As unpopular as it may be, I stand and applaud Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas. Given the heat he is taking right now, he could stand a little praise, not so much for political purposes but for moral ones.
In 2000, Huckabee, then the governor of Arkansas, commuted the sentence of Maurice Clemmons. Nine years later, it appears that Clemmons murdered in cold blood four police officers in a Seattle suburb this past weekend. As a result, voices from every imaginable perspective clamor for the end of any future political aspirations Huckabee may have. Critics claim Huckabee is soft on crime and short on judgment. The prosecutor who convicted Clemmons expresses outrage, the governor of Washington voices dismay, and media pundits relish the ironic opportunity to lampoon a conservative Christian for being soft on crime.
However, Huckabee should be praised not hung in effigy. In no way do I seek to diminish the horror of murdering four police officers, nor do I seek to claim that Clemmons was a fine person. Instead, I choose to focus on Huckabee's core belief that humans beings have the capacity for change. As human beings, we can grow and develop, learn from our mistakes, correct course, and become better versions of ourselves. That moral capacity separates us from apes and roaches.
That belief in the capacity for life change has shaped Huckabee's decisions to offer second chances and redemption for those who appear to offer the potential for such life change. Those core beliefs certainly stem from his Christian faith, a faith that emphasizes forgiveness and second chances, but those beliefs are not exclusive to Christianity at all. In fact, America has been built on the idea of second chances, from the motley crew of undesirables and convicts who settled Georgia with General Oglethorpe to the lessons in failure and renewal embodied in the stories of Americans as varied as the oft-failing politician, Abraham Lincoln, and the persistent entrepreneur, Tom Monaghan.
Offering second chances is not without its risks. Then again, serving as a governor involves risks. All leadership does. As the old saying goes, every ship is safe as long as it is in the harbor, but that is not what ships are made for, is it? Some decisions prove prophetic and wise; some decisions ultimately fail, sometimes in very ugly ways.