Pundits Give Mike Huckabee a Pardon

Why the former governor was right to commute Maurice Clemmons's sentence

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Under fire for commuting the sentence of alleged cop-killer Maurice Clemmons, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee took to the pages of The Washington Post to explain his decision to pardon. Huckabee's political future is thought to lie in the balance after Clemmons allegedly shot and killed four Washington state police officers.

But Huckabee's self-defense may not have been necessary. Commentators of surprisingly diverse leanings concede that the facts of the Clemmons case make the decision to grant a pardon quite reasonable. At 16, Maurice Clemmons was convicted of robbery and burglary and sentenced to 108 years in prison--a harsh punishment for a non-violent crime that Huckabee calls "dramatically outside the norm." If anything, columnists -- even conservative ones -- say Huckabee should be applauded for working to make the criminal justice system a little more equal. Here's why pundits think Maurice Clemmons shouldn't end Huckabee's political career.

  • Race Was Likely Involved in Clemmons's Sentencing Kevin McCollough of conservative Townhall.com says the sentence wasn't fair. "For the crimes of theft and burglary, Maurice Clemmons at the age of 16 was sentenced to 108 years. In all likelihood, had the same crimes been committed by a white youth from a middle class family, he would've received 20 years and been out on probation in under ten. What Governor Huckabee did do was reduce the 108 years to a sentence of 47 years."
  • Huckabee Tried to Bring Fairness to the Criminal Justice System The New York Daily News's Errol Louis says Huckabee is a "leader," and hopes his political career isn't over. "Huckabee could have done the easy, politically safe thing by letting ludicrously heavy sentences stand. Instead, he opted to bring a measure of proportionality, compassion and common sense to a justice system that needs more of it."
  • America Is About Second Chances Townhall's Allen Hunt says Huckabee's "belief in the capacity for life change" makes him a good Christian and a good American.
Those core beliefs certainly stem from his Christian faith, a faith that emphasizes forgiveness and second chances, but those beliefs are not exclusive to Christianity at all. In fact, America has been built on the idea of second chances, from the motley crew of undesirables and convicts who settled Georgia with General Oglethorpe to the lessons in failure and renewal embodied in the stories of Americans as varied as the oft-failing politician, Abraham Lincoln, and the persistent entrepreneur, Tom Monaghan.
  • Huckabee Made the Right Decision Jeralyn of Talk Left says "The last thing we need is more Governors hesitant to grant clemency and pardons. We cannot insure that somebody will not re-offend. At the same time, we should not keep others locked up who likely will not because we're afraid of the political consequences."
  • The Justice System Is Still Over Zealous Jill of the Feministe blog isn't thrilled about letting Huckabee off the hook, but says "Governors should be able to check an over-zealous justice system in situations like this one, where a minor was sentenced to a century behind bars for an offense that, as far as I can tell, included no physical harm to other people."
  • What About That Other Unfortunate Pardon? BarbinMD of Daily Kos isn't buying Huckabee's op-ed. "Way to go out on a limb, Mike. Now, any comment on Wayne Dumond?" he asks, referring to a convicted rapist who raped again after being granted clemency by Governor Huckabee.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.