Progressives and civil libertarians take note: President Obama has shown scant interest in using his office’s unilateral power to grant pardons. In fact, compared to him President George W. Bush is a bleeding heart, according to the current edition of The Nation.
The liberal magazine highlights the case of Weldon Angelos, a California prison inmate whose 55-year term for selling marijuana has made him a cause celebre among the civil rights and drug legalization crowd. But the White House has refused to grant a pardon or otherwise cut his sentence short:
So why hasn’t Obama done the right thing? Could it be that Angelos has just gotten lost in the shuffle? Possibly—but if that’s the reason, there would be evidence that Obama has used his pardon and commutation powers wisely in other cases. Unfortunately, that’s not true.
While in the White House, Bill Clinton pardoned well over 100 people. So did President Bush. To date, Obama has pardoned less than two dozen and commuted even fewer sentences. His first commutation wasn’t until late November 2011, when, according to CBS News, he ordered the release of a woman who had served ten years of a twenty-two-year sentence for cocaine distribution. CBS reported that “the latest numbers from the US Pardon Attorney show that since taking office Obama has denied 872 applications for pardons and 3,104 for commutations of sentence.” A year later, ThinkProgress reported that the only presidential pardon granted in 2012 was for the lucky turkey, as part of the Thanksgiving tradition.