Prior to the 2012 election kicking off in interest, Haley Barbour was considered a serious candidate for President, a former RNC Chair whose popular stint as governor of Mississippi had him posed as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. Then he decided to sit out 2012.
But whether he decided to take crazy pills or just decided to embrace the chaotic Dungeons & Dragons alignment of his avatar HalBour the Conqueror, Haley Barbour has decided never to run for President. Barbour spent his last weekend in office pardoning more than 200 prisoners, including more than 24 convicted of murder, homicide or manslaughter.
Remember when there was a whole mess of outrage over Bill Clinton’s decision to pardon Mark Rich for his tax evasion (and Eric Holder’s role in the pardon)? Well, just imagine if instead of a tax cheat he’d pardoned a number of brutal murderers.
Like many, I have reservations about the American criminal justice system, and recognize that a human system has the possibility of getting the wrong answer and executive pardons are one tool for correcting possible injustice — but these pardons involved felons such as David Gatlin, who killed his wife in front of a witness who was also shot but survived the attack. Based on my quick research, there is no suggestion that Gatlin had any argument for his innocence or of being railroaded by the system.
Some of these pardons are inexcusable and Barbour has refused to comment on any of his decision.
There are a number of human tragedies here, including victims and families now living in fear with these criminals on the loose, but the political lesson here, for both Republicans and Democrats alike, is that Barbour’s acts should give all of us perspective on what is and is not an “outrage” when it comes to dangerous abuses of power.