Mike Huckabee Too Moralistic to be President?
Paul Mirengoff argues that Mike Huckabee is weak on national security because he’s blinded by his ideals.
My main objection to Huckabee — the reason why he’s my fifth choice out of five — is that I lack confidence in his ability to fight terrorism. It’s not just that he lacks experience in this realm, though that’s certainly the case. The real problem is that he’s too moralistic (which is not the same thing as moral). My first clue came when he said during an early debate that we need to remain in Iraq because “we broke it.” Not because we need to defeat al Qaeda; not because we need to limit Iranian influence or avoid a devastating defeat at the hands of terrorists; but because we injured this formerly peaceful state. Huckabee’s exaltation of moralism (in this case dubious) over policy calculation was difficult to miss.
Now we learn (but are surprised) that Huckabee opposes waterboarding and would close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Huckabee reached this conclusion after meeting with a group of retired generals (the usual suspects, I assume) who are lobbying candidates to oppose Bush administration interrogation and detention policies.
Now, I haven’t taken Huckabee very seriously as a presidential candidate yet. Indeed, I lumped him in with the likes of Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel on my “People Who Won’t Get Elected President” back in January.
Nor would I quibble with Mirengoff’s characterization of Huckabee’s foriegn policy credentials. Granting that governors are generally the most attractive presidential candidates and few governors have any meaningful international affairs dealings, Huckabee would be on the low end of recent presidents in that regard.
Still, the idea that he’s disqualified from leading our foreign policy because he has moral principles and thinks we should run the country accordingly is baffling. Conservatives rightly lauded Ronald Reagan for his willingness to call the Soviets an “Evil Empire” and treat them accordingly — and rightly criticized him for abandoning principle and selling arms to Iran in an exchange for help in getting hostages released.
Further, the cases Mirengoff cites are ones where Huckabee’s instincts are correct.
We did in fact invade Iraq and create the conditions for chaos. We did in fact ask Iraqis to put their confidence in us and work with us in setting up a democratic state. Surely, we do owe them something having done that? Further, aside from moral considerations, leaving the Iraqis in a lurch would surely diminish our international credibility, making it harder to get support in the future.
Similarly, our practices at Guantanamo have been a public relations nightmare for us and a bonanza for our enemies. For precious little gain in useful intelligence, we’ve surrendered the moral high ground. We’re in a battle to, as the cliché goes, win hearts and minds. Failing to live up to our basic principles makes that much more difficult.
As Steven Taylor notes, one can derive these principles absent Huckabee’s evangelicalism. He notes, for example, that Colin Powell coined the “Pottery Barn Rule” with respect to Iraq. I’d note that Powell also favors closing Gitmo. As does John McCain, who knows something about the subject of torture.
Now, if you want to criticize Huckabee for letting his religious views get in the way of sane public policy, you might want to start with things like opposing condom distribution in Africa . . . .
A mysterious group calling itself Iowans for Some Semblance of Christian Decency has begun waging a campaign against former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, insinuating that not only is the Republican presidential candidate not a true conservative, he’s not a real Christian.
In fliers put under the doors of reporters at the Marriott in Des Moines, where Huckabee was staying Monday night, the organization, whose members are unknown, lays out its interpretation of how the former Baptist minister’s views run contrary to the Bible.
Huckabee’s support of educational opportunities for the children of illegal immigrants is portrayed, for instance, as “justification for violating the 8th commandment (stealing from U.S. citizens).”
So . . . Huckabee’s not religious enough for religious extremists but too moral for security extremists? That’s not a bad place to be, methinks.