Mike Huckabee's Unfortunate Pardon

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For months, pundits have speculated on whether Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee could win the Republican primary in 2012. Polls show the politician ahead of other potential front-runners, but his political fortunes hit a speed bump this week. Maurice Clemmons, a former convict Huckabee pardoned nine years ago, is now sought in the killing of four police officers in Washington state.

Huckabee's PAC issued a statement reminding supporters that Clemmons was made eligible for release by a parole board before Huckabee could issue a pardon and charging that the criminal justice system is to blame. "Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State," they wrote. But with allusions to 1988 Democratic Presidential Nominee Michael Dukakis's pardon of Willie Horton, pundits say the tragedy could cause Huckabee real political trouble.

  • 'Tragic and Politically Damaging'  At Politico, Ben Smith says the scandal is the sort that has ended careers before. "It's a tragic, and politically damaging story of the kind that, with the name Willie Horton attached, helped derail Mike Dukakis's bid for the White House." And Smith says it's not the first time Huckabee's judgment has been in question regarding clemency. "Huckabee advocated for parole for a convicted rapist who -- his allies said -- had been railroaded by Huckabee predecessor Bill Clinton. The rapist, Wayne DuMond, was released; he raped and murdered another woman."
  • A Reasonable Use of Clemency  Matthew Yglesias has some sympathy for Huckabee. Clemmons, he writes, had never been accused of murder, and "60 years for burglary and theft for an eighteen year-old seems incredibly excessive." Yglesias thinks the pardon was reasonable. "In this case, of course, you can’t help but wish he were in fact still in prison. But it’s hard to see what about a record of involvement in burglaries would make you think this was a guy at risk of doing something like this." Still, he writes, this "probably spells trouble for a guy who seems to still have political aspirations."
  • 'This isn’t Huckabee’s first Horton moment,' Michelle Malkin writes, referencing the story of Wayne Dumond, a convicted rapist who raped again after he received a pardon from then-Governor Huckabee.
  • Another Huckabee Pardon  Like Malkin, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo hasn't forgotten Huckabee's other transgressions. "Those with long memories will remember that this is not the first Huckabee commutation with a bad ending," he writes. "The case of Wayne Dumond got a good deal of attention in the 2008 presidential campaign."
  • Just Like Dukakis  Robert Stacy McCain of The Other McCain blog draws the parallel. "If Clemmons is the killer, this would make Huckabee a Republican Dukakis," he writes, in a reference to a former Massachusetts governor whose presidential hopes were marred by a pardon that ended in more violence.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.