Mike Huckabee – False Conservative?
Bob Novak has a scathing attack on Mike Huckabee’s conservative credentials.
Huckabee is campaigning as a conservative, but serious Republicans know that he is a high-tax, protectionist advocate of big government and a strong hand in the Oval Office directing the lives of Americans. Until now, they did not bother to expose the former governor of Arkansas as a false conservative because he seemed an underfunded, unknown nuisance candidate. Now that he has pulled even with Mitt Romney for the Iowa caucuses and might make more progress, the beleaguered Republican Party has a frightening problem.
The rise of evangelical Christians as the force that blasted the GOP out of minority status during the past generation always contained an inherent danger: What if these new Republican acolytes supported not merely a conventional conservative but one of their own? That has happened with Huckabee, a former Baptist minister educated at Ouachita Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The danger is a serious contender for the nomination who passes the litmus test of social conservatives on abortion, gay marriage and gun control but is far removed from the conservative-libertarian model of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
Novak portrays Huckabee as a big government guy who brings his religious fervor to forwarding a liberal agenda:
There is no doubt about Huckabee’s record during a decade in Little Rock. He was regarded by fellow Republican governors as a compulsive tax-and-spender. He increased the Arkansas tax burden 47 percent, boosting the levies on gasoline and cigarettes. When he lost 100 pounds and decided to press his new lifestyle on the American people, he was hardly being a Goldwater-Reagan libertarian.
As a presidential candidate, Huckabee has sought to counteract his reputation as a taxer by pressing for replacement of the income tax with a sales tax. More recently he signed the no-tax-increase pledge of Americans for Tax Reform. But Huckabee simply does not fit within normal boundaries of economic conservatism, such as when he criticized President Bush’s veto of a Democratic expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Calling global warming a “moral issue” mandating “a biblical duty” to prevent climate change, he has endorsed a cap-and-trade system that is anathema to the free market.
The modern conservative movement has always been an odd mixture.
Reagan successfully mobilized evangelical Christians but he was decidedly not one of them; he was a small government conservative who merely talked the talk on issues like abortion and school prayer while not actually doing much about them. He managed to expand the base to include social conservatives but hold on to the economic conservatives by promoting low taxes, free(ish) trade, devout anti-Communism, and a massive increase in defense spending.
The collapse of the Soviet Union weakened this coalition and helped make the election of Bill Clinton possible. The 9/11 attacks again made national security Priority One for conservatives and again made it necessary for evangelicals and the Chamber of Commerce crowd to band together.
Still, the bedfellows are no less strange. Evangelical leaders are endorsing the likes of Rudy Giuliani because counter-terrorism has taken on a quasi-messianic urgency. At the same time, we’ve got Mitt Romney, whose Mormonism makes him a “cultist” in the eyes of many evangelicals, leading the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. Huckabee is making traditional Republicans very nervous while rallying strong support in Iowa — and drawing the endorsements of Chuck Norris and Ric Flair. And, of course, there’s the Ron Paul phenomenon.
Photo credit: Mary Ann Chastain, AP