Dateline 12 December 2007
If, as I argued last week, the Republicans now have five leading candidates, it is plainly time to assess the latest recruit to the top tier, Mike Huckabee.
Common Sense argued in July that either Huckabee or Senator Sam Brownback could make the leap into the front of the pack, but it is not something I believed would actually come to pass.
Of all the Republican contenders, Huckabee is probably most vulnerable to the Democratic attack-machine. He is also furthest from the Reagan definition of a conservative. As governor of Arkansas, he raised taxes, raised spending, and softened the state’s approach to crime. He sounds soft (and uninformed) on the War on Terror. He wants nanny-state healthcare with “wars” on obesity and smoking. He attacks foreign trade and CEO salaries. He said he wanted to investigate allegations made against President Bush in the absurd Valerie Plame kerfuffle. Teachers’ unions have endorsed him for his opposition to school choice.
But he is against abortion. To some, that makes him a conservative.
Fearing that he would be tarred as soft on crime, Bill Clinton, while running for President, actually executed a brain-damaged man with a mental age of eight. Huckabee secured parole for a convicted rapist, who went on to commit murder. Is that where the Republican Party wants to stand?
How about taking Clinton’s tax rates for Arkansas and raising them? Is that a policy to mobilize the Republican base? As President, Bill Clinton was a firm advocate of free trade. Huckabee rails against the damage that trade does to America.
As the blogger, Robert A Hahn, of RedState put it: “Huckabee is a master of using the passive voice to sound like he's advocating something that others can then deny he said.”
On CEO salaries he stops short of calling for government controls, but he says that high salaries are something “we can’t have”. On crazy conspiracy theories about the President he stops short of promising to launch an investigation, but he says they “deserve to be investigated”.
Like another former governor of Arkansas, he also has a problem with truth. Raising taxes? Wasn’t me. That was a referendum. I had no choice. But he chose to campaign vigorously for higher taxes. He also told voters at the time that the referendum did not raise taxes, it just determined where the money would be spent. Now he says the referendum did put taxes up. He says he didn’t parole rapist Wayne DuMond. True, but he campaigned and pressured the Parole Board to do it.
On trade, taxes, national security, healthcare and crime he is to the left of Bill Clinton and probably of his wife too. But he is against abortion. Is that what the Republican Party is for today?
Or is Ronald Reagan’s coalition still alive? Reagan was tough on crime, had no plans to expand the welfare state, was a national security hawk, and thought taxes were there to be cut. That’s a plan. That’s a program. That’s a platform that people will vote for. What Huckabee offers is the populist ranting of John Edwards, combined with the smooth delivery of a Baptist minister. The Republican Party is bigger and better than that. It deserves a better candidate.