How Many Pardons Will George W. Bush Award in the Coming Months?

November 06 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Government   Year: 2009   Rating: 7 Hot

Now that the 2008 U.S. presidential election has been settled it’s time to turn our attention to not just the next four years, but also the next 2 months. During this span the White House and Vice President’s Mansion will be non-stop flurry of activity. Documents will be stored, or shredded. New executive orders and signing statements will be generated. And presidential pardons and commutations will be awarded.

To date, George W. Bush has issued 157 pardons and commuted 6 people, including the infamous Scooter Libby. This already places him ahead of nine U.S. Presidents, mostly single-termers, on the list, but well behind Ulysses S. Grant (1332) and war-time leaders such as Harry Truman (2044), Woodrow Wilson (2480), and the all-time leader FDR (3687).

So how many pardons will W. award when all is said and done? It seems very likely that he will exceed his predecessor, Bill Clinton’s 456. But is it possible that he will eclipse FDR’s mammoth total? Judging by the way this administration has danced with the law (for good or for ill), is such a final flourish all that unthinkable?

Edit: Thanks to Will for pointing out that Grant was not in fact a war-time President, though he did serve as general during the Civil War.

Comment Thread (4 Responses)

  1. Sorry Alvis, but I gotta’ ask; what war was Ulysses S. Grant President during? :)

    What makes FDR’s total so impressive is that he died in office. Most pardons and orders of clemancy are signed during the twilight period of a given presidents term of office. Since FDR never experienced that, I think his total has to be regarded as an outlier as far as statistical averages and the like are concerned.

    Finally, no one questions the legality of the process, so I think we’ll just have to wait to argue the propriety of W’s eventual choices, won’t we? :)

    Posted by: Will   November 06, 2008
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  2. Yeah, but I wonder how many of those pardons those other Presidents made were soldiers. Grant pardoning former Confederates. FDR pardoning deserters. Truman and Wilson the same.

    Posted by: John Heylin   November 06, 2008
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  3. @ John,

    Regarding FDR, I wouldn’t think that pardoning military deserters during the actual war they necessarily would have deserted from would have been politically survivable up to the 1944 election cycle. Roosevelt didn’t live all that long after succeeding to a fourth term (in particular, he did not survive to the war’s conclusion in either major theater), so I think we can safely discount that possibility.

    Former Confederates – whether they served under arms or not – were re-patriated to citizenship via a simple Oath of Loyalty to the Union and it’s constitution (which was administered by a US federal Judge or commissioned officer of the armed forces), so no presidential action was required. It’s been pretty convincingly documented that senior staff members of the Grant administration were selling pardons without Grant himself even being aware apparently (google Grant-selling-presidential-pardons; the scholarship on this makes an interesting study into the dynamics surrounding a position of power).

    On a more general note, the Grant episode caused (in part) the structural mechanisms regulating the application for pardon or clemancy that are in existence today and which seem to effectively preclude a recurrance of that disgraceful episode. That said, pardons and acts of clemancy are entirely political in nature and predominantly driven by the granting (no pun intended) individual’s political and philosophical viewpoint.

    Posted by: Will   November 06, 2008
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  4. @ Will – Duly noted and amended. I lumped him in as a post-war pres, but he did follow Andrew Johnson, so there was quite a bit of separation.

    Very interesting info re: the corrupt Grant years. The U.S. history memes contained deep in my brain are stirring.

    Posted by: Alvis Brigis   November 07, 2008
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