The benign prerogative of mercy

Adam Liptak in the Times reminds us that there’s nothing we can do about it. Ford’s outrageous pardon of Nixon taught us ancients that long ago.

But in the process the Times included an elaboration that is bleakly funny.

The courts, Congress and the public have few avenues to take action against a president who issues a contentious pardon. Legislation, for instance, is not an option.

“This power of the president is not subject to legislative control,” the Supreme Court said in 1866. “Congress can neither limit the effect of his pardon nor exclude from its exercise any class of offenders. The benign prerogative of mercy reposed in him cannot be fettered by any legislative restrictions.”

“The benign prerogative of mercy” – as if mercy had anything to do with this. (I’m sure that’s why Liptak included that sentence: for the painful irony.) It’s hard to think of anyone who shows less trace of mercy or benignity than Donald Trump: he’s all malevolence, anger, dominance. He didn’t pardon Arpaio out of mercy for Arpaio but out of hatred and contempt for us, and out of loyalty to the principle of bullying sadism that Arpaio has embodied for decades.

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