By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Bush did a little pardoning in Texas before he finally gave it up. In 1998, he pardoned a Waxahachie constable who lost his job because of misdemeanor drug possession. Two months later the guy’s nose was back on the white line after he took his cut of evidence he recovered at a roadside drug bust. Bush had been burned. As he would say four years later: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee. I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, ‘Fool me once shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.’” Anyway, you know what he means, I think, and he’s not going to get fooled again on pardons.
That’s unfortunate. One of the advantages of class-driven crony criminal justice is that presidents hide their political pardons among small clusters of cases that have been through the full process. One attorney in the pardons office used to refer to non-political pardons that could be slipped through with the president’s pals as “packing peanuts.” That advantage is no more. Bush has a low grant rate and is willing to do stand-alone pardons of friends, rather than move them along in batches of qualified applicants.
Think about it. For every Elliott Abrams you used to get 10 or 15 rehabilitated young men from the inner city doing draconian terms for nonviolent drug offenses. (W. Bush’s current Undersecretary of State Abrams pleaded guilty of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra scandal in 1991 after he solicited $10 million from the sultan of Brunei to distribute to Nicaraguan contras. He was pardoned by Bush senior but has never quite demonstrated the requisite remorse for a presidential pardon, referring to the federal prosecutors who worked on his case as “filthy bastards.”)
Testifying before Congress, former Department of Justice pardon attorney Margaret Colgate Love suggested that the pardon process in the Clinton White House was all madness and little method. Nonetheless, people got pardoned. Poppy Bush signed 77 pardons, including a pack of Iran-contra criminals. Clinton did an astounding 456. If he cleared the record of the notorious Marc Rich, he also ordered his White House counsel to get him a list of applicants who had no “power, money or influence.” Love didn’t like the process, but she pointed to Clinton’s midnight pardon of 20 people doing drug sentences of 10 to 85 years. All had served at least six years, most were only small-time players in the conspiracies that had sent them to prison, and some were recommended for commutation by prosecutors locked into rigid sentencing guidelines.
Don’t look for George Bush to be so generous. The Bush family is long on noblesse and short on oblige. But if he wins a second term, watch the white-collar collars start to walk. And if the president’s randy pisswit of a brother Neil doesn’t wrap his divorce and seal his depositions, he might someday need big brother’s help. Texas bank-fraud prosecutors who thought doing a daisy chain meant shuffling bad loans from one institution to another could learn a lot from Neil. Pressed by his wife’s divorce attorney, he admitted it’s unusual for a man on a business trip in Asia to “just go to a hotel room door and open it and have a woman standing there and have sex with her.” Even more unusual when it happens on four or five occasions in four or five hotels and the man doesn’t know if the women are prostitutes — although he never has to pay them.
Well, go figure.
And hope that all goes well with Neil and Grace. That’s Grace Semiconductor, the Shanghai company managed by the son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Grace is paying Neil Bush $2 million in stock to consult and discuss business strategies — plus $10,000 for every board meeting he attends. He has no background in semiconductors. But lots of experience in S&Ls.