End Presidential Pardons and Clemency
An Amendment –
The president shall not have the right to
grant pardons or clemency.
The prospect of the criminal in chief, George W. Bush, issuing pardons to his co-conspirators is repugnant to all citizens who’ve paid any degree of attention over the last eight years.
He neglected his duty prior to 911 resulting in a devastating attack on the nation.
He started an illegal war based on lies that caused injury and death to tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and the deaths of over 1.2 million Iraqi civilians.
He ordered the illegal wire tapping of citizens, a clear violation of law.
He stopped scientific research causing the suffering unto death of those with illness and injury that could have been healed during his term.
The list goes on. Bush ruled like a tyrant with the wisdom of an adolescent sociopath.
Right now this man who should have been impeached and subsequently jailed for his crimes is planning last minute pardons and acts of clemency for his friends, co-conspirators, and others who meet his deviant criteria for release from legal obligations.
Highly motivated citizens and legislators are seeking legal precedents and rationales to stop Bush from pardoning his collaborators.
Hopefully, their efforts, one of which is impeachment, will meet with success. Allowing those who attacked the people to walk away free after the death, destruction and ruin they’ve caused will deny meaning to any efforts aimed at true reform.
The problem of presidential pardons goes well beyond George W. Bush’s ability to issue them. The absolute right of presidents to pardon any crime is archaic, arbitrary, and offensive to those who value human dignity, rationality, and the rule of law.
Pardons and Clemency Emerged from Tyranny and the “Divine Right” to Rule
Rome formalized the shift from a republic to an imperial state when Julius Caesar was elevated above all by the Senate. This allowed him to accumulate vastly expanded powers even though he was a “first among equals.”
The fiction of the Roman Republic remained but Julius Caesar and those who followed had extraordinary authority over policy and state action. The emperor even had the power to arbitrarily overrule the decisions of tribunes of the people and magistrates.
While Rome claimed to bring civilization to those it subdued, it was ultimately a lawless state given the powers usurped by the emperors. No citizen was safe if he or she offended the first among equals. No decision by the people meant anything if the emperor’s needs got in the way.
Roman dictatorship was replaced in Europe by hereditary royalty (with the exception of the Republic of Venice). During the middle ages, these rulers by accident of birth and raw power generated the notion of the “divine right” of monarchs. Subjects were to believe that God flawlessly conferred the right of kings to rule.
With the divine franchise, monarchs were able to determine who was arrested, tried, and convicted whenever it suited them. They were the state. These rulers had the absolute right to say who was and was not tortured and executed. There was some resistance to the notion of “the divine right.” Shakespeare echoed this in Richard the III when the Duke of Lancaster comments on Richard’s crimes:
“That England that was wont to conquer others
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself” (2.1.65-66)
The first English Civil War represented a full break with the assertion of divinely conferred rule. The conflict pitted the English middle class against the self-absorbed monarch, William I and his supporters. The army fighting the king was one of the first in history to openly debate policy and political structure in the midst of war.
“Agitator” John Wildman (left), the son of a butcher, drafted the “Agreement of the People.” The original transcripts of the debate (center) and agitator and trooper Edward Sexby (right) who, with Wildman, led the debate in behalf of radical democracy..
The Putney Debates involved Oliver Cromwell on one side and the Levelers faction of the army on the other. The army proposed a new government based on a universal male franchise, strict proportional representation, and punishment for King William I for his crimes. They also specified the equality of citizens before the law, without exception:
“That in all laws made or to be made, every person may be bound alike; and that no tenure, estate, charter, degree, birth, or place do confer any exemption from the ordinary course of legal proceedings whereunto others are subjected.”
“An agreement of the people,” Oct., 24, 1647
Cromwell prevailed against radical democracy. But the ideas didn’t die.
The American Revolutionary War was inspired in part by the political descendants of the Levelers. The outcome was compromised, to a degree, by the retention of the artifact of divine rule — the absolute right to pardon criminals of all sorts. As a result of the recent collapse of legislative balance against tyranny and cloaked as executive prerogative (much like the Romans suffered), we have a deviant leader with the power to negate what’s left of our most important laws with the stroke of a pen.
Bush negated legislation he disliked by issuing “singing statements” indicating his intent to ignore laws he didn’t care for. He will soon negate the history of his crimes by pardoning those who collaborated in the nations “conquest of itself” thus voiding any remainder of individual and collective protections.
Bush should be denied this power. But the issue isn’t confined to Bush. It’s about the ability of each citizen to expect equal treatment by the law and for all citizens to know in no uncertain terms that no one is above the law.
Election to the presidency is not elevation to a divine status. It should not be taken as a right to unilaterally declare war, torture, lie, and steal nor should it turn into a right to allow others to do the same without impunity.
The constitution should be amended to end this arbitrary and offensive practice now and forever:
An Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
The president shall not have the right to grant pardons or clemency.
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