Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Debate Question

Gerald Ford is dead, and the only memorable thing he did while President, aside from support Indonesia's genocidal war against East Timor, was pardon his predecessor Richard Nixon for any and every crime he had ever committed. Given the crimes we know about, this is quite a broad pardon indeed. There are undoubtedly more crimes to be revealed when Kissinger dies, and some crimes we will simply never know about.

Ford's pardon of Nixon laid the groundwork for the Reagan/Bush I-era pardons of people like Elliott Abrams and Cap Weinberger. (Abrams continues to be employed by the current White House, even though his felony conviction would bar him from voting in most states.)

So a question for the audience: Should a democratic government continue to hold the power of pardon? Should this power be vested in the executive, where it's most prone to abuse?

My personal thought is the pardon should be abolished. To say it's necessary to correct injustice in our, um, justice system is to answer your own question - the system should be reformed, not have an executive privilege bolted on in the hopes that it will be used fairly. Moreover, as the Ford, Bush I, and (inevitably) Bush II pardons show, it's positively harmful to a democratic state when a ruler can buy his co-conspirators silence with a promise of immunity.

Besides, pardon and clemency are really a relic of the monarchy, when the King wanted to protect his cronies. Plus ce change...

2 comments:

Devin said...

John:

Good question. I am not sure I know enough about it to provide a good answer. You have listed some examples of "bad" pardons, but I wonder if there are examples where the US President (or any other world leader) used the power to grant clemency in a more positive manner. Perhaps the power should be retained but with a system of checks and balances (ie. a committee to review a decision to grant a pardon...).

Battlepanda said...

I feel like on a lower level governor's pardons have the power to do a lot of good given the inflexibility of the law (see the recent spate of young people being put away for being sex offenders). On a presidential level though...you're right, the possibility for abuse is rife.