Of course, Obama shouldn't commute the sentences of violent or career criminals. But he could use it to free -- under supervised release even -- the likes of Clarence Aaron, a Louisiana college student who was arrested after facilitating two drug deals in 1992. Aaron was guilty and hence deserved to serve time in prison. But it's hard to see justice in a prosecution that meted out lesser sentences to the professional dealers and their minions -- men with criminal records who knew enough to testify against the new kid. As for Aaron, who was foolish enough to plead not guilty, he was sentenced to life without parole for a first-time nonviolent offense.
Last December, President Bush turned down Aaron's request for a commutation. His supporters have put their hopes in Obama.
But the new president doesn't seem eager to use his unfettered pardon power to correct sentencing injustices for the politically unconnected.
Look at Obama's choice for attorney general, Eric Holder. When Holder worked for the Clinton administration, Ruckman noted, "he wouldn't take the time, energy or effort to make it a regular feature of government."
"But he would, if you will, make an effort in wildly controversial situations." Such as: Holder's "neutral leaning positive" recommendation for the pardon sought by fugitive gazillionaire Marc Rich and his role in the 1999 Clinton pardons of 16 Puerto Rico independence terrorists.
When you think about it, the pardon petition is the rare Washington exercise that encourages politically unconnected people to petition their president for relief. But like Bush and Clinton before him, Obama seems to be hoarding this power. It's as if Team Obama sees justice as perk, not an equal right.