Jacob Heilbrunn

Is Obama Being Hypocritical About Michael Vick?

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has confounded his critics by making a sensational comeback. He may well lead the Eagles to the Superbowl XLV in 2011. Imprisoned for his role in participating in a dog-fighting ring, Vick has led the Eagles from one triumph to the next. Meanwhile, Washington, DC can only watch helplessly as the Redskins, who picked up Donovan McNabb, compile another losing seasons. 

Now President Obama has weighed in on Vick. He told Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, according to the Washington Post, that it was essential that Vick, who had previously led the Atlanta Falcons (with mixed results), had been given another shot. It's a story of redemption, in other words, one that is particularly apposite at Christmas time--the fall from grace into the abyss of a federal penitentiary, then a second chance at glory. Will Vick now fulfill his great expectations? Does he now feel, like the stripling Pip, that "heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlaying our hard hearts"?

We will never know what is in Vick's heart of hearts. But Obama, as recounted by Lurie, apparently declared, 

"He said, 'So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance,' " said Lurie, who did not indicate when the call occurred. "He said, 'It's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.' And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.''

Obama himself, however, has been notably stingy about handing out presidential pardons.  According to the Chicago Tribune,

In two and a quarter centuries, only four presidents have been slower than President Barack Obama in exercising their authority of executive clemency -- granting either pardons or commutations of sentences to the convicted -- with thousands of applications pending at the Justice Department.

If Obama believes in second chances, then why he isn't practicing what he preaches?


(Photo by André Karwath)