Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rape, murder, and Mike Huckabee

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(See one of my previous posts -- "The real Mike Huckabee" -- here.)

In 2002, Murray Waas, one of America's finest reporters, wrote an article for the Arkansas Times detailing how then-Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee secured the release from prison of convicted rapist Wayne Dumond. After his release, on parole, Dumond raped and killed a woman in Missouri. Last month, Waas wrote an article for The Huffington Post on newly-released state documents proving Huckabee's role in securing Dumond's release. These documents contradict Huckabee's claims that he was not aware that Dumond posed a threat when Dumond was paroled in 1999. In fact, Huckabee had received letters from several of Dumond's victims predicting that he would rape again, and possibly kill. "Huckabee kept these and other documents secret because they were politically damaging, according to a former aide who worked for him in Arkansas."

But why did Huckabee so aggressively support Dumond's release?

In 1996, as a newly elected governor who had received strong support from the Christian right, Huckabee was under intense pressure from conservative activists to pardon Dumond or commute his sentence. The activists claimed that Dumond's initial imprisonment and various other travails were due to the fact that Ashley Stevens, the high school cheerleader he had raped, was a distant cousin of Bill Clinton, and the daughter of a major Clinton campaign contributor.

The case for Dumond's innocence was championed in Arkansas by Jay Cole, a Baptist minister and radio host who was a close friend of the Huckabee family. It also became a cause for New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy, who repeatedly argued for Dumond's release, calling his conviction "a travesty of justice." On Sept. 21, 1999, Dunleavy wrote a column headlined "Clinton's Biggest Crime -- Left Innocent Man In Jail For 14 Years":

"Dumond, now 52, was given conditional parole yesterday in Arkansas after having being sentenced to 50 years in jail for the rape of Clinton's cousin," Dunleavy wrote. "That rape never happened."

A subsequent Dunleavy column quoted Huckabee saying: "There is grave doubt to the circumstances of this reported crime."

But the crime did happen and Huckabee bought into the lies propagated by Christianists and the anti-Clinton smear machine. Here's Hullabaloo's Tristero:

Wayne Dumond was the darling of the extreme right. And Huckabee was trying to curry their favor.

Huckabee listened hard when right wing activists in New York and Arkansas claimed, without a shred of evidence, that Dumond had been framed for rape. But Huckabee never bothered, apparently, to read the transcript of Dumond's rape trial. And shamefully, he ignored the pleas of the rape victim herself not to release Dumond.

But how on Earth could the imprisonment of a serial rapist become a right-wing cause-celebre?

Answer: Dumond's victim -- in the rape that landed him in prison -- was a distant cousin of then-Governor Bill Clinton. According to the extreme right, Dumond was framed for the rape. In addition, Clinton may have had, according to the right, some involvement in vigilante justice, Arkansas-style. While awaiting trial for the rape of Clinton's distant relation, a drunken Dumond was castrated. He claimed that three men associated with the local Sheriff attacked and mutilated him. The far right intimated that Clinton may have put the Sheriff up to it. (Of course, the insinuation was bogus, based on nothing but imagination. In fact, investigators suspected that Dumond castrated himself when drunk, behavior that is not unheard of with rapists.)

*****

That is the absurd story Huckabee believed and caused him actively to work for Dumond's release from prison. Whether Huckabee acted out of political cynicism and opportunism or was simply gullible (or both) doesn't matter. That Huckabee would fall for such a preposterous conspiracy tale -- and ignore actual trial testimony and the pleas of a rape victim -- demonstrates that he has neither the judgment nor strength of character to be considered seriously for any position of responsibility, let alone the most powerful political office on Earth.

Here's what it comes down to:

Huckabee is no clown. The real clowns are the people who snark about Huckabee and don't take him seriously, who don't recognize the genuine danger posed by permitting his radical christianism and ignorance to gain him so much as a mention in the mainstream discourse. And Huckabee shows no mercy to the victims of his opportunism. He is also a ruthless, belligerent politician who, when attacked, has absolutely no scruples. He will lie and when caught, lie some more. It goes without saying that his actual proposals -- for example in regards to taxes -- are unworthy of serious discussion. He should have no place in the national political discourse and it is a measure of how sick our discourse really is that he now has close to a central one.

I agree. The media love him because he seems like a breath of fresh air -- and because he plays them so well. He seems like a nice, decent, genuine guy. He jokes at his own expense. He seems to be a straight-talker. In other words, he seems to be a lot like the McCain of 2000. And, like McCain in 2000, he's been getting a free ride.

And yet he is clueless with respect to foreign affairs, a proponent of wacky, unworkable, and ultimately destructive economic policies (such as the Scientologist-inspired national sales tax), and an ideological christianist. And he is essentially as Tristero describes him -- although I would add this: He may very well be "a ruthless, belligerent politician," a self-obsessed opportunist who lies without scruple and operates without mercy, but there is something decidedly clownish about him.

Consider the fact that he knew nothing of the recent National Intelligence Estimate, the one everyone was talking about, a day after its release. Or the fact that he was so easily persuaded of the righteousness of the Scientologist tax plan. Or the fact that he wanted to quarantine the victims of HIV/AIDS. Or the fact that, as in the Dumond case, he bought into the malevolent conspiracy theory of the crazy anti-Clinton right. Clown may not be the right word for him, though -- perhaps ignoramus, perhaps bigot. He may be a savvy political operator, at least with respect to Arkansas politics, but he is, from what I can tell, a stupid man. Whatever his media-oriented likeability, whatever the appeal of some of his less Republican positions -- on immigration, for example -- he remains the man who fought for the release of Wayne Dumond.

That is the real Mike Huckabee.

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