On July 2, 2007 George W. Bush commuted the sentence of convicted felon and former top White House staffer Scooter Libby for his convictions on five felony counts of perjury, false statements, and obstruction of justice. He didn't pardon Libby but, instead, issued a Grant of Executive Clemency before Scooter Libby even served a single day of his sentence. Many found this controversial. Controversial Presidential pardons are not new in America. President Gerald Ford pardoned a disgraced President Nixon for the Watergate burglary of his political opponents campaign office in one of the most notorious presidential pardons in American history. Beloved FDR leads all Presidents with over 3,600 Presidential pardons.
As a New York Yankee fan, my favorite presidential pardon is President Reagan’s pardon of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner for conspiracy to make illegal corporate campaign contributions to President Nixon’s election campaign. Not surprisingly, Reagan’s political bravado is one reason he is Dubya’s favorite president.
Dubya's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence forgives an immoral and unpatriotic act of exposing the identity, and putting at potential harm, covert intelligence officer Valerie Wilson. This is a wholly political action that serves no moral or principled purpose.
President Bush could still use his political bravado and moral drive to follow in Reagan’s tradition by highlighting essential changes to immigration policy. Rather than pardon malice, Bush could grant some final pardons to return Elvira Arellano (shown here) for her crime of illegally crossing the US/Mexico border in 1997. Many might remember her semi-celebrity case of being deported after visiting Los Angeles and risking leaving her church-based sanctuary in Chicago.
Pardon me scooter
Bush could easily argue that his strong commitment to family values and cowboy principles lead him to admire the single mother who served three years probation for her horrible crime of working as a janitor with a false Social Security card. Bush’s political bravado would fit the view he has of himself as a stand-up president who takes on necessary, and controversial, issues like immigration reform. In fact, it fits that Dubya’s pardon would reward the fight of a single mother to reunite this family, who sought and found refuge in her church and Lord so she could have the semi-freedom to continue her American Dream with her young son.
Pardoning Elvira Arellano would be a three-fer: faith, family, and political courage. Better yet, Bush could grant Elvira’s American-born son, Saul, a reunion life with the America he loves WITH his mother. A single mother held her family together with low-paying service work, faith, and family. In the meantime, the Yankees are set for a big year, the next “George” is in charge, Scooter Libby skips along, and Nixon rests in peace not having spent one minute in jail. Bush could do worse than to reunite a family and highlight Congress’ failure to act on one of the most pressing issues of our day, a broken immigration system.
Dubya got his political pardons and commutations out of the way, for now. How about a principled one? Go Yankees.
Javier Gonzalez is the Executive Director of SOL (Strengthening Our LIves). SOL works to increase civic participation in working class latino communities statewide. Aside from registering new voters and turning them out to vote, SOL works on messaging, strategy and coalition building for various causes and initiatives. In just 3 years SOL has become one of the most respected voices among political organizers.