A Genealogue News Flash [What's That?]Upon learning Wednesday that he is distantly related to Benedict Arnold, President George W. Bush immediately commuted the sentence of the Revolutionary War traitor.
Among the president's ancestors are William and Christian (Peake) Arnold of Rhode Island—the great-great-great-grandparents of General Arnold. This makes the men fourth cousins, eight times removed.
"I have given this matter a great deal of thought in the past ten minutes," said the president, "and I have decided that eternal damnation is too harsh a penalty for a man who devoted his life to public service right up until the time he stabbed his countrymen in the back."
A little-known provision of the Patriot Act gives the president the authority to overrule the judgments of God, though not of Dick Cheney. Arnold—who was condemned to Hell soon after his death in 1801—was being processed for release, and could not be reached for comment.
Democrats expressed outrage that a man who so famously betrayed the American cause would be granted a commutation, and accused the president of giving preferential treatment to a relative.
"I have to do what I think is right," countered President Bush, "even if it means letting one of my cousins off the hook. It may not be politically popular, but then neither am I."