President Obama granted clemency to 231 deserving individuals, yesterday, the most individual acts of clemency granted in a single day by any President inU.S. history. He also issued 153 commutations, and has now commuted the sentences of 1,176 individuals, including 395 life sentences. The President also granted pardons to 78 individuals, bringing his total number of pardons to 148.
The pardon and clemency powers of the President are underused, and until the last two years, Obama underused them more than any modern President. Now, presumably in a last minute flurry to enhance his legacy, Obama has embraced these acts of mercy as one thing he can do that Donald Trump will not be able to reverse. Obama’s motives are irrelevant, however. The “quality of mercy is not strain’d…” and it also shouldn’t be criticized. We must assume that the beneficiaries of Obama’s mercy are deserving, and that there aren’t any Marc Rich-types in the group.
There is so much that is right with Obama’s commutations and pardons. They match the spirit and ideals of the season; they provide second chances to Americans who need them; it returns citizens to their families. Let’s hope that he has begun a permanent competition, and that every President will now strive to exceed the number of official acts of mercy of his or her immediate predecessor.
Thank-you, Mister President.
You just made the United States a little more ethical.
A lot, in fact.