Why hasn't Obama commuted Aaron's sentence? Some in the criminal justice community offer up this hopeful excuse: He has so much on his plate.
Nonsense. The Department of Justice has staff members whose job is to review clemency applications. It is their job to vet petitions and recommend commutations for worthy inmates. If they do their job right and save their recommendations for inmates with no violent history and good prison records, there is little political downside.
But if the president doesn't want to take any risk in the exercise of mercy, he should be honest and furlough the pardon staff permanently. Then, at least, the president could spare federal prosecutors and counterterrorism operatives from furloughs.
By the way, the pardon power is the rare executive power Obama can exercise unilaterally. Mercy is a fine concept, but if an action does not fan the flames of partisan rancor, this president cannot be bothered.
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