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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

June 21, 2010 at 2:17 PM

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Huckabee again defends Clemmons pardon, but acknowledges political cost

Posted by Jim Brunner

The New Yorker has a lengthy new profile of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, focusing on whether he could be a Republican contender for president in 2012.

The 8,000-word piece, "Prodigal Son," talks about Huckabee's appeal as a jovial Christian conservative -- a guy who manages to seem like the least-angry host on Fox News, even if he fits right in with hollerers like Bill O'Reilly on the issues.

It touches on one obstacle for Huckabee that will be painfully familiar to local readers: his 2000 pardon of Maurice Clemmons, who went on to kill four Lakewood police officers last year.

As he has before, Huckabee defends his decision to the New Yorker, saying Clemmons' prison sentence was unjust given what he knew at the time.

But Huckabee also acknowledges the way the decision could be used against him by political opponents.

From the article:

In Arkansas, Huckabee commuted the sentence of Maurice Clemmons, who went on to shoot four police officers in Washington last year. Given the same information he had then, Huckabee says, he would make the same decision. "When I looked at his case, I looked at a twenty-seven-year-old put away for a non-weapon burglary and an aggravated robbery. He had a sentence of a hundred and eight years," Huckabee said. "People had murdered and gone to prison sentenced to less time than he had served; it made no sense. He was black, he was poor, he had a lousy defense attorney. It was a classic example of what can happen and the reason you empower governors to have clemency." It's a decision that would make a perfect weapon for his competitors in a Republican primary. "But do we really want people who only make decisions in their political lives that are in their own best interest?" he asked. "Frankly, I'm afraid that we might. The truth is, it could be the kind of thing that would keep me from ever being able to run."

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