Sunday, January 11, 2009

Budd Dwyer begs your pardon

Wow, talk about selective memory where a friend is concerned. This morning I ready an editorial in the Inky that really irked the hell out of me. In the piece, former Reagan staffer Jeffrey Lord writes of the need to show mercy and offer a posthumous pardon on his old friend Budd Dwyer. In 1986, Dwyer was offered a plea bargain for accepting a $300,000 kickback. A plea bargain under which Dwyer would be required to serve 5 years, resign as PA State Treasurer and cooperate with the investigation. Dwyer, professing his innocence, refused the offer, went to trial and was found guilty. In early January 1987, Dwyer called his friend Lord to inquire about the possibility of having Ronald Reagan pardon him to avoid a jail term.

I was not a lawyer, but I certainly knew that a request of this nature was "above my pay grade." I told Budd that I would be happy to get the details of the process for him, specifically noting that it was impossible for me to promise presidential pardons to anyone. I brought the request to my immediate boss, Mitch Daniels (now the governor of Indiana). I was given the OK to check with the White House Counsel's Office to get information on pardon procedure and relay that - and only that - to Budd. There could be no promises made.

I mentioned something else to Daniels. I knew Budd well enough to feel very uncomfortable with his tone of voice. "The man on the phone," I said, "does not sound like the Budd Dwyer I know." Daniels nodded sympathetically and encouraged me to get Dwyer his answer right away, which I did.

Budd took the news of the process - the appeal for review had to be made to the Department of Justice, not the president - calmly. While he had the right to appeal and could receive a pardon if his case were approved, this could take years. Certainly this would not happen before his impending sentencing, now only days away.

Dwyer was permitted to continue his position as state Treasurer until sentencing and, on the day of Jan. 22, 1987 he committed his final abuse of that position by calling a televised press conference during which he committed suicide on live television. This was a big case in PA and, since many expected Dwyer to resign during the press conference, viewership was expected to be high. The fact that much of PA was dealing with a huge snowstorm also increased viewership. Dwyer had a sizable audience for his final act and, I'm sure, anyone unfortunate enough to see the spectacle (understand, this was in the days before we were desensitized to the grotesque by so-called "Reality" TV) probably remember it well.

In this morning's editorial, Lord sums up his piece with a request to pardon Bud Dwyer:
If anyone deserves a pardon - mercy - from the president of the United States, it should, finally, be Budd Dwyer. Let him rest in peace.
He doesn't indicate there is evidence that exculpates Dwyer or provide any rationale for the "need" for a pardon except to note that Dwyer professed his innocence, was "broken" by his conviction and inability to get pardoned prior to sentencing.

As I read the article this morning, the only words that came to mind were "you have got to be shitting me!" Dwyer blew his brains out on live TV. He called a press conference to do it and the whole thing was done on a day in which much of the state was in the midst of one heck of a snow storm so quite a few small children ended up seeing this horrific display. This was Dwyer's last act and the only reason to commit this act so publicly would be to hurt others in a sad attempt to martyr himself. If his suicide were only to ensure his wife could keep his pension in addition to avoiding any jail time, he could have killed himself in private.

Be sure, Dwyer's last act was not just a cowardly act to avoid taking responsibility for his actions and paying his debt to society, it was a heinous one in which he intentionally punished others because he was caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Sorry Mr. Lord, but the callousness & public nature of Dwyer's suicide renders him exceptionally unqualified for a pardon.


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16 comments:

娟子 said...
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melouise said...

omg, Ol Cranky- you can't know how glad I am to read this post! :)

Just saw on another site where a beloved curmugeon going by "Cranky" had passed away and have been going nuts, trying to search and find you.

Take care, hon and know I'm sending big relieved hugs...

Lots of Love,

Louise via PHB

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Anonymous said...

'This was Dwyer's last act and the only reason to commit this act so publicly would be to hurt others in a sad attempt to martyr himself. If his suicide were only to ensure his wife could keep his pension in addition to avoiding any jail time, he could have killed himself in private.

Be sure, Dwyer's last act was not just a cowardly act to avoid taking responsibility for his actions and paying his debt to society, it was a heinous one in which he intentionally punished others because he was caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Sorry Mr. Lord, but the callousness & public nature of Dwyer's suicide renders him exceptionally unqualified for a pardon.'

very poorly informed. how much of a tool do you have to be to actually believe that a reconstruction of data is sufficient evidence that dwyer received a kickback? with regards to evidence (and the west lives in a world where one is innocent until proven guilty) there was literally nothing substantial. and obviously the reason that he chose to do it on live tv was to make a point professing his innocence. if he did it in private, it would not have been as big of a deal.

as someone who was depressed and suicidal i can tell you that watching this helped me by putting me off the ultimate sacrifice and i know i'm not the only one.

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