Politics

Safire on pardons

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Conservative columnist William Safire had his ire up over presidential pardons in 2001.

Result: the most flagrant abuse of the presidential pardon power in U.S. history. Even Clinton stalwarts are openly disgusted at their man’s departing display of shamelessness. But Rich’s hired guns in public relations and the law will soon claim that ”every president did it” or that ”Rich was persecuted by evil prosecutors.”

How can Clinton’s final presidential wrong be righted? A constitutional amendment to restrict the undemocratic kingly power is far off, and this unpardonable pardon can never be undone. But though justice in this case is denied, truth can be served, and the truth can hurt Rich and the perpetrators of his pardon.

Congressional hearings will begin next week to determine how the end run was made around all normal procedures. To display nonpartisanship, Dan Burton’s Government Reform Committee should call a predecessor chairman, John Conyers, who held hearings a decade ago into Republican failures to bring Rich to trial.

A threshold question: Why did Clinton decide the case on a one-sided presentation by Rich’s lawyer, Quinn, with no analysis from Justice’s pardon attorney, Roger Adams? Why was Rich’s prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White, kept in the dark rather than asked for her rebuttal?

Safire was writing about Clinton’s shameful pardoning of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich. But isn’t it interesting how many of the same criticisms apply to President Bush’s pardon of Lewis Libby.

Note the similarities:

1. The claims of “everybody does it” and that Libby was “persecuted by evil prosecutors.”

2. The threshold question. Why did Bush decided the case after a one-sided consultation with a few close aides? Why was Libby’s prosecutor kept in the dark rather than asked for his rebuttal?

Safire supported Congressional hearings into how the pardon was made.

I wonder two things: If Bush supporters will admit the parallels, and if Safire will call for the same treatment this time around.

I’m not holding my breath.

Update: In response to the comment by Mark (since I get an error message whenever I try to post comments here): I agree that it can go both ways. But in the particular case, the FALN pardons didn’t bother me much at the time, and still don’t. The 16 members pardoned were never convicted of any role in the bombings, and all had either served their full sentence or served at least 19 years in prison. I’m okay with clemency in such cases. The Marc Rich pardon, on the other hand, was indefensible.