Obama granted fewer pardons than any other modern president

"A former brothel manager who helped the FBI bust a national prostitution ring. A retired sheriff who inadvertently helped a money launderer buy land. A young woman who mailed ecstasy tablets for a drug-dealing boyfriend, then worked with investigators to bring him down." All denied clemency by President Obama, along with hundreds more. A ProPublica data review shows he has granted pardons at a lower rate than any other president in our era: about 1 of every 50 individuals whose applications were processed by the Justice Department, compared to 1:3 for Ronald Reagan and 1:8 for Bill Clinton.



  1. Well, since election day is tomorrow, it’s too late for any of those denied pardon to appropriately demonstrate their rehabilitation by making a sizable donation to the Obama for America 2012 fund.   Sucks to be them now……

  2. The point at which presidents have to dispense justice represents a failure of the broader justice system. 

    1. Seconded. Honestly, the idea that the head of the executive branch even can reverse the outcome of a judicial process by the judicial branch sounds like something out of a banana republic.

      I’d certainly be open to seeing an empirical review of presidential(and gubernatorial  though that would be a significant volume of paper to push) pardons, to determine the degree to which pardoning is mostly PR and covering for your buddies vs. actually serving the cause of justice; but if the president pardons you, either the judiciary is rotten as hell or the president is…

      1.  so the idea of 3 co-equal branches of government sounds archaic and third world? You would prefer the judicairy be all powerful then? Because unless the judges are in absolute charge, both the legislature and the executive have power. Would you prefer a system with one powerful branch of government? Would that set-up actually be more, or less, like a banana republic?

        Also, read the article.

        1. So you’re saying that the prez works in conjunction with the judicial system to decide on whether or not to pardon? And that the judicial system has equal say in the matter?

          If not, and he decides (or can decide) on his own to overturn judicial rulings, I don’t see how that amounts to “co-equal.”

          1. No, that is absolutely an unreasonable interpretation of what I said.

            The president works in conjunction with The Justice Department (again, RTFA).

            The equal say is that the Judicial branch relies on the executive to enforce judicial interpretations of legislative acts.

            The executive can (through the pardon), vacate the enforcement part.

            If you want more than that in explanation, take Civics 101.

          2. One thing I did like about the article was the idea that there is a bit of a conflict of interest in having the department of justice making the clemency recommendations to the president. Moving that outside of that department would grant it more objectivity.

        2. In what sense are the branches “co-equal”?  Because it says so in a book somewhere?

          Judiciary is already the weakest branch and giving the president veto power over the judiciary weakens it further.

          I figured that out when I took civics back in high school. If you’re having trouble with the subject I could maybe tutor you.

  3. Of course he’s pardoned fewer. It’s a crass calculation. We’ve haven’t had a president more beholden to “how it looks” in a long time — Obama is straight-up terrified of looking like a liberal.

    He really doesn’t have to worry.

    1. Is it a liberal thing to hand out pardons now? Seems like the facts around a specific case would be more pertinent rather than some broad ideology you subscribe to. 

    2. If you won’t RTFA, at least read this part: 
      To determine who receives clemency, Obama, like his predecessors, relies on recommendations from the Office of the Pardon Attorney, the arm of the Justice Department that reviews applications. The office — led by Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers, a former military judge and federal prosecutor — rarely dispenses endorsements, however.
      Several administration officials who agreed to discuss pardons on the condition of anonymity said the president pardoned nearly every person recommended by Rodgers for approval in his first two years in office, but that such applicants were few and far between. “I don’t think he has been given the same opportunity, by this process, to look at these petitioners as his predecessors were,” said Mark Osler, a law professor.

      1. SO, the part in bold, the second part in bold I mean. What does it mean when you take into account the fact that Obama pardoned absolutely no one, zilch, nada, zero during his first two years?


        I’d be anonymous too, or I’d be a shitty journalist making fakey statements attributed to “several administration officials” who demanded anonymity.

        How the fuck can he pardon nearly all of nothing?

    1. As long as doubled over 2 years is constant. But that isn’t the false that the article projects. Most of their sensational bullshit is ratios derived of only Obama to date vs concluded presidential terms, though it does help that he received twice as many in 2011 and is on track to get as many in 2012.

