Jacob Sullum Asks Why Obama Does Not Use His Clemency Power to Remedy the 'Draconian' Drug Sentences Decried by His Attorney General

KDSKKDSKThis week I start writing a twice-monthly column on drug policy for Forbes. My first piece asks why, if President Obama agrees with Attorney General Eric Holder that many drug offenders are serving excessively long prison sentences, he does not use his clemency power to free them. Obama has commuted just one sentence during his 55 months in office, making Richard Nixon look like a softie.

Read the column here.

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  • ||

    Shhh. Don't scare the liberals. They are easily startled.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    They sinned against the state. They deserve their punishment. And still not buying Holder's distraction.

  • ||

    Because he probably gets a lot of money and support from public sector police unions?

  • ||

    More like prison guard unions, dude. They're the ones with the stake in keeping people incarcerated.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Because he has no principles. None whatsoever. This was brought up to try to win back some of the liberals he lost over the NSA trouble. He doesn't care about the subject of it, just how he can bring it up and use it politically. Clemency would be harder politically, so he doesn't do it.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Precisely this. The prosecution thing makes him look like he gives a shit about the proles, allows him to assert his authority to ignore the law as written, distracts from the NSA and other scandals he's trying to dodge, and doesn't cost him a goddamn thing politically.

    Clemency requires exercising ethical principles, of which Obama has none.

  • ||

    Clemency opens him up to attacks from law & order authoritarians. Since he can get his base calmed down with some meaningless words, why do any more? TEAM BLUE's astounding ability to be bought off by mere words, and their complete lack of demand for action to match those words, is a major factor in where we are today. It's how they can think of themselves as completely different from TEAM RED even though their politicians are exactly the same. Because only words matter to them. Just say the right words, Hugh, and you can have TEAM BLUE support you forever.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    -TEAM BLUE's astounding ability to be bought off by mere words, and their complete lack of demand for action to match those words, is a major factor in where we are today.

    Well put.

    I am not a fan of the Tea Party, but at the least I think they are a sign that many conservatives have 'had it' with mere words from the people they elect. There is no analogous movement on the left that I am aware of.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    It is his modus operandi. When did he bring up Don't Ask, Don't Tell? When he was being called on the budget. When did he introduce the contraceptive mandate? To feed into his 'war on women' on the campaign trail. Immigration reform? He was quiet on the subject for years when he could have done something on it, and then when the GOP looked like compromise on the subject and only asked he not press them in public he made a speech upping the ante on them.

    The man believes in nothing. He is like a Frankenstein's monster created by a wing of the Democratic party to win the White House for them, he has no principles other than what are fed to him.

  • KPres||

    Of course he has principles, he just conceals them. They're the same principles his father had, the same his preacher had, and the same his buddy in the weather underground had.

    ...And they're entirely compatible with locking people up for victimless crimes or snooping in on their online traffic.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Obama has commuted just one sentence during his 55 months in office, making Richard Nixon look like a softie.

    When placed next to Barack Obama, Richard Nixon looks like a saint.

  • Cyto||

    One additional fact to remember: Back in 1973 the number of people incarcerated was a tiny fraction of today's total. Just to reach parity with Nixon would require many multiples of his total pardons/commutations.

  • Brandon||

    Clemency? Why? Are any of his major donors in prison?

  • ||

    No, no, that comes one day before he leaves office. Clinton showed everyone the way to pardon campaign donors and people who buy clemency.

  • Brandon||

    Sort of OT: CNN slobs the Obama knob harder than ever.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/15/.....?hpt=hp_t4

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    What the fuck did I just read???

    Get it out of my mind? GET IT OUT!!!!

  • General Butt Naked||

    READ IT AGAIN, CLOWN:

    It was a sad day in the clown world when a "clown" at the Missouri State Fair put on a mask in the likeness of President Barack Obama and wore a broomstick attached to his behind to perform in a rodeo in America's Heartland.
    Some would ask: How this is different from late-night pundits making mocking comments about every political person alive? It is different in that it goes against everything a clown stands for and makes fun of our president in a way that is truly offensive on so many levels.
    As someone who has performed as a "real" clown for 32 years and has taught the craft to hundreds of clowns, I would like the world to know that we have a code of ethics that we adhere to so that our life of making the world smile goes on without hurting people. Among the ethics is a ban on "blue humor."
    Judy Quest
    Judy Quest
    This mean no sexual or racial humor. The joke always needs to be on us and never on an audience member. If someone is offended or made the "victim" of a joke, it is totally against what the clown community would consider funny.
    So what is this clown community and where do I get these ethics?
    One of the main international clown organizations based in the United States is Clowns of America, International. We are 3,000 members strong and are organized into clown "alleys," groups that perform together...

