Mike Huckabee – False Conservative?

Mike Huckabee - False Conservative? Republican presidential hopeful, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, right, talks with reporters as Rick Flair campaigns outside Williams Brice Stadium before the Clemson-South Carolina football game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain) 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.

Interesting times.

Photo credit: Mary Ann Chastain, AP

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Was Reagan really a small government conservative? I think the evidence from his presidency is fairly small.

    I think that Ronald Reagan was a plain, old-fashioned Red fighter. That aspect of his administration makes coherent sense of his entire political career uniting rhetoric with action.

  2. SavageView says:

    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.

    Change the phrase to “high-borrowing,” and it’s no different than the authoritarian currently in residence at the White House.

  3. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    The best description I ever heard of Huckabee, from someone in Little Rock who knows him well, is that Huckabee is from the “religious Left”.

  4. Paul says:

    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?

    Yeah, that always terrified me in the 1980s and 1990s. Then in 2000 it actually happened, Novak is quite late in smelling the stench. Sure, Bush and Huckabee differ on various issues but the basic problem is the same: the party has abandoned small government. Perhaps the problem is that many supposed small government advocates of the past only took that position because they weren’t the ones who were running it. It apparently is a rare breed who would actually have the power of government at their fingertips and still be conservative in their use of it to regulate the markets or people’s private lives.

  5. Paul says:

    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.

    I’m not so sure national security is “Priority One,” for the Chamber of Commerce crowd, if by that you mean the particular formula for national security espoused by any serious Republican over any serious Democrat. The more accurate statement would seem to be that 9/11 refertilized the ground for the Chamber of Commerce to seek votes for its candidates from evangelicals who may not directly care much about the Wall Street agenda.

    I also think it is a great oversimplication to say that Bill Clinton’s election was made possible by the collapse of the USSR. Voters like change every once in awhile, and the GOP had won 5 of 6 Presidential elections going into 1992, there was a recession, and the Democrats ran a stronger candidate than they had in a generation. I suppose that if the USSR was as strong as ever in 1992 and tensions were red hot, that Clinton’s lack of foreign policy experience wouldn’t have compared well to Bush’s and that may have turned votes that year. But I don’t think one can contend that if the USSR had remained strong the Democrats never would have never won a Presidential election again.

  6. Sassy says:

    The accusations and generalizations are not legitimate. How could someone who wants to get rid of the IRS, which Huckabee’s fair tax initiative would do, be thought of as someone who loves Big Government? Mike would not play the Arkansas “Good-Ole Boy” Government and the rich, and powerful RINO’S AND DINO’S in Arkansas got plenty mad at him.They have the big money government and want him stopped! Mike beat out the Democrats each and every time when he ran for Governor. The Clinton’s working very hard in trying to get their candidate in, lost to Mike!! Why? Not because he was BIG GOVERNMENT! Because he was for the PEOPLE of Arkansas. And we knew it! That is why we VOTED for him and we VOTED to have our taxes raise so we could enjoy some of the other benefits that the other states had. Good roads, better pay for teachers, health care for children etc… And Mike did not come out of Arkansas a rich man where he could put down millions of dollars for his campaign. He is getting where he is today because of the American people, the grassroots of America are wanting him there!!

  7. Winghunter says:

    The Huckster is a false Conservative, a false Prophet and a false man. How else could he pretend to promote a pro-life amendment which will never pass from taking a Federalist approach?? THEN, have the audacity to whine that Thompson received the NRLC endorsement??

    On 2/12/95 an article Ralph Z. Harlow from the Washington Times wrote under the caption “Conservatives Hold Fire On Abortion” the Huckster said this:
    In the spirit of federalism, the proposed GOP revision also would replace the abortion amendment with a statement saying the issue should be left up to the individual state legislatures to deal with as each sees fit. ‘That’s exactly what we have looked for, and if it’s left up to the states, more of them are going to put some restrictions on abortion,’ Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee said in an interview after appearing on a conference panel yesterday.”

    On 4/ 2006 in an interview with John Hawkins on RightWing News the Huckster was talking the same talk: http://www.rightwingnews.com/interviews/huckabee.php

    “It would please me because I think Roe v. Wade is based on a real stretch of Constitutional application — that somehow there is a greater privacy issue in the abortion concern — than there is a human life issue — and that the federal government should be making that decision as opposed to states making that decision. So, I’ve never felt that it was a legitimate manner in which to address this and, first of all, it should be left to the states, the 10th Amendment, but secondly, to somehow believe that the taking of an innocent, unborn human life is about privacy and not about that unborn life is ludicrous.”

    BUT then on 11/19/07;
    Huckabee Rejects Letting States Decide Whether to Allow Abortions
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312107,00.html

    “If morality is the point here, and if it’s right or wrong, not just a political question, then you can’t have 50 different versions of what’s right and what’s wrong.”

    “For those of us for whom this is a moral question, you can’t simply have 50 different versions of what’s right,”he said in an interview on Fox News Sunday.”

    What an unbelievable con-artist this puke is!

  8. McGehee says:

    How could someone who wants to get rid of the IRS, which Huckabee’s fair tax initiative would do, be thought of as someone who loves Big Government?

    First, it’s not Mike Huckabee’s FairTax initiative — he’s simply embraced it as a way of catching people’s attention in his presidential bid.

    Second, in order to pay for everything else Huckabee supports, the FairTax would either have to be far more revenue-enhancing than its mainstream supporters profess, or at a much higher rate than anybody wants to see, or it would have to fail to supplant the income tax altogether.

    Third, of all the things Huckabee supports, the one thing that he claims makes him conservative is also the one thing least likely to make it through a Congress almost certain to still be Democrat-controlled.

  9. Mike Huckabee – False Conservative? …

    You’ve been kicked (a good thing) – Trackback from ConservativeKicks.com…

  10. floyd says:

    This may not be the last nail in the coffin of accurate political labeling, but it ought to be enough to hold the lid shut while we seek some new and more honest terminology.

  11. Paul says:

    Second, in order to pay for everything else Huckabee supports, the FairTax would either have to be far more revenue-enhancing than its mainstream supporters profess, or at a much higher rate than anybody wants to see, or it would have to fail to supplant the income tax altogether.

    Or he could just run massive deficits like the current and most recent former high-(deferred-)tax Administrations.

    Third, of all the things Huckabee supports, the one thing that he claims makes him conservative is also the one thing least likely to make it through a Congress almost certain to still be Democrat-controlled.

    Right, the only way I see getting to any fiscal responsibility is to get back a Republican Congress, and the only way that is going to happen before 2013 is if a polarizing Democrat is elected President. Even if it were possible for the GOP to take back Congress without Hillary in the next eight years, a GOP Congress and President don’t seem to be a formula for responsibility either because Congress spends to make the President look good and the President doesn’t veto enough of the bills passed by his friends.

    Calling global warming a “moral issue” mandating “a biblical duty” to prevent climate change,

    Dictionary.com defines conservative as “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.” Novak’s mindset that the Republican party must reflexively be against environmental protection is bad for the party, bad for the planet, and bad for conservatism. Too often these days people are confusing that regulations that are bad for a few specific business plans but good for the health of the country as a whole are “bad for business” and therefore should be opposed by Republicans. I don’t see the virtue in the name of “free markets” in allowing a very few private interests to reduce the wealth of the rest of us by dumping mercury in rivers or demolishing entire mountains, while most businesses and Wall St. Journal readers care more about going to the lake on the weekend rather than wishing they could dredge it. So I welcome Huckabee’s language, although I don’t know much about his actual positions on the issue.