Archive for the ‘Huckabee’ Category

I’ve often thought that liberalism was a kind of secularized Christianity where the universiality and compassion of Christianity is writ large and made into a political value, with the difficult commands for personal transformation totally removed. But sometimes that liberalism “in the air,” so to speak, infects views of believing Christians. This, I believe, is what happened to Mike Huckabee, the governor and pardoner extraordinaire of Arkansas. Like Bush who thought he “could see into Putin’s soul,” Huckabee had great power in his ability to discern redemption in the con-artists, liars, and violent thugs who know to a man how to game the system and appear contrite. Huckabee apparently some years ago released the guy who murdered four cops in Washington State. This violent animal had apparently 70 years to go on his sentence–and many violations of probation to boot–when Huckabee thought he had mended his ways and gave great weight to his youth in sentencing. Well, guess what, violent youths are often violent adults. And certain acts of violence are so severe that the only safe course is confinement until very old age.

This horror show will definitely deep six Huckabee’s ability to get a Republican nomination, if he ever had one. But will he realize that his view on the meaning of Christianity is too abstract, sentimental, maudlin, and divorced from the realities of the criminal element to do him any good? Part of the structure of life and the good of government is punishment to the wicked. It’s not merely necessary for the common good, though it is, but it’s also to the good of the offender. It’s a way to pay back to society the harm one caused, reflect on the disorders of one’s soul, and be kept apart from innocent people whom one might harm in a fit of passion. This is missing in the view of Huckabee and other sentimentalists. The “once saved, always saved” idea that we’re “reborn” forever in Protestantism can’t make sense of the drama of human life and the need for social control. It ignores the passions and the broken souls and has a thoroughly immature and, lately, feminized view of the Gospels and of government. We see a bit of this in Catholic anti-death penalty crusaders, as well. Do they not believe in Divine governance of the universe and the ultimate disposition of souls justly and mercifully in the next life?

We’re told to be scared of the religious right. But how much more harm has the religious left wrought with its ignorant campaigns to release criminals, redistribute wealth through socialism, and open borders?

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Bill Clinton was a polarizing figure, in spite of his popularity. For both friends and enemies, he was the true torch-bearer of the 60s and the Baby Boomers: idealistic, flabby, occasionally elitist, urban, self-indulgent, draft-dodging, and all the rest. His lifestyle fed into stereotypes held by Reagan Democrats and blue collar Americans about liberal elites, and his gun control measures and perceived hostility to religious people–not least in the Waco Massacre–did much to fuel an anti-government paranoia among conservatives during that time. In its more mainstream manifestation, this included measures like the Contract With America and the attempted alliance of paleoconservatives and certain libertarians in venues like Chronicles magazine and the John Randolph Club. The most extreme variant included the militia movement and the Timothy McVeigh bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. Much of this feeling dissipated after 9/11 and the 2000 election. Many conservatives channeled their feelings of alienation and fear at Islamic terrorists. Bush’s perceived moral clarity was welcome, and a new kind of bellicose populism became prominent in the movement, even if the democracy-spreading stuff was dismissed as necessary window dressing. This turned out not to be so.

Bush, who was frequently called “more conservative than his father” behind closed doors in Republican circles in 2000, turned out to be quite a bit more idealistic and more liberal than his father. His foreign policy was less steeped in realism. His embrace of Hispanics, including illegal immigrants, as the future of the Republican Party did much to alienate social conservatives and Reagan Democrats, who became more concerned about mass immigration in recent years.

