So, you still don’t think the president’s character matters? Then,
The Constitution provides that the president shall have power to
grant reprieves and pardons for federal offenses, except in cases of
The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear just how expansive this
presidential prerogative is. It is equal to that of English Kings, Ex
parte Grossman, 267, U.S. 87 (1925), and extends to all completed
offenses, before, during or after trial, by individuals, or classes,
conditionally or absolutely, without modification or regulation by
Congress. Ex parte Garland, 4 Wall 333 (1867).
Chief Justice Taft, speaking for the Court in Grossman, explained the
purpose of this awesome grant of power: “Executive clemency exists to
afford relief from undue harshness or evident mistake in the operation
or enforcement of the criminal law. … Our Constitution confers this
discretion on the highest officer in the nation in confidence that he
will not abuse it.”
Let’s remember these sobering words as we feast upon another Clinton
By now, most of you are probably aware that President Clinton offered
clemency to 16 Puerto Rican members of FALN (Armed Forces of National
Liberation), a terrorist group advocating independence for Puerto Rico.
FALN made 130 bomb attacks on political and military targets in the
United States between 1974 and 1983, killing six and injuring dozens,
including several New York police officers.
Though the 16 were not convicted of crimes directly linked to the
deaths or injuries, they were key members of FALN, which existed for the
purpose of violently advancing independence.
Clinton’s offer was conditioned upon the prisoners signing statements
requesting commutation, renouncing violence (which they have yet to do),
and agreeing to abide by all conditions of release.
Clinton ostensibly made the clemency offer in response to so-called
human-rights advocates, who argued that the sentences, ranging from 15
to 90 years, were too harsh. He did so in the face of overwhelming
opposition by federal law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI,
federal prosecutors in Illinois and Connecticut, where the convictions
were obtained, and the Bureau of Prisons (whose officials say the
inmates are not likely to obey the law if released). New York City Mayor
Rudy Giuliani noted that he couldn’t ever remember a pardon being
granted or recommended where there was such a representation by prison
What possible reason could Clinton have to reduce or commute these
sentences? What scintilla of sympathy could anyone have for this band of
Of all the people incarcerated on federal offenses in this country,
surely, the president could have found a more deserving group. These are
terrorists who still represent a threat to citizens of the United
States, who Clinton has a duty not to expose to danger.
For a man who claims to feel our pain, Clinton is doing a masterful
job disregarding the pleas of FALN’s victims and their relatives.
He brazenly ignores the pain of:
- Joseph and Thomas Connor, sons of one of the FALN’s murder
victims, who wrote in the Wall Street Journal of their loss, “not a day
passes without our feeling the void left in our lives;”
- The three police officers injured trying to disarm an FALN bomb in
lower Manhattan on New Year’s Eve in 1982. Richie Pastorella is blind in
both eyes, without most of his hearing, minus one hand, and has 20
titanium screws holding his face together. Rocco Pascarella lost his
left leg. Toney Senft lost one eye and the use of his hips. “When Mr.
Clinton can commute my sentence and give me back my life, my eyes and my
hips,” says Senft, “then, I will accept their clemency.”
- Diana Berger, who was six months pregnant in January 1975 when she
became a widow and her son fatherless at the hands of FALN bombs. Says
she, “How dare they say these terrorists have been punished enough?
We’ve been punished each day, and will be forever.”
Many are accusing Clinton of extending the offer to enhance Hillary’s
standing with N.Y. Puerto Rican voters, whose turnout is believed
critical to her victory.
Given the unanimous opposition of law-enforcement officials, the pain
of the victims, the conspicuous absence of contrition by the prisoners
and the character of a president who bombs pharmaceutical plants to
divert attention from his domestic scandals, can any fair-minded person
doubt that Clinton is once again abusing his authority for political
gain? Can anyone still maintain that character doesn’t matter?