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Animal? Pardon approved!
I've been writing about this for years and while most folks don't like to hear it, it needs to be said. President Barack Obama is the least merciful president we have ever had. Literally, he ranks 44 out of 44, less merciful than previous record holder George W. Bush. It is the end of 2012 and so far, President Obama has not pardoned or commuted the sentence of a single person this year. Astounding.

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.

As many others, including Meteor Blades, have pointed out, this is not historical precedent. Even law-and-order Ronald Reagan had pardoned over 200 people by the end of his first term. Even Bush I, at the height of crime hysteria, pardoned 77 people before the last minute burst of his single term. But if you really look back (by clicking through my past articles on the subject), you'll find presidents of both parties pardoning literally hundreds of people every year. And not just at Christmas or Thanksgiving. But this year, we didn't even get Thanksgiving or Christmas pardons. President Obama is even less merciful than Pope Benedict XVI, who recently pardoned his personal butler who stole and leaked confidential documents! (I think we all know what a hard ass President Obama has been on leakers thanks to the good work of Jesselyn Radack.)

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.

"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.

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.

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.


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