Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mike Huckabee: Not a good first choice

Nearly every political pundit is surprised by Mike Huckabee's rise to the top of the field in Iowa and his sudden competative race in South Carolina and other Southern States. Early in the race it now appears that Huckabee is the man to beat, and that in Iowa and the South, other candidates must knock into Huckabee's voter base if they are going to win the Republican nomination. I have long maintained that in a two-man race Huckabee is preferable to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, as Huckabee's positions on issues have been more consistent than Romney's, and few can doubt the rectitude of Huckabee's character. At most however, we can say with honesty that Mike Huckabee-for all of his theological conservatism and personal character and nature-is a pro-life liberal.

Some have come to the mistaken belief that the theological conservatives backing Huckabee are out to establish some sort of theocratic state, but nothing could be further from the truth. The perception that many on the Left have of evangelical and other Christian voters being stupid or easily led is a false perception that tends to be nurtured by a faction of the
Democratic Party that is often hostile to organized religion. The reason that many evangelicals are supporting Huckabee in spite of his obvious faults is the same reason some evangelicals and other conservatives are supporting Mitt Romney: They had hoped for the conservative Knight in Shining Armor who could ride in and save the Republican Party in Reaganesque fashion, and the Knight did not come quickly enough. As a result, they've chosen a horse in the race that many of them know is not the best candidate, but they can at least say that he has good moral character.

Mike Huckabee's conservative credentials are very much up for debate. The man who says that Phyllis Schlafly (the political godmother of modern social conservatism) is his inspiration for entering public life does not receive high marks from his mentor. She said of Huckabee:

He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas, and left the Republican Party a shambles. Yet some of the same evangelicals who sold us on George W. Bush as a ‘compassionate conservative’ are now trying to sell us on Mike Huckabee.”

Schlafly's words ought to carry great weight because not only is she an evangelical, she was a conservative before being conservative was cool. She made being a theologically conservative Christian woman "chic" in some quarters, and the social Right largely owes her for its prominence in the Republican Party today. If Schlafly says someone isn't a conservative, they have to somehow prove they are one compared to her, and she is not a woman I would want to challenge if I am not a true-blue conservative to the highest possible degree.

Mike Huckabee is without a doubt a person of good moral character, but the mark of a leader is that you can balance both justice and compassion. When Governor Huckabee paroled a serial killing monster (as he had done several times while in office) he did so in the name of Christian compassion and mercy. Apparently he gave little thought to the guilt of those involved or thought that they might kill again.

Peggy Noonan said it best when she echoed the concerns of many social and cultural conservatives in her column at Opinion Journal last week:

He plays the victim well. Others want to "trip him up," but he'll "get my message out there." His foes are "Wall Street-Washington" insiders, elitists. On the "Today" show he said his critics are the type who never liked evangelical Christians. When one of them runs, these establishment types say " 'Oh my gosh, now they're serious, they don't want to just show up and vote, they actually would want to be part of the discussion and really talk about issues that include hunger and poverty and things.' "

This is a form of populist manipulation. Evangelical Christians have been strong in the Republican Party since the 1970s. President Bush and Karl Rove helped them become more important. The suggestion that they are a small and abused group within the GOP is strange. It is as if the Reagan Democrats, largely Catholic and suburban, who buoyed the Republican Party from the late '70s through 2004, and who were very much part of the GOP coalition, decided to announce that Catholics have been abused within the party, and it's time for Christmas commercials with floating Miraculous Medals.

Although I disagree with Peggy Noonan's impressions of the "floating cross" ad (I think it is clear that the secular press over-reacted), I think her concerns about Huckabee's mentality are quite correct. He apparently believes that his base is gullible enough that they will accept him because he is a good Christian rather than a good leader. If I had my druthers, I would rather have a President who is both.

Peggy Noonan is (like yours truly) a Catholic, and one who understands because of experience the importance of the evangelical-Catholic coalition that has evolved within the Republican Party. The primary philosophical underpinning of the coalition has been that conservatism is a series of social, cultural, and economic ideas that all sides have a real stake in. Mike Huckabee is attempting to redefine the perameters of that coalition, and it could result in disaster for the GOP.

There are candidates in the Republican field who I believe Huckabee would be preferable to in a two-man Primary race if it came down to that. This preference would be solely based on the reality that the Supreme Court could be shot to Kingdom Come with the wrong person in office. Huckabee vs. Hillary is a no-contest-as a Catholic, if my choice is between a pro-life liberal and a pro-abortion liberal, I'll take the pro-lifer. None of that means that Republican Primary voters should choose Huckabee, when Fred Thompson or even John McCain are clearly more conservative choices. Huckabee's language reminds me a great deal of Bush in 2000-in some cases almost word-for-word. As a Republican, re-living the current administration would not be my first choice for the right direction of our party or our country. Both the Republican Party and its evangelical wing can do better than that.

