An end o’ the week coup de grace for Huck from his archnemesis. Mitt does defend him, kinda sorta, by noting that Huck said he wouldn’t have commuted Clemmons’s sentence if he knew then what he knows now. But c’mon. Of course he wouldn’t have commuted it knowing that Clemmons would end up killing cops. The question is whether he was right to have commuted it at the time based on the facts available. Huck says yes; Mitt, based on the narrow clemency policy he lays out here, implicitly says no way. In fact, his emphasis on using guidelines so that he wasn’t “swung by, you know, personal impressions of people” is especially stinging given the perennial accusations that Huckabee was a sucker for religious appeals. Pretty harsh:
My conclusion was, if somebody has been convicted by a jury of their peers, and they’ve been prosecuted and the police were able to get the evidence necessary to put them behind bars, why in the world would I step in and reverse that sentence?
King asks the perfect follow-up question: If that’s the policy, why have pardon guidelines at all? Just rubber-stamp every jury sentence and be done with it. Romney’s answer is that you need executive discretion for cases of prosecutorial misconduct or exonerating evidence that comes to light later — but that’s really not true. Both of those issues can be, and often are, raised on appeal. Granted, the governor can move faster than an appellate court, but if Mitt’s willing to defer to the judicial process at the jury level, in theory he should be willing to defer to it all the way. If you believe the system works, let it work. The irony of Huckabee’s position is that he’s correct on the theory of executive clemency — i.e. it’s a check on the judiciary to remedy perceived miscarriages of justice — but he can’t quite accept that the executive is, or should be, checked himself by the potential backlash among voters if he abuses the clemency power. He handed out hundreds of pardons and commutations, then acts mystified when he’s blamed for helping scum like Clemmons go free. Too bad.
Update: Commenters remind me that if Huckabee’s gone too far with clemencies, Mitt may not have gone far enough.