    HAHAHAHA *giggles*

  • General Butt Naked||

    HERE'S SOME MORE CLOWN FUN, CLOWN:


    As part of our training, and really the training of most clowns, we have a strict code of ethics covering such things as drinking while clowning, cleanliness and remaining in character. We take offense at the actions of the rodeo "clown" because we are strictly trained not to offend anyone while "in clown."
    The individual who took on the role of a clown in Missouri might have made some people laugh, but it was at the expense of so many others.
    What of the children who were in the audience and being taught to respect our president and government? What of every person in the audience who hates racism? What of the officials of the state of Missouri who are now the focus of national attention in this negative light?
    Forgive me for taking this forum to air another form of "clown" I find very offensive: the horror clown.
    In my travels as "Dear Heart" the clown, I encounter many people of all ages who are afraid of clowns. Perhaps some are afraid of anyone who is behind makeup, but most have had the experience of a house of horror where a person dressed as a clown has frightened them and, in doing so, has robbed them of fun and playful experiences for life.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I find her more horrifying than anything saw in Killer Klowns from Outer Space

  • ||

    "Dear Heart" sounds like the name of a murderous, heart removing clown in a B horror movie.

  • Andrew S.||

    What of my child, being taught not to respect the President or anyone in government unless they demonstrate that they deserve respect?

  • CE||

    Making fun of the president should be required.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    CLOWN ETHICS!

  • Art Vandelay||

    THIS IS WHAT CLOWNS ACTUALLY BELIEVE.

  • ||

    Is this matter something to be arbitrated by the Juggalo court?

  • cavalier973||

    It isn't funny; being a clown is serious work.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Editor's note: Judy Quest is a board member and past president of Clowns of America International, an organization of clowns that promotes the craft. She has been a clown for 32 years and has trained hundreds of clowns. She writes regularly for clown journals.

    The Onion is obsolete.

  • ||

    Editor's note: Judy Quest is a board member and past president of Clowns of America International, an organization of clowns that promotes the craft. She has been a clown for 32 years and has trained hundreds of clowns. She writes regularly for clown journals.

    ??????

    Rodeo clowns, by the way, are actually very brave performers who put their asses out on the line to help protect the other performers who might be trampled or gored by the bulls.

    I'm guessing this woman is ignorant of the fact that rodeo clowns actually serve an important safety function at rodeos.

  • Hugh Akston||

    She writes regularly for clown journals.

    Looks like she can add another one to her CV.

  • ||

    I wonder if she has real clown traits for Donny to mate with.

  • SugarFree||

    CLOWN ETHICS! CLOWN ETHICS!

    How can I compete? I am nothing. Clown ethics. Pickle nipples. Thin privilege.

    This has been a rough couple of days for a writer of humble fictions, my dear friends. Rough.

  • ||

    I'm sure you'll survive.

    The funny thing here is that a rodeo clown wearing a president mask is national fucking news. This is how sensitive the media is about any criticism of their creepy cult leader. It's like the Scientologists suing anyone who makes an even halfway disparaging remark about Scientology. I mean, TEAM BLUE is really giving Scientology a run for its money.

  • KPres||

    It's not a cult, every religion prohibits creating likenesses of their god.

  • cavalier973||

    Creepy cult, huh? Maybe they can get some psychological help.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Kathleen Taylor, a neurologist at Oxford University, said that recent developments suggest that we will soon be able to treat religious fundamentalism and other forms of ideological beliefs potentially harmful to society as a form of mental illness.

    She's talking about progressives, right?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "She made the assertion during a talk at the Hay *Literary* Festival in Wales" [emphasis added]

    Peer review!

    Coincidentally, there was a linked article that some Marine officials are categorizing atheism as a suicide risk.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Pickle nipple? What did I miss?

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    down with ICP

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

  • ||

    It's okay everyone, it's okay: Seinfeld is here to make things all better

    Shusshhh

  • Rebekah||

    I've long maintained that there are basically two types of people*: those who hate and/or fear clowns, and those who are clowns.

    *I actually exclude rodeo clowns from this analysis because they serve a legitimate purpose beyond just creeping right-thinking people the fuck out (and show more courage than 99.98% of cops).

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "It was a sad day in the clown world"

    WTF

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Is there a Clown Ethics Board I can contact about kids getting scared silly by sinister rubber-noses monsters?

  • Ken Shultz||

    "My first piece asks why, if President Obama agrees with Attorney General Eric Holder that many drug offenders are serving excessively long prison sentences, he does not use his clemency power to free them."

    It's because he doesn't care.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    My takeaway from this article is that Sullum is writing a regular column for Forbes.

    Now that's good news.

  • Brandon||

    It is? Why? Does Forbes have a good commentariat?

  • Lady Bertrum||

    No. Because Forbes probably pays him real money instead of Bitcoin.

  • Andrew S.||

    The Koch brothers pay the Reason writers in money cruelly stolen from the working people, who toil in the Koch mines for pennies a day.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    You'd think the Kochoctopus would charge more than pennies for the privilege of toiling.

