Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Aw, Fuckabee

Last Sunday, four Seattle police officers were shot and killed allegedly by Maurice Clemmons, an ex-con who'd previously been locked up in Arkansas for aggravated robbery. In 2000, when Mike Huckabee was governor of Arkansas, he commuted Clemmons' 108-year prison sentence and set him free. Now, some are blaming Huckabee for the deaths of these Seattle cops, since Clemmons would still be in jail if Huckabee hadn't shown him mercy. It's a tricky situation for Huckabee. He's created a reputation for himself as the Rick Warren of politics, an evangelical Christian with a cuddly layer of kindness and understanding. He thinks evolution is bunk, and he's perfectly happy denying gay people their civil rights, but he'd rather talk these things out and crack a couple of jokes than scream them out and crack a couple of skulls. This conservative core with a thick coat of folksy charm has positioned Huckabee as a frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. (No, it won't be Sarah Palin. Despite all the attention she gets from the media, even the GOP leaders know she's crackers. Right now, it's a contest between Mitt Romney and Huckabee.) The problem here is that Republicans have really embraced the core values of cruel and unusual punishment over the years. There's nothing they'd rather do than torture a prisoner, and many of them see trying suspected terrorists in a Constitutional court of law as tantamount to high treason. Make no mistake about it: Huckabee was right to question Clemmons' 108-year sentence for committing a robbery when he was seventeen years old. But as Michael Dukakis' eyebrows can tell you, the GOP have a hard time distinguishing between mercy and softness on crime. Even worse, it looks like many of the 1,033 pardons or sentence reductions Huckabee granted while in office were granted for religious reasons. He either met the convicts in person or was sent letters telling him how they'd found Jesus. It would be interesting to see how many of those went on to commit more crimes once they were free. I suspect the percentage isn't anything significant. But it's tough to explain hard numbers when four cops have just been murdered. Huckabee says this isn't his fault so much as the fault of Arkansas' justice system, which never should have thrown a teenager in jail for 108 years in the first place. He may be right. But I have a feeling the Republican party may be a tough sell when it comes to being reasonable. More details here.