Debra J. Saunders

Bush has a pretty stingy record when it comes to granting presidential pardons and commutations. He has granted a mere 163 pardons -- a figure far lower than President Ronald Reagan's 406 back when the federal prison population was much smaller.

No doubt, President Bill Clinton's sleazy fire-sale pardons on his way out of the office -- which were roundly and deservedly criticized -- have made Bush reluctant to use his absolute power of pardon.

Also, as Texas governor, Bush was burned when he pardoned a one-time misdemeanor drug offender so that he could work in law enforcement, only to watch Steve Raney be arrested for stealing cocaine during a roadside arrest four months later.

For all of the above reasons, critics in the pardon community pretty much have given up on Bush commuting Aaron's sentence. They have put their hope into clemency from President-elect Barack Obama, who has been critical of the draconian federal mandatory minimum sentencing system. They believe that Bush will reserve his pardon power for political operatives, and ignore excessive sentences imposed on the unconnected.

So far, the critics have been right. Last year, Bush commuted the 30-month prison sentence of former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby because it was "excessive." But he has yet to commute the sentence of Clarence Aaron. Aaron should be spending this Thanksgiving and Christmas with his mother and his family. And only President Bush can make that happen.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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