Last week, President Bush last week pardoned four people who were long ago convicted of minor crimes, spent no time in prison, and completed their probations, says the Washington Post. “He continues not to view his role as chief executive as one where he should temper the justice handed out by the justice system with mercy,” said Douglas A. Berman, an Ohio State University law professor who studies presidential pardons. “This really is a stingy view of things, especially given how much larger our federal justice system is now” than it was in years past.
Bush has issued 31 clemency orders since becoming president. His father granted 77 during his one term as president. Franklin D. Roosevelt granted 3,687 clemency petitions during his four terms. “What President Bush has done, to my personal way of thinking, is approach the use of his pardon power with no theory other than to stay safe,” said Margaret Love, a Washington lawyer who served as federal pardon attorney, heading the government’s screening of clemency petitions, between 1990 and 1997. Love, Berman and others say presidential clemency could be a powerful tool. It could it set an example of forgiveness and focus attention on the harsh punishment that is a byproduct of federal mandatory-sentencing laws. Bill Clinton, did not grant any pardons during four of his first five years in office. He stirred outrage and a congressional hearing with 176 clemency petitions in his final days in office, including one for fugitive financer Marc Rich, the former husband of Democratic Party donor Denise Rich. In all, Clinton issued 456 clemency orders — 140 pardons and 36 commutations.