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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Huckabee's Christ Delusion

by tristero

UPDATE II: First DuMond, then Clemmons and now Joe Conason has a third example of Huckabee's terrible judgment regarding incarcerated, violent offenders:
Perhaps the worst instance of that same syndrome, chronicled in detail by Arkansas journalists, concerned an Air Force sergeant named Glen Green, who was sentenced to prison for life after confessing that he had raped and killed a teenage girl. After beating the woman with nunchucks, he violated her almost lifeless body, ran over her with his car and buried her in a swamp. But yet another preacher friend of Huckabee's named Rev. Johnny Jackson somehow persuaded the governor that this incredibly brutal killing had been an "accident" -- and that Green had repented, come to Jesus and therefore should be freed.

Two years ago, I noted that Huckabee knew almost nothing about the Green case beyond what his preacher pal had told him. He consulted neither the prosecutor nor the victim's family, and overruled the dissent of his own parole board. After he announced that Green would be released, the furious public reaction forced him to reverse the decision. Yet he continued to release murderers and other violent criminals despite angry dissent from local prosecutors.

Huckabee granted mercy to prisoners whom he chanced to meet, to prisoners who had personal connections to him or his family, and especially to prisoners who were vouchsafed to him by the pastors he had befriended during his years as a Baptist minister and denominational leader. Among the thugs who benefited from his mercy was a robber who beat an old man to death with a lead pipe.

UPDATE: Apparently, Maurice Clemmons has been shot and killed. One more tragedy to add to the pile of horror set off by Huckabee's awful judgment. For a very different reaction to the death of Clemmons, you can read Atlas Shrugs.

In the next few days, we'll probably see two separate streams of information about this case. First, we will learn details about Clemmons in Arkansas that will make it absolutely clear that Huckabee's decision was remarkably stupid. But it's also likely we'll get pushback from Huckabee in the form of moving testimonials from those he pardoned/paroled/set free who turned their lives around. As if that somehow excuses his incredible failure in this case, and others, to assess the facts in a careful manner.

Michael Huckabee has a reputation for being a nice guy, for a rightwing conservative lunatic. He's a bass player, not a narcissistic sax player like that other musician from Arkansas whose day job was governor. And he can tell you how he pardoned Keith Richards; Such a...what's the word?... yes...such a merciful man! Yep, Michael Huckabee is one really nice, compassionate guy.

In most cases, [then-governor Huckabee] followed the recommendation of the parole board, but in several cases he overrode the objections of prosecutors, judges and victims’ families. And in several, he followed recommendations for clemency from Baptist preachers who had been longtime supporters.

Prosecutors told him he was ignoring his responsibility to explain to citizens why he was setting free convicted murderers and rapists. His response, some of them say, was to blame others and strike out against his critics — an off-note from a man they consider a gifted politician.

“Victims groups were pretty well ignored, along with boots-on-the-streets law enforcement and good citizens who sit on these juries,” said Larry Jegley, who objected to Mr. Clemmons’s clemency request as the prosecuting attorney for Pulaski County, where he was convicted.

Robert Herzfeld, then the prosecuting attorney of Saline County, wrote a letter to Governor Huckabee in January 2004, saying his policy on clemency was “fatally flawed” and suggesting that he should announce specific reasons for granting clemency. Mr. Huckabee’s chief aide on clemency wrote back: “The governor read your letter and laughed out loud. He wanted me to respond to you. I wish you success as you cut down on your caffeine consumption.”

“It was all a very personal issue for him,” said Mr. Herzfeld, who later sued successfully to overturn one of Mr. Huckabee’s clemency decisions, which would have set free a man convicted in a bludgeoning death. “It was always about how I was trying to get him or another prosecutor was trying to get him, not about how to do it right. He’s brilliant politically and very likable, but it seems like there’s a blind spot on this issue.”
And he refuses to take responsibility for his terrible judgment:
...former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts criticized his judgment in the case of Wayne DuMond, a convicted rapist who raped and killed a woman 11 months after being paroled in Arkansas.

Mr. Huckabee said that he had opposed clemency, and that it had been his predecessor, Jim Guy Tucker, who had made Mr. DuMond eligible for parole by reducing his sentence. “If anyone needs to get a Willie Horton out of it, it’s Jim Guy Tucker and the Democrat Party and it ain’t me,” he said to reporters at the time.

But Mr. Huckabee had come into office saying he intended to commute Mr. DuMond’s sentence. He later denied the request only as the state’s board granted Mr. DuMond parole. Members of the board later said they had been pressured by the governor.
Whatever the reasons, he wasn't so cunning when it came to Clemmons; he simply commuted his sentence. Not that that stopped Huckabee from pretending he had little to do with his release:
Should he run, there are many prosecutors and victims’ advocates in Arkansas who say they are ready to argue to the national news media that this is just one of the cases where Mr. Huckabee used poor judgment and ignored an inmate’s history of criminal behavior in deciding for clemency. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Huckabee declined requests for an interview, but a statement from the “press team” on the Web site of his political action committee said that should Mr. Clemmons be found responsible for the shootings, “it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State.”
Michael Huckabee's behavior towards both the Clemmons and DuMond cases graphically demonstrates that he doesn't have the intelligence, judgment, emotional balance, or strength of character to be president of the United States. Yet, he persists in being touted by both the media and many influential Republicans, as a serious candidate for the most powerful office in the world.

This is a very, very dangerous man who has no business holding any political power anywhere.

Special note: In the comments to my last post about Huckabee, several folks felt that the real issue in the Clemmons case was a miscarriage of justice, namely sentencing a juvenile for life imprisonment for armed robbery, and that Huckabee's behavior was perfectly sensible. It is astounding that anyone would fall for Huckabee's obvious, and lame, attempt to change the subject, yet so many people have, including prominent liberals I respect. It's almost as if Huckabee has a reality-distortion field around him as powerful as Steve Jobs'.

First of all, it is Huckabee's delusion that he is Jesus Christ, not genuine compassion, that spins the Clemmons case as a miscarriage of justice against a hapless juvenile. It is clear from the record that Clemmons was then, and continued to be, an extremely troubled person with a propensity for extreme violence. Huckabee ignored this, focusing - Christ-like - on an opportunity to show mercy towards a young sinner who showed what Huckabee misapprehended as signs of redemption. The issue is Huckabee's lack of judgment.

If you argue that it is unfair to sentence a juvenile to life in prison for an armed robbery committed when he was 16, I won't disagree with you. But that is not the issue here. The issue is Huckabee's spectacularly bad judgment and his failure to take responsibilty for his behavior. The justice system, for all its incredible faults, has numerous mechanisms, including but not limited to commuting a sentence, for dealing with mitigating circumstances, like the age of an offender, signs of redemption, and an unfairly long sentence. Flawed they surely are, imperfect and inadequate no doubt, but they exist. Huckabee, imitating Christ, chose to deal with the Clemmons case in a very particular way, showing not mercy, but simply awful judgment that set into motion further tragedy.

The incredibly cruel, incredibly unjust way that juvenile offenders are treated in the United States has nothing to do with the fact that Huckabee behaved the way he did. It simply gave him an excuse to exercise his egomania, his delusions of grandeur, and his incompetence. As a result, innocent people died.

And, as noted, Huckabee has quite a dismaying history of bad judgment when it comes to violent criminals.