Thursday, January 19, 2017

Countdown to Obama presidency means one thing – “It’s pardon time”

Perhaps it was only appropriate that Chicago Cubs baseball executive Theo Epstein made the joke this week about giving Barack Obama a "midnight pardon" for being a White Sox fan.
President gets pardon for offense ...

For since we’re in the final days of the Obama presidency, about the only thing we should be expecting is to see what signs of clemency the president chooses to give.

FOR IT IS one of the perks of being a government chief executive – you get to grant pardons and other assorted types of clemency, usually based on whatever guidelines you decide are worthy.
... of wearing this in public

Which means some presidents are tougher than others, and some will choose to reward their political allies who managed to screw up and go afoul of the law during their times in public life.

I have no doubt that once Donald Trump actually takes the oath of office on Friday and becomes president, one of the first statements he’ll make will be to publicly denounce Obama as being weak and indecisive because of the amount of clemency he chose to dish out.

For a guy who likes the public image of going on television and telling people “You’re Fired!” probably is also the kind of guy who dreams of being able to tell people they’re “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” and can rot in a prison cell somewhere.

WHEREAS OUR DEPARTING president is someone who has shown some sense of compassion and impartiality – to the point where he sometimes has not dealt harshly enough with people who were his political enemies.
Some upset with Obama action

Anyway, the official list of pardons and other sentence commutations came out on Tuesday – although there’s always the chance Obama could slip in a final move or two in the hours leading up to 11:59 a.m. Friday – which is when the alarm goes off, Obama ceases to have authority and the Secret Service would no longer have to tackle Trump if he tried to assert any presidential powers of his own.

The clemency move that got the most public attention was that of Chelsea Manning, who got a military court martial and a lengthy prison term because of her disclosure of information considered classified.
For some, Obama action long overdue
Manning’s case drew attention because he is undergoing the process of becoming a woman, and some felt that fact was the reason for an overly harsh prison term that Obama commuted. She’ll be free come May and get on with her life.

EVEN THOUGH HOUSE Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., made it clear he thought Manning deserved continued incarceration. He probably likes the idea of a “freak” being abused by fellow inmates – regardless of specific circumstances.

There also was the clemency granted to Oscar Lopez Rivera, the Puerto Rican revolutionary who has spent the past 35 years in prison even though all of his counterparts who argue they’re fighting for a free and independent Caribbean nation (instead of its current Commonwealth status) had long been set free.

I have no doubt some will be grossly offended, yet freeing Lopez is merely acknowledging reality that there’d be nothing accomplished by requiring him to serve the 20 remaining years of his federal prison sentence.

In fact, that is the case with many of the pardons, commutations and other clemency actions that Obama granted – even though the ideologues amongst us are determined to point out that he granted more clemency than any other president!

MOST OF THE people who got clemency this week were people who got caught up under old federal drug laws that have since been lessened or eliminated – meaning most have already served more time than they would have if they were to commit the same offense now.
Karmic payback to baseball?

Personally, I found the pardon given to one-time San Francisco Giants slugger Willie McCovey to be the most intriguing. McCovey, who also played ball for San Diego and Oakland, got caught up in income tax violations a few decades ago.

He didn’t report all the income he received from participating in sports memorabilia shows, which is the same thing that got Pete Rose sent to prison for a few months at Marion, Ill.

McCovey has had to live the past couple of decades with a federal conviction on his record, one that perhaps now he can move forward from. Obama pardoning a ballplayer was probably the least he could do after receiving that “midnight pardon” from a collection of ballplayers themselves.


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