It’s instructive that the first precedent for pardoning oneself can be found in one of the strangest outbursts of banana republicanism in American history.
While Joe Arpaio was enforcing laws a court told him he had no business enforcing, sanctuary jurisdictions were refusing to enforce laws Congress told them they had to enforce.
Capricious, politically motivated, and generating more heat than light, it was a thoroughly Trumpian pardon.
Papal connivance with the commutation of Oscar Lopez-Rivera’s sentence was not spontaneous. Francis’ mercy-mongering on his behalf lasted more than a year.
The president’s action carries the same unavoidable whiff of playing identity politics with a key voting bloc of the Democratic Party.
A pardon lets the accused avoid punishment, but sears her guilt into the public consciousness. After all, an innocent woman does not need to be pardoned.
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