Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mike Huckabee's Costly Mistakes

The tragic and preventable murder of four police officers in Takoma Washington has given us a chilling glimpse of Mike Huckabee's thinking on repentance, rehabilitation and the difference between the two. It is troubling to note the lack of acceptance of personal responsibility in Mike Huckabee's prepared statement which read as follows.

“The senseless and savage execution of police officers in Washington State has saddened the nation, and early reports indicate that a person of interest is a repeat offender who once lived in Arkansas and was wanted on outstanding warrants here and Washington State.

The murder of any individual is a profound tragedy, but the murder of a police officer is the worst of all murders in that it is an assault on every citizen and the laws we live within. Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State.

He was recommended for and received a commutation of his original sentence from 1990. This commutation making him parole eligible and was paroled by the parole board once they determined he met the conditions at that time. He was arrested later for parole violation and taken back to prison to serve his full term, but prosecutors dropped the charges that would have held him."

It appears that he has continued to have a string of criminal and psychotic behavior but was not kept incarcerated by either state.This is a horrible and tragic event and if found and convicted the offender should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Our thoughts and prayers are and should be with the families of those honorable, brave, and heroic police officers.”

If it were not for Mike Huckabee's grant of clemency to Maurice Clemmons, four police officers would be alive today. All of the subsequent failures of the criminal justice system followed Huckabee's act of clemency which reduced a 95 year prison sentence to 11 years. There is a total denial of this fact that permeates Huckabee's icy and cowardly statement.

If the Clemmons release were an isolated occurrence, it would be bad enough. But it is part of a pattern of gubernatorial leniency in which Huckabee interpreted the concept of "Christian forgiveness " in a manner that ran roughshod over the feelings of victims and the safety of the public. US News and World Report details as follows a case that sheds light on Huckabee's thinking and cavalier attitude towards public safety and victim's rights.

" The real engine behind [convicted Arkansas rapist Wayne] Dumond's release, however, was a Baptist minister and ultra-conservative ideologue named Jay Cole, who also happened to be a friend of Huckabee. Cole would tell the governor about his visits with the supposedly innocent Dumond, when the minister and the prisoner would read the Bible and pray together.

Perhaps the worst instance of that same syndrome, chronicled in detail by Arkansas journalists, concerned an Air Force sergeant named Glen Green, who was sentenced to prison for life after confessing that he had raped and killed a teenage girl. After beating the woman with nunchucks, he violated her almost lifeless body, ran over her with his car and buried her in a swamp. But yet another preacher friend of Huckabee's named Rev. Johnny Jackson somehow persuaded the governor that this incredibly brutal killing had been an "accident"—and that Green had repented, come to Jesus and therefore should be freed.

Two years ago, I noted that Huckabee knew almost nothing about the Green case beyond what his preacher pal had told him. He consulted neither the prosecutor nor the victim's family, and overruled the dissent of his own parole board. After he announced that Green would be released, the furious public reaction forced him to reverse the decision. Yet he continued to release murderers and other violent criminals despite angry dissent from local prosecutors."

The US News and World Report account of Wayne Dumond's release shows a man who is blinded by ideology and prone to emotional appeal. His failure to check the facts of the case or get any independent corroboration of Wayne Dumond and his minister's appeals for clemency show a sloppiness in his decision making processes. His avoidance of responsibility in the current case shows that he does not feel impelled to learn from his mistakes.

The idea that sins can be forgiven is basic not only to Christianity but to Judaism as well. But forgiveness should not be confused with clemency and leniency. Although death penaly impositions were a rarity in Jewish law when a Sanhedrin was empowered to impose it, the underlying concept was that a person could pay their debt to G-d and man and then enter the next world with their sins forgiven. The impsition of a death penalty was a means of expiation rather than a denial of forgiveness. A family could not grant release to a murderer. Ultimately, the live of a murder victim was on loan from G-d and not theirs to forgive.

Forgiveness is all too often confused with absolution of personal responsibility. It is a rare murderer indeed who professes to have found G-d and as a result withdraws his requests for release from prison.

The incoherent theology of "forgiveness" that confuses it with absolution from personal responsibility has, we see a concrete cost in human life. If Mike Huckabee wants to make a meaningful contribution to public discourse, he should admit this and allow such a humbling realisation to guide the remainder of his hopefully truncated political career.

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