In that effort, spearheaded by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the subject was black heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, who was imprisoned nearly a century ago for violation of the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for "immoral purposes." The case was seen as punishment for Johnson's unapologetic relationships with white women, and a warning to other black men.Ms. Huus (who btw has done good reporting on clemency issues), thinks that Jack Johnson's cause would be "arguably one with more symbolic heft." Grits, though, must respectfully disagree.
For starters, President Obama has already turned down Johnson's pardon, and as much as I supported that effort, which was notably led by GOP Congressional leaders, Grits doesn't expect the President to flip flop. But there's another reason I think championing O. Henry's pardon carries just as much if not more "symbolic heft" when it comes to critiquing the president's parsimonious pardon policies, and I articulated that view this morning over at the Pardon O. Henry! blog:
Why O. Henry?That's why, to me, a campaign for Porter's posthumous pardon has plenty of "symbolic heft," though I suppose it depends on precisely what one is trying to symbolize. Sign the petition. Tell Barack Obama to "Pardon O. Henry!" and reinvigorate presidential clemency powers.
The short answer is that this campaign didn't choose William Porter, President Barack Obama did (or more likely one of his speech writers). When the President quoted the great writer in the midst of the ceremonial pardoning of a turkey last Thanksgiving, it brought the absurdity of 21st-century clemency into crystal-clear perspective: The bird may be pardoned but the man may not be forgiven, even if he was innocent, indeed even as his prose is purloined.
Just as the pardoned bird was symbolic, so is centering a campaign for expanded use of presidential pardon power around a writer honored by the President, but from a clemency perspective only in the breach.