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Pardon Me

Presidential Pardons Ought To Be For Exceptional Cases Only

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, February 14, 2001.

Happy Valentine's Day.
In response to a number of crabby emails, my site now has, at least this year's commentaries up to snuff but I'm having my usual horrors trying to get the templates back for the other years. So. Soon.

In any event, we now come to the Presidential pardons of William Clinton. I cannot deny it looks ugly, with the certain appearance, at least, of a quid pro quo in the Marc Rich issue. I will reserve judgement for one reason only: Clinton is smart and I cannot help but think that he would not have done something so brazen to no real point without there being a Trojan horse virus in the thing for the Republicans. After all, Clinton is a human ATM and a half million dollars for his Presidential Library is the expected haul from an after breakfast talk at a Krispy Kreme. He didn't need Marc Rich and his money, filtered through an ex-wife or not. There is scant evidence for any of this, one way or the other, but President Bush has stated that he doesn't want the investigation to proceed. That may be true or it may be a good cop, bad cop pageant worked out between the Great Healer and his moral hygienists like Arlen Spector and Senator Burton of Indiana, a genuine idiot. Still, the Rich episode crossed back into the administration of Bush I and perhaps before, and there may be ulterior motives for the new President to fear an investigation. This might be wishful thinking on my part, but we'll see. Certainly, it would be in keeping with the history of Clinton and the Republicans, who always look worse than Clinton in the end.

I don't like the pardon, but then I didn't like the pardon of his brother either. I think Presidential pardons ought to be very special indeed. I was, however, glad to see that he pardoned Ms. Susan McDougal, a woman was baselessly prosecuted both by Ken Starr and, in an unrelated matter, by a vengeful wife of a famous musician who apparently hoped that McDougal, under the Whitewater smear, could take the fall for her own over spending. McDougal was the much younger wife of a con-man, and she had been convicted of shady shenanigans in other issues, but I have been very impressed with her refusal to cooperate with anyone in what she considered a setup prosecution. It was as impressive as Gordon Liddy's self congratulatory imprisonment, and probably for a higher ideal that Liddy's, given that nothing was ever close to proven about McDougal, and she was imprisoned for failure to cooperate with the Starr Chamber. We can all use friends like McDougal. I cannot address any of the other pardons.

Abraham Lincoln is given credit for excessive pardons during the Civil War, mythologized into touching tales of sobbing mothers when exhausted privates fell asleep on guard duty, a capital offense. Of more moment, perhaps, is the fact that he let most appeals fail, the young men were shot dead, and that Jefferson Davis was a far softer touch for his men than Lincoln. Still, those are the sort of issues for which Presidential pardons ought to be considered. Recall, a pardon is a forgiveness, and in many cases the people pardoned have never admitted they had done anything for which to be forgiven and would not want the trade-off. In some cases, like Casper Weinberger, they had yet to be formally accused of anything. A pardon is saying "You're guilty, but go forth and sin no more."

It would be nice to see a Presidential pardon for the black sailors who refused to unload ammunition ships after an explosion killed hundreds of them during the Second World War. Yes, they were guilty of disobeying an order, but the order was odious and not given to any equally untrained and skilled white troopers.

It would also be nice to see the Captain of the Indianapolis exonerated and pardoned, long overdue, along with the Admiral Kimmel and General Stark of Pearl Harbor infamy, scapegoats of the like the Navy is now trying to find aboard the Greenville. Remember the last time the Navy had an embarrassment when a gun exploded aboard the Iowa? They fabricated a tale of homosexual love triangles in the dead gun crew. Despicable. Here, we have a case of a nuclear sub, whose zillion dollar accoutrements had been sold to us as being able to detect a hair growing in the ear of enemy sub skipper, but we apparently could not hear a loud, clunky fishing boat of Japanese students right above them. They're already trying to frame civilians aboard the sub. It would be nice to think the Navy would be honest, but precedent is not good.

Among the living, I'd like to see pardons of all non-violent drug law offenders not involving children as an opening blow against this waste of flesh in our prisons. That's why I don't like the pardon of Roger Clinton, whose conviction is unlikely to harm his future and who didn't need it.