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Saturday, November 04, 2016

This miserable election is almost over

You know things are bad when the biggest question of the year is whether a president can pardon himself.

W hat would it be like to have a president who a majority of voters (and possibly a sizable number of FBI agents) believe to be guilty of public corruption, bribery, fraud, destruction of evidence, and massive violations of national security?

Ask the citizens of Providence, Rhode Island, whose popular mayor Buddy Cianci was forced to resign twice for felony convictions: once for kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon, and then again a second time for racketeering. After his first conviction he tried to run again, but the city dredged up a rule that prevented convicted felons from holding public office. With the help of the courts he got re-elected, only to end up in a federal prison.

Moral: returning corrupt politicians to office just rewards bad behavior. If Hillary is corrupt now, she will be even more corrupt as president. For the next several years, we will hear the word ‘corruption’ every day on the news. The most likely scenario is that she steps down to avoid impeachment and blames it on health issues.

Democrats and Republicans alike have put criminals into office, though nowadays it seems the Democrats are pulling out ahead. We voters are like that guy on the California state flag who is depicted digging himself into a hole, ever deeper, for all eternity.

Hillary Brunhilde Clinton
It ain't over until Hillary Clinton sings

I like Jonah Goldberg's idea that the reason the Democrats have turned hard left is not due to an ideological shift but to something akin to Darwinian evolution (though he didn't use that term): the moderate ones are no longer Democrats; only the Party members from ultra-left-wing states are still standing.

But it would be more accurate to say that natural selection is why their appointed leader is so hopelessly corrupt: so many of the voters and intellectual leaders who believed in honesty have left the party that the only ones left are those with an unbounded tolerance for cognitive dissonance. When you're the Robin Hood party, you have to create poverty and injustice so you can promise to cure it. You have to create divisions so you can promise to bring us all together. Perhaps psychologists will someday discover that the cognitive dissonance this produces is the cause of corruption.

It's got to suck for Democrats to consider that after all their scheming and all their work their candidate may be done in by a Weiner.

Anyway (which, interestingly enough, is an Inuit word meaning “I have no idea how to make a transition from that last paragraph”), it's been suggested by a professor at George Washington University Law School with, apparently, the agreement of much of the legal community, that Hillary Clinton could legally pardon herself if by some cruel twist of fate she were to win the election. (In my opinion it's an academic question: the atmosphere today feels exactly like the day before Nixon resigned. But let's ask it anyway.)

Of course to pardon oneself would be tantamount to a confession of guilt — though technically it would not be a violation of the Fifth Amendment prohibition against self-incrimination, because she's not being compelled to admit guilt.

The usual argument for it being possible is from Article 2, Section 3, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which says: “[The President] shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” Thus her opponents would immediately move to impeach.

But if someone pardons himself, thereby admitting to a crime, and is then discovered not to be guilty, has he or she then committed perjury? Well, you might say, there's a simple solution: pardon yourself again.

Although I'm not a lawyer, that seems to show the answer: pardoning oneself invariably leads to chaos. Suppose the president unconstitutionally got him- or herself elected a third time, then pardoned himself for his crime. He or she could in principle remain in office forever, pardoning himself again and again, until the Secret Service finally dragged him out by his feet, his fingertips clinging to the Oval Office carpet as he left a long line of scratch marks across the White House lawn.

It would be like a governor calling the prison to give himself a stay of execution: all the jailers would have to do is to prevent him from making that 11:59 phone call (for example, by not loaning him a quarter). For sure, if it happens, it will only happen once. There'd be unanimous support for a Constitutional amendment to prohibit it.

Whatever happens, next Tuesday the fat lady will have sung. And if her singing voice is like her speaking voice, that itself would be an unpardonable crime.

Last edited nov 06 2016, 10:39 am

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