December 1, 2009

TA-NEHISI COATES: A bum rap for Huckabee. “I think it’s important for liberals concerned about criminal justice to speak up on principle. That it’s Mike Huckabee–whose views on gay rights, abortion and the Confederate flag, I find deplorable–pursuing that principle shouldn’t change things. We keep saying we want conservatives to be ‘reasonable’ about these issues. It strikes me as unhelpful to knife one for short-term partisan gain.”

Here’s the thing: If you grant clemency much, the odds will catch up with you eventually. Some of those people will be recidivists, no matter how solid or heartstring-pulling the story, and some of that recidivism will be dreadful. I don’t know enough about the merits of this case to say whether this was a bad call, but if politicians get hammered a lot when the odds catch up with them, then they won’t issue many pardons or commutations. But, as I noted in criticizing Bush’s stinginess with pardons, executive clemency is supposed to play an important role in mitigating the inevitable injustices of the criminal justice system.

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