Thursday, July 01, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Huck gets good press

Whether you are a fan or a detractor of Mike Huckabee — we confess to spells of both — you should pick up a copy of last week’s The New Yorker, which carries a remarkable profile of the glib Floridian who could be the next president of the United States.
If Huckabee always rubbed you the wrong way, you will find part of the portrait familiar: the whining about people who have done him wrong by criticizing him, the facile shading of the truth when he has screwed up, the half-baked policy ideas, the racy jokes, the sanctimony. (Whatever he does, it is always God who is guiding his hand, so be careful when you criticize him.)

But there is also the part of Mike Huckabee that makes him appealing to people who find the orthodoxy of the Republican Party, well, appalling. He was a pragmatic executive, always siding in the end with what needed to be done rather than with conservative orthodoxy, and he defends that attitude eloquently. He is proud that the plutocrats of the Republican Party don’t like him. Rush Limbaugh is in that group.

Limbaugh and the rich Republicans’ salon, the Club for Growth, call him a big-taxing liberal and cite his record as governor of Arkansas. Being a Republican and a conservative, Huckabee says, doesn’t mean you can’t have a heart or use the levers of government to relieve the suffering and raise the opportunities of the downtrodden.

Although the article is written by a liberated feminist, “Prodigal Son” is largely sympathetic to our former governor. Ariel Levy makes the case that he could well be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. Polls tend to rank him a little ahead of the other leading Republican lights: Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich. Levy thinks Huckabee’s radical views on Israel and Palestine — he favors uprooting the Palestinians from their homeland and putting them down somewhere in the Middle Eastern deserts — could get him some important Jewish financial support in 2012 if he runs. He has a forum — his Fox TV and radio shows — that the others do not have. Palin is pretty but she’s not in his show-biz class.

A more realistic view is that Huckabee is not going to run for president, although he will keep the speculation going as long as he can. He is making a fortune now and he would have to give that up if he ran for president. The lucre might not be there afterward if he failed. And, by the way, he did not take up residence in Florida to avoid paying Arkansas income taxes on his big earnings. (If not, why did he move his vote there if not to establish his residential intent for tax purposes?)
Huckabee offers a bit of speculation on why he may not run again in 2012. His Republican enemies would try to use his clemency record as governor against him, specifically his commutation of Maurice Clemmons, who went on to murder four police officers in Washington.

“The truth is, it could be the kind of thing that would keep me from ever being able to run,” he said. And, he explained the Clemmons affair like he has in the past, by fudging the truth. Clemmons was just a young fellow who had committed a couple of minor, nonviolent offenses and then got sent to prison for 108 years for it because he was poor and had a lousy lawyer, he said. But Clemmons had a lengthy record of crimes and of terrorizing people even when he was in custody. There were many others, like Wayne Dumond, the rapist who was accused of murdering two women after Huckabee arranged his release. He was always just trying to do his Christian duty to be charitable and humane.

But humanity was never the issue. Judgment was.

We cavil too much over the shortcomings. Huckabee gives a good apologia for his peculiar position in the political stakes. For every political junkie Levy’s profile bears reading.