Obama Could Have Achieved a Nixonian Level of Mercy If He Had Wasted Less Time

Nixon's commutation rate was more than four times as high.


The 58 commutations that President Obama granted yesterday brings his total so far to 306. That's quite impressive as a raw number (more than the seven previous presidents combined!), less so as a percentage of petitions received (better than Reagan, either Bush, or Clinton, about half as good as Carter, less than half as good as Ford, about a fifth as good as Nixon). Here are the commutation rates for Obama (so far) and his seven predecessors, based on numbers from the Office of the Pardon Attorney:

Office of the Pardon Attorney

Obama has only eight and a half months to go, so it seems unlikely that he will beat Ford or Carter, let alone achieve a Nixonian level of mercy. That's a shame, especially given Obama's repeated and emphatic criticism of our excessively punitive criminal justice. This chart gives you a sense of how much time he wasted:

Office of the Pardon Attorney

Obama's annual commutation average for his second term is 76 so far, more than 300 times his first-term average. If he had maintained that pace throughout his administration, his commutation total would be twice as big. If he pardoned as many people as he did last year in every year of his administration, he would have freed more than 1,300 prisoners by the time he left office—still not the "thousands" foreseen by an anonymous administration official in 2014 but almost enough to tie Richard Nixon's commutation rate.

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  1. You can’t expect the man’s administration to split its early years between reviewing petitions and thinking up Cash for Clunkers.

    1. :cough:solyndra:cough:

    2. When you’re facing a slippery 30-foot downhill breaker for double-bogey, you really can’t afford to be distracted.

  2. Hey, don’t forget that he all but pardoned every single illegal alien here by refusing to even prosecute the ones caught multiple times. He’s way the fuck ahead of Nixon in that respect.

  3. His priority is putting people in jail, not bailing them out.

  4. Obama Could Have Achieved a Nixonian Level of Mercy If He Had Wasted Less Time

    He had vacations to take. TV shows to appear on. Where are your priorities, Jacob?

  5. Everything he does is entirely to establish his “legacy”. He was never interested in actually getting anything accomplished for its own sake.

    1. well so far his grand legacy is this: 80% worse than Nixon on criminal justice, plus he made secret executive kill lists a ‘thing’. thanks obama!

  6. Releasing potheads simply feeds the ravenous venom of the conservative autocrat when you are Mr. Progressive Kingpin of the New Millennium laboring to increase federal power in a direction that does not serve the tentacled interests of the GOP. Hence jail-rot for the good of the party, bronnabis.

    Welcome to the motherfucking slime pit.

    1. This.

      Motherfucker did coke and other drugs in college and then went on to lead a “successful” life. But fuck you if you got caught, not his problem he is too busy collectively fucking over everyone else to help another drug user from being fucked over.

  7. It’s Bush’s fault.

    1. Bush 2 was the shining example of a compassionate conservative, wasn’t he?

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  9. Obama Could Have Achieved a Nixonian Level of Mercy If He Had Wasted Less Time Given a Shit


  10. I hate Obama as much as anyone but I’m not getting the “percentage of petitions received” comparison. The fact that he had more commutations than the last seven presidents combined seens a more apt comparison. I could see maybe percentage of non-violent offender prison population as a metric.

  11. Did he ever release any proposals on systemic criminal justice reform? As in, actual constructive policy that’ll help avoid ruining further lives in the future.

    1. No. But he sure did push for Net Neutrality!

  12. There’s actually a fucking Office of the Pardon Attorney?

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