Tuesday, November 6, 2007

what sort of conservative is Mike Huckabee?

For all of his bona fides as a social conservative...

Huckabee's abnegation of federalism is bizarre-- with respect to a federal role in declaring public smoking prohibitions. (Click here to read the transcript of Hugh Hewitt's interview with him and his focus on that question.)

And Huckabee's embrace of S-CHIP and tighter automotive environmental regulations is troubling.

Beyond that, his general claims to fiscal conservatism are coming under more scrutiny and criticism. First, some short zingers (hat tip: Chuck Muth)...

Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum: "(Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee) destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas, and left the Republican Party a shambles. Yet some of the same evangelicals who sold us on George W. Bush as a 'compassionate conservative' are now trying to sell us on Mike Huckabee."

WSJ Columnist John Fund: "Mr. Huckabee's reluctance to surround himself with conservatives was evident as governor, when he kept many agency heads appointed by Bill Clinton."

Pastor, talk-show host, and columnist Chuck Baldwin: "Christians need to beware of Mike Huckabee. He is not a conservative. Even worse, he is not a constitutionalist. He is an opportunist, however."

And from Doug Bandow, a longer article called "Mike Huckabee: Big Government on Steroids"...

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is an engaging personality. A good speaker with a folksy manner, he is attempting to sell himself as the candidate who can unite economic and social conservatives. In fact, he is far more likely to permanently divide the conservative movement.

Reports the Washington Times:

A bitter fight is taking place behind the scenes over Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.

Influential conservatives are clashing over whether Mr. Huckabee is capable of keeping evangelicals from fleeing the GOP to form a third party or if he’s too liberal fiscally for the Republican electorate.

The battle is bubbling into the public arena, fueled by fears that a three-way race could hand the presidency to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or another Democrat, and by murmurs of Mr. Huckabee as a vice-presidential candidate on the party’s ticket.

“We called him a pro-life, pro-gun liberal, when I was in the state legislature and he was governor,” said Randy Minton, chairman of the Arkansas chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s national Eagle Forum.

Mr. Minton voices the concerns of many conservatives that while Mr. Huckabee governed as a social conservative in opposing abortion and same-sex “marriage,” he was a treacherous liberal on taxes, social welfare spending and illegal immigration.

Fears about Huckabee’s conservative credentials are well-warranted....In fact, if you believe in limited government and individual liberty, you shouldn’t vote for Huckabee. He is a big spender and taxer and a believer in the nanny state. He’s also a reflexive interventionist on foreign policy, despite the disastrous consequences of Washington’s attempt at nation-building in Iraq today.

Pat Toomey of Club for Growth penned a devastating critique of Huckabee’s fiscal record. Notes Toomey:

In some quarters, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee appears to be the flavor-of-the-month Republican candidate for president. Given his folksy charm, social conservative credentials, and embrace by the mainstream media, it is not surprising that some are increasingly enamored with him. But this flirtation does a great disservice to the conservative movement if it overlooks Huckabee’s stunning record of big-government liberalism.

Then there’s the broader issue of Huckabee’s governing style. His record isn’t as good as one would expect, given his public religiosity. Quin Hillyer delved into Huckabee’s record for the American Spectator online:

National media folks like David Brooks, dealing in surface appearances only, rave about what a nice guy Huckabee is, and a moral exemplar to boot. If they only did a little homework, they would discover a guy with a thin skin, a nasty vindictive streak, and a long history of imbroglios about questionable ethics.

The conservative movement and Republican Party are ailing, but Mike Huckabee isn’t the answer. President George Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility has inflicted a serious blow to the GOP. The presence of Huckabee on the Republican ticket, even as vice president, would spur the exodus of fiscal conservatives from the party.

All that said, here's former Cinton advisor and political pundit Dick Morris on Huckabee's somewhat promising electoral future-- at least as a VP candidate.

Why the Huckabee boomlet? A gripping, humorous, passionate orator, he brings a spiritual dimension to public-policy problems. His ideas are interesting. Want lower health-care costs? Tackle obesity and smoking. Education reform? Music and art education are just as important to our national creativity as science and math.

He has a good chance to be the front-ranking challenger to Giuliani in the national primary on Feb. 5. He might beat Rudy - or at least earn a VP designation, because Giuliani will be anxious to appeal to Christian-right voters.


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