Mike Huckabee said that if he was presented with the same evidence today that he was nine years ago, he would "make the exact same decision" -- to commute the sentence of an Arkansas felon who this past week shot and killed four police officers in Washington.
The former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate told a local TV station in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Tuesday that his decision to lessen the 108-year sentence of Maurice Clemmons -- who was convicted of aggravated robbery when he was 17 -- was ultimately the right one to make, one that others in his shoes would have done as well.
"He [Maurice Clemmons] was not a cop killer. He wasn't a rapist. He wasn't a violent criminal. He wasn't a fugitive from justice," Huckabee told WLFI-TV. "He was a person who at 16 did some dumb things and some criminal things, but I don't know of a single person who can look me in the eye and tell me that if they didn't have that same file in front of them, they wouldn't believe that maybe 47 years was a more appropriate sentence for what he did as a minor."
Despite the torrent of criticism, Huckabee stuck to his guns. "If I had the exact same information in front of me tonight that I had 9 years ago, in a case exactly the same, I would make the exact same decision, because I can't imagine that anyone would not," he said.
"If I could have looked into the future, of course I would. But I couldn't do that. What I don't understand is, those who could see some of his actions, the judges in Washington who knew that he had raped a child and that he had had now several psychotic episodes, why he was able to get out on bail. That I can't answer."
Doubling down on the Clemmons clemency may be the best strategy Huckabee has. He can make the argument that, based on the facts at the time, his decisions was justified. And he has a point that the judges in Washington who ignored warnings signs much more recently are more culpable.
But that won't make him immune for criticism, particularly from potential rivals for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Already a former Republican governor -- George Pataki of New York -- and a current one -- Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota -- have contrasted their tough-on-crime records to that of Huckabee.
(Hat tip: GOP12)