Nov 30, 2009
Mike Huckabee's fatally bad judgment
Brutality by another Huck-pardoned criminal suggests the 2012 GOP hopeful listened more to pastors than prosecutors
By Joe Conason
Reuters and AP
Maurice Clemmons, a person of interest in the killing of four Lakewood Police officers in Parkland, Wash., Sunday.
If clemency for Maurice Clemmons were the only fatal error committed by Mike Huckabee as governor of Arkansas, he might be able to shift blame to the state's law enforcement system and even run for president again in 2012. Yet the Clemmons commutation that he granted nine years ago is only one among several cases that raise serious questions about Huckabee's judgment.
[When] Clemmons, the fugitive suspect in the shooting deaths of four police officers, was hit in the torso by return fire from one of the cops who later died, he escaped...
The damage to his political future will hinge on how deeply news organizations now delve into those cases -- and the bizarre faith-based rationale behind his use of the clemency and pardon powers of the governor.
Huckabee has proudly declared on many occasions that he disdains the separation of church and state, insisting that his strict Baptist piety should serve as the bedrock of public policy. Nowhere in his record as governor was the influence of religious zeal felt more heavily than in the distribution of pardons and commutations, as his own explanations have indicated. During those years he granted more commutations and pardons than any governor during the previous four decades, many of them surely justified as a response to excessive penalties under the state's draconian narcotics laws. But others were deeply controversial, especially because so many of his acts of mercy appeared to depend on interventions by fellow Baptist preachers and by inmate professions of renewed Christian faith.
No doubt word spread among the prison population that the affable governor was vulnerable to appeals from convicts who claimed to be born again. Clemmons too was among those who benefited from Huckabee's tendency to believe such pious testimonials...
Surely the most notorious instance of misplaced mercy involved Wayne Dumond, a rapist and murderer now deceased, who was originally sent to prison in Arkansas for raping a distant cousin of Bill Clinton. During Clinton's presidency the Dumond case became an obsession among certain right-wing pundits and politicians, who insisted that Dumond had been framed and brutalized by the "Clinton machine." When Huckabee became governor, he supported a parole for Dumond, winning applause from the Republican right -- until the former prisoner raped and killed a young woman in Missouri. Dumond later died in prison, under suspicion that he had murdered at least one other woman after his Arkansas release -- a tragic outcome for which Huckabee has repeatedly tried to blame others, including his two Democratic predecessors in the statehouse.
The real engine behind Dumond's release, however, was a Baptist minister and ultra-conservative ideologue named Jay Cole, who also happened to be a friend of Huckabee...