Debra J. Saunders

Despite his erstwhile criticism of federal mandatory minimums, America's first black president may be of little to no help to her. I thought President George W. Bush was stingy with the pardon power, but Bush did issue two commutations in his first term, 11 total, as well as a total of 189 pardons. The Bush record beats Barack Obama's one commutation and 22 pardons.

Maybe Obama will be better after the election, some hope, when, win or lose, he could commute sentences without fear of alienating voters.

Political science professor P.S. Ruckman expects only "the usual tinkling of December pardons." If, however, Obama does issue a spate of commutations, expect some crony clemency, like Clinton's out-the-door pardon of well-connected rich fugitive Marc Rich.

Mitt Romney is "no big ball of hope," either, Ruckman said of the other guy. As Massachusetts governor, Romney granted none of the 15 pardon or three commutation recommendations sent from his parole board.

Conventional wisdom holds that there is no political upside to granting pardons and commutations. In the end, however, presidents often find some mercy for their pals. The question is whether they can spare a shot at a second chance for the average unconnected offender.

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Debra J. Saunders

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