Huckabee Begs a Pardon


I think Jeralyn Merritt gets the Huckabee pardon/clemency issue about right.

We do need a serious debate in this country about the use of the pardon power and executive clemency. It isn't used nearly often enough, and when it is, it's usually used for the wrong reasons. That is, it's generally used for political patronage, or to show mercy or redemption for people who are guilty, but who have shown they're rehabilitated. It's rarely used for the reason the founders granted it to the president (and ostensibly, why state constitutions grant it to governors): as a check on wrongful convictions and unjust applications of the law that may have fallen through the criminal justice system. There are some governors in this country who have never issued a pardon, and have publicly said they have no plans to. President Bush has been particularly stingy with the pardon. This from a guy who seems pretty eager to exercise all manner of other presidential powers.

As Alexander Hamilton (by no means a limited government guy) explained in Federalist No. 74, justifying the pardon power: "The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel."

Unfortunately, the only time use of the pardon or clemency power enters the presidential debate is on those rare occasions when a candidate screwed up, and showed mercy to someone who went on to commit a serious crime (in Huckabee's case, he seems to have exerted behind-the-scenes influence to help win a sentence commutation for Wayne DuMond, who committed a rape and murder after his release), or when a candidate gets caught pardoning a crony.

Huckabee deserves some scorn for using his powers for political patronage, as well as for pardoning or commuting the sentences of people who may not have deserved it, but were lucky enough to have a personal connection to him. His obfuscation about his role in the DuMond case is also regrettable.

But generally speaking, a governor's wise but copious use of pardon and clemency powers deserves praise, not scorn. Huckabee's frequent commutation of cruelly long drug sentences is particularly admirable, given the law-and-order proclivities of his party. It's typical, cynical politics that a power designed to be a check on injustice and imprisoning the innocent usually only makes the news when something goes wrong (like DuMond), or when it's used to free suspects or convicts fortunate enough to walk in powerful circles (see Scooter Libby, or Marc Rich).


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  1. Has anyone else noticed that Huckabes #s were in the toilet until he got the Chuck Noris endorsement, now it looks like he might win Iowa.

  2. I think the critical factor in the Dumond matter is that Huckabee got his sentence commuted as a personal slight against the Clinton family, and did so at the behest of the anti-Clinton conservative Arkansas establishment.

    If Huckabee was just a kindhearted governor who pardoned one too many guys, I would be more forgiving. I’m less forgiving of someone who set a rapist and murderer upon the world as a political joke.

  3. Another problem with the Dumond case is that Huckabee didn’t pardon or commute his sentence, but rather put pressure on the parole board to grant him parole. That way, if something went wrong, he could claim (that is, lie) that the process had nothing to do with him, as he was doing a few months ago.

  4. I guess am “fortunate” enough to live in a state where the typical Republican will never beat out a Democrat in the general election. Of course the democrats are awful too, but it allows me to vote 3rd party in general elections and never worry about the christian zealots actually winning in the state and getting all the electoral votes. If I was in a swing state and Huckabee was actually the GOP nominee I’d be really tempted to vote for the Democrat because the guy actually scares me. Thankfully I won’t have to.

  5. My favorite GOP governor is Charlie Crist of Florida who was willing to pardon Richard Paey. His predecessor did nothing. His predecessor was Jeb Bush.

  6. Another name for one-sided justice is tyranny. As we saw in the Scooter Libby case, the presidential pardon can be used to support abuse of power.

    One way to curb abuse is to amend the Constitution so that presidential pardons must be approved by Congressional review.

  7. Wasn’t part of the Dumond deal that he found Christ? If so, that puts the nail into the coffin in me only possibly voting for him if he goes against Hillary. You find Christ so that you’re forgiven in heaven, not Arkansas. You’d think Huckabee would know the difference…but he suuuure can talk a good Jesus.

