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I pardon you turkey

George W Bush has pardoned a turkey to mark Thanksgiving but it's the president's power to grant len

With his term nearing its end, there is speculation and concern that George W Bush might give clemency to some of those former political allies who have fallen foul of the law over the past eight years.

Even the suggestion that Bush would use this power to erase guilt associated with members of his administration has roused public attention.

Jerrold Nadler, a Democratic Representative in the House, introduced a resolution last week to dissuade Bush from taking advantage in the twilight of his presidency.

Nadler wrote the “granting of pre-emptive pardons by the President to senior officials of his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties is a dangerous abuse of the pardon power”.

Bush has approved only 157 pardons and six commutations, the lowest number of any president since World War II, with exception of his father.

Presidents typically issue pardons around the holiday season and in the final hours of their presidency. Bush's last day will be 20 January, 2009.

Though the Office of the Pardon Attorney, under the Justice Department, reviews the applications and makes recommendations, the final decision falls entirely to the president. “Pardon power is one of the few powers that the constitution grants the president in an unchecked way - that's that,” said Andrew Rudalevige professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

In the fiscal year 2008, 2,300 people applied for a pardon or commutation, the largest number for any single year since at least 1900, according to Justice Department Statistics.

Pardons are typically used to heal national divisions and right wrongs such as when Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson forgave Confederate soldiers and Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to Vietnam-era draft evaders.

Some acts of clemency do the opposite – splitting the nation over what people feel is the abuse of an unjust power of the president.

Before Richard Nixon was brought to trial for his role in the Watergate scandal, Gerald Ford pre-emptively pardoned him. The act was so controversial that Ford had to explain his actions before Congress. Though he stated that Nixon's acceptance of the pardon was tantamount to an admission of guilt, Ford's ratings fell and the Republicans arguably lost the following election as a result.

Other pardons have seemed to be self-serving, like George H.W. Bush's forgiveness of people with connections to the Iran-Contra affair including six whose trials might have exposed his own involvement.

Bill Clinton, who in his final hours in office pardoned 140 people, let Marc Rich go free. As the businessman's former wife had donated large sums to the Democratic party and the Clinton Library, some suggested that money was being exchanged for leniency. “That was a stain on his record. It suggested he'd really abused that power” said Jon Roper, professor of American studies at Swansea University.

There are a few famous names among those who are applying for a pardon this winter: Marion Jones, the Olympic sprinter who lied about steroid use and John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban" who is serving 20 years for providing material support to a terrorist organization.

But one need not apply to have their slate wiped clean and there are some notable absences from the list including the jailed political lobbyist Jack Abramoff, domestic goddess Martha Stewart, recently charged Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Bush commuted Libby's sentence following his conviction of perjury and obstruction in association with the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame thereby cancelling his 30-month jail sentence. “Pardoning Libby would be like another Nixon” said Rudalevige.

There is speculation that Bush will give a blanket pardon to all CIA officers and others who took part in "enhanced interrogation" techniques in the war on terror. Though their actions are considered legal now, a future administration could redefine the legality of those technique, putting those people at legal risk.

Others with ties to the Bush administration who may receive presidential protection include those involved in the wire-tapping of American citizens and the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.

The public is waiting to see if Bush will further divide the nation by using the presidential pardon to protect himself and those who worked under him.

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times