Four Errors in the War Against Huckabee

Many conservatives have made a concerted effort to bury Mike Huckabee over his decision nine years ago to grant clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who became a cop killer and child rapist before being killed by police. Being a former Huck-basher turned Huck-backer, I watched the blog sniping of the past week with some sadness. My support of Huckabee isn’t exactly mainstream in the blogosphere. What I witnessed this past week was several people I respect making fools of themselves.

I see four errors made in the war on Huckabee:

1. The Rush to Judgment

Michelle Malkin wrote her first post on the killing before the bodies were even cold and got several facts wrong. The prosecutors did not object to the commutation. The only information Huckabee received was in favor of the commutation. As of this writing, Malkin has yet to correct her post. To rush into this with incomplete facts and never to bother to correct the record shows the kind of diligence we might expect from MSNBC.

While some are genuinely upset by the clemency, overall, the deaths of four police officers have taken a back seat to the desires of Huckabee’s political opponents to destroy his presidential chances in 2012. One would be hard-pressed to imagine any other former governor taking so much blame for having made a prisoner eligible for parole, the parole board then granting parole, a prosecutor's incompetence leading to him walking despite a parole violation, and two judges in another state letting Clemmons out on bail despite him facing eight felony charges including child rape. The four police officers’ deaths should not have been used as a political prop in an intramural feud.

2. The Strategic Bungle

Many bloggers cite this as a “Willie Horton” moment for Huckabee, comparing it to the issue that hurt the 1988 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis. One blogger who fears that a Huckabee nomination will be forced on the GOP if people don't become active has called this nonsense, saying, “Dukakis let Horton, a murderer sentenced to life without parole, out of prison for a weekend furlough. Horton never returned and months later committed another set of violent crimes.”

The political landscape has changed quite a bit since 1988. In 1992, Bill Clinton ran as a tough-on-crime Democrat and crime rates fell during the 1990s, which has led to less salience for the issue. In a January Pew survey, the issue of crime ranked 12th in importance among the general public.

Any ability this issue had to harm Huckabee is diminished by the decision to use this issue now. Had they let the issue lie dormant and not touched it, should Huckabee run in 2012, they could have brought this issue up for the first time at an opportune moment in the campaign. This was the lesson of the 2008 campaign, when embarrassing revelations about Obama’s ties to William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright came when Obama had plenty of time to recover and change the subject.

3. Dividing Conservatives

With opportunity knocking, and the right apparently hopelessly divided before the 2010 elections, the decision to gang up on a leading potential presidential candidate helped President Obama and the Democrats.

There's nothing like the smell of conservative fratricide in the morning.