As the days continue to blessedly dwindle on the presidency of George W. Bush — the “compassionate conservative” who showed the world what an oxymoron that phrase was and what a moron the phraser was — the Republicans and Democrats who are vying for Dubya’s seat are gearing up for primary season (a.k.a. political mud season). On the Republican side — which, of course, would be to the right–upstart Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and noted Darwinian skeptic, is doing surprisingly well, much to the chagrin of his more polished and well-heeled rivals. Indeed, Huckabee is doing a nice job of showing the country what a slick and calculating political contortionist former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is. The Mittster seems cut from the same cheesecloth as the current occupant of the White House, i.e., compassionate and conservative in word more than in action or policy. To illustrate this point, the Huckster is decrying his opponent’s absolute refusal to grant a pardon to a decorated veteran of the Iraq War, who committed a relatively minor felony offense at the age of 13. The Boston Globe has all the details:
Anthony Circosta, a decorated Iraq War veteran from Agawam, needed a gun permit in Massachusetts to get a promotion at his security guard job and to pursue a possible career as a police officer. But first he needed to have his record cleared of a childhood felony – shooting a classmate in the shoulder with a BB gun when he was 13.
The Massachusetts clemency board investigated Circosta’s case and twice recommended pardoning him. But then-Governor Mitt Romney refused, preserving a record of rejecting every clemency request that crossed his desk.
Now, Circosta’s case is at the heart of what many Republicans consider the key issue in tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses, with Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee sparring over when and whether to grant pardons and commutations to convicted criminals.
Romney has blanketed the airwaves for two weeks with ads proclaiming that Huckabee granted clemency requests 1,033 times while Romney “never pardoned a single criminal.” The less-funded Huckabee, however, has traveled the state with his own message about pardons – telling crowds Circosta’s life story and asking whether they would pardon him. Almost all say they would.
Huckabee’s point is clear: Romney is so hardhearted and politically calculating that he would deny a deserving veteran a chance to improve his life just because “he wanted to brag that he never, ever gave out a pardon” when he ran for president. [full text]