  8. Joe S,

    I’d be really reluctant to see the baby thrown out with the bathwater here. If it appears that a president is abusing his pardon power, Congress has the power to impeach, convict, and remove him.

    TBH I’m really not that pissed about the Libby commutation — his prosecution really was a complete sham. If anything, the fault with Bush’s pardoning decisions has been that he hasn’t pardoned anyone else who’s the victim of a sham prosecution. Making it even harder to pardon people won’t solve that problem.

  9. And yet he lets the WM3 rot in prison and Damien Echols is still on death row.

    Too bad Damien isn’t connected to one of Mike’s friends.

  10. Wasn’t part of the Dumond deal that he found Christ?

    Well, a big part of it was that Huckabee thought Dumond might actually be innocent. This despite pretty much everyone familiar with the case, save the religious and anti-Clinton nutjobs, being pretty well convinced of his guilt. That includes the numerous women he assaulted for whom he wasn’t charged (for various reasons). And this is despite the fact that those women wrote the Huckabee letters telling him that much. Hell, he basically sat there and called Ashley Stevens a liar to her face. And despite the fact that Dumond has actually participated in the murder of another man years before, for which Dumond pled out.

    Huckabee was either duped by people like Jay Cole and the rest of the keepers of the Clinton fever swamp, or he was on their side. Either way, two women are dead because of it.

  11. He’s on Fox now and I am about to throw up.

  12. That way, if something went wrong, he could claim (that is, lie) that the process had nothing to do with him, as he was doing a few months ago.

    He just did on Fox.

    crimethink– Are you Huckabee?

  13. Which blogger here was the one who wrote back in the summer, “Just you wait and see, it’ll be Huckabee”?

  14. Which blogger here was the one who wrote back in the summer, “Just you wait and see, it’ll be Huckabee”?

    It was Brian Doherty with a post here under the headline It’ll Be Huckabee, You Wait and See! which linked to a Jim Henley blog post making that prediction.

  15. Question: Which is easier (in light of the events of the past 7 years), should libertarians shift to the democratic party and try to change it, or should they stay put with the republicans and try to change them? Or should stay put with the (limping) LP?

    I am thinking the democratic party. All one needs to change a liberal is to convince him/her that government can possibly be capable of doing anything (e.g., health care, etc). I think that is easier to do than trying to convince modern-day republicans to change their means. Case in point? This Huckabee fiasco!

  16. “Say! Was you ever stung by a bee?”

    “Why, yes! Yes, I was – a Huckabee.”

    Huck Sucks – as in Hucky suck.

  17. “pardon me” for posting this again.

    The Hucksterbee phenomenon

  18. paulie– you are commuted this time (and next time and last time– as many times as you want) because that is a very funny video indeed.

  19. If he wins I might have to drink more booze than ol’ Jackie has there to forget about it.

  20. In a May WaPo interview, Huckabee came off sounding similarly compassionate and reasonable about illegal immigration. Less than a year later, the tune has changed.

  21. Huckabee: If You Don’t Give, I’ll Tax it Out of You

    Huckabee Rhetoric: Destroying Government Documents is Anti-American
    Huckabee Record: When leaving office, Huckabee destroyed 83 hard drives and four servers in four locations

    Huckabee Hides His Full Gospel?

  22. I think Huckabee might be the worst on the GOP side. There’s just something about a politician cracking a little smile and semi-preaching an anecdote that makes my skin crawl.

    He’s got the personality to win, and the ideology to rule with the iron fist of big government. Barring Dr. Paul’s eventual nomination, at least there’s a few pluses we can take from Giuliani, Romney, etc.

    Huckabee is dangerous, mark my words…

  23. Won’t Huckabee have the same problem as Hillary? Huge positives among those who like him, but huge, huge negatives amongst everyone else (like anyone who doesn’t want Jimmy Swaggart as president)?

  24. Episiarch,

    Speaking for my people, I don’t think Huckabee inspires hatred among his opponents. Liberals don’t hate Huckabee the way they hate Bush, or the way conservatives hate Clinton, or the way libertarians hate everyone but Ron Paul.

