How can anyone take seriously, much less trust, a newspaper with an editorial board that would publish something like this?
The headline was clickbait, at least for me: “Biden shows once again why he is a huge upgrade from Trump.” I had to read it. “Once again”? “Huge upgrade”? I wondered what on earth the Post could be referring to. The answer took me by surprise.
The editorial was lauding Biden’s pardoning or commuting convicted criminals who committed nonviolent federal crimes. Well, I’m not going to quibble: the traditional POTUS use of the Presidential pardon power is a low, low, lower than low bar to clear. I haven’t seen the full information on those who were pardoned or had their sentences commuted, but they were overwhelmingly drug offenders, and overwhelmingly “of color,” because that’s how this Administration rolls. There is, I surmise, virtually no chance that Joe was personally involved in the choice of who to pardon, and scant chance that he had to do anything more than sign off on the selections made by Elizabeth G. Oyer, the Justice Department’s pardon chief.
Still, the Presidential pardon power is shamefully underused, and has been grossly misused in the past, notably when Bill Clinton, in the waning days of his Presidency, pardoned fugitive Marc Rich, who had been indicted on federal charges of tax evasion, wire fraud, racketeering, and making oil deals with Iran during the Iran hostage crisis. Why did Clinton do this? His ex-wife pledged millions to Clinton’s Presidential library, and suddenly Rich was pardoned.
It was a bribe, straight up. How does the Post describe what Clinton did? A “pardon of a Democratic donor looked like a quid pro quo.” Is that a fair or accurate description? No, but the deceit allows the Post editors to say “President Donald Trump was far worse.” Really? Far worse than taking millions of dollars to pardon scum like Marc Rich? That deliberate misrepresentation is also an excellent reason not to trust the Post.
Trump is condemned by the Post because he pardoned some of his loyalists like Mike Flynn, Joe Arpaio and Steve Bannon, all of whom the Post ranks as worse than Rich by virtue of being connected to Trump. I hold most of those pardons justifiable. The Democrats criminalized politics when Trump was elected: those associated with the President had targets on their backs for partisan prosecutors to aim at. Though the Post’s editors don’t mention it, Trump also pardoned a lot of non-violent offenders who were worthy of mercy.
Here is something else that they don’t mention: if all we are talking about is pardons and commutations, Biden is a “huge upgrade” over Barack Obama, and so was Trump. By Thanksgiving of 2010, a full two years into his first term, Obama had pardoned two turkeys (one the previous year) and no human beings.
But of course the Washington Post doesn’t have the integrity to mention that.
The larger point is this: It is ridiculous to cite the use of the pardon power as evidence of any President’s virtues as a leader. There are literally millions of Americans who would be spectacular at issuing pardons. That doesn’t mean that they would be effective Presidents. How often are numbers of pardons and commutations cited by historians in assessing Presidencies? I can answer that: almost never. It is a relatively minor part of the job, and being a responsible and competent wielder of that power (giving Joe a very large benefit of the doubt) doesn’t make Biden a “huge upgrade” over any of his predecessors.
This leads inevitably to the question: In what other substantive respects can the Washington Post state that Biden has repeatedly proven that he is a “huge upgrade” from Donald Trump? Let’s see…he’s a Democrat, and that’s usually good enough for the Post. That’s one. Biden’s NOT Trump, and that’s considered an automatic virtue in Trump Derangement Land, where the Post is the local paper. That’s two. Joe’s tweets are less obnoxious that Trump’, but then Biden doesn’t tweet them himself. Still, I’ll count that as three. But what else? Could it be…
- His deft handling of illegal immigrants at the border? No…
- His record on jobs, inflation, the National Debt, the supply chain? No…
- He never says crazy things that his staff has to cover up and lie about? No, Joe can’t claim that…
- He never lies like…no, in fact, Biden lies at least as often as Trump did, it’s just that the news media never calls him on it…
- Biden has no offspring who embarrass him…wait, no, that can’t be it.
- Biden’ energy policies have benefited…no, that’s even too silly to write down.
- Democracy! The spirit of democracy is thriving…except that the Justice Department set out to intimidate parents who think they should have a say in their children’s education, and a House committee has been working at using a single riot to justify imprisoning conservatives who, unlike the more violent and destructive BLM rioters, have been aggressively prosecuted, and the party Biden leads is increasingly pushing for limits on free speech
- Appointments! Ah, that was a real Trump embarrassment! Except that Biden’s single most important appointment, his Vice-President, is less trustworthy and able than the last three VPs–Pence, Dick Cheney and Biden himself, hardly stiff competition.
- Crime has plummeted under…no, that’s backwards. Crime rates, especially murder, are soaring.
- Race relations are healing after Trump’s divisive rhetoric! No, in fact they are worse than ever.
- Well, there’s foreign affairs! (Yes there is, where President Biden did nothing to stop the Ukraine invasion…)
- Joe promised to bring Americans together, and…and…and the nation is more divided under Biden, except that more citizens from both sides of the ideological divide agree on one important thing: they think Joe Biden is a weak, failed President.
That was an incomplete list.
Newpapers were once pledged to speak truth to power, and to do so without partisan bias. What does it say about a newspaper’s editors that they view their role as to perpetuate a four year Jumbo, insisting that what everyone can see—that Joe Biden’s Presidency so far isn’t an upgrade over any President, including Trump, the Bushes, Carter, Warren G. Harding or Franklin Pierce—is the opposite of what it is?
It says that the editors, and thus the paper itself, no longer believe in journalism, and that their primary goal is deception, obfuscation, gaslighting and propaganda.
A final sad note: P.S. Ruckman was my favored source and authority on all matters related to Presidential pardons. He felt, correctly, that they all under-utilized the power, and made his cogent case regularly on his Pardon Power Blog. Apparently he has discontinued it, but the blog was marvelous while it lasted.