The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly notes that President Obama "has pardoned almost as many turkeys as drug offenders," which is pretty appalling but actually understates how bad Obama's clemency record is. All of the 11 drug offenders pardoned by Obama had completed their sentences years before, while the 10 turkeys he has pardoned (counting the two today) escaped their "sentences" entirely. Obama has not done anything comparable for any human beings, and he has shortened the sentence of exactly one drug offender, even though he and his attorney general concede that thousands are serving unfairly long prison terms.
If we limit the analysis to offenders whose punishments have been reduced by Obama, his ratio is 10 turkeys to one person. Another enlightening comparison: Attorney General Eric Holder's recently announced change in charging practices, if fully implemented by federal prosecutors, could result in shorter sentences for about 500 drug offenders each year. That's just 2 percent of all the federal drug offenders who are sentenced each year, but it is still 2,500 times as impressive as Obama' commutation record.
Reilly also gives the president too much credit when he says "Obama has granted the fewest pardons of any modern president." The truth is the Obama has pretty much the worst clemency record ever. He granted fewer pardons and commutations in his first term than any other president, except for George Washington (who probably did not have a lot of applications during the first few years of the nation's existence) and two presidents, William Henry Harrison and James Garfield, who died shortly after taking office. This year he issued 17 additional pardons. But judging from numbers compiled by P.S. Ruckman Jr., a professor of political science at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois, that did not improve Obama's standing. Compared to other presidents who served two terms, he is still doing abysmally bad. He makes Richard Nixon look like a softie.
Obama still has three years to redeem himself. National Journal's Ron Fournier urges him to try. Fournier, who like Reilly uses the turkey pardons as a peg, focuses on Weldon Angelos, who is serving 55 years for possessing a gun during three small-time marijuana sales. There are many other potential beneficiaries of clemency, including federal prisoners serving absurdly disproportionate life sentences and all the crack offenders who were sentenced under rules that Obama and almost every member of Congress have recognized as unjust.