Twenty years ago Michael Dukakis was pummeled for granting a furlough to convicted rapist Willie Horton, who, after his release, committed another rape. The Republicans ran a commercial accusing the former Massachusetts governor of being soft on crime, and the mug shot they put up of Mr. Horton was calculated to scare the crap out of the voters — and subliminally play to their racial fears because Mr. Horton was black.
Now Mike Huckabee is facing a similar situation for his role in the parole of Wayne Dumond, a convicted rapist in Arkansas. But as a reader at TPM notes, there are significant differences between the two cases.
As I recall, Michael Dukakis did not advocate the release of Willie Horton specifically, whereas Mike Huckabee did advocate specifically for the release of Wayne Dumond. Of course, Dukakis as governor did move to continue the program of furloughs for prisoners serving life without parole as a measure he believed would effectively rehabilitate prisoners, and in my opinion that was both dangerous as a matter of public policy and stupid at a purely political level. But the equivalency developing between the Willie Horton story and the Wayne Dumond story is ridiculous.
The bottom line is simple. Mike Huckabee championed the release of a specific convicted rapist who, once release, raped and killed a woman in Missouri. The furlough policy advocated by Mike Dukakis led to the furlough of Willie Horton, who raped a woman in Maryland and stabbed her fiancee. But Mike Dukakis had never heard of Willie Horton, whereas Mike Huckabee was well aware of the crimes and dangers posed by Wayne Dumond. Anyone who doesn’t see the substantive difference between the two cases just isn’t looking.
As Murray Waas notes in his piece at Huffington Post, there was more to releasing Wayne Dumond than correctional rehabilitation. It turns out that Mr. Dumond had been convicted and sentenced under the administration of then-Gov. Bill Clinton, and Mr. Dumond’s victim was a distant relative of Mr. Clinton. In 1996, Gov. Huckabee was under tremendous pressure from the anti-Clintonistas in Arkansas to release Mr. Dumond, and there is a paper trail showing that the governor took a personal interest in the case. And since there’s not a whole lot of love lost between Mr. Huckabee and the Clintons, it’s not hard to connect the dots: Mike Huckabee took an active role in getting Wayne Dumond paroled for political reasons and the two women Dumond later raped and murdered were just collateral damage.