The editorialists at the Chicago Tribune aren't ready yet to declare that Speaker Dennis Hastert has to be tossed aside, but before they get too high and mighty about the safety of teenagers from lecherous Members of Congress, we should recall that the Trib editorialized in favor of what would become Bill Clinton's last-minute pardon of Mel Reynolds, the convicted teen-sex/child-porn/obstruction of justice Democratic congressman. Headlined "Reynolds, Not Rosty, Needs Mercy," the Trib complained that disgraced Dan Rostenkowski didn't need the Clinton pardon, unlike Reynolds:
Mel Reynolds, elected in 1992 after knocking off 2nd District incumbent Gus Savage, was convicted on state charges related to his sexual relationship with a teenage girl, and then on federal charges of bank and campaign fraud. He's been locked up since October, 1995, first doing his state time and then going to federal prison to serve an unusually harsh 61/2-year sentence that, if nothing is done, will keep him behind bars until March, 2003 -- leaving his wife and three young children to fend for themselves.
Reynolds was guilty of serious violations of the law that warranted punishment. But his federal sentence -- more than quadruple that given to Rostenkowski--was plainly disproportionate. Reynolds has acknowledged his errors. Clinton should commute his sentence.
Dan Rostenkowski, who is already a free man and didn't much need the president's mercy, got it Friday just in time for Christmas. Mel Reynolds, who is about to mark his sixth yuletide in prison, is still waiting.