Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Margaret Carlson: From the Back of the Pack!

We have all had weeks now to digest the case of Maurice Clemmons, to get the facts right and to engage in insightful analysis. Now comes the plodding Margaret Carlson with this gem: We simply were not critical enough of Huckabee. The evidence? See the treatment of clemency decision making by George W. Bush, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton.

To Carlson's credit, she spares us the agony of having to read, once again, that Huckabee "pardoned" Clemmons, or that Huckabee's commutation of sentence kicked Clemmons right out onto your local street corner. No, Carlson writes: "Huckabee set in motion the parole from a 95-year sentence that put Clemmons back on the street" (the media simply cannot avoid the compelling imagery of the street)!

The cynic might note that the parole was actually "set in motion" by the prisoner filing an application after serving eleven years of his sentence and that application being supported by a judge and recommended by the parole board. Yes, all of that happened before Huckabee even arrived on the scene. But, still, this is close enough for Carlson, who also writes:
As governor, Huckabee granted more than 1,000 clemencies during 10 years in office, more than double the number granted by his three predecessors over 17 years, and more than in six neighboring states combined. That’s a lot of forgiveness.
What further proof do we need that Americans are falling behind with respect to the basic skills and concepts of math. Huckabee granted "a lot" of clemencies? How does Carlson know that? By comparison with his predecessors? How do we know they didn't simply grant "insanely few" clemencies? God forbid this top-notch journalist would lift a finger to look at, maybe, the number of applications each of the four governors had, to jack the sophistication of her analysis up to the 5th grade! And what is the "just right" number for Ms. Carlson? No comment. Nothing.

Then Carlson's "anlaysis" simply implodes:
As he did with Dumond, Huckabee is trying to spread responsibility for Clemmons’ release. Sunday on his Web site, Huckabee wrote that if Clemmons shot those police officers, it would be “the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system.” True, and his would be the biggest, the one that set off the rest ...
Huckabee has repeatedly said and stated that he takes "full responsibility" for his decision making and has expressed especial regret that things worked out the way that they did, almost ten years later. Carlson's best research skills could never uncover such a clear, unqualified apology from the likes of, say, Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama or Bill Clinton.

Is Huckabee "trying to spread responsibility" for Clemmons' release. Yes, but only in the sense that President Obama is "trying to spread responsibility" for the wrecked economy. It would be more accurate to say that Carlson is trying to "redirect and over-accentuate responsibility" - which is certainly her right, as an American and a journalist. But, even in these post-modern deconstruction days of personalized reality, there simply is no denying the fact that 1) a judge recommended the commutation 2) the original sentencing judge did not object to the commutation 3) the parole board unanimously recommended the commutation 4) the parole board then granted parole 5) Clemmons was arrested again for violating parole but prosecutors decided not to press charges, allowing him to be released 6) a Pierce County judge let Clemmons post bail on charges of child rape and assault on a police officer.

But Carlson sees around and, when necessary, right through a dozen plus decision makers and tags only Huckabee, the person whose decision may have had the least immediate impact. Again, Huckabee's decision only made Clemmons eligible for parole. While it can be said that somewhere between 6 and 8 people made decisions which immediately, directly, literally RELEASED Clemmons into your street, Huckabee was not one of them!

See full editorial here.

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