New York Times Magazine on Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee suddenly looks like a real candidate rather than one of those guys who comes to the debates without any chance of winning. Hiring Ed Rollins makes him look more like a real candidate, and he is suddenly getting a tremendous amount of media exposure, including a profile in The New York Times Magazine. While many topics are addressed, the one I’m most interested in is how Huckabee’s religious views would affect his actions if he was elected considering his reputation for governing as a centrist. Early in the article there is one paragraph which is not very encouraging:

Huckabee’s affability and populist economic and social views have sometimes been misinterpreted as a moderate brand of evangelical Christianity. In fact, as he wrote in his book ‘‘Character Makes a Difference,’’ he considers liberalism to be a cancer on Christianity. Huckabee is an admirer of the late Jerry Falwell (whose son, Jerry Jr., recently endorsed his candidacy) and subscribes wholeheartedly to the principles of the Moral Majority. He also affirms the Baptist Faith and Message statement: ‘‘The Holy Bible . . . has truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.’’

I’ve noted that Huckabee sometimes sounds more reasonable than other conservatives such as on immigration (until he became a hard liner soon afterwards), on torture, and even on school prayer. I also wonder if this isn’t part of an effort to make his views appear more acceptable without really being moderate. Discussion of his religious views later in the article suggests this might be the case:

Nowadays Huckabee has more policy positions, but his campaign is really all about his Christian character. His slogan is ‘‘Faith, Family, Freedom,’’ which Huckabee, who was once a public-relations man for the Texas televangelist James Robison, wrote himself. Huckabee is no theocrat. He simply believes in the power of the Christian message, and in his ability to embody and deliver it. ‘‘It’s not that we want to impose our religion on somebody,’’ he wrote in ‘‘Character Makes a Difference,’’ a book first published in 1997 (as ‘‘Character Is the Issue’’) and reissued earlier this year. ‘‘It’s that we want to shape the culture and laws by using a worldview we believe has value.’’

During his years in politics, Huckabee has become a master at disarming secular audiences. Throughout the campaign he has impressed the national press corps with his ability to dodge questions aimed at portraying him as a fundamentalist. Asked in a CNN debate, for example, what Jesus would do about capital punishment, Huckabee responded that Jesus was too smart to run for public office. On another occasion, queried if only Baptists go to heaven, he remarked that not even all the Baptists he knows will get past the pearly gates. Such jokes are designed to give outsiders the impression that Huckabee couldn’t be all that religious. But they are really just witty formulations of standard evangelical doctrine, things not even the most ardent country Baptist preacher could disagree with.

The profile also notes a flaw in Huckabee:

If there are flaws in Huckabee’s personal reputation, they center on the perception that he has a preacher’s sense of entitlement. In blunt terms, he took a lot of gifts.

The Politico analyzed public records and found that many of those who gave gifts wound up receiving state government positions. Huckabee’s campaign denies any connection.

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6 Comments

  1. 1
    Eric Dondero says:

    All Fiscal Cons and Libertarians need to unite behind one candidate to ward off the Huck-Monster. He is everything that we oppose – “fiscally liberal and socially conservative.” Huck? Double – Yuck!

    I’m a big “Libertarian for Giuliani.” Have been for over a year.

    But even I’m willing to switch to Romney if it would help unite all Fiscal Cons behind one candidate to challenge Huckabee. National Review, the icon for libertarian conservatives, recently endorsed Romney. And libertarian Republican Bill Weld is formally backing him.

    The Ron Paul people need to wake up and realize that this Huckabee threat is for real. Paul is way behind other Fiscal Cons like Giuliani, Romney and even Fred Thompson in the polls.

    If we all don’t agree on one candidate soon – the Thompson people, the Romney people, the Giuliani people, AND the Paul people – we’re screwed!

  2. 2
    Ryan says:

    Do you think a Huckabee nomination would actually be the best possible choice for the Democrats – by alienating many of the independents/moderates? Maybe I should route for him even though he’s basically the opposite of my ideal candidate. Or maybe a 50-50% chance of a President Huckabee is too risky…

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Ryan,

    Normally I root for the best person from each party since once someone gets a major party nomination their election is possible. Look what happened when the Carter people got their wish and Ronald Reagan got the Republican nomination. Candidates who appear beatable might do better than expected.

    I’m also not sure that Huckabee would alienate moderates any more than the other candidates considering that all the Republican choices this year are pretty far to the right. (Giuliani might appear a bit better to moderates on social issues but any benefit here is offset by the fears of him grabbing too much power for the Executive Branch.)

    Huckabee also has a reputation as governing as a centrist and he very well might do a better chance than the other Republicans at appearing more moderate once he is in a general election race. Huckabee can also afford to do less to bring out the evangelical vote since they already know he is one of them. Someone like Giuliani or Romney would have to continue to throw them bones during the campaign to get them to come out to vote for him.

    Another consideration is that we know there won’t be a revolt from the religious right if Huckabee gets the nomination, but the social conservatives might run a candidate if Giuliani gets the nomination, making it easier for the Democrats to win. There is the possibility that the fiscal conservatives would run their own candidate but I don’t think that they are as likely to split the Republican vote as much as a third party social conservative candidate would.

    At this time I think Huckabee’s chances are no worse than the other Republican candidates in terms of the general election. I would support the lesser evil. The problem is that there aren’t any viable candidates for the Republican nomination this year who appear any better than the others.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Eric,

    I’m really not so sure that Huckabee would be that much worse from a fiscal conservative viewpoint than the other Republicans. As a governor he was forced to be more pragmatic than those not in his position. Even Ronald Reagan raised taxes. Besides, the Republican record on spending has not been all that good. Not knowing the specifics in Arkansas makes it difficult to tell if he really is the big spender that he is now accused of being.

    Regardless, if I were you I wouldn’t waste much time trying to get the Ron Paul supporters to join you. First of all, as I’m sure you are aware, they are not likely to switch candidates. Secondly (as you are also aware) despite all the noise they make on line, there really aren’t very many of them.

    At this time Huckabee will probably get less votes than the combined votes for Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson. However Huckabee still has a shot at winning due to winner take all states and due to the probable momentum he’ll pick up if he does win a good number of the early primaries (even if he picks up less than half the delegates in those states).

    It’s unlikey to happen, but with such a divided field it would sure be interesting if the nomination actually goes to the convention this year. Or maybe that wouldn’t be good as I could see them getting deadlocked and ultimately nominating Jeb Bush on the fifth ballot! Or worse–maybe they would put Dick Cheney in charge of finding the best candidate in case of a deadlock, and we know who Dick Cheney would choose (as he did when George Bush had him choose his VP).

  5. 5
    Ryan says:

    Agreed. My feeling has been that McCain is the least evil. At least he has a good environmental record. He’s endorsed by Republicans for Environmental Protection

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    McCain might be least evil. At least he doesn’t deny global warming, he’s opposed to torture, he doesn’t show the xenophobia of most other Republicans on immigration, and he has tangled with the religious right.

    Looking back at this, it is rather pathetic. He looks the best because he accepts the consensus of scientific thought on climate, he will abide by the Geneva Conventions, and he has disagreed with theocrats in a country which supposedly has separation of church and state. These shouldn’t be characteristics of the least evil. These should be minimum requirements to be acceptable as a candidate.

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