Huck: Playing to Our Inner Jimmy Carter

December 17, 2007

At the risk of incurring a roundhouse kick from the great Chuck Norris, I must confess that I’m even more troubled by Mike Huckabee’s direction than I was last week.

On “Meet the Press” in January 2007, Tim Russert asked Huckabee, “You said this: ‘I have a hard time seeing (Sen. John McCain) being elected president, just because I think, at times, some of his views have alienated very important segments of the Republican Party. I’m not sure he can mend the fences with the evangelical wing of the party, the pro-life part of the party.’ You stand by those words?”

Huckabee responded, “Well, sure, I said them. I, I have a lot of respect for Senator McCain. He’s a great American hero. But I do think that there are going to be some challenges that he’ll face, and some of them have to do with issues that really have alienated many conservatives.”

Bingo — except now these words could apply equally to Huckabee — not concerning the pro-life issue but Huckabee’s unfortunate piece in Foreign Affairs magazine, where he joined the Democratic amen chorus in indicting President Bush for his “arrogant bunker mentality.”

Until now, Huckabee has been fairly Teflon, avoiding real damage with conservatives for some of the unappealing aspects of his record and policy agenda. But the Foreign Affairs article, “America’s Priorities in the War on Terror,” could be his “Howard Dean scream” moment — assuming Republicans are listening with a modicum of objectivity.

For taken at face value, a number of his statements in the piece surely will, to paraphrase Huckabee, “alienate very important segments of the Republican Party.” Why? Because they wrongly trash President Bush in the words of ill-meaning Democrats who have slandered Bush’s foreign policy from the beginning for their own partisan ends.

Huckabee’s most offending words appeared at the very outset of the article, which should remove any doubt they were central to his theme. He wrote, “The United States, as the world’s only superpower, is less vulnerable to military defeat. But it is more vulnerable to the animosity of other countries. Much like a top high school student, if it is modest about its abilities and achievements, if it is generous in helping others, it is loved. But if it attempts to dominate others, it is despised. American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States’ main fight does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists.”

Are we to assume that Mike Huckabee agrees with The New York Times, which, in its editorial “America the Indifferent,” once called the United States “the stingiest (country) in the Group of Seven industrialized nations”?

I believe America is the most benevolent and generous nation in the history of the world, which is all the more remarkable considering it is the world’s sole super power. But our decency and generosity, Huckabee’s theory notwithstanding, has not caused us to be universally loved by other nations, which have various reasons for hating us, none of which has anything to do with our mythical lack of generosity, benevolence or decency.

Nor have we attempted to dominate others. After removing Saddam, did we confiscate Iraq’s oil? We sure could use it, couldn’t we? Did we make Iraq our imperial subject or did we help it establish its own constitution and republican government? Yes, plenty of critics say Bush has made Iraq an American satellite, but you should expect to find them on Daily Kos and Democratic Underground, not at Huckabee HQ.

Huckabee’s most objectionable criticism, though, is that Bush had an arrogant bunker mentality and should have changed his tone and reached out. But what readers seem to have missed is that Huckabee applied the criticism to Bush’s domestic as well as his foreign policies — “at home and abroad.”

At once, Huckabee is validating the fraudulent Democratic critique that Bush conducted a “unilateral” foreign policy and, domestically, did not reach out across the aisle to Democrats, which he did on numerous occasions, only to be shot in the back by Ted Kennedy and company.

Everyone knows, though Democrats won’t admit, that Bush has continually tried to reach out to other nations, as when he tried to build the coalition against Iraq. Many nations would not join — not because Bush didn’t plead with them but because they had their own corrupt or ignoble reasons for abstaining. Huckabee should join Republicans in condemning those recalcitrant nations rather than joining Democrats in opportunistically condemning Bush.

Republicans might overlook some of Huckabee’s other anomalous policy positions, but his betrayal of President Bush, wrapped in a virtual endorsement of Jimmy Carter diplomacy, will require some real explaining.