Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An Arkansan Looks at Huckabee

I guess I'm an Arkansan. Been here purtneer 18 years, the longest I've lived anywhere 'cept Rhode Island, and the first 6 to 8 of those 22 I don't remember much of. I came to Arkansas in 1991; Huckabee made his first run for state-wide office in 1992, a senatorial race that he lost. So I've sort of watched all his political career.

I'm going to look at a few issues that seem to be hot in the campaign right now.

1. The Wayne DuMond parole.

Much has been misreported about this. I heard about this case almost from the moment I drove across the Tennessee border. Many people in the State thought DuMond was falsely convicted, possibly because the woman he raped first was a distant relative of Bill Clinton. Before he was convicted, in fact right after he was arrested in a rural county, some of the deputies castrated him (not, as was incorrectly stated by Dick Morris on FNC last night by other prisoners), and his testicles were placed in a jar on the sheriff's desk that the sheriff proudly showed to all visitors. This generated some sympathy for DuMond, and I believe there was popular sentiment in the state that he should be paroled when his time came up. The parole board was all Democratic, installed by other governors. I do remember that Huckabee seemed to push some for this parole (not pardon or commutation as has been erroneously reported). He has accepted responsibility for this and expressed regret.

2. Governor in a Democratic state.

Arkansas was, and still is, heavily dominated by the Democratic Party at the local level, especially in the legislature. Some Republicans can be elected to state-wide offices, but few at the local level. Huckabee had a legislature that was 80 percent D. Why some of those are fairly conservative as Democrats go, still they would oppose most initiatives of the R governor. That Huckabee was able to get anything he wanted done is a testament to his ability to work with people. On occasion he may have compromised too quickly, and given too much. But R & D alike will, by a good margin, say he did a good job as governor. It is that ability that has propelled him this far.

3. Other pardons/paroles/commutations.

I'm surprised this has come up. All these supposed pardons, paroles, and commutations of hardened criminals' sentences was never a big issue in the state. Mostly I remember all the executions, typically three at a time. This was never an issue in the state, at least not one that got enough mention to come to my contention.

4. Immigration.

Some of Huckabee's stands on illegal immigration were controversial. I don't remember the specifics. It came up late in his tenure as governor, and I had stopped reading newspapers by then. This is a weakness, IMHO, unless he has learned from this error and will formulate better policies. Some people do learn from their mistakes.

5. Conservative bona-fides.

On election eve, 2000, George Bush made a quick campaign stop on his way back to Texas. This was at an airport hanger in Benton County, and my wife and I attended. As usual, while waiting on the main candidate to arrive, local politicians took the stage for their benefit. Asa Hutchinson, probably safe for re-election as congressman from my district, spoke. His brother-senator Tim spoke, though he was not up for re-election that year. Other locals also spoke, or put in stage appearances. Eventually Bush arrived and spoke, and spoke well. The only Republican of state-wide significance who was not there was Huckabee. He was not up for re-election that year, and was alledgedly in another part of the state, campaigning for some R who would lose the next day. The Hutchinsons at that time were well to the right of Huckabee, who was seen as more moderate. This was a rift in the party, and has led to a reversal of some gains the R's were making. Despite all the rhetoric, I'm not convinced Huckabee is a true conservative.

I haven't made up my mind yet, and am not impressed with the field. I suppose the Huckster, as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette liberal columnists used to call him, is the default candidate. The reason I'm not all for him is his lack of solid, conservative credentials.


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