Clemmons killed, but political angle lingers

CLEMMONS KILLED, BUT POLITICAL ANGLE LINGERS…. Maurice Clemmons, believed to be responsible for shooting four police officers in Tacoma, Wash., on Sunday, was reportedly shot and killed this morning exchanging gunfire* with police in a 2 a.m. confrontation.

Given the apparent danger Clemmons posed to the community, Seattle-area residents are no doubt relieved that the search for the gunman appears to be over.

As for the political world, the significance of the story may linger a while.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), by most measures a leading contender for the 2012 Republican nomination, granted clemency to Clemmons nine years ago, despite his sentence of more than 100 years. Obviously, Huckabee had no way of knowing what Clemmons would do in the future, but given the former governor’s “long-contentious record of pardoning convicts or commuting their sentences,” it’s the kind of story that may end his second presidential campaign before it begins.

In a decade as governor beginning in 1996, Mr. Huckabee did so twice as many times as his three predecessors combined. He typically gave little explanation for individual pardons. But he spoke often of his belief in redemption, based on a strong religious belief that even criminals are capable of changing their lives and often deserve a second chance. […]

In most cases, he followed the recommendation of the parole board, but in several cases he overrode the objections of prosecutors, judges and victims’ families. And in several, he followed recommendations for clemency from Baptist preachers who had been longtime supporters.

Prosecutors told him he was ignoring his responsibility to explain to citizens why he was setting free convicted murderers and rapists. His response, some of them say, was to blame others and strike out against his critics — an off-note from a man they consider a gifted politician.

If this sounds at all familiar, Mitt Romney went after Huckabee shortly before the Iowa caucuses, pointing to clemency for Wayne DuMond.

In December 2007, the AP had an item on Huckabee’s record. “It seems to be true at least anecdotally that if a minister is involved, (Huckabee) seems likely to grant clemency,” prosecutor Robert Herzfeld said in 2004 after successfully battling the then-governor over the release of a killer.

Joe Conason and Justin Elliott have more on the story, all of which paints Huckabee in a very negative light.

* Update: Initial reports referenced exchanged gunfire, but subsequent information indicates that Clemmons was armed, but did not return fire this morning.