Absolute moral authority?

A Missouri mother says she will do “whatever it takes” to stop former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee from becoming president, because he freed the man who went on to rape and murder her daughter, Carol Sue Shields (pictured).

“I can’t imagine anybody wanting somebody like that running the country,” Lois Davidson of Adrian, Mo., told the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

Wayne Dumond was initially sentenced to life plus 25 years for raping a 17-year-old Arkansas high school cheerleader. In 1999, a parole board voted to free Dumond, after then-Gov. Mike Huckabee announced his desire to see him released.

If you’re not up to speed on the Dumond saga, get there because the rest of the field’s going to start flogging it. In much the same way that he conveniently omits the meager three-year residency requirement for the illegal alien tuition breaks he sponsored, Huck is quick to emphasize that he never took any official action to pardon Dumond or commute his sentence. Which is true, according to this Byron York piece from October, but also fails to mention that Huck did lobby the parole board on Dumond’s behalf. Why? Partly because he doubted the guy’s guilt; read York’s account to see why. But there’s more to it than that:

Critics, and some friends, too, say Huckabee’s position was deeply influenced by his Christian faith. “When I first met him, I was going through his positions on issues and I said, ‘You’re a conservative, so I’m sure you oppose granting parole for violent felons,’” says Dick Morris, the campaign consultant who ran Huckabee’s first run for lieutenant governor. “And he said, ‘Oh no, I would never take that position, because the concept of Christian duty requires that there is a possibility of forgiveness. The concept of Christian forgiveness requires that we keep open the process of parole — use it sparingly, but keep it open.’”

When I ask Huckabee about that, he reminds me that he was tough on a lot of criminals, too. “Heck, I executed more people than any governor in the history of the state,” Huckabee tells me. “It’s not something I’m bragging about, I’m just saying that if it had been simply a matter of my Christian conscience saying I don’t believe in capital punishment, then I was pretty lousy in my conscience.” Watching him speak, it’s clear Huckabee feels deeply about the issue. If he continues to rise in the polls, it’s likely he’ll be talking about it a lot more.

What makes Huckabee such a fascinating character is that he so often seems to pit two traditionally conservative values against each other: Christianity on the one hand and law and order on the other. It’s the same with his immigration position, where he wants (or so he says) to get control of the border while also happily encouraging illegals to immigrate with the prospect of scholarships or tuition breaks. He hasn’t cited any faith rationales for his stance on Gitmo but you can imagine that taking shape pretty easily. Exit question: How far is too far? Using Christianity as a shield for some of his more liberal positions may help in a pinch but there’s a segment of the base that already has qualms about the explicitness with which he’s touting his religion as a political asset. If he’s pushed on Dumond and invokes the spirit of mercy as justification, is it going to spook even mainstream conservatives?

Update: Let me reemphasize, since people aren’t reading the blockquote carefully, that Huck did not base his lobbying for Dumond on Christian mercy. That was a generalized statement he allegedly made to Dick Morris. He lobbied for Dumond because he questioned his guilt.

Update: Hmmm.