Presidential Frontiers: Underexplored Issues in White House Politics

By Ryan J. Barilleaux | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
The Overlooked Relevance of the Pardon Power

MARK MORRIS

The 1996 presidential campaign brought the executive pardon power into the public spotlight once again. Two examples demonstrate this point. First, Republican nominee Bob Dole challenged President Clinton to issue a public pledge that he would not pardon any of the individuals associated with the Whitewater investment scandal. Unlike President Bush who was driven to make the "read my lips" pledge, President Clinton did not surrender to election-year challenges and issue a no pardon pledge. Second, Susan McDougal, one of the individuals convicted and sentenced for crimes related to the Whitewater partnership, proclaimed that she would not accept a pardon if offered by President Clinton. Clearly Ms. McDougal was unaware that the issuance of a presidential pardon is not subject to the recipient's acceptance or declination; the pardon is an executive action over which the president has total authority.

Both of these examples demonstrate the general lack of understanding of presidential pardon power. The potential use of pardon power has become a topic in newspapers, on talk radio, and on television news shows. Proponents defend the pardon as a legitimate use of presidential power, whereas opponents link the use of the pardon to conspiracy and self-protection from unsavory or even illegal activities of the past. It appears that the pardon has been inextricably linked with coverup and political self-preservation. President Ford's pardon of President Nixon in 1974 may have forged this initial connection in the minds of many. President Bush's 1992 Christmas Eve pardon of six individuals allegedly linked to the Iran-Contra affair further solidified this nexus between conspiratorial coverup and a timely presidential pardon.

Despite two high-profile pardons issued by Presidents Ford and Bush, only limited scholarly interest has been shown in this unique and increasingly controversial presidential power. The apparent lack of interest in the executive par

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Presidential Frontiers: Underexplored Issues in White House Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Part I - The First Frontier: The Nature of the Office 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Normative Study of the Presidency 3
  • Notes 17
  • Chapter 2 - The President as Representative 23
  • Notes 34
  • References 35
  • Chapter 3 Washington And/Or Versailles: the White House as a Court Society 37
  • References 51
  • Chapter 4 - Electing Presidents and Other Potentates 53
  • Part II - New Insights on Power and Policy 77
  • Chapter 5 - The Overlooked Relevance of the Pardon Power 79
  • References 96
  • Chapter 6 - The Presidency and Social Policy 99
  • References 114
  • Chapter 7 - The Other Side of War: Presidential Peace Powers 119
  • References 133
  • Chapter 8 - The President and Federal Reserve Nominations 135
  • References 146
  • Part III - New Political and Cultural Frontiers 149
  • Chapter 9 - The Presidency as a Cultural Pulpit 151
  • References 175
  • Chapter 10 - The Other Side of Power: Who Is Left Out of Presidential Rhetoric? 179
  • References 190
  • Chapter 11 - First Partner: First Ladies and Their Roles 195
  • Appendix 221
  • Notes 223
  • References 223
  • Afterword 227
  • References 230
  • Index 231
  • About the Contributors 235
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