Between classes this afternoon I went to Burger King and wound up in line at the drive-thru behind this douchebag with a Bluetooth headset. Strike one. Then he takes forever placing his order at the speaker, seemingly choosing items at random off the menu. What, it was his first fucking trip to Burger King? Strike two. So he pulls up and I get a glimpse of his face from the side. He looks a little like Bill Paxton, which does nothing to endear him to me. He yaks away to whoever he’s talking to on the headset about football. In July. Strike three, yerouttathere! Nevermind Scooter Libby — I wish I could’ve chucked this guy in the clink for a few years.
Speaking of ol’ Scooter, yesterday President Bush saw fit to commute the poor fucker’s prison sentence from 30 months to zero. Not a pardon, technically, since the conviction still stands and Libby’s stuck with a big fine to pay and some probation to serve, but still enough to piss off people like me who naively expect convicted criminals to have to serve at least a little bit of their sentences.
I have never been a fan of the presidential pardon. It’s a kingly power. It’s undemocratic. Libby was indicted by a grand jury, convicted in court and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. Not twenty years, not five years — two-and-a-half years. He got his due process. If he had a problem with it, he was free to make use of the appeals process. How is it any of the president’s business? And why should the president have the ability to veto a conviction?
Most presidential pardons are to people who were convicted of relatively minor offenses and have already served their sentences. The pardon just serves to expunge their records and return to them any rights the conviction may have cost them — the right to vote or purchase a firearm, for instance. So usually they do no practical harm. But the power is still destructive to justice. Why even have a justice system if a legal verdict can be undone by a president who thinks it’s unfair for whatever reason?
Perhaps it’s not so bad if we assume the president will always be a man of good character, able to make sound and reasonable judgments as to who deserves a pardon and who doesn’t, but . . . fuck, do I even need to write any more? Just the thought of George W. Bush pardoning convicted criminals reminds me of that scene at the end of Amadeus when Salieri absolves all the lunatics of their mediocrity while he’s being pushed through the nuthouse. Bush isn’t smart or tragic enough to make a decent Salieri, though. He’s more like a simple-minded, morally bankrupt Jesus, one from whom you would seek guidance by asking “What would Jesus do?” and then immediately doing the opposite.