osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Mike Huckabee and Jon Stewart Are Right

In this clip, Stewart explores Huckabee's decision to grant clemency to Maurice Clemmens. Huckabee defends his decision by saying he made the best decision he could with the information at the time, and that he could have chosen to never grant clemency as the safer move -- but that would result in harsh punishment for those who deserve clemency (one should recall that former President George Bush was criticized for his parsimonious use of clemency and pardon power as both governor of TX and President). Stewart offers that too many on the left seize the opportunity for payback and ignore the consequences. Both are right, in my opinion.

I know some have seized on Huckabee's reliance on the recommendations of Christian ministers as a factor in his clemency decisions. It is certainly a legitimate criticism of Huckabee if, in fact, he was unduly swayed by sympathy for co-religionists or if he exercised harsher judgment against those in similar circumstances who had not been born again. Huckabee's record, however, appears to support the claim that he generally considered the operation of the justice system in Arkansas too harsh and that he used his prerogative as governor to reduce sentences to match circumstances in cases that did not involve acts of religious contrition.

In the interview, Huckabee lays out factors that influenced him and why he would make the same decision again: the youth of the offender, the apparent undue harshness of the sentence in light of the actual offense, and the fact that he was reducing the sentence to what he considered appropriate for the offense not pardoning the offense. If Huckabee let his sympathy for an apparently repentant Christian tip the scales, it appears to have been only one element in a list of factors that he applied consistently in other cases.

For a system to work, we must accept that sometimes predictions about the future will be wrong, sometimes tragically so. Huckabee was not responsible for the Willy Horton ads. He made what appears to have been a reasonable decision, and has the courage to defend it. Jon Stewart is equally right to observe why progressives should resist the urge to let schadenfreude get the better of us.

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