The Death of Compassion?

The fatal bullets that sprayed four police officers in a Lakewood, Washington, coffee shop this weekend have also inflicted a grave wound upon Mike Huckabee’s political reputation. Investigation quickly revealed that Maurice Clemmons, the suspected killer, was an ex-convict whose sentence had been commuted by Huckabee when he was governor of Arkansas.

In reflecting on the murders’ implications for Huckabee, Joe Carter, a former Huckabee campaign staffer, writes that the compassion Huckabee demonstrated in Clemmons’s case has no place in the heart of a savvy politician. He also says that Huckabee was setting himself up for disaster when he applied his religious beliefs to criminal psychology.

Faults in the parole system, and not Huckabee’s commutation, could be most culpable for Clemmon’s deadly presence at the coffee shop, yet Carter’s commentary still begs for response. How tragic that building credibility as a politician is now more about watching your back than “doing justly and loving mercy.” As long as the Curse continues, compassion will always involve risk. Waiting until all outcomes are known before doing good is the perfect excuse for never doing good.

And the claim that religion has no relevance to criminal psychology is a lie. The Christian story of human nature still provides the best explanation for human vice -- we’re people with evil hearts and minds. The Christian story of redemption says that Christ gives robbers, killers, and rapists the power to overcome evil within, but it saves the promise of perfection until the New Heavens and Earth. Clemmon’s behavior doesn’t disprove redemption. It merely shows how much we need the compassion and mercy of a Savior.


Sometimes we forget, as well, that we can be compassionate and forgiving, while still leaving people behind bars. He was convicted of aggravated robbery when he was sent to prison. That's a serious crime, and if you're going to release someone from prison for such a crime, you need good standing that the person is less of a threat. I would like to see Huckabee's evidence that Clemmons was rehabilitated and showed less risk factors when he pardoned him. On the other hand, does anyone know the specifics of the aggravated assault charge? If this was a minor crime or if no violence was actually used against the victim, then a 95-year sentence is a bit draconian. Without evidence that Clemmons was no longer dangerous, this was a mistake. It's true, though, you can not predict someone's behavior. I think Huckabee is less to blame than the system that let Clemmons out again after various other violent crimes.

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