Last Thanksgiving, Melissa Harris-Perry picked up on this and noted on her show how amazing it is that the president has taken almost no interest at all in using the unchecked power of presidential mercy:
Obama has pardoned just 2 percent of applicants during his first term — 1 in 47 of those who applied, making his the lowest pardon rate of any of the past five presidents.Worse, he has now set the record of meting out the least amount of mercy of any president in the last 100 years. In his first term, President Obama has pardoned just 22 people and commuted the sentence of one person. And it wasn't most certainly because of a lack of applications because he denied 1019 applications, the lowest rate of approval ever recorded. This year, the only living being that received any sort of mercy from this president was a turkey.
This is ridiculous.
Part of the problem, or perhaps the root of the problem, is the man in charge of the Pardon Office, Pardon Attorney Ronald L. Rogers. Rogers is a Republican, a former military judge, and was appointed to his job by George W. Bush.
Several administration officials who agreed to discuss pardons on the condition of anonymity said the president pardoned nearly every person recommended by Rodgers for approval in his first two years in office, but that such applicants were few and far between. While the number of applicants has increased in recent years, Obama — based on Rodgers' recommendations — is denying more people more swiftly than any of his recent predecessors, the data shows.Taking the charitable view, it may be that President Obama isn't a "no mercy" type of president in the mold of "execute and torture" George W. Bush. Perhaps he has been so busy with matters of great import, he simply hasn't taken an interest in showing a bit of presidential mercy and setting the proper example for a healthy society. However, Lincoln pardoned 343 people in his four years, including a whole company of rebellious Sioux warriors. FDR pardoned thousands of people from 1941 to 1945. Obviously those men had much bigger things on their plates. While we expect Republican presidents to never show any hint of mercy or kindness, we can and should expect better from fellow Democrats.
"I don't think he has been given the same opportunity, by this process, to look at these petitioners as his predecessors were," said Mark Osler, a law professor at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis who launched the country's first law clinic for commutations.
Currently, two government officials said, there are about a dozen positive recommendations and hundreds of negative ones waiting for the president to act on.
It could be that Rogers is the source of the problem and needs to go. But make no mistake, ultimately the president is responsible for the use of the one power he has that has no limit. It is long past time he starts making serious use of it.