As Barack Obama closes out the final days of his presidency, there is much talk about what last moves he may make as gestures of compassion and progress before the beginning of Trump’s ill-fated tenure as president.
Among the few things a sitting president with mere days left in office can accomplish is granting clemency to deserving individuals. One bright spot on Obama’s track record of late has been his willingness to commute the sentences of individuals behind bars on nonviolent drug charges. Focusing on people whose long sentences stem from antiquated or particularly harsh sentencing laws, Obama has given new hope to more than 1,000 inmates as of November. With the law and order pomp espoused by the incoming narcissist Trump, we likely cannot expect such compassion in the coming years, so Obama taking advantage of his last days as president to pursue such positive ends is heartening.
He can, of course, do more. Rumors have surfaced that seem to indicate that Chelsea Manning – the source of army leaks that revealed egregious human rights violations committed by US military personnel – may be on the outgoing president’s shortlist for commutation. Manning, who is transgender, has been subjected to harsh solitary confinement, and has been punished for suicide attempts stemming from her brutal treatment. She has also undergone a hunger strike in a bid for gender corrective surgery that has been denied her by authorities.
Punishing whistle blowers is a dangerous game, and can set up precedents that provide Trump with excuses to cover his own executive excess. The reality star demagogue has signaled a willingness to commit war crimes, bring back torture, and expand indefinite detention.
A powerful statement before Trump can accomplish any of this would be to grant clemency to Manning. There are only a few days left for Obama to do so – and by all means, he should.