Tuesday, March 01, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Huckabee’s pardons

Mike Huckabee made the rounds of the national media venues last week reassuring people that he would probably run for president in 2012 although he would not do it officially for a long time so that he can keep his lucrative job at Fox News.

We would not discourage our former governor from running again, for despite his handicaps we find him a safer choice than almost all the mentionable candidates on the Republican side. One of them may be the next president and, if so, we could be much worse off with almost any of the others.

We have one big reservation with Rev. Huckabee—well, maybe another two or three significant ones—and we keep hoping he will reform. He cannot tell the truth when it is even slightly embarrassing.

In a question-and-answer session with political writers organized by the Christian Science Monitor, Huckabee was asked if his presidential ambitions would be harmed by his clemencies for a couple of famous Arkansas murderers, most notably Maurice Clemmons. Clemmons murdered four policemen in a suburban Seattle, Wash., coffee shop in 2009. Clemmons had been sentenced in Arkansas to a total of 108 years in prison (many of those were to run concurrently) for a series of violent crime sprees.

Huckabee ordered him released in 2000 after he wrote the governor a letter saying he had found Jesus and that God had agreed to intercede for him with the governor. Clemmons was returned to prison on a parole violation but then released again in 2001. He went to Washington, where he continued his life of crime. Clemmons was killed in a shootout with police after the coffee-shop massacre.

Huckabee said he would release Clemmons again if he had it to do over. He said Clemmons was just a black kid who had a bad upbringing and that his crimes were so minor that if he had been a white man with a good lawyer he would never have spent a single day in prison and would today be working on Wall Street.

That was not quite Clemmons’ record. He was convicted of burglaries, thefts, probation violations, aggravated robbery and carrying guns on school property. He punched an elderly woman in the face when he robbed her. At one of his trials, the judge had him shackled in leg irons because Clemmons had threatened him. He hid a metal hinge in his sock to use as a weapon in court. In jail, he injured his own mother when he threw a lock at the jailer and it missed. He tried to steal a guard’s pistol on the way to a courtroom. In prison, he was into constant trouble for sexual assaults, battery, theft and weapons.

Huckabee has always told similar fibs about his efforts to free the convicted rapist Wayne Dumond, who went to Missouri and killed two women after Huckabee’s intercession. He wrote Dumond a letter expressing his pride at freeing him.

Voters can accept Huckabee’s misjudgments if he only acknowledged that they came from perhaps an excess of Christian humanity, which is in short supply nowadays. Likewise, most voters would accept his record as governor—he raised more taxes and expanded state government more than any governor in Arkansas history—if he were only honest about it and not insist that he had slashed taxes and shrank government, which is what he suspects that most Republican voters want to hear.

Truth and honesty can be powerful tools, even in politics, and they might work even today. We commend them to him.