Democrat Michael Dukakis was governor when Massachusetts mistakenly furloughed murderer Willie Horton, who raped a Maryland woman.
Obama can avoid those pitfalls by focusing on nonviolent drug offenders serving outrageously long time behind bars because of the Draconian federal mandatory minimum sentencing system. He can limit clemency to inmates with clean prison records. He can commute prison terms but require that inmates be released under supervision.
I can't prove that as an African-American man, Clarence Aaron was subjected to a harsher sentence than would have been imposed on a white college student. But as Aaron told me over the phone in 2002, "I don't see too many young white kids coming into the penitentiary."
In "The Audacity of Hope," Obama wrote that he hoped he could remain honest as a U.S. senator. As president, he cannot honestly believe that a 23-year-old first-time nonviolent drug offender should be sentenced to life without parole.