I believe Obama has the capacity to have the Clinton effect, uniting conservatives who have now lost the distraction of a non-conservative president leading us into hopeless backwaters like “spreading democracy in the Middle East” or expanding home ownership to bad credit risks. After all, without the albatross of the first President Bush after 1992, conservatives united around a truly conservative set of themes and did much to scuttle Clinton’s dumbest ideas. As with Clinton, Obama’s big spending, dubious heritage, increasingly hackneyed rhetoric, and recent anti-gun noises will likely trigger the anti-government, anti-spending feeling that conservatives always seem to find again as soon as they’re out of power. I may be wrong; the demographics have changed considerably since 1994. Many millions of newcomers have arrived since then. And younger people are less likely to marry and have children–these milestones being major inducements to conservatism among not particularly political folks. We’re still here though. Obama has been fearless about confronting conservative on various hot button issues–criticizing the US in Turkey, mocking Christian beliefs in his stem cell decisions, kowtowing to Mexico on guns–and the intense backlash is brewing, along with that old time conservative anti-government rhetoric. While this message fell on deaf ears during the inflationary boom, there is always a group that views big government spending as profligate and short-sighted during hard economic times. Such views connect directly with those of our Founding Fathers and have even penetrated the once pro-New Deal Reagan Democrats as they have climbed the economic ladder. When combined with the more culturally-based opposition to amnesty, which Obama seems surprisingly poised to advocate, Obama may accomplish what Bush could not: uniting conservatives around a small government, neo-nationalist set of views.

The political disaster would be for some opportunist without a thorough understanding and ability to articulate these views to become the face of conservatism. This is why McCain, Huckabee, and Palin each present different risks to the party. None is a real conservative steeped in the nationalist and small government strains of thinking that have grown so robust under Bush’s pseuedo-conservatism, and each would become a lightning rod for conservatives, while in fact being a populist or militarist imposter.

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Huckabee’s Zig-Zagging

Ace notes that Huckabee doesn’t merely flip flop, but he wildly changes course when he thinks that’s what will help him get the nomination.  It suggests not merely someone who is a typical politician, but someone completely devoid of any principles or thoughts on all but a few political matters:

Confronted with the fact that his supporters are push-polling, he says he wants to outlaw all negative campaigning against candidates, unless the candidate being criticized approves of the negative ad.


Again, I don’t think he means it. I don’t think he’s thought about this long enough to mean it.

But just like with his tax-hiking ways, he seeks to immunize himself by being more Catholic than the pope on taxes and promising to abolish the IRS; stung by criticisms that he’s soft on illegals, he plagiarizes most of Mark Krikorian’s plan for immigration.

And now, confronted with his supporters engaging in illegal and sleazy push-polling, he suddenly endorses making all negative ads illegal.

Whenever something unsavory or undesirable about him pops up, he lurches suddenly and wildly in the exact opposite direction, sometimes with comical results (he still wants to reform the INS, which doesn’t actually exist anymore) and sometimes frightening ones (pass a law making it illegal to criticize politicians without their express written consent).

This guy is seriously not ready for prime time.

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Daniel Larison makes a good observation about why serious students of politics, columnists, bloggers, and educated party donors may underestimate certain types of candidates and their appeal:

A good rule of thumb: if you are an informed, educated and serious person, whatever is most hateful to you is probably what the general public will prefer.  This is especially true in electoral politics, where being informed, educated and serious often blinds you to what drives and motivates 90% of the electorate.  To the extent that these folks become aware of these things at all, it is usually to dismissively declare them evidence of the irrational in politics.  But irrationality has always existed and will always exist in any human political order, and expecting anything else, as I often have done, is a great error.  Limiting the role of irrationality in politics, while desirable, is hardly possible in a mass democratic regime with an historically illiterate and media-saturated majority.  The main flaw in most of the critiques aimed specifically at Huckabee, populists, restrictionists, etc. in recent months and years is the assumption by those making these critiques that they represent the more rational position, rather than one that is equally or more irrational.     

