Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Huckabee impressive, unenduring

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee is way up there in the polls, pulling almost even with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the Republican presidential nomination, although Huckabee badly trails all potential Democratic nominees.

Even if Huckabee eventually drops out of the race for lack of money — not to mention more revelations about his record as governor — you still have to give him credit for mounting a credible race on a shoestring budget.

He’s done well in a series of Republican debates: Folks from around Hope make good candidates because they talk a good game. More Americans are watching the debates, where Huckabee has outclassed the competition. He’s turned the debates into free commercials for his underfunded campaign.

Even his critics in Arkansas are impressed with the success the smooth-talking preacher from Hope is enjoying, however briefly.

Huckabee’s won the support of evangelicals and working-class voters, who make up the bulk of his support.

He’s their protest candidate, while big money is betting on the more famous faces in the race.

Likely voters are also seeking out Web sites to learn more about the candidates, including Huckabee’s position on the issues, which keep changing with his rise in the polls and the site of his appearances.

He favored trade with Cuba when he was governor, but now he’s against it.

He wanted to quarantine AIDS patients, but not anymore. He’d said states should have their own abortion laws, but now he’s for a nationwide standard. He tolerated illegal immigrants in Arkansas, but now he’s against them.

Politicians flip-flop all the time, but voters are still trying to find out where he stood on the issues before the campaign, where he stands now and where he might end up if he becomes president.

People around the country are reading our past columns online about Huckabee and his record while governor: They’re just finding out about commutations of prison sentences, huge tax increases that surpassed even Bill Clinton’s years at the state Capitol, as well as ethical lapses such as turning the expense account for entertaining at the Governor’s Mansion into a family slush fund.

This is the man who hijacked the state police plane for personal use and wore it out in a few years. It had to be replaced because of all the mileage he’d put on the plane, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

By contrast, his successor uses it strictly for business, saving the state about $250,000 a year.

The record speaks for itself – he commuted the sentences of twice as many criminals as all of his predecessors of the last 30 years combined and several more times than all the governors in neighboring states while he was in office.

He did it because he thought he could get away with it.

It wasn’t until this newspaper put the spotlight on his record that Huckabee finally got out of the commutation business in the last year he was in office, with a push from the state Legislature, which passed the law that demands the governor give reasons for his commutations.

No more, “Because I want to.”

He didn’t bother to read the transcripts of trials, showed little sympathy for the victims and their families and had a forgiving attitude toward thugs, killers and rapists.

He thought rapist Wayne DuMond, whose freedom he arranged with the state parole board, had been framed.

DuMond was the psychopath who later raped and killed a couple of women in Missouri, where he died in prison from cancer of the vocal cords.

Huckabee’s run of clemencies and commutations finally ended with his recommending parole for a depraved murderer named Glen Green, who killed a woman from Little Rock Air Force Base in 1974.

Green’s case has received less attention in the national media, but it deserves more scrutiny because it was right after Huckabee said he would commute Green’s sentence that the state Legislature stepped in and passed a law making it more difficult for governors to free violent criminals.

Governors must now explain their reasons for a commutation, which Huckabee would never do.

So he stopped issuing commutations, but it was too late for at least two Missouri women who were assaulted and murdered. Or does Huckabee think DuMond had nothing to do with either of those crimes?