Uncommon Sense – The Siwiec Report by Ron Siwiec
“The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
Colorado Governor Jared Polis has pardoned parents who in 2009 reported that their then 6-year-old son had accidentally floated away in a homemade helium balloon. It was a hoax devised to elicit publicity for a reality show that Richard and Mayumi Heene were pitching.
The Colorado National Guard and emergency responders searched for the child, while a video of the silver UFO shaped inflatable was shown on the national news. The boy, who had never left the ground, was discovered safe at home. Charged with a felony, Mr. and Mrs. Heene pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to influence a public servant and served 30 days in jail.
It appears that few are ‘up in the air’ about the recent pardons issued by President Donald Trump. His choice of recipients for executive mercy are being soundly criticized on both the right and the left, with Senator Ben Sasse (Rep., Nebraska) calling them “rotten to the core.” In a recent news interview, Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey acknowledged that the Constitution gives the President the power to pardon but said it was a “misuse of power” in the case of Trump’s reprieves. Toomey stated,
“I mean, my goodness, we have tax fraud and bank fraud, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, but because they were close to the President they got pardoned.”
Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gives the President the power to pardon any federal crime, except offenses involving impeachment. The model for the exercise of this form of mercy comes from the very power we had exorcised with our Revolution – Great Britain. The authority to show mercy was a power enjoyed by the Crown.
In a constitutional framework that stressed governmental checks and balances, a president’s power to pardon was seen as a check on the judiciary. Over time, the original intent of the framers has devolved into a less honorable ‘get out of jail free card.’ Trump has played that card with singular smarminess, engineering a virtual jailbreak for favored crooks and cronies. However, Trump does not stand alone in his last-minute missions of mercy. Only hours before Bill Clinton left office, he pardoned Marc Rich, a major donor to the Clinton Presidential Library.
Although not suspect on grounds of nepotism, as in the Trump and Clinton examples, Barack Obama’s choices for presidential clemency were a blatant concession to the left wing of his party. Before leaving office, Obama pardoned Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning, a traitor who leaked secret government documents to WikiLeaks. Also, he commuted the 70-year prison sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, a terrorist, who was behind 130 attacks in the U.S., which resulted in at least six deaths. Obama’s beneficence was praised by stalwart leftists, Bill de Blasio, Luis Gutierrez, and Bernie Sanders.
After the Constitution was put to parchment, it had to be ratified by at least nine of the original thirteen states. That ninth decisive state was New Hampshire, which ratified it on June 21, 1788. It was not smooth sailing when it came to ratification, as anti-federalist patriots such as George Mason, James Monroe, and Patrick Henry opposed it. One of their objections was to the provision that gave the president the power to pardon. The arguments voiced by James Madison, considered the Constitution’s main author, and Alexander Hamilton prevailed, with the document taking effect on March 4, 1789.
Barbara Kay Olson, a news commentator who was killed when the jet she was on crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, offered a prescient analysis of the pardon power as it has now surfaced with Donald Trump. She said,
“Of all presidential perks, the pardon has a special significance. It is just the kind of authority that would attract the special attention of someone obsessed with himself and his own ability to influence events.”
Sorry if I offended anyone with this essay. If I did, please forgive me.