(Hat Tip: Rob Huddleston)



At Thursday, December 27, 2007 8:36:00 AM, Anonymous Adam Graham said...

David, two points here. First of all, the killer you linked to while gruesome only killed one person and a serial killer kills multiple people. In addition, Green's parole didn't go through because of public outcry.

Secondly, while I would consider Thompson and Probably Romney superior to Huckabee, John McCain, I would not consider superior.

Senator McCain has just called for universal wage insurance, a plan that U.S. News and World Report calls more expensive than the New Deal or the Great Society. Research Senator McCain's record, I found he has not averaged a score of 80% from the American Conservative Union for any session of Congress since the 104th (1995-96.)

Senator McCain's wanton disrespect for our constitution as evidenced by the Campaign Finance Reform Law will lead him to appoint liberal judges. The type of judges that would overturn Roe v. Wade would also rip his Campaign Finance Reform law to shreds for its multiple violations of the first Amendment, so I don't trust him. Period and end of sentence.

I was right about Bush in 2000 and I'm right about John McCain now. My answer is, "No, not in a million years."

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 8:40:00 AM, Anonymous Adam Graham said...

Oh, and let's not forget, McCain is Mr. Amnesty. Should he be the Republican nominee, I can almost guarantee you, there'll be a third party running on immigration next fall.

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 9:09:00 AM, Anonymous said...

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 12:25:00 PM, Blogger Jen R said...

He apparently believes that his base is gullible enough that they will accept him because he is a good Christian rather than a good leader.

It can't possibly be news that there are lots of people who vote based on (perceived or actual) religious compatibility first and everything else second. Why else would the Republicans have spent the last 30 years portraying themselves as more-Christian-than-though?

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 12:46:00 PM, Blogger Fabian's straight talk said...

Interesting in the comments here. They all seem to have missed the point you were making David.

Mike is not the first choice for many but in the absence of a leader closer to what they want they will accept Huckabee as a second choice.

Most people are whimsical at best and in the absence of a true leader will follow whoever promises easy street and a life of ease.


At Thursday, December 27, 2007 1:32:00 PM, Blogger Jen R said..., really, I know how to spell "thou". ::sigh::

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 2:47:00 PM, Blogger Matt Daley said...

While it may be true that a Democrat would send the Supreme Court straight to hell, I have a couple of things to say about that...

1) It's very, very sad that the Supreme Court has come to this -- to being a political tool. The politicization of the Court has to be the single worst development in our country's history, and it simply has to stop.

2) The Supreme Court can be fixed. The Republican Party and the public perception of it would not be so easy to repair. If our Party continues to nominate people like Bush (or potentially Huckabee), we're just going to make things worse for ourselves and it will be increasingly more difficult to get our candidates elected.

How people can be blind to this is beyond me.

As the National Review said, nominating Huckabee (or people like him) will eventually be suicide for the Republican Party.

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 2:55:00 PM, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

Huckabee would be fun to go fishing with, drinking with, (I'm not sure if he drinks) and pull out the guitars and jam with.

That's also one of the main reasons George W Bush was elected.

Do you think the people have finally learned their lesson?

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 4:40:00 PM, Blogger A. Renee Daley said...


Not by a long shot. The fact that Huckabee is even a player now is testament to that.

People such as David will continue to settle for mediocre candidates because they're Republican - it's a vicious circle. As long as people who claim to be "conservatives" keep giving guys like Huckabee a pass - then nothing changes.

Conservatives shouldn't even look at this guy as a second choice because he's NOT conservative.

But I'm just a radical who hasn't been Republican all my life, so take my opinion for what it's worth.

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 8:22:00 PM, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

I don't think of you as a radical. I think you're very passionate about what you believe, and that's a good thing.

If Fred isn't the nominee, and for arguments sake, let's say Huck is, would you vote for Hillary or Barack or not vote at all?

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 9:07:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

That's also the main reason Bill Clinton was elected-don't forget.

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 9:20:00 PM, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

I just saw McCain on O'Reilly,(Laura filling in) Fred on H&C, and Rudy on Larry King.

The tragic events today with Bhutto may have a profound effect on Iowa and N.H., with the three above moving back up because they are all tough on terror.

I think I'll blog about that for tomorrow.

But back to the general election,(for you and Renee and anyone else) if Fred isn't the nominee, what do you do?

