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On the July 3 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, discussing President George W. Bush's decision to commute former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's 30-month prison term, CNN correspondent Christine Romans asserted that President George H.W. Bush "was judicious with pardons" because he granted "only 74." Romans compared the elder Bush to President Clinton, who "pardoned 396 criminals, most famously fugitive financier Marc Rich and his own brother." Romans continued: "President [George W.] Bush is being assailed by Democrats for commutation of Libby's sentence just as Clinton was criticized by conservatives for his pardon of Marc Rich." However, in contrasting George H.W. Bush's "judicious" exercise of executive clemency with Clinton and the current President Bush, Romans ignored that the elder Bush was also "criticized" and "assailed" for his decision to pardon six Reagan administration officials who were involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, some of whom might have given testimony concerning Bush's own role in that operation.
On December 24, 1992, President Bush pardoned former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former assistant secretary for inter-American affairs Elliott Abrams, former national security adviser Robert McFarlane, and former CIA employees Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers, and Clair George "for their conduct related to the Iran-Contra affair." According to "Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters":
The Iran/contra affair concerned two secret Reagan Administration policies whose operations were coordinated by National Security Council staff. The Iran operation involved efforts in 1985 and 1986 to obtain the release of Americans held hostage in the Middle East through the sale of U.S. weapons to Iran, despite an embargo on such sales. The contra operations from 1984 through most of 1986 involved the secret governmental support of contra military and paramilitary activities in Nicaragua, despite congressional prohibition of this support.
On December 25, 1992, The New York Times reported that at the time he was pardoned, Weinberger "was scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 5 on charges that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the arms sales to Iran and efforts by other countries to help underwrite the Nicaraguan rebels." The report continued: "[The] case was expected to focus on Mr. Weinberger's private notes that contain references to Mr. Bush's endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran." The Times also reported: "[N]ot since President Gerald R. Ford granted clemency to former President Richard M. Nixon for possible crimes in Watergate has a Presidential pardon so pointedly raised the issue of whether the President was trying to shield officials for political purposes."
A majority of Americans opposed President Bush's decision to "issue a pardon so that Caspar Weinberger cannot be prosecuted for his role in the Iran-Contra affair," both before and after he did so. According to a November 10-11, 1992, Gallup Poll, 27 percent of respondents said that President Bush should pardon Weinberger, while 59 percent said that he should not. According to a December 28, 1992, Gallup Poll, 27 percent of respondents approved of Bush's decision to pardon Weinberger, while 54 percent disapproved.
From the July 3 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
ROMANS: Bush has pardoned at least 10 convicted drug offenders, in addition to counterfeiters, embezzlers, tax evaders, and moonshiners. President Clinton pardoned 396 criminals, most famously fugitive financier Marc Rich and his own brother. This president's father was judicious with pardons, only 74, but [Ronald] Reagan pardoned 393. Among the 382 Ford pardoned, one was for his predecessor, Richard Nixon.
President Bush is being assailed by Democrats for commutation of Libby's sentence just as Clinton was criticized by conservatives for his pardon of Marc Rich. And as only befits the Beltway, Scooter Libby, Kitty [Pilgrim, guest host], was once a lawyer for Marc Rich in Washington.