President Bush’s recent round of 14 presidential pardons brings his total up to 157. ‚ 

The outgoing president still has almost two more months in office, but barring anything unforeseen, it is likely that Bush will end ‚ up as one of the‚ stingiest presidents in recent history‚ when it comes to giving out pardons.‚ 

His predecessor, Bill Clinton, gave out 140 pardons in his last day of office alone, and more than‚ 400 in total. ‚ This pales in comparison to Franklin D. ‚ Roosevelt, who gave out‚ 3,687 pardons, the most ever for a U.S. President.‚ 

Ronald Reagan gave out more than 800 pardons during his two terms. ‚  Jimmy Carter issued 233 during his lone term. Gerald Ford issued 409 pardons, while the man who he replaced, Richard Nixon averaged 463 during each of his terms. Nixon, of course, also‚ received‚ one of ‚ Ford’s 409 pardons.‚ 

Interestingly, the only ‚ recent president to be tighter with this presidential mercy was Bush’s father, who gave out only 77 pardons during his four years in office.‚ 

This seems to be‚ consistent‚ with Bush’s tenure as‚ Governor‚ of Texas, where he gave out only 14 pardons, the lowest such figure for a Texas‚ governor‚ since the 1940s.‚ 

(Note: I say recent history because George Washington only gave out 16 pardons, and‚ William Henry Harrison and James Garfield, did not use pardons at all.)

So if one views pardons as a bad thing — a needless and irreversible power — Bush could be commended for showing restraint. If one views them as noble and‚ merciful‚ action, ‚ Bush could be‚ criticized‚ as heartless.‚ 

I imagine a case-by-case look would reveal that for most presidents some pardons seem more justified than others. Giving a second chance to a non-violent drug addict who sits in jail while his or her children grow up without a parent is one thing; giving Scooter Libby or President Nixon a pass for crimes done while serving the public is another.

(For a full list of the recent pardons, see‚ Sachin Seth)

About The Author

Michael Corcoran is a journalist who focuses on business, media and public affairs. He has written for the Nation, the Boston Globe, Common Dreams, Alternet, Campus Progress and elsewhere.

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