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It seems McCain is enjoying a recent bump in popularity, particularly in New Hampshire. This makes some sense. Romney’s a bit plastic and late for the party. Huckabee is uneducated and populist. Giuliani is liberal and his personal life is a mess. Tancredo’s dropped out. Paul is a fringe candidate. Thompson’s been a lackluster, anemic candidate. But let’s not forget why McCain was ranked lower than one would expect in the first place. After all, he is hawkish and socially conservative. Even his opposition to Bush’s tax cuts could plausibly defended as an austerity measure. No, his open borders fanaticism is what held him back, and those views seem far more visceral to him (as in the case of Bush) than his recent movement the other way, viz.:

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Winging It

George Bush “winged it” on foreign policy. He didn’t know who Musharraf was in 2000. But he did do something sensible: he hired accomplished people of diverse views to advise him including Powell, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, etc. On paper at least, this looked like the way to go, but unfortunately the neoconservatives alone had a coherent explanation of the causes and appropriate response to 9/11 and happened to be spectacularly wrong on both counts. Bush demonstrates the inadequacy of good advisers alone to guide an ignorant president. A certain amount of “horse sense” and private knowledge is necessary to evaluate competing claims, positions, and proposals. By way of analogy, I wouldn’t presume to run a software company or baseball team, even with the greatest advisers. I’d essentially be judging their rhetoric with pure reason, which is not a basis through which to make sensible decisions.

Huckabee has this problem on foreign policy. He knows nothing. He proposes, for example, tightening the borders with Mexico to keep out militant Pakistanis. Well, the borders do need to be tightened, but it’s not because fanatics from the ISI or Sharif’s Pakistani Muslim League are about to cross the US-Mexican border to blow up rival politicians. His tone, his substance, and every word out of his mouth on foreign policy are a ventriloquist act, at best parroting the slogans of others, whether it’s on Pakistan or his criticisms of Bush’s diplomacy as “too arrogant.” Like Bush, he’ll be a tool of his advisers without the knowledge, skill, or experience to evaluate anything they say.

Bush has been a disaster and the cause, it seems, is his utter dependence upon advisers in all but the most picayune domestic concerns. He was supposed to be a Republican Clinton, pushing feel good initiatives like school choice and faith-based charities. But reality intruded on 9/11, and he’s been over his head ever since, in spite of early victories in Afghanistan.  Strategically, we’ve never had a coherent response. Who knows which direction Huckabee (or Obama or Edwards) would take? They don’t know themselves, just as no one could have told what direction Bush would have taken. Do we really want another round of this juvenile stupidity, particularly as we know this time around that these issues will have to be addressed by the next president?

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I thought this article was interesting; I’ve heard of Huck’s ethics problems, but not too many details:

Mr. Huckabee caused an uproar when he used a $60,000 account intended to maintain the governor’s mansion for personal expenses, including restaurant meals, dry cleaning and boat supplies. He also faced a lawsuit over his assertion that $70,000 worth of furniture donated to the mansion was his to keep. Sprinkled among all this are complaints about the misuse of state planes and campaign funds, mistakes on financial disclosure forms, and fights over documents related to ethics investigations.

Any one of these episodes individually may appear penny ante, but they add up to a disturbing pattern. People I’ve spoken with who worked with Mr. Huckabee in Arkansas dispute the idea that he is “corrupt.” They instead ascribe his ethical mishaps to a “blind spot” rooted in his beginnings as a Baptist minister and a Southern culture of gift-giving; they suggest he never made the mental transition to public office.

I think this is actually not that unusual.  Most “corrupt” people are not evil arm-twisters, seeking bribes or threatening opponents with punishment.  They’re instead regular people, who think highly of themselves, and tend to downplay these excesses as helping out friends and family, cutting corners, and rewarding themselves for their years of hardwork and service. 

Huck’s problem, unlike Bush and unlike Clinton and Obama, is that he’s basically a dirt poor country boy, without much education, who never learned how to restrain himself with power and money.  He’s totally unused to it, and, as such, he’s likely to abuse it and take personal advantage.  He’s the kind of guy who will take the shampoo and even towels from a nice hotel room.  In other words, he might be a good guy, affable and full of smiles, but he’s not got a whole lot of class.  He showed this with his “Who me?” response to his passive-aggressive characterization of Mormon beliefs. This resentment of his social betters and opponents is driving a lot of his tax-and-spend and pro-immigration stupidity. 

Hasn’t one white trash President from Arkansas been enough?

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