- Here’s what an ethical governor does with the power to pardon and commute sentences, when he believes a young man sentenced for his participation in a murder was sentenced too harshly:
Commute his sentence. It’s why he has the power in the first place.
- Here’s an ethical governor does if that young man happens to be the son of a close political ally and well-known politician:
Either commute the sentences of everyone of a similar age and similarly serving an excessive sentence, or don’t commute the sentence of the young man.
- Here’s what an ethical governor does if that young man happens to be the son of a close political ally, but he’s the only one whose sentence the governor wants to commute because he sincerely thinks he is the only one who deserves it, and the governor knows that much of the public will believe the commutation is just another example of cronyism and a double standard for the rich and connected:
Announce the commutation well before you leave office, and face the firestorm you know is coming.
- Here’s what outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did:
He waited until the final hours of his term, then commuted the sentence of the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, Esteban Nuñez, who had pleaded guilty to participating in the killing of a college student. The governor did this while doling out a number of other political appointments to friends and allies, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that the gift to young Nuñez was exactly as cynical and unjust as it appeared to be, an example of special treatment for the power elite.
It was a cowardly, irresponsible, thoroughly unfair abuse of power, but politics as usual, removing just a little more of the already paltry amount of trust Americans have in their elected leaders.