January 4, 2006


The Forgotten Power (Washigton Post, January 3, 2006)

PRESIDENT BUSH is a big fan of presidential power -- from warrantless wiretapping to conduct just short of torture to locking up American citizens without charge or trial. But there are some powers of his office that this president likes to ignore. He still has not exercised his veto, for example. And he prefers to forget that Article II of the Constitution gives him the "Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States." Mr. Bush, who famously proclaims himself a "compassionate conservative," has shown mercy fewer times than any president in recent history (though he has granted more pardons than President Bill Clinton had at the comparable point in his presidency). He has granted clemency less than a fifth the number of times of presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan or Gerald Ford, who served not even a full term in office. His record on the subject is dismal. [...]

The pardon power was imagined as a lively check on the criminal justice system, a way for simple justice to prevail over all of the legalisms and procedures of the courts. To be sure, this is a check that some previous presidents have abused, thereby casting the power into disrepute. But Mr. Bush's timidity, implying as it does that any aggressive use of clemency is inappropriate, ironically has the same effect. Continuous neglect of a legitimate power is itself a form of abuse.

At a mimum he should pardon everyone who's ever been convicted of violating campaign finance regulations, since they're patently unconstitutional, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 4, 2006 2:49 PM

"though he has granted more pardons than President Bill Clinton had at the comparable point in his presidency"

So, he is more merciful than Saint Bill. Was there a similar editorial in 1997?

Posted by: Bob at January 4, 2006 3:19 PM

Wait till he pardons Tom Delay and Scooter Libby.

Posted by: joe shropshire at January 4, 2006 3:33 PM

umm.. who exactly does the WaPo want pardoned?

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at January 4, 2006 3:42 PM

pinch sulzberger; if he goes the nyt might actually hire some one competent. if he stays, the wapo remains the premier msm paper.

Posted by: toe at January 4, 2006 4:00 PM

Didn't Clinton go on a pardoning frenzy in the waning hours of his Presidency?

Posted by: Bryan at January 4, 2006 5:20 PM

B.J. Clinton disgraced himself further, as much as it were possible, by blatently selling presidential pardons as he was leaving office. The president's brother collected outrageous "lobbying" fees from some of the criminals pardoned, much as his wife had acted as a bagperson in the Whitewater affair by laundering those payoffs.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 4, 2006 8:03 PM

Bryan: Yeah I think so, but listening to some people on this board, you would think that pardoning was an everyday thing for Clinton.
OJ: Ignoring issues of constitutionality, do you seen anything wrong with the current system of campaign financing for both all political parties?

Posted by: Grog at January 4, 2006 10:32 PM

It's terrible that corporate donations aren't allowed.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 4, 2006 11:30 PM

David: why?

Posted by: Grog at January 5, 2006 2:59 AM

Ach. You're making the transition from troll to commenter and I got caught chain-yanking. I suppose that makes me the troll.

It's not terrible, though it is a good demonstration of the uselessness of campaign finance reform. Corporations were forbidden from contributing to federal election campaigns, but everyone still talks as if they were making all the contributions their employees make. Nor have I noticed campaigns getting any cleaner and those who think that corporations have too much influence didn't miss a beat.

Corporations are legal fictions. Corporations are just groups of people -- shareholders, managers, employees, customers -- who have a common interest. Stopping corporations from contributing only stops people from contributing. It's useless and silly and, I suppose, as terrible as any other scheme to make the government less responsive to people.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 5, 2006 7:20 AM


We're Americans--we don't believe in ignoring the Constitution.

The entire system of financing politics is anti-Constitutional and thus un-American.

The First Amendment protects only political speech yet that speech is the most regulated in our current regime.

Only private citizens (no corporations, just as corporations have no other rights) should be allowed to make political contributions but they should be unlimited. Parties and candidates should simply be required to report contributions publicly.

Posted by: oj at January 5, 2006 8:17 AM

And quickly, perhaps weekly.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at January 5, 2006 11:15 AM

Michael: In the last campaign, Bush for President put all contributions on the web within days of receiving them, including contributions for less than $200.00 which weren't required to be reported. Proving that all Democratic campaign themes are projection, the Kerry campaign failed miserably to make anything like the same disclosures, with its public disclosures being both less timely and incomplete. In lots of cases (if not all, I'm going from memory) it neglected to disclose employers/occupations, which is required to be reported and, I believe, didn't disclose smaller donations.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 5, 2006 11:20 AM

Wow, I actually agree with OJ about something! I am fine with banning organizational contributions (corporation, unions, NGOs, PACs, charities, etc.) in conjunction with unlimited individual contributions. If a citizen can contribute unlimited money to the candidates of his choice, then no rights are lost by banning non-individual donations.

I would be tempted, however, to allow anonymous contributions as long as those were listed. Let the voters decide if they want to vote for someone with 90% anonymous contributors.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 5, 2006 12:54 PM

"...warrantless wiretapping...conduct just short of torture...locking up American citizens without charge or trial." and "Continuous neglect of a legitimate power is itself a form of abuse."--Those (mischaracterized) actions ARE legitimate powers that had been neglected for far too long.

The worst aspect of the Clintons' Great Going Out of Business/Pardon Fire Sale wasn't Bill's personal pedestrian money-grubbing grifting. It was Hillary's trading of pardons for votes, thereby corrupting the public electoral process as well. The Puerto Rican terrorists she pardoned hadn't even asked for pardons, and began setting terms and conditions for accepting them. In other words, the mad bombers had more principles than Ma Barker.

Posted by: Noel at January 5, 2006 2:05 PM

aog: I agree that it's not oppressive not to let corporations or unions make donations, but what is gained by the ban? We don't even avoid the appearance of propriety, because people just assume that all executives contributions are really corporate contributions.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 5, 2006 4:08 PM

Even though you guys probably won't check this site out, I think it is more important to take issue with the media's role in political campaigning then to the declared campaign contributions to the major parties:


Posted by: Grog at January 5, 2006 11:06 PM