There’s Too Much Forgiving Going On

[Starting this week, Burt’s articles will appear on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.]

When Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour pardoned a number of murderers on his last day in office, he was acting in the proud tradition of several other political hacks. There was Bill Clinton, who not only pardoned Marc Rich, a major Clinton campaign contributor who had fled America with several million stolen dollars, but Harvey Weinig, a former Manhattan lawyer who had facilitated an extortion-kidnapping scheme and helped launder over $19 million for the Cali cocaine cartel. For good measure, among the 140 pardons he granted on getaway day were 16 members of the FALN, a Puerto Rican terrorist organization that had set off 120 bombs, mainly in Chicago and New York, along with Linda Sue Evans and Susan Rosenberg, who had been loyal members of the Weather Underground.

Compared to that, Governor Michael Dukakis was small potatoes, even though his presidential chances were fortunately scuttled when the world found out that he had allowed a Massachusetts murderer, Willie Horton, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, to be granted a weekend furlough. Predictably, instead of returning to prison as promised, Horton headed south, where, in Maryland, he twice raped a woman after pistol-whipping and stabbing her fiancé.

Governor Mike Huckabee, who also believes fervently in the rehabilitation of violent criminals, has Maurice Clemmons on his conscience. Clemmons, years after being pardoned by Huckabee, killed four police officers in Washington state.

Then there was Illinois Governor George Ryan, who in his last days in Springfield commuted 160 death sentences. But in his case, he may have just been planning ahead, because not too long after, he, himself, was sentenced to 30 years for political corruption, and a guy can’t have too many friends in the pen.

That brings us back to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who decided that he wasn’t about to take a back seat to anyone when it came to playing the Good Samaritan. So it was that he decided that just because a bunch of convicted murderers hadn’t killed any of his grandkids when he had them working around the governor’s mansion in Jackson, he would return the favor by pardoning them.

You can almost see the appeal of bestowing forgiveness on the very worst among us. It allows these boneheads to regard themselves as godlike, behaving as they expect Jesus would if only He, too, could win a statewide election.

There are two obvious flaws in this sort of thinking, and the proof of the first is that these guys generally wait until they’re all packed up and ready to leave the key under the mat. That shows that they know there will be blowback from the public, who aren’t concerned with burnishing their holier-than-thou image, but with having to worry about their families with these killers running loose. God knows it’s hard enough to arrest and convict these bastards without then having some knucklehead springing them on a whim.

The second flaw is that even though Christians are supposed to hate the sin, but love the sinner, that doesn’t mean they’re supposed to park their brains and their common sense in the deep freeze.

Back in 1999, Pope John II, while on a visit to America, decided to campaign for the commutation of Darrell Mease’s death sentence. Mease had murdered three people, including a young paraplegic, but the Pope became convinced that he had experienced a religious conversion. It would have been too much to expect Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan to stand up to him, but I had hoped that he would at least have negotiated an agreement whereby Pope John II would have taken the 53-year-old Mease back to the Vatican with him, freeing Missourians of the obligation of housing and feeding this human slug for the next 30 or 40 years.

The irony is that Mease, who was a meth user and dealer, was also a religious bigot who despised Catholics.

In conclusion, I would say that the only people who are ever entitled to forgive a criminal are God, who apparently is in the business of forgiveness, and the criminal’s victims. And in the case of murderers, their victims have been permanently silenced, and it behooves the rest of us, including their parents, friends and siblings, to respect their silence by keeping our own self-righteous yaps shut.

I say the next time some political hack feels called upon to do a good deed, let him donate a kidney.

©2012 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write!

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Author Bio:

Burt Prelutsky, a very nice person once you get to know him, has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. As a freelancer, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Times, TV Guide, Modern Maturity, Emmy, Holiday, American Film, and Sports Illustrated. For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. View Burt’s IMDB profile. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either. He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Angel.
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  • Burt Prelutsky

    Brendan: You are right about second chances. It’s sort of like that phony three strikes law. They pretend that the creep has only committed three felonies. My guess is that anyone who has been caught and convicted three times has gotten away with it dozens of times. In reality, it’s probably more like the 45 strikes law.


  • Brendan Horn

    Along these same lines, I hate the phrase “second chance”. Many people seem to get hundreds of second chances. It seems like many people have trouble counting beyond two and so every chance after the first chance is considered a second chance. I hope there is some explanation for Barbour’s bizarre pardoning. He seemed like he had intelligence before this insanity that he has now fallen under.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    cmacrider: I entirely agree with you. Rehabilitation is for people recovering from injuries and should never be mentioned in a conversation about felons.

    Glen: The answer is that they always do their pardoning on their way out the door, after they’ve spent every last nickel they’ve extracted from us turnips.


  • cmacrider

    Burt: I cannot disagree with the sentiments expressed in your article. However, having personally acted as defence counsel for many years, I think your readers should consider the following: (1) The purpose of the Criminal Code is to protect the public from dangerous offenders through due process of law. (2) The expertise of lawyers and judges is supposed to be “in the law.” not sociology, psychology, or theology. (3) Therefore why do we employ the criminal law system in the business of “rehabilitation?” Law Courts are entirely ill equipped for that function … yet we continuously mix the proper function of criminal courts with this rehabilitation business which was never its intended function and for which it is entirely ill equipped to perform. If the foregoing is correct, then it would logically follow that a bunch of politicians are even less well equipped and should stick to their sphere of expertise which is spending 150% of the money extracted from the general public.

    • Glen Stambaugh

      …and they are sooo good at spending our money it’s a mystery how they find time to meddle in the forgiveness business.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Nancye: I have always been at the Post three times a week. Now dry those tears.

    Pat: I’m glad that we agree about these idiotic governors, but “Prekutsky”? I realize that the “k” and the “l” are neighbors on the keyboard, but still. In the future, just call me Burt.

    Regards, Burt

  • pat

    i fully agree with you Mr Prekutsky. its amazing how easily these elected officials, forget about the evils that these prisoners have committed.

  • Nancye

    Gee Burt – I forgive you for only being here three days a week from now on, even if I’m crying in my coffee as I do it. Boo hoo!!! :(

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Glen: If I am anything, I am fair and reasonable. Because what you say is true, I will henceforth suggest that when these lunkheads are in a generous mood, they donate two kidneys.


  • Glen Stambaugh

    Burt, the flaw in your thinking regarding kidney donation is they’d then be limited to only one criminal helped. We all know Clinton, Ryan, Barber…. are much too generous to for such severe restriction.