U.S. News & World Report columnist John Aloysius Farrell says Mike Huckabee's presidential aspirations aren't necessarily doomed in the wake of the Maurice Clemmons controversy.
Clemmons was shot by Seattle police on Tuesday after they pursued him for two days. He was wanted for allegedly shooting four police officers at a Tacoma, Wash., coffee shop.
In 2000, when Huckabee was governor of Arkansas, he granted Clemmons clemency. Clemmons had been serving a 108-year prison sentence, but Huckabee's decision made him eligible for parole. Clemmons eventually was paroled by the state.
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In his column, Farrell says "the GOP electorate would only be hurting itself" if it rejected Huckabee as a presidential candidate simply because of the Clemmons controversy, as Republican adviser Mark McKinnon has stated.
"Putting aside what happened in Tacoma, it is hard to argue that Huckabee did the wrong thing," writes Farrell. "At the age of 16, in 1989, Clemmons had been sentenced in Arkansas to 108 years for burglary and robbery without a weapon. Silly Mike Huckabee thought that an upper-class white kid might have gotten a different sentence for that particular crime. And so, after Clemmons had served 11 years in prison, Huckabee commuted the sentence so that the convict might have an opportunity to persuade a parole board that he deserved a second chance.
"The parole board agreed. But by now Clemmons had grown to manhood in the gentle precincts of a state prison system. He was charged with further crimes, and bureaucratic stumbling allowed him to remain at large — until Tacoma.
"There are reasons why I would not vote for Mike Huckabee to be president. He would have to reassure me that the same religious faith that expressed itself so admirably in his mercy would not, on other issues, lead him to mix God with State. He apparently believes, for example, that Genesis should be taught along with Darwin in public school biology class. But neither would I lose sleep at night if Huckabee were elected. I don't believe we should 'stick a fork in him.'"
Farrell also defends Huckabee for actually practicing Christian values, rather than simply mouthing the words that voters want to hear.
"Liberals generally prefer the 'blessed be' to the 'thou shalt not,' but that is not a cast iron rule," he writes. "I believe I've seen studies that show that conservatives do more church-organized charity work in their leisure time. And then there are guys like Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister and former governor of Arkansas who, on a shoestring budget, put a scare into John McCain and the other GOP presidential contenders last time out.
"As governor of Arkansas, Huckabee displayed Christian values, like courage, faith and mercy, which politicians like to talk about, but not so many practice. Far more than his Democratic predecessors (one of whom was Bill Clinton), Huckabee used his powers to pardon or commute the sentences of Arkansas prisoners. He tried to see Christ in everyone, even those in jail; I think I remember being told to do that, from time to time, in church on Sundays."
For his part, Huckabee has defended his decision.
"You're looking at this nine years later and trying to make something as if I can look into the future," Huckabee told CNN. "I wish I could have. Good Lord, I wish I had that power. I wish I could have done that. But I don't know how anyone can do it."
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