Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s Presidential ambitions likely have been terminated with extreme prejudice after one of the many Arkansas convicts he pardoned murdered four police officers in Lakewood, Washington, a suburb of Tacoma. Maurice Clemmons subsequently was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer after an exttensive manhunt.
In the wake of the Lakewood massacre, the State of Washington has announced it will no longer accept parolees from Arkansas. Officially, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said that the state of Arkansas improperly handled the issuance of an arrest warrant that should have kept Clemmons in jail in Washington before his being sent back to the Razorback State. Without the Arkansas warrant, Pierce County, Washington police had to release him.
The unofficial reason is likely Arkasnas’ reputation for the indiscriminate pardoning of criminals, regardless of the truth about whether they had been rehabilitated or not. Arkansas’ medieval justice system, in which a teenager can receive a sentence of a century for burglaries, is matched by the profligate pardoning powers of its governors. No one has done more to besmirch the reputation of Arkansas’ prison system than has Mike Huckabee, who vies with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for top honors in polls of the likely 2012 GOP Presidential nominee.
Huckabee leads Palin and all other potential GOP candidates in Iowa, which is the site of the first Presidential contest of the nominating season.
Maurice Clemmons was pardoned by Governor Huckabee in 2000 on the recommendation of a minister, who told the then-Arkansas Govenor that the prisoner had found religion while in jail. Convicted of multiple felonies, Clemmons was serving a 108-year-long prison sentence. Huckabee is an evangelical Christian who has made great political capital out of playing the “Christ Card” from his political deck and whose history of pardons and clemency indicates a god complex. His cupidity is masked by a “just plain folks”/”aw shucks” persona.
During the 2008 contest for the Republican Presidential nomination, Mike Huckabee was criticized for his liberal prisoner pardon policy. At the time, Huckabee’s “Willie Horton moment” revolved around his having successfully lobbied the Arkansas prison parole board for the release of convicted rapist Wayne Dumond. Huckabee maintained that Dumond was a political prisoner, put in jail due to the spite of his penultimate predecessor in the governor’s mansion in Little Rock, Bill Clinton. Dumond’s victim was the daughter of a “Friend of Bill.”
Wayne Dumond was paroled in 1999. After moving to Missouri, Dumond was arrested on charges that he had commited rape and murder. Subsequently, he died in prison awaiting trial.
“Willie Horton Moment”
A “Willie Horton moment” refers to a major campaign issue that developed during the 1988 Presidential contest. Then-Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis was criticized for being soft on crime by then-Senator Al Gore, who was running against Dukakis for the Democratic Presidential nomination. The African American prisoner Willie Horton had been granted a weekened furlough by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, during which he commited a brutal rape and a murder in Maryland.
Willie Horton became an even bigger issue during the 1988 Presidential election, when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush blamed Dukakis, who had won the Democratic nomination, for Horton’s release and, by implication, rape and murder. Attack ads featuring the African American Horton’s mug shot were run on TV by the Bush campaign.
Michael Dukakis has blamed the Horton incident, which was masterfully exploited by Bush’s political operatives in a precursor to the “Swift-boating” of 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry by Bush’s son George W. Bush, for his loss of the Presidency.
The reason that Mike Huckabee is so vulnerable on the Maurice Clemmons Pardon, as he was on the Wayne Dumond parole, was that both sordid affairs elucidate Huckabee’s lack of judgment. This serious character flaw later was underscored when the former Razorback governor made a racist remark at the National Rifle Association convention, a faux pas that might have cost him a Vice Presidential nod from GOP nominee John McCain.
Might Not Run
The Maurice Clemmons debacle might help Mike Huckabee decide to abandon his Presidential ambitions. Appearing on Fox News on Sunday, November 29th, before news of the Lakewood massacre and his role in it hit the air waves, Huckabee had told Chris Wallace that it was “less likely than more likely” that he’d throw his hat in the ring for the 2012 nomination.
His high standings in recent polls did not necessarily translate into financial support, which is the most critical factor in a Presidential run, Huckabee intimated to Wallace.
“There’s a whole different deal of saying some folks take a poll and whether there’s the financial support,” he said.
Huckabee told Wallace that the results of the 2010 Congressional elections also will be a factor in whether he decides to run again for President. His decision to run would depend on whether he believed he could get the Republican Party to rally behind him, as taking on incumbent President Barack Obama will be a tough fight.
Huckabee’s Statement on Clemmons
After news of the slayings of four police officers by Maurice Clemmons broke on the very same day that Mike Huckabee was talking to Chris Wallace about his Presidential ambitions, the link between Clemmons and Huckabee was made in the press.
In 1989, when he was 17 years old, Maurice Clemmons was convicted of aggravated robbery and theft and sentenced to 95 years in prison. Eight years were later added to his sentence. In 2000, then-Governor Mike Huckabee mentioned the fact that Clemmons was a minor when he was sentenced to the unbelievable jail term approaching the century mark.
The supposedly “born-again” Maurice Clemmons received clemency from Governor Huckabee, who commuted his sentence and allowed him to be paroled.
In a statement on the Clemmons commutation and the Lakewood police massacre made on his radio show carried by the Fox network, Mike Huckabee specifically avoided taking any blame. He cited the failure of both Arkansas and the state of Washington to put and keep Clemmons — whom Huckabee admitted was likely psychotic — in jail, and avoided mentioning the fact that it was he, Mike Huckabee, who had commuted Clemmons’ sentence.
The upshot of the Lakewood massacre is that nearly a decade after being paroled from an Arkansas prison, Maurice Clemmons not only snuffed out the lives of four Washington State police officers, he likely terminated Mike Huckabee’s chances of ever taking up residence in the Oval Office in Washington, D.C.
Associated Press: “Huckabee Granted Clemency To Maurice Clemmons, Person Of Interest, In Ambush That Killed 4 Cops”
Fox News: “Washington Stops Taking Parolees From Arkansas After Shootings”
The Hill: ‘Huckabee leaning against 2012 bid”
Seattle Times: “Lakewood police shooting suspect killed by officer in South Seattle early today”
The Tolbert Report: Statement from Huckabee on Maurice Clemmons