Pardon my pardon
By Jim Coogan
Donald Trump’s newly discovered power of the presidential pardon has produced some interesting consequences. This authority, listed in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution holds a whole lot of potential for our chief executive. Recently Trump pardoned Scooter Libby an aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice lying about revealing the identity of a CIA undercover agent. A few months ago he pardoned Phoenix, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpiao who had been convicted of defying a court order to stop profiling illegal immigrants. Because Arpiao was an early supporter of Trump, he got a reprieve from the president. Clear and simple, Trump used the presidential pardon in this case as a political tool to court the anti-immigration block of voters in Arizona.
I doubt that Trump ever heard of black boxer Jack Johnson, a man convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1913 when he took a white woman across state lines. President Obama didn’t pardon Johnson when he could have. But as a means of tossing a symbolic bone to black voters, Trump pardoned Johnson yesterday in a clear move to draw some African American voters into his camp. Ironically, Johnson would not have been able to rent an apartment in one of Trump’s real estate holdings. And whether Johnson should or shouldn’t get a pardon is not the issue. It is the obvious political use of the pardon that is in question here.
If he wants to, Trump could get a lot of political mileage out of using the presidential pardon. If, for example, he exonerates Confederate president Jefferson Davis, he could solidify and maybe even expand his southern white base. He could pardon Al Capone and ingratiate himself with Italian-American voters. Maybe he could grant forgiveness to the Rosenbergs – Julius and Ethel. There’s a potential constituency there. I suppose he could go all the way back to Benedict Arnold, Trump seems obsessed with what he views as “traitors,” lumping into that category, anyone who disagrees with his plans for making America great again. Hopefully someone in the administration would brief him on the particulars of the Arnold case before he cleans up the record.
Trump has been raising the possibility that he may pardon some of the people who are caught up in the current Russia probe. At the very least, he’s sending a thinly veiled message that if they stick with him, they can expect a “get out of jail” card from the commander in chief. No negative testimony against Trump – no jail time.
Trump isn’t the only one to play fast and loose with presidential pardons. Bill Clinton granted a pardon to billionaire Marc Rich who had been convicted of bank fraud. Rich had been a big donor to the Clinton campaign. There was a smell to that one. President George W. Bush pardoned six Reagan officials who had been convicted of crimes related to the Iran-Contra case. And of course, there was the Nixon pardon.
The presidential pardon clause in the Constitution may have seemed to the Framers to be a good idea back in the day. It’s now become purely a political tool and it should be scrapped.
Written in 1949, George Orwell’s view of the future has proven to be almost eerily on target. From the omnipresent telescreen in our houses that now can listen, monitor, and influence what we think and desire (Think Alexa), to the ” Newspeak” of our days (think “Alternate Facts”)and the Ministry of Truth (think Fox News,)much of what he foresaw has come true. Think for a moment about the following excerpts from the book.
“People could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them. And they were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening.”
“The Lottery, with its weekly payout of enormous prizes, was the only event to which the people paid serious attention. It was probable that there were millions of people for whom the Lottery was the principal, if not the only, reason for remaining alive.”
“At every few moments the fury of the crowd boiled over and the voice of the speaker was drowned by a wild, beastlike roaring that rose uncontrollably from thousands of throats.”
“War hysteria is continuous and universal in all countries. And such acts as reprisals against prisoners which extend even to boiling and burying alive are looked upon as normal, and when they are committed by one’s own side and not by the enemy, are considered meritorious.”
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Coogan’s Bluff May 6, 2018
Back to the Future — Again
By Jim Coogan
The candidate flew into Westfield, Massachusetts with an eye toward courting disgruntled voters who had seen their jobs and their identity fade as their city’s main industry disappeared in the global economy. The “Whip City” had once thrived as a manufacturing center but now hard times had set in. At a rally in front of one of the long-abandoned buggy whip factories, the candidate promised better things in the future. “China is not our friend.” he shouted to the crowd. “Because of our disastrous trade deals, they’ve been making buggy whips and dumping them in the American market. They’ve put up trade barriers so that you can’t ship your buggy whips over there. They are cheaters. When I’m elected, that is going to change. I can tell you that!” The crowd loved it and shouted “USA!! USA!! Just a day earlier the candidate had been in West Virginia touting his plan to bring back the coal industry. “We’re going to see a lot of miners going back underground around here. Clean coal is the future. You better believe it!”
1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk
The campaign had spent a good deal of time in other areas of the country that had suffered the loss of once prominent industries. In South Bend, Indiana, the candidate and his running mate had drawn cheers from a boisterous crowd in front of the shuttered Studebaker factory. “See that building over there,” he pointed. “We’re going to open it up again. And beautiful cars, like the Golden Hawk will be rolling off the assembly line. And each one will have a stamp on it – ‘Made in USA!!!” In Dayton, Ohio, he told what he claimed to be the largest crowd the city had ever seen, that the National Cash Register Company would be soon hiring hundreds of workers. “Remember those cash registers that when you hit a number the same number came up in the window up top? That’s what I’m talking about. Simple, Right? But you didn’t have to have a college degree to use them. This town is going to be a winner again. In fact, you will be winning so much you’re going to be bored with winning.” In Rochester, New York, the theme centered on bringing back Kodak slide projectors. Heads nodded when the candidate declared that “No one in the world made slide projectors like the people of this city. And it’s going to happen again. I guarantee it!!
In Dothan, Alabama, the candidate held a rally outside of an American Legion hall where he pointed to an F-86 fighter jet mounted on a pedestal near the front entrance. “This is the state of our current military. Look at it!! It’s a disgrace. When I’m elected, we are going to rebuild our armed forces – something that previous administrations have neglected.” His speech was greeted with thunderous cheers from veterans who seemed unconcerned that the would-be commander in chief had escaped military service himself during the Vietnam War with a series of questionable deferments.
On the eve of the election the race was too close to call. The future was out there. But what would it be? Would it come down to voters who saw the future as progressive, diverse, and innovative or would victory fall to others who looked forward once again to flying TWA, shopping at Woolworths, and driving around in Nash Ramblers.