       In 2011 he got more petitions for commutation alone than G.H.W Bush got petitions for pardon and commutation in his entire term as president.

  4. We have to vote for Beelzebub. Otherwise, Lucifer will become president, and then we’ll be in real trouble.

  5. I would be interested to see how many of the other presidential pardons came during lame duck time periods. I seem to remember a lot at the end of the Clinton term.

      1. How so? From your link it is true that Clinton performed most of his pardons at the end of his term, as do most presidents. Since Obama has not yet had an end of term cycle, it seems premature to compare him to other presidents. 

        1. Except Lincoln. Comparing him to Lincoln always pays off. Few presidents were so irrationally hated.

    1. Some context from the article:

      Given the potential for political blowback, presidents often do not grant pardons while running for re-election. Presidents Obama, Clinton and the first President Bush did not pardon anyone during their campaigns for second terms.

  6. And this could have nothing to do with the media churn and soundbite attacks that drive the Government now.
    You don’t dare question TSA, DHS because then your a terrorist loving antiamerican ass who needs to be recalled out of office.

    Everything is black and white and a zero sum game, if we don’t destroy people’s freedoms we can’t protect those freedoms!

  7. The Presidential pardon power is an odd one.  It’s in the Constitution, but the origin  of it seems to derive from just a sense that Kings are divinely right in their judgements should be able to prevail over all others.

    I suppose one can see it as a check against the power of the judicial branch just as the veto is a check against the power of the Legislative branch, but that sidesteps the fact that no one would be needing a pardon for an unjust conviction if the Executive branch had not unjustly pursued a trial in the first place. 

    Perhaps the Pardon is really a check against the power of the bureaucracy, which can run amok, no matter who is at the top.

    1. The President cannot vacate the conviction, only the punishment. They remain guilty, and convicted. Quite unlike what kings can do,

  8. More comprehensive data on clemency rates here: http://www.pardonpower.com/2012/11/president-sitting-on-dozen-positive.html 

  9. This is ridiculous.  The bulk of presidential pardons occur in their last few days of office.  The number can’t be compared until he’s out.  What a silly article and any conclusions drawn from it.

    1. For instance, 

      2003, GWB third year first term 
      2011, BO third year first term

      BO got -literally- More than twice as many petitions for pardon pending and received and almost precisely twice as many petitions for commutation pending and received. Processed almost as many as GWB but X2 and granted more but X2.

      Propublica claims investigative journalism. I call bullshit on the premise and content and especially the headline. Also because as is mentioned above, it doesn’t compare unless limited to the first 3-4 years alone. It’s bullshit, either ignorance or partisan.

      Why is it here when there are numbers?

      Personally whatever caused Obama to receive x2 as many petitions as his predecessor needs to be stopped/fixed. 

      Because how much time should he give this crap? Should it be twice as much as the last guy? Why?

  10. Well, to be fair he didn’t have some obligations that other presidents have had, like having to let off the family’s coke dealer. Oh wait, do you think I’m kidding?

  11. I did.

    “He has given pardons to roughly 1 of every 50 individuals whose applications were processed by the Justice Department.”

    “but that such applicants were few and far between. While the number of applicants has increased in recent years, Obama — based on Rodgers’ recommendations — is denying more people more swiftly than any of his recent predecessors, the data shows.”

    care to undrip some of that sarcasm, knapp? Maybe avoid it in future until it’s clear you’re as right as you think. It didn’t serve you well here.

  12. They only explicitly state that they considered it in one metric that I could find. In most of the article they keep talking about ratios of pardons, but not about actual numbers. In comparing the Wikipedia articles of actual numbers at the same point in their term: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_pardoned_by_Barack_Obama

    Obama 22 pardons before Nov 2012
    W. 19 pardons before Nov 2004

    I am not saying the article is not right and that Obama has not been stingy with pardons, but I am always suspicious when it looks like an eye-catching headline comes first and then the stats are presented in a way to support the headline.

  13.  …or he could read skeptically the way he seems to be doing.  You seem to be getting terribly upset about this article — maybe you should avoid the news yourself?

  14. “has increased” is a direction and technically answers OP’s question but only slightly better than “no” would have. I think we’re interested in knowing the slope.

  15. That didn’t answer my question. Also, I don’t think it’s fair to try and call foul on sarcasm which you initiated.

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