Today, President Obama pardoned a couple of turkeys, a relatively new Thanksgiving tradition. But as Mark Knoller of CBS News points out, you stand a much worse chance of getting a pardon out of President Obama if you're a human being:

It's Turkeys 4, People 0.

They're the latest numbers on Barack Obama's presidential pardon scoreboard.

During his first 22 months in office, he has not granted any presidential pardons, though he has publicly pardoned four turkeys including two 45-pound gobblers this morning at a Rose Garden ceremony.


The Office of the Pardon Attorney, which receives and processes pardon applications for the president, reports on its website that Mr. Obama has neither granted nor denied any pardon requests during his first 20.5-months in office. There were 494 petitions for pardons received during that period, bringing the total of petitions pending to 1,140. The numbers show 247 pardon petitions were closed on Mr. Obama's watch without presidential action.

It has since been reported but not posted by the Pardon Attorney that Mr. Obama formally denied 71 requests for pardons last month. Some critics, including former Pardon Attorney Margaret Colgate Love, urge Mr. Obama to grant real pardons to deserving recipients.

Maybe come Christmas time, the Pardon Office could get around to giving a break to some living, breathing humans. It is too easy to pardon the dead, as Charlie Crist is doing with the lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison. Not that I am against pardoning entertainers, mind you. I was fully supportive of Gov. David Paterson pardoning Slick Rick.

Obama has plenty of time to catch up and give some decent, ordinary people who may have made a mistake a break. The pardon power is the one power the president has that has no check. He is literally an absolute monarch when it comes to pardons.

According to the pardon attorney, here are the numbers of pardons granted by U.S. presidents since 1945:

   * Harry S. Truman - 1913
   * Dwight Eisenhower - 1110
   * John Kennedy - 472
   * Lyndon Johnson - 960
   * Richard Nixon - 863
   * Gerald Ford - 382
   * Jimmy Carter - 534
   * Ronald Reagan - 393
   * George H.W. Bush - 74
   * Bill Clinton - 396
   * George W. Bush - 189


It appears from some of the comments some of you people do not understand or know the history of the pardon power. Pardons were not, prior to the Nixon pardon and the beginning of the "war on crime" era, not thought to be political decisions with political timetables. They were acts of mercy. The modern method of pardoning, which is to wait until there is no political cost to the president, is a thoroughly modern invention. If you do your research, you will learn that President throughout history did not put mercy on a political schedule:

Until 1980, each president granted well over a hundred post-sentence pardons and sentence commutations almost every year, without fanfare or scandal. Grants were issued almost every month for much of this period, evidence that pardoning was considered part of the ordinary housekeeping work of the Presidency, not something reserved for holidays or departure from office. The percentage of clemency petitions acted on favorably remained high, approaching or exceeding 30% in every administration until President Jimmy Carter’s. While it would be naïve to suggest that special pleading outside of regular channels never entered into a decision to pardon or commute a sentence, irregular grants rarely gave rise to controversy as long as ordinary people were perceived to have access to the president’s mercy.

So for those of you who feel that nobody deserves any mercy until it is politically expedient for the President, I say to you that you only have the conservative "war on crime" and "Nixon pardon" era to support your view. Prior to that, since the very beginning when Washington pardoned the Whiskey rebels shortly after being elected. Pardoning was an ordinary act of mercy. It was when FDR pardoned people during his re-election campaign. And it was when Truman pardoned people who even admitted to the crimes, but had exemplary military records in World War 2.

But, we know most of the prison population is black and brown, so maybe its best to put the President's political interests first.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 06:00 PM PST.

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