EDITORIALS>>Huckster in hot seat
When the moderator of ďMeet the PressĒ asked Mike Huckabee Sunday if he and Bill Clinton, the other man from Hope, were similar, the freshest Republican presidential candidate said they shared the experience of rising from humble roots to achieve the American dream. But he said they had different philosophies and politics.
One of those differences was manifest on the show, where Huckabee announced that he was running for the office that the other Hope product filled for eight years. The difference is humility. Clinton had it, Huckabee doesnít. Humility produces candor, a willingness, even eagerness, to acknowledge oneís shortcomings and mistakes.
It is an important difference that Huckabee needs to learn because if the country is looking for one thing as it assays all the candidates for president it is honesty. People yearn to be told the naked truth, a commodity in woefully short supply the past six years, and they want to trust their leaders again. Whoever people divine to be the truth tellers will be nominees for president in 2008.
Many will remember Bill Clinton returning from defeat in 1982, regretting his liberal commutations of criminals who turned violent upon their release, apologizing for raising automobile license fees and for just not listening to people well. And they may remember his sorrow since then, for not intervening to stop the genocide in Rwanda, for mishandling the health-care initiative in 1994, for the harm he did to his family and the country in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. His autobiography, ďMy Life,Ē is full of regrets for slights to friends and supporters and for misjudged opportunities in domestic and world affairs.
You wonít hear any such lamentations from Mike Huckabee. He made no mistakes. He was not a workmanlike governor but a truly heroic one, compared with whom all other governors in Arkansas were pikers.
Tim Russert, the NBC interviewer, asked Huckabee about arranging the release of the rapist Wayne Dumond, who then went on to kill a woman in Missouri (he was the suspect in another womanís murder). Although Huckabee is the man who moved the state parole board to turn Dumond loose to go to Missouri, Huckabee blamed the release on his predecessor, Jim Guy Tucker, and by implication Bill Clinton. Tucker indeed had commuted Dumondís sentence but had not set him free. To even hint that Clinton had anything to do with Dumondís release was venomous.
Remember that Dumondís rape victim was a distant relative of Clinton, which aroused the national right-wing crusade to free him. The theory was that an angry Clinton had conspired to railroad an innocent man. Clinton and Tucker were mortal foes, and the anti-Clinton crusade to free Dumond may have moved Tucker to commute the sentence. It certainly did Huckabee.
Russert asked Huckabee if he had talked to the parole board about Dumond at the famous secret meeting. Huckabee said no, that they had met but not about Dumond. He simply wanted to get to know the members. You didnít talk about Dumond? Russert asked. He obviously had an Arkansas Times article detailing the meeting that led to Dumondís release.
A disarmed Huckabee corrected himself. Yes, actually they did talk about Dumond, he said, but the board brought it up and asked what he thought. And he told them it might be time to look at the case, Huckabee said. Parole board members said the governor asked for the meeting, brought up Dumondís parole and favored his release. Why could he not acknowledge his misjudgment and express his sorrow as so many imperfect men have done? Viewers would have been impressed.