Donald Trump is probably the world's worst Monopoly player all his steel hotels on Boardwalk are already mortgaged to the hilt even before he passes "Go," right? but it sure was a lucky roll of the dice when he scooped up the ultimate get-out-of-jail free card, which works for his pals, his kids, and maybe even himself.
The Founding Fathers who designed this board game on the streets of Philadelphia in 1787 left a giant flaw, a Constitutional ticking time bomb that wouldn't go off for roughly 229 years. Now, with President Trump reportedly planning to blow up the board by issuing preemptive pardons to his three oldest children Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric as well as son-in-law Jared Kushner, lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and anyone else who might be covered by the Friends and Family Plan, folks are belatedly wondering how to fix this.
Donald Trump did not invent favoritism in clemency but he seems to have perfected it," Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches law at Minnesota's University of St. Thomas and writes about clemency reform, told me by phone this week.
Indeed, it's hard to say what is more damning on the Trump pardon beat right now the already indefensible acts that kept his political allies like Michael Flynn, Roger Stone or Joe Arpaio out of prison, the talk of pardoning his kids and his cronies, the fear that he'll test the Constitution's break-point by pardoning himself, or a report that the Justice Department is probing an alleged bribery scheme involving a presidential pardon.
But underneath these cable-TV-ready headlines are some fundamental questions about American democracy and justice. What were the Founders thinking when, in crafting a supposedly airtight seal on the political system of checks and balances, they handed the president an absolute, monarchical power? How hard would it be to stop future presidents from using clemency as a vehicle of corruption? And in focusing on what's become so bad about the pardon system, have we completely forgotten about the high moral principle it's supposed to represent, a notion of just mercy?
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Will Bunch is author of the new "Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future", published by Free Press, which examines the calculated effort by the modern right wing to canonize the 40th president, (more...)