Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Horton Principle

I enjoy the work of Kansas City Star columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, and I have to hand it to him; I had thought I might have beaten other people to the punch on thinking (and posting) "Willie Horton" when told of Maurice Clemmons, granted clemency by Mike Huckabee and now a person of interest in the ambush murder of four police officers in a coffee shop south of Seattle, Washington.  
But I think Abouhalkah overstates his impact scenario...
But, if Huckabee pardoned a man who went on to kill four cops, this will be a lot worse than the Willie Horton incident of the 1988 presidential campaign. Huckabee's credentials to lead the Republican party to victory in 2012 would evaporate if Clemmons indeed is the killer in the Washington case.
Indeed, sure, let's wait and see whether it costs Huckabee like it did Michael Dukakis in 1988; Dukakis approved a furlough program that allowed a convicted murderer, Willie Horton, to commit assault, armed robbery and rape while on a weekend furlough. Lee Atwater (the guy Karl Rove wishes he could be) coordinated a campaign that made Willie Horton a household word (and, eventually, a verb, as in, to "Willie Horton" a political opponent). Like Horton, Maurice Clemmons is African American, which makes it more likely that this would be thrown at Huckabee in the primaries than the general election (although Clinton's people didn't seem to have a problem throwing a little racism around in 2008).

But it's also entirely possible this will go nowhere.  Yep, I said go nowhere.  "The rules," whatever they may be, of two-party bourgeois politics do not preclude the exploitation of shame and failure, and they certainly preclude nuanced distinctions that could vindicate a clemency gone wrong.  But the fact remains that some candidates can do bad things--costly when other pols do them--and come out okay.  These perpetually enacted inconsistencies seem to favor the GOP.  Bush the Younger enjoyed the highs of cocaine, maryjane, and alcohol, and everyone knew it; but more than a few politicians to W's left have been brought down by a joint or two.  Theocrats, in particular, have their own rules governing redemption, guaranteeing a pass to their men (invariably men) who commit personal or policy transgressions. 

So while what Clemmons allegedly did (he is presumed innocent, another principle the mainstream media will abandon where he is concerned) is far worse than what Horton did, and while in a fair, consistent, deliberatively ethical world this would be clear, applied accordingly to the decision calculus of voters and opinion-makers, the capriciousness (a meanspirited capriciousness, if that's possible) of American politics leaves this cowboy doubtful. 

Hat tip, as they say (I find the term awkward) to Meg for alerting me to this story.

1 comment:

Meg said...

They're already eating their own