Before the Potomac Primary, Michael Barone gamed out an interesting scenario for Hillary Clinton's revival: a win in Puerto Rico, which has 63 Democratic delegates elected in June. Hispanic voters (before yesterday) have shown a loyalty to Hillary Clinton, but Puerto Rico… well, there's something else. James Kirchick looks back at the 2000 Clinton pardon of FALN terrorists and how it resonated years later.
This was truly the sleaziest of Clinton's pardons (which is saying something). But it lacked the glitz and intrigue of the Marc Rich pardon, and perhaps for that reason, it is among the less notorious. But the FALN pardon was indisputably the worst. Rich, after all, was just another example of money corrupting politics. The FALN pardon was far worse; it represented nothing less than the surrender of American honor and prestige to terrorists for political gain. Its effect—in the midst of the African embassy bombings, the attack on the USS Cole, Khobar Towers et. al.—was to confirm Osama bin Laden's declaration two years later that the United States was a "weak horse." The U.S. Sentencing Commission, the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Attorney all opposed the pardon. Even the terrorists themselves—who, after all, did not recognize the legal jurisdiction of the United States (the reason why they waged war against it)—did not request the pardon.
How does Hillary fit into all of this? Well, she is the reason—the only reason—that the pardon was ever granted. She had a senate race to win, after all, in a state with over 1 million Spanish-speaking voters. Characteristic of White House thinking at the time was an email sent by an adviser concluding that the pardons would be "fairly easy to accomplish and will have a positive impact among strategic communities in the U.S. (read, voters)."
You don't have to buy into all of Kirchick's assertions to wince at how Bill Clinton used his presidency to create a New York beachhead with tactics like this. But there's a happy ending. As Barone pointed out:
In practice, the dominant figure in Puerto Rico identifying with the Democratic Party has seen to it that his faction gets all the territory's delegates… This means that Puerto Rico is likely to have more leverage in Democratic National Convention votes than any single state, no matter how large. Its leader will be able to deliver a 63-vote margin for the leading candidate.
Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo-Vila is endorsing Obama.