O Governor, where art thou?

I’ve been wondering what rationale Haley Barbour could possibly have had for the blizzard of pardons he issued on his way out of office. Now that he has explained, in an interview with Bret Baier on Fox News, I’ve gone from mystification to anger.

Governor Barbour explains that most of those pardoned had already been released from prison. What about the remaining 26 pardons and the pardons of murderers still incarcerated? Governor Barbour invokes gubernatorial tradition as well as his and his constituents’ Christian faith to account for these pardons. Relevant details are spelled out in this article and to some extent they comport with the governor’s explanation. However, I don’t think the Christian rationale invoked by Governor Barbour to support the pardons cuts it, though I leave it to Christians to comment on his understanding of Christianity.

Steve Hayward asked: What the heck was Haley Barbour thinking? Reading Governor Barbour’s explanation and watching the Fox News video of his interview, the question becomes: What would Haley do?

Reader Nick D’Orazio — a Power Line Prize winner who tied for third place in the competition — has created a video borrowing from my favorite Coen Brothers movie to express his disapproval of the governor’s explication of the pardons.

I asked Nick to comment on his video. He writes:

Here’s the point I wanted to make. Barbour’s pardons are what you get when you believe in the “humanitarian” view of punishment. It demonstrates that if a friendly bureaucrat believes that after 20 years, a murderer has been rehabilitated, he should be released without regard to whether or not they have fully paid for their crimes as specified by the justice system.

C.S. Lewis warned us about this in The Problem of Pain:

“Some enlightened people would like to banish all conceptions of retribution or desert from their theory of punishment and place its value wholly in the deterrence of others or the reform of the criminal himself… What can be more immoral than to inflict suffering on me for the sake of deterring others if I do not deserve it..? And what can be more outrageous than to catch me and submit me to a disagreeable process of moral improvement without my consent, unless (once more) I deserve it?”

Barbour in the same interview says (at 4:56): “When my grandchildren are over at the governor’s mansion, we trust them to play with and be looked out for by these people.” I think the governor forgets that the victims of these murderers were not on the estate of a man who had the power to pardon them if they behaved themselves or bring down the wrath of an angry grandfather if they did not. I dare say that Governor Barbour would not want his grandchildren to be with these men in the vulnerable situations that the victims were when these murderers killed them.

There is noting sacrosanct about the sentence imposed by judge in a given case. I don’t have a problem with the exercise of the pardon power when appropriate, but I find Barbour’s defense of the pardons to be wanting.

UPDATE: Pardon Power has some pertinent observations on Barbour’s comments. The proprietor of the site also writes to add that he has set out his views on executive clemency in this post.