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    OT: I learned that one of my more brilliant co-workers is the type of progressive who learned everything he knows about economics from post-2003 Krugman and can use the work "microaggression" without even a hint of irony. I thought people like that were an extended Internet joke you guys made up.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Lucky you. You will experience an embarrassment of riches in regards to anecdotal stupidity.

  • ||

    OT: Earlier today I was walking on campus when I saw four very attractive girls lobbying for Greenpeace. I noticed how they were wearing very tight shirts and short-shorts/minskirts and I was left to wonder if it would be worth it?

  • SugarFree||

    You could have just Schwyzered them.

  • Warrren||

    Ask if they'll Hugo down on you.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Think of it like this. It will give you a chance to hone your sociopathic skills. You'll have to adopt their positions as your own until you get what you want. It's practice for your future as a monocled orphan slave driver (or politician).

  • ||

    Greenpeace? Probably worth it. PETA? Absolutely not.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    What's wrong with PETA? They're more likely to shave than Greenpeace girls.

  • ||

    They're invariably nuts? You don't join PETA unless there is something very wrong with you. Did you even see the Bullshit! episode on them? It's basically a cult.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Of course I know they're nuts, my sister lives 2 blocks from their headquarters in Norfolk. My point is that when they're that crazy, you never have to feel guilty about it later. And they usually shave, unlike the Greenpeace hippies.

  • SweatingGin||

    Probably have to watch your back for stabby-stabby more with PETA, though.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    One if the PETA girls lived upstairs from my sister. Across the street used to be a steakhouse. On Friday nights she would scream "Meat is murder!" out the Window at the patrons.

  • cavalier973||

    That's hilarious, if true.

  • Invisible Finger||

    My point is that when they're that crazy, you never have to feel guilty about it later.

    Don;t we have hundreds of H&R posts that basically teach you to NEVER put your dick in crazy?

  • ||

    I was under the impression that environmentalists are more freaky than the animal rights people.

    Like the hottest girl among four had tattoos and just this look about her that exuded raw sexuality even if she was kind of a mess.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    It's the child psychology majors you have to watch out for. That's a serious red flag.

  • ||

    Mess plus tattoos says "stay away". There are plenty of hot chicks out there, without being a mess with tattoos.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    And it's an easy out. Just fry up some bacon in the morning.

  • Jose Chung||

    But they cook like Jamie Oliver with Down's syndrome.

  • Jose Chung||

    Nobody with the honorific "Right Honorable" has the figure for a miniskirt and halter-top.

  • Gladstone||

    When did Obama ever disapprove of jailing people?

  • Hyperion||

    In a just world, he would have himself been in prison for being part of the choom gang, and now could not even hope to get a decent job at all, let alone being President, because of a drug conviction that would forever ruin his life.

  • Hyperion||

    The great messiah cannot have his round of golf to be interrupted in order to think about peasants wasting away in some prison for smoking a weed.

    Over 600 dead in Egypt now. Rand is ripping those who voted for continuing aid to Egypt, like they care, they are soulless despots.

    The blood of every one of those people is on the hands of Obama and everyone in congress who voted for and continues to support giving aid to a military coup.

  • Warrren||

    They bathe in blood so it's all good to them.

  • Hyperion||

    Yeah, I'm starting to think that the Obama as the blood of children collected from drone strike sites, and then he invites McCain and Graham over to the Whitehouse where they all have an orgy in a bathtub filled with it.

  • SweatingGin||

    It's not a blood orgy if you don't invite Newt.

  • Hyperion||

    Yeah, I am sure that the addition of Nukular Titties and the Hildebeast would really liven up any blood orgy.

    Kerry has a sad because he never gets invited.

  • SweatingGin||

    Don't say the c-word! If they say "coup", then they have to stop giving them weapons!

    There was the story of the Carter administration refusing to say depression, and calling it banana.

    Wonder if "banana" is the code word for the coup in Egypt.

  • Hyperion||

    We're ruled over by a group of super intelligent elitists who seem to have no idea how to figure out something that us dumb peasants figured out months ago without even thinking about it much.

  • SweatingGin||

    And they're constantly in danger of being taken down by a rodeo clown.

  • Hyperion||

    Or film makers making anti-Muslim films, or Snowdens.

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    does the US still send billions in aid to Egypt?

  • Hyperion||

    That is the way I understand it.

  • SweatingGin||

    No matter who is in charge!

  • Warrren||

    Banana!

  • MappRapp||

    Sounds like some crazy smack to me dude.

    www.Tactical-Anon.tk

  • Jose Chung||

    From the linked article: "If so, why hasn’t he used his clemency power more than once to shorten crack sentences that virtually everyone now agrees are too long?"

    Because at the moment we are in a time of economic uncertainty. The last thing Obama wants is to assume the risk of releasing people that will be unable to find jobs. The unemployed and desperate are more likely to engage in criminal activity to survive so Barry is probably concerned about a spike in crime stats on his watch. There's a legacy to worry about, after all.

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