Pardon Me

James D. Besser - Jewish Week (NY) - January 17, 2003

Overlooked in the recent end-of-year pardons by President George W. Bush was what they revealed about the prospects for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.

It doesn’t look good, say observers.

The president pardoned only seven small-time criminals and stayed away from high-profile, controversial cases that could stir up the kind of furor that marred Bill Clinton’s last days in office.

Clinton pardoned 140 during his last days in office, many of them involving high-profile, controversial cases — like the case of fugitive financier Marc Rich.

In contrast, Bush offered presidential pardons to a petty mail thief, an odometer tinkerer and a moonshiner.

The message was obvious.

“The seven pardons revealed the president’s desire to have a very low profile on pardons — which is not inconsistent with his service as governor of Texas,” said Seymour Reich, a New York attorney and longtime supporter of clemency for Pollard. “To my knowledge he never engaged in a single high-profile act of clemency.”

If Bush does choose to take on some controversial cases, Reich said “I would expect that would happen only at the end of his term.”

The way things are going, that could be 2008, when Pollard will have been in jail for almost a quarter century.

Pollard’s only hope for executive clemency, Reich said, is “if the Israeli government gives it a high priority — and gives the U.S. something in return.”

But all indications are that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, focusing mostly on preserving his strong relationship with the Bush administration even as he intensifies the fight against Palestinian terror, is not doing that.