Friday, June 10, 2005


McCain looks lackluster in push for Johnson pardon

On last night's episode of ESPN's "Outside the Lines," John McCain was present to lobby for a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world. McCain is the one receiving most of the press for this power play, but he is also joined by his friends Jesse Jackson, Jr, Jim Hoffa, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Harry Reid, and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. The entire movement for Johnson's pardon was begun by Ken Burns, legendary storyteller and butcher of all things historical. (If I was king for a day, I would make sure that all public schools were forbidden to show Burns' works in history classrooms due to their Oliver Stone-like flights of fancy.)

In McCain's interview last night and in his remarks on the Senate floor, he comes off as impotent and incapable of making an argument made on facts. He shows no respect for the rule of law. Was the Mann Act of 1910 a good piece of legislation? Probably not. I don't think that many would argue for its merits. However, it was a valid piece of legislation, passed by the Congress and at no time was ruled unconstitutional by the courts. In fact, the Mann Act is still on the books today, has never been repealed, and was most recently amended in 1986.

Johnson was duly arrested, with a stiff bail set by Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, the man who would become the first commissioner of baseball and a judge known for tough punishment (ask Shoeless Joe Jackson). Landis has been colored a racist in recent years (especially by Burns), but there is little if anything that proves that recent allegation. However, McCain, his supporters, and even "Outside the Lines" try to tie the need for Jackson's pardon to Landis' supposed but undocumented racism. Here's the problem - Landis only set the bail. Judge George Albert Carpenter presided over Jackson's trial in Chicago.

The fact is that McCain and others don't have a legal reason for President Bush to issue this pardon. There are political reasons - McCain showing that he has control over the President just as he showed who was running the Senate a few weeks ago - and racial reasons (given the injustices of the time), but there aren't legal reasons. If there were, Jackson should have taken them up on appeal. Instead, he fled to Canada, Europe, Mexico, and eventually to our good friends in Cuba. There aren't really good moral reasons. Besides being a willing fugitive, Johnson was not a champion of the black community. "Jack Johnson didn't care about being an activist for the black community, marching, speaking out. Jack Johnson was only in it for Jack Johnson."

Who said so? Mike Tyson, who was also interviewed by "Outside the Lines." Here's the scary thing, Senator McCain - Mike Tyson showed that he knew a heck of a lot more about Jack Johnson than you do. Maybe your two should switch jobs for a while and see who is the better senator since it appears that we know who is the better historian.

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