When I learned a few days ago, that as one of his last acts, President Obama was commuting the sentences of 332 people, including the traitorous Chelsea Manning, I was outraged. And I surmise most of you were probably were as well, but chalked it off as one of those things that are beyond our control. I decided right then and there that this matter would be my next blog post, and by God, I was going to castigate our ex-president for his blatantly liberal actions. After all, I thought, how in-your-face could one be to pardon that many people on your last full day in office?
So, I set about gathering information to prepare this editorial so as to make sure I gave my readers something other than the fake-news we are spoon fed daily by the current media. I thought that surely this would be a slam-dunk piece to write and publish. What I found out is that this matter is not as cut and dried as one would think and that there is a possibility that I had jumped to conclusions, and as much as it pains me to say this, there is a chance I could have been wrong!
Now, before the die-hard conservatives think I have lost my cotton-pickin’ mind or defected to the other side, let me explain:
First off, in my opinion, there is no excuse for pardoning or commuting the sentence of the traitor Chelsea Manning. Mr. or Ms. Manning, whichever he/she is at this moment, should have been hung, again in my humble opinion, and it should have been before we paid for that sex change. But that is only one person in over 1,715 people who were granted clemency by Mr. Obama. In the past, this country hung their traitors. This was merely an act of Obama giving Conservatives and the military a giant middle-finger on his way out. Perhaps Manning will find his/her way to another form of justice at a later date.
But I also found out there is a difference between a sentence being pardoned and it being commuted. Don’t know about you, but I didn’t know that, as I thought they were the same. The word that applies to either a pardon or commuted sentence is termed clemency.
Someone who has been pardoned has been convicted of a crime, done the time and/or paid the fine and is already back among us, or in some cases even dead…for decades! The act of being pardoned merely removes the crime from your record and a pardoned person can go back to being a normal citizen or grave occupant. Obama didn’t pardon that many people in his eight years in office, 212 to be exact, less than all modern-day presidents except the Bush’s. On its face, this issue really does not seem like that big a deal, and had not convinced me to change my mind on giving Mr. Obama the tongue lashing he so richly deserved.
Commuting a sentence though, which Obama now leads the Presidential league in issuing, is an entirely different matter. Commuting a sentence is like issuing one of those little yellow cards in Monopoly whereby one gets out of jail free. Just open the door, let the offender out, all is forgiven and you can go back to your family. And I thought I had a problem with that.
But, for my readers I dug a little deeper. And here is where it gets murky in the corners of the inner workings of my head. I learned that 98% of those people who had their sentences commuted were in for drug offenses. Well, I didn’t believe that, regardless of the source. So, I went to the Department of Justice website as they give names, locations, crimes, and terms. Admittedly, I didn’t read all 1,503 of the people granted commutations, but I read enough that my eyes were starting to cross, so I then scrolled randomly and everyone I stopped at was involved in some sort of drug activity. There was one guy convicted of murder and had a life sentence, although it appeared he had merely been present at the time of the murder, and has an IQ of about 60. He had done considerable time, and I really have to wonder if Obama did the poor man any favors by letting him out into current society.
My stance on the lawfulness of drugs is a subject for another blog for another day, so for the sake of discussion lets push that issue to the side. I don’t personally know any of the people Obama let go, but it did appear they had all done considerable time and had been vetted carefully by the Obama administration before having their sentences commuted. None flew a plane into a building, gunned down innocent people while in church for being black, or blew up a building containing a daycare center. Perhaps some of the drug dealers and users learned their lesson or dried out in prison and if so, America might just be better off not having to incarcerate them at the ridiculously high costs associated with imprisoning people. And possibly they will contribute to society and someday in the future, President Ivanka Trump, our first female president, will grant them a pardon too. For those that didn’t learn their lesson, they will be back in the gangs, and in an act of Darwinism, some will be killed and others will get caught again and thrown back in the pokey at a later date. (I understand one has already been shot and killed in Saginaw MI!) In the meantime, America played the percentages, won some, lost some, and saved the taxpayers considerable money in the process.
There is another factor in play here that made Obama the all-time leader. Unlike past presidential administrations, Obama’s requested petitions of clemency from people. And he got over 36,000 of them for his efforts. That means the Obama administration only granted clemency to about 5% of the applicants, as compared to Harry Truman who seemed to let everybody go that requested it. OK, actually it was only 41%, but that is a considerably larger number than Obama, as was a surprise to me again.
So, in the end, maybe the Obama clemency acts might not have been such a bad thing after all. I may have jumped the gun due to my misunderstanding of the word pardon, which was used by the media, or that my initial knee-jerk reactions were just plain wrong. Or, it occurs to me that I could be wrong about my position with this blog post, too. What do you think?