At Friday, December 28, 2007 2:54:00 AM, Blogger Matt Daley said...


Well, let's see...

If Fred isn't the nominee, here's my preferences:

1) The Party comes to its senses and nominates someone other than Huckabee. Of the three other possibilities, my order of preference would probably be McCain, Romney, and Giuliani. The first two would be a coin-flip, honestly, because they each have pretty serious faults (McCain w/ immigration, Romney with his past and believability). Giuliani is down with Huckabee in my view.

2) If the nominee is Huckabee, then what I do will probably depend on who the Democrats run and who (if anyone) runs as a 3rd party candidate. If I think there's a 3rd party person who can siphon votes from Huckabee, I'll go that route. If that doesn't happen and the Dems nominate Obama or Edwards, I'll go that route. And if there's no 3rd party person and the Dems nominate Hillary, I'll probably just stay home.

Of course, I'm thinking long-term here. To me, the country would be best off with a return to traditional conservatism that has (to a large extent) disappeared in the Republican Party. Because traditional conservatives need one of the two parties in order to have any political weight, something has to be done to tear down current Republican Party hierarchy, so traditional conservatives can return to control.

If that means voting Democrat (or not at all) in the short-term, so be it.

Certainly, if the Republican Party continues its present course and continues to win elections with mediocre (at best) candidates, it's going to become increasingly irrelevant. And that would ultimately leave traditional conservatives with nowhere to go.

At Friday, December 28, 2007 4:49:00 AM, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

Once again, you're eloquent. You and Renee have gift of writing in a clear and concise manner.

Just as the Republican Party has abandoned its base, the Democratic Party has done the same to liberals.

While both parties have very different platforms, in reality, I am seeing less and less of a difference between them...they blur into the same person/party in Washington.

If Ron Paul runs as a third party candidate, he could end up being the Republicans Ralph Nader.

I'm a Barack Obama supporter primarily because he wants change.
He wants to shake up Washington.

The only Republican I could consider(if Barack or Edwards aren't the nominee) is McCain. He has demonstrated he has the ability to lead, but also has the ability to work with those on the other side of the aisle.

I couldn't vote for Rudy for anything. The man is morally bankrupt. I like that he's liberal on social issues,but I'll never forget the look on his wife's face (Donna Hanover) when a reporter asked her about her divorce and she didn't even know about it. Then Rudy wanted to move Judy Nathan into Gracie Mansion while he was still married.

I think some people might be willing to forgive an affair, but breaking up a family...

Anyhow, much can happen in the next 6 days with the assassination on Benazir Bhutto.

McCain,Giuliani and Clinton will get a boost from this tragedy.

Fred might get a boost, too, but I'll be darn if he didn't give the worst answer on H&C when asked if he would suspend money we're sending to Pakistan. He said he'd do the opposite and send more.
Bad answer. The country is facing civil war,led by a dictator who has received billions and didn't deliver on his promise to crack down on terrorists in his country, and Fred wants to send more money.
Not good.

McCain, Giuliani, Obama and Edwards all gave reasonably good answers about Pakistan.

I really think the situation in Pakistan will change the outcome of Iowa.

The good news (for you) is it won't be Huckabee. In the last 2 weeks he has imploded, and made yet another gaffe when he spoke of Pakistan as being under Marshall Law.

Given the turn of events, I think your top 3 picks will be the top 3 in Iowa, now.

At Friday, December 28, 2007 1:23:00 PM, Blogger Matt Daley said...


First, thank you. I appreciate the compliment, and it is especially meaningful coming from someone with such a strong background in journalism.

Second, I think you are right in that the Bhutto assassination can have an impact on Iowa. However, it is true that we are still 6 days out and that time includes a weekend and the New Year's Day holiday. It's quite possible something could supplant Bhutto in the next week.

Still, I think it will get people talking, and it will surely impact how some approach the caucuses.

As for what Fred said, you're probably right in that it's not what we want to hear, but I don't necessarily think he's wrong from a real-world point of view. We shouldn't do anything that further destabilizes the region in the short-term, and he recognizes that. Once the region is stable again, we can re-evaluate where we are.

I don't think his statements were meant to extend long-term support to Musharraf, either. Further, I think people need to delve more deeply into what he said -- did he mean more government money or more investment money from the private sector? That's an important difference.

And finally, I don't think his statements diverge very much at all from where he's stood on foreign policy since he entered the race. People may not agree with it, but he has at least been consistent with his message.

Anyway, while you and I might disagree about the foreign policies our government should adopt, I think we can both agree that whomever wins the Presidency simply must have strong experience with foreign policy.

With today's fractured world, it's absolutely integral.


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