In last week’s June 28th Democratic presidential debate at Howard University, Sen. Hillary Clinton was asked to respond to criminal incarceration numbers as reported the FBI. In a three-part answer, Hillary said,
“…Non-violent offenders should not be serving hard time in prisons. They need to be diverted from our prison system.”
Hillary’s statement generated much applause from the audience.Four days later, on July 2nd, responding to Bush’s commutation of “Scooter” Libby’s prison sentence, Hillary said,
“This commutation sends the clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice.”
My guess is if Bush had made the announcement of commuting “Scooter” prison sentence on June 28th, Hillary would have agreed. But only a few days later, she is steamed that Libby is not going to be “serving hard time in prison.”
According to my Webster’s Fourth Edition, the definition of cronyism is, “favoritism shown to close friends, especially in political appointments…” If I understand Mrs. Clinton correctly, Bush’s commutation of Libby was an act of “cronyism.” I suppose that would be totally different though from hubby Bill’s presidential pardons of:
- Roger Clinton, President Clinton’s brother, who was convicted of drug-related charges in the 1980s. He was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in 1985 to conspiring to distribute cocaine.
- Susan McDougal, a former real estate business partner of the Clintons. She was sentenced in 1996 and released from prison in 1998. She was convicted of four felonies related to a fraudulent $300,000 federally backed loan that she and her husband, James McDougal, never repaid. One tenth of the loan amount was placed briefly in the name of Whitewater Development, the Arkansas real estate venture of the Clintons and the McDougals.
- Henry Cisneros, who served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development during Clinton’s first term in office. He was convicted of making false statements to FBI agents conducting a background investigation of him when he was nominated to the Cabinet post in 1993. They included misleading investigators about cash payments he made to a former mistress.
- Former CIA Director John Deutch. The one-time spy chief and top Pentagon official was facing criminal charges in connection with his mishandling of national secrets on a home computer.
On January 20, 2001, just hours before Bush assumed office, President Bill Clinton granted a highly controversial 140 pardons and 36 commutations. So controversial in fact that Clinton felt the need to explain his actions in an editorial to the New York Times. [Here] In his eight years as president, Clinton issued approximately 450 pardons and commutations.
The Los Angeles Times reports on President Bush’s pardons and commutations.
“…pardoning has fallen on hard times. Bush has been more sparing in his exercise of the constitutional pardon power than any president in the last 100 years, including his father. He has pardoned only 113 people in more than six years in office and denied more than 1,000 pardon applications. He has granted only three of more than 5,000 requests for sentence reduction from federal prisoners. Many hundreds of applications remain to be acted on.”
President Bush’s decision to commute the excessive and unwarranted prison sentence of “Scooter” Libby was absolutely correct. Libby was found guilty of faulty memory by an out-of-control special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald who knew in the first 24 hours that the Valerie Plame leak came from the State Department, and not from the White House. Colin Powell’s right-hand man, Richard Armitage, was the source of the leak – and Fitzgerald knew it.
But above all, above all the Democratic rants and nonsensical threats of investigation, is that Bush’s commutation of Libby’s prison sentence was legal and constitutional.
I’ll defer to former President Bill Clinton to explain.
“First, I want to make some general comments about pardons and commutations of sentences. Article II of the Constitution gives the president broad and unreviewable power to grant “Reprieves and Pardons” for all offenses against the United States. The Supreme Court has ruled that the pardon power is granted “[t]o the [president] . . ., and it is granted without limit” (United States v. Klein). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declared that “[a] pardon . . . is . . . the determination of the ultimate authority that the public welfare will be better served by [the pardon] . . .” (Biddle v. Perovich). A president may conclude a pardon or commutation is warranted for several reasons: the desire to restore full citizenship rights, including voting, to people who have served their sentences and lived within the law since; a belief that a sentence was excessive or unjust; personal circumstances that warrant compassion; or other unique circumstances.”