As even school children know, the British monarchy preceded the American republic. The framers wanted to change many aspects of their previous government so they wrote in Article 6 of the Constitution that no title of nobility should be granted by the federal government. But in other areas, they continued the British tradition of the king. One example is in Article 2 that grants the president the power to grants pardons.
The framers justified it as a way to restore peace and tranquility. And it certainly provided some of that when clemency was given to Confederate soldiers after the Civil War. But so often the pardon power of the presidency has been misused.
President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, hoping to move the nation past the Watergate crisis. It probably cost him the election with Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter pardoned nearly 200,000 Vietnam draft dodgers.
Perhaps the greatest abuse of the pardon power came from Bill Clinton, who pardoned convicted terrorists with the Weather Underground along with Patty Hearst, who joined a domestic terrorist group. The pardon most people remember is the pardon he gave to Marc Rich, a racketeer, in large part because of his donations to the Clinton library and other democratic candidates.
We may appreciate some of the pardons President Trump gave to people like Dinesh D’Souza or Michael Flynn. But he has also pardoned Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner (father of Jared Kushner). And since I am writing this before Donald Trump has left office, the list may include many others pardons for other questionable recipients.
Today the criminal justice system provides numerous opportunities for citizens who faced an injustice. Convictions can be vacated and expunged. That is why I think it is time to reign in pardon abuse.