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Obama Stingiest with Pardons in Over a Century

President Obama has granted the least number of pardons of any president in more than 100 years – even on annualized basis – issuing only 39 pardons in just over four years in office. He’s pardoned far fewer criminals than Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan, Republican presidents Obama’s liberal allies like to tout as among the least compassionate.

Before last Friday, when Obama pardoned 17 convicted felons, he had only doled out 22 grants of clemency during his entire first term.

I forget, but I don't forgive. Photo by Keith KofflerI forget, but I don’t forgive.
Photo by Keith Koffler

According to Justice Department records, no president since before William MicKinley even comes close to Obama’s record of hard heartedness, except for the Bushes. George H.W. Bush granted clemency to only 74 people during his single term in office and George W. Bush, to whom Obama hates to be compared, doled out a mere 189 pardons over two terms.

By contrast, Richard Nixon granted 863 petitions for pardon in just five and a half years as president and Ronald Reagan granted 393 over his eight years. Bill Clinton pardoned 396 while Jimmy Carter pardoned 534.

Obama has received 1,351 petitions for pardon and nearly 7,000 requests for sentence commutations, which would reduce the length of time people currently in jail must serve. He has granted only one commutation.

What’s more, many of his pardons have gone to those with minor offenses, avoiding the legally and politically tricky cases that could forgive or limit the incarceration people who have received controversial sentences for serious offenses or who worked hard to turn their lives around after committing bad crimes.

Assuming that Obama isn’t really a law and order tough guy who bears no compassion toward convicts who have more than paid their debt to society, it’s possible the president has been stingy because he didn’t want to give Republicans ammunition for political attacks, particularly before being reelected. That would suggest he may grant more pardons during his second term.

But there’s another possibility that bodes poorly for felons seeking forgiveness: That the president who savors his vacations, is not known for long workdays, golfs every chance he gets and admits “there’s a laziness in me” hasn’t gotten around to reviewing many petitions.