Friday, April 22, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Huckabee vs. Beck

We hate it when friends or family fall out in a public way and ask everyone else to take sides. Political breeches are just as unsettling.

It was unseemly this week when Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee, a couple of conservative stars of the Fox News commentariat, went after each other like grade-school brats. Beck from time to time had spoken well of Huckabee, and only a few days ago Huckabee had stoutly defended Beck, who was losing his job at Fox, apparently because advertisers were pulling out. Beck’s conspiracies had got zanier and zanier.

Then, on his widely heard syndicated radio show, Beck called Huckabee a “progressive.” A progressive! Most people throughout American history would be honored to be called a progressive. The word was applied to, among others, the Republican presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.

But in Beck’s lexicon, as Huckabee reminded us this week in a statement on Huckpac, his online fund-raising forum, progressivism is equated with cancer and Nazis. Beck didn’t compare Huckabee to Hitler or cancer, but he often talks about progressives in those terms, and our beloved former governor got the message. Beck said Huckabee had raised taxes repeatedly as governor of Arkansas, turned Arkansas into a mommy state on health care and connived with John McCain in 2008 to destroy Mitt Romney in the presidential race (Beck defends Romney, a fellow Mormon), and if Huckabee were elected president, he would do nothing to attack big government.

So Huckabee Thursday unloaded on Beck, calling him ridiculous, full of foolish conspiracies and either ignorant or malicious for attacking him. Huckabee’s prepared statement was ungrammatical and awkward—he must really have been steamed or else his ghostwriter was not on hand—but we have to side with our Florida friend on this one, on just about every count. 

Beck had ridiculed Huckabee for supporting First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity and the diabetes epidemic. Huckabee had invited her on his show to talk about the obesity campaign. As everyone knows, Huckabee lost a lot of weight in his last years as governor and made a lot of money by publishing a little diet book.

Of Beck and the first lady, Huckabee wrote: “I’m no fan of her husband’s policies for sure, but I have appreciated her efforts that Beck misrepresented—either out of ignorance or out of a deliberate attempt to distort them to create another ‘boogey man’ hiding in the closet that he and only he can see.* * * He seems to fancy himself a prophet of sorts for his linking so many people and events together to describe a massive global conspiracy for pretty much everything. Sadly, he seems equally inept at recognizing the obvious fact that children are increasingly obese and that we now see clinical evidence of diseases in children that as recent as 20 years ago were found only in adults, such as Type 2 diabetes. The costs to our nation are staggering in increase health-care expenses, but it even effects (sic) national security with now 75% of young men between the ages of 17 and 24 are (sic) unfit for military service primarily due to obesity!”

That followed by a day Huckabee’s attack on another conservative Republican group, the Club for Growth, the millionaire boys’ club that has been attacking Huckabee since 2007 as a big-government, tax-and-spend liberal. The Club for Growth had criticized Donald Trump, the latest Republican presidential candidate (actually, he’s just testing the waters like Huckabee at this point), for Trump’s progressive stances (he once praised President Obama and favors a woman’s right to have an abortion).

The Club for Growth had run TV ads saying: “There once was a governor from Hope, Arkansas, who raised taxes like there was no tomorrow. Higher sales taxes, gas taxes, grocery taxes, even higher taxes on nursing home beds. Raised spending by 50 percent, too. Who is that liberal tax and spend Arkansas governor? Bill Clinton? No, It’s Mike Huckabee.”

“Under their criteria,” Huckabee said this week, “the things that Ronald Reagan had to do as governor and as president probably would have made him a tax-loving socialist unfit for the White House as well.”

Huckabee is right. Although Reagan is famous for cutting taxes dramatically for high-income people in his first year as president, he raised taxes 11 times, nearly all of it directed at lower-income earners. He did it to try to bring under control the giant deficit that he had created with the big tax cut. Reagan got by with the practicality—he is now celebrated as a tax cutter and crusader for small government and the tax increases are forgotten—but Glenn Beck and the Club for Growth are not going to let Huckabee get away with the same kind of pragmatism.

But Huckabee may know something they don’t. The polls this week show Huckabee with a far better approval rating among Republicans than any of the fire-breathing candidates who vow they will never allow a rich man’s taxes to go up or the government to do much of anything but fight wars. Huckabee still insists that he raised all those taxes to please Democrats—he didn’t; he often pushed Democratic legislators and the voters to pass them—but you can ask too much candor of a politician.

This week, we’ll take Mike Huckabee. If Glenn Beck and the Club for Growth are on his case, he’s been doing something right.