often actively take us to war, I’ve grown a real fondness for some of our historically more disreputable chief executives. After one of our worst presidents, the misogynistic racist redbaiting Woodrow Wilson, we returned to “normalcy” with a supposed nonentity from Ohio, Warren Harding, God bless him. Historians give Harding a bad time for appointing corrupt pals who looted the treasury, and because, once even in the White House broom closet, he fathered an unknown number of bastards from an unknown number of females some of whom were named Maisie and Blossom.
But old Warren was a decent sort who supported a 40 hour work week and an anti-lynching bill. More to the point, against fierce opposition from American Legion patriots and his own wife, he pardoned the labor saint, Eugene Debs, whom the vindictive Woodrow Wilson has thrown in the federal slammer for opposing America’s entry into the First War. Harding not only pardoned the socialist Debs but invited him to the White House for a friendly chat.
Come on, Barack. You have nothing to lose. Come January 2017 you’re gone. Commute or pardon Ed and Chelsea and let’s see what kind of Christian you really are.
(For facts and guidance I’m indebted to Murray Polner, Prof. Levinson, the former WashPost reporter George Lardner Jr., various agency items and Power Pardon blog.)
Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives. Sigal and Doris Lessing lived together in London for several years.