  25. That may be true now, joe, but if Huck becomes the nominee, give him a few months of shooting his God-fearing mouth off and get back to me. I think the hate might rise.

    Hopefully we won’t have to find out.

  26. Huckabee talks about religion and its role in politics differently from your standard Christian right wingnut, Episiarch, so I don’t know.

    BTW, I know what an episiotomy is, and I know what -archy means. Is that what you were going for with your handle?

  27. joe – follow the Wiki link in his handle.

  28. BTW, I know what an episiotomy is, and I know what -archy means. Is that what you were going for with your handle?

    Hah, good one, but I’m not an OBGYN like Ron Paul. Follow the link in the name if you are actually curious.

  29. Of course the Dems will hate Huckabee as much as they hate Bush … just add time.

  30. Got it, thanks.

    OB/GYN. I’ll tell you, Ron Paul has a fantastic resume. The way he went back to his practice after losing an election – rather than to some cushy wingnut welfare job on K Street or in the government – and stayed there for years before running again is the sort of thing a normal person who hasn’t been trying to be president since he was 8 would do.

    Somebody mentioned personality on another thread, and I think political geeks like us overlook that. Most voters don’t have a hardened, cohestive ideology the way we do. They vote for the candidate who seems like a good person.

  31. x,y,

    The Democrats already loathed Bush at this point in the 2000 election cycle. We could not believe it when the GOPers annointed that spoiled dimwit over John McCain.

  32. Episiarch – OT, I don’t know if you saw it, but I wrote about I Am Legend here.

    Do you know anything about the Spanish movie that came out in ’67? I tried to Google it, but Googling “Soy Leyende” just brings up a bunch of Spanish language sites for the new movie.

  33. At this point, I’m not sure a McCain presidency would have been any better than a Bush presidency. McCain’s always grated me a way the other candidates didn’t and a lot of that stems from his self-righteous BS masquerading as straight talk.

    I think it’s less important when the Dems started hating Bush. Any two-term president is going to get crucified by the opposite party. Happened with Slick Willy; happened with Shrub … will happen to Hillary, Obama, Giuliani, Huckabee, et al. if it comes to that.

  34. x,y,

    I can buy that, about the two-term president. I was thinking about the campaign.

    Shrub and Slick were loathed during the campaign, before they ever got into office.

  35. BP, nice review considering you haven’t seen it :-0

    That being said, I agree with everything you said. Matheson is the shiznit and Smith is the shiznot.

    I have not been able to ever get my hands on Soy leyenda, though I was able to see Last Man on Earth years ago. And I can get access to most stuff, so it’s pretty rare. That probably means it also sucks.

    Arnold was supposed to do I Am Legend in the 90’s, but it fell through. That would have been better than Smith, even if it sucked. At least Arnold has charisma (or used to).

  36. Episiarch – I reviewed “Who’s Your Caddy” without seeing it a couple weeks ago. Really, though, who needs to see that? While I’m generally skeptical of group think, it was at the bottom of the imdb “bottom 100”. An impressive achievement, considering some of the shit that’s on that list.

    I would have been happy with Ahnold in Legend. Anyone but Smith or Cruise. I felt the same way about I, Robot & Minority Report – I got excited that they were going to make the movies, only to be saddened when I heard who was going to star in it.

    If you ever go to Walmart, check their $1 DVDs. I saw a copy of Last Man on Earth there once (and like a dumbass, didn’t get it). Netflix has it, though.

  37. Last Man on Earth on the web…Enjoy!

  38. Huckabee tried to defuse this issue by pardoning Keith Richards for reckless driving in the 70s. That’s failing to take the job seriously, in my book. Keith Richards, I love the man, but if he wasn’t driving recklessly, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Huckabee likes to brag about this pardon, and he sounds creepy when he does it.

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