»  National Review Online

January 25th, 2001

  Who Would You Pardon?


"Men more often need to be reminded than instructed," noted the great Samuel Johnson. There was nothing new for us to learn about the Clintons, but those last-minute presidential pardons they issued (does anyone doubt that the list was at least as much the work of Hillary as of Bill?) are a handy reminder of the depths to which this corrupt pair dragged a once-noble office. Reading it, I felt somewhat the way Juanita Broaddrick felt that day in 1978, as the Attorney General of the State of Arkansas closed the door behind him on the way out of her hotel room.

The power of executive pardon is, if you think about it, a very awesome thing. It is instructive to try to imagine yourself in that position, with that much unqualified power, and ask: Who would I pardon? (Or, if you like, "Whom …" I have one of those lapel buttons that says: "I favor whom's doom.")

Well, who would you pardon? I have a few candidates of my own. Foremost would be Gerald Amirault, now in the 16th year of a 30- to 40-year sentence in the Fells Acres case, which Dorothy Rabinowitz has written about extensively in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere. Never mind "reasonable doubt": it is reasonably certain that Gerald Amirault did nothing wrong at all. He was framed on child-abuse charges by ambitious prosecutors (one later ran for governor), anti-family ideologues pretending to be "child psychiatrists," credulous parents, cowardly judges, gullible policemen and dimwitted jurors. His 62-year-old mother and his newly-married sister were sent to prison too, on the same preposterous charges. Both are now out, though the mother has died. Nobody — nobody, I mean, that is not trapped in a seriously delusional state of mind — who reads the evidence presented against the Amiraults could possibly believe a word of it.

Then there would be Larry Nevers, once one of Detroit's most decorated police officers, now serving out a 7- to 15-year sentence in Michigan's maximum-security Oaks Correctional Center because a piece of offal named Malice Green went off to Hell prematurely after a fierce fight with Nevers and another officer, said fight having been initiated of course by Green himself. Green was in a drugged frenzy at the time. At one point in the proceedings he pulled an 8-inch knife on the two officers trying to restrain him. Nevers is white, Green was black, the Mayor of Detroit at the time was black, the black race hustlers and their guilt-addled white media stooges were all pumped up by the Rodney King case, and the result, as mathematicians say, follows.

I could fill this web site with similar worthy cases, the common denominator being that these people (a) are serving long sentences for things they didn't do, and (b) were put away because they happened to be in the wrong place when, as all too frequently happens, political ambition, public hysteria, judicial incompetence and political correctness came together in a critical mass.

Well, those would be my criteria. And the Clintons' are …? The New York Post has helpfully tagged a list of the Clinton pardons with the most probable reasons for them. Here is the Post's list.

  1. Pardonee's ex-wife one of the Democratic Party's biggest fund-raisers.
  2. Clinton cabinet officer.
  3. Business partner of (1).
  4. Their home town was the only Hasidic village to vote for Hillary Clinton in her recent campaign.
  5. Refused to testify against the Clintons in one of the Arkansas cases.
  6. Bill Clinton's half-brother.
  7. Bill Clinton's old classmate.
  8. Son of Clinton cabinet officer.
  9. Loyal Clinton supporter (ex-Congressman).
  10. Gave gift to Hillary Clinton.
  11. Mistress of (2).
  12. Clinton's CIA chief.
  13. Refused to testify against Clinton superloyalist Judge Alcee Hastings (who was impeached).
  14. F.o.B.
  15. Aide to Arkansas Gov. Clinton.
  16. Appraiser on the Whitewater deal.
  17. Made false statements in probe of Clinton cabinet officer.

So the criteria are: Money, votes, and firm loyalty to the great Clinton project — which is, of course, the accumulating by the Clintons of ever more money and votes.

The Clinton pardons are a very fitting postscript to the Clinton era: venal, solipsistic, utterly unprincipled. Clinton's "boomer" generation — all those protesting students from the sixties, anti-war, anti-racism, anti-privilege, feminist, their heads ringing with all that Kennedy rhetoric about "what you can do for your country" — weren't they supposed to be idealists? Weren't they supposed to care about matters of principle? Weren't they supposed to be above the money-grubbing, favor-trading, self-advancing cynicism that once besmirched our political life?

Look at that list of pardons and ask yourself if there was ever, in the history of this Republic, an administration so bereft of any high principle or purpose, or even of common patriotism.

I started with Johnson, so I'll close with him. Johnson compiled the first full English dictionary, a tremendous labor — it took him nine years. In those days a little boy called a "printer's devil" used to carry the handwritten sheets from the writer to the printer. When Johnson handed the very last sheet of the dictionary to the printer's devil, he told him to come back and report what Millar, the printer, had said. The lad duly returned. Johnson:  "Well, what did he say?"  Boy:  "Sir, he said, thank God I have done with him."

Thank God we have done with them.