Pardon Me, I Have Questions

Terry H. Schwadron

Aug. 27, 2017

Can I ask a couple of questions about the Presidential pardon?

How do I explain pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, 85 years old, in any kind of logical way? Is it just a political payoff for early and strong support for the President’s election? Is it just a way to underscore that the President needs every tool in the shed to bash immigrants?

How do I balance Donald Trump’s professed adherence to “law and order” while tossing out a judicial finding of contempt of court? Doesn’t this pardon just show a general disrespect for the rule of law? Isn’t there a longstanding Justice Department policy, which calls for a waiting period of at least five years before the consideration of a pardon application and some expression of regret or remorse by the applicant? And has Sheriff Joe showed some regret?

How am I supposed to believe that the President wants to “heal divisions” and call for “love” among all Americans when he takes a public action like this to salute decades of work to arrest people because they might be illegal immigrants?

What am I supposed to tell myself when the President says Sheriff Joe was found in contempt simply for doing his job? Did the President not hear in the contempt order that Sheriff Joe had ignored the courts and just continued with racial profiling?

Of all times for Donald Trump to pursue this pardon, did he not notice that people are riled up by his differing sermons over Charlottesville, and his seeming lack of enthusiasm in rooting out sources of hate?

In the time of nuclear saber-waving and actual simultaneous dangers in North Korea, the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Ukraine, how is it that the most important question we face as a nation is whether to clear an avowed hater from contempt of court? Is is more important that helping to coordinate actual help for some millions of people in the path of what looks to be a devastating hurricane hitting the Texas coastline?

Am I missing something? Has there a public outpouring or calls for justice for Sheriff Joe?

Didn’t Maricopa County in Arizona vote him out, actually exactly because of the kind of campaigns he runs against Latinos, citizens or not? I realize it is a rallying cry for your political gatherings, but is there a social gain here by letting the former sheriff off the judicial hook?

Isn’t this the same Sheriff Joe who had touted himself as “America’s toughest sheriff,” making inmates wear pink underwear and serving jail food that at least some prisoners called inedible, who was at the forefront of the so-called birther movement that aimed to investigate former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate?

Isn’t this the same Sheriff Joe whom a federal district judge had ordered in 2011 to stop detaining people based solely on suspicion of their immigration status, when there was no evidence that a state law had been broken? And isn’t Sheriff Joe being found in contempt because, well, he was in contempt of the court order by continuing his campaign?

Wasn’t Sheriff Joe essentially convicted of violating constitutional rights, in defiance of a court order involving racial profiling? Is the President saying that governmental agents who violate judicial injunctions are likely to be pardoned, even though their behavior violated constitutional rights, when their illegal actions are consistent with presidential policies? Is the President using the unusual step of pardon to stop courts from being able to have enforceable injunction orders?

Am I hearing Arizona Sen. John McCain more clearly than the President when McCain notes that “No one is above the law, and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold.”? Did the President see the Arizona Republic’s editorial that this pardon is “a slap in the face to Latinos?”

Do I think I believe Sheriff Joe that this pardon was to right the wrong of a “witch hunt” against him for protecting the country from the scourge of illegal immigration? Or do you expect me to accept your argument that everything you do that draws questions of legality is a “witch hunt”?

Does pardoning illegality in excess of going after people because they might be in this country illegally encourage an attitude of healing and love for one another? Is it an American value to pursue racial profiling? Is it an important American value to pick and choose what judicial rulings to follow?

How do we know that Donald Trump won’t pardon anyone coming up under the all-things-Russia investigations? How might abuse of such pardon power result in impeachment as the only solution to review the pardons?

Just for nothing, doesn’t accepting a pardon mean that Sheriff Joe is now officially guilty (he had appealed his conviction) and subject to civil suits?

How do you expect me to recognize and show respect for the rule of law when you show through this pardon that you just make it up? Do you, Mr. President, respect the rule of law?



Journalist, musician, community volunteer