Op-Ed: Great start, Mr. President. Bring on more mass pardons
The first batch of pardons for thousands of former felons is expected this weekend, and President Obama is hopeful that his legacy-shattering actions will have a lasting impact on criminal justice.
In his first two months in office, Obama has issued more 1,000 commutations of sentences for nonviolent, non-violent and otherwise non-serious offenders and thousands of pardons for thousands of others, in both cases at the last minute. In his first full week in office, he has signed orders to send back 3.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here as children. He has also ordered the closing of more than 400 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices, and he is considering legislation to toughen ICE’s hiring standards and mandate increased sensitivity training for all agents.
By the end of the week, Obama will have issued 8,700 commutations and pardons totaling nearly 2 million people, and more than 300,000 waivers in the first two months. It’s a relatively small sampling. But Obama’s actions have a long way to go, and he is leaving a significant policy legacy, including a criminal justice system that is becoming more and more unjust.
The former president’s record is not, in my opinion, as bad as what Obama’s opponents would have us believe. But the actions he has taken so far are a start, and they were made at a crucial time, in one of the harshest environments in which the president has ever worked. Yet, in the rush to blame the president for what’s going on in the country, many are overlooking the role of the Democratic Party and the Democrats in Congress.
The president himself has often pointed out that he is not a king, and he wasn’t raised in a republic. Both of these facts are true, but they don’t mean that it’s not a democratic form of government. It doesn’t mean that he’s not responsible for the good things and the evil things that are taking place in the country.
When I was a kid, the phrase was “every man for himself.” That’s been a popular theme in American history, and the president doesn’t get the blame when someone tries to harm