Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 11, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HUCKABEE LOSES THE CIGAR LOVERS VOTE....Five years ago Mike Huckabee denounced the Cuban trade embargo as bad for business. Unfortunately, that's a position that's also bad for winning votes in Florida, which means that a flip-flop was called for. Apparently, though, Huckabee didn't have energy to come up with some lame excuse for changing his mind, so instead he just flat out admitted he was pandering to win votes. Here's his explanation:

"Rather than seeing it as some huge change, I would call it, rather, the simple reality that I'm running for president of the United States, not for reelection as governor of Arkansas."

Full story here, including this: "Huckabee on Monday won an endorsement from Marco Rubio, Florida's Cuban American state House speaker....He said his decision was based largely on Huckabee's new views on Cuba."

Kevin Drum 1:07 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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That excuse works for Wayne Dumond, too: sure, he was a serial rapist who went on to kill a couple of people after I let him go. But in Arkansas, you gotta do what you gotta do!

Posted by: kth on December 11, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Cigar lovers? Thought a Clinton joke was imminent.

...But, but, Clinton!

Posted by: anonymous on December 11, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'll give Huck props for being honest on this one. I generally won't hold it against politicians for being politicians.

Posted by: Dan T. on December 11, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

This is actually one of the things I like about Huckabee. If politicians want the people's trust, they need to be honest about their motivations. Plus, frankly there are some issues where there's no reason to have an unswerving philosophical viewpoint, and it's a sign of intelligence and tolerance to admit that your position is conditional and pragmatic.

Posted by: Tom Veil on December 11, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

He doesn't even get points for honesty from me.

The amount of principle from the candidates on both sides is depressingly low. Romney and Clinton are the main offenders from each side, but Huckabee's quote epitomizes my general take on politics. We have strayed so far from the ideal of candidates stating their actual policy beliefs and principles and letting the voters decide that that notion is now laughable, and people who follow and are in politics actually think highly of politicians who are adroit at pandering and misleading voters without paying a price. Virtually everything Bush said when he campaigned in 2000 was misleading, and the current candidates are not much better.

When deception and pandering from politicians is actively praised and encouraged so long as it wins elections...well, you get what you deserve.

/cry

Posted by: oh come on now on December 11, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

"If you can't take lobbyists' money and fuck them, you have no business being in politics."

--then San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, on his accepting contributions from the tobacco industry

Posted by: anonymous on December 11, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Batista Americans have ruined the USA.

Posted by: Brojo on December 11, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Veil you disgust me. You actually like a politician because he is honest and admits he has no principle whatsoever? A sign of intelligence to admit you are taking a position solely for political expediency? Surely your post is sarcasm, in which case my first sentence does not apply.

Posted by: oh come on now on December 11, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

If politicians want the people's trust, they need to be honest about their motivations.

Huckabee honesty: "I'm telling you this because it's what you want to hear. If I'm talking to someone else, I'll tell them something else."

Now who can't admire that?

Posted by: frankly0 on December 11, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kudos to Huckabee for a straightforward answer, and no, I'm not a fan of his in general.

oh come on now: We have strayed so far from the ideal of candidates stating their actual policy beliefs and principles and letting the voters decide that that notion is now laughable

I think that elected officials should represent the people's views, rather than trying to lead them. I'm not interested in a candidate's "actual policy beliefs", because I have no confidence in learning what they are. My sole interest is in a candidate's stated beliefs, and what confidence I can have that they'll actually follow them. If a candidate says "I've changed my position on X because most voters disagree with me", that's perfectly reasonable.

Posted by: alex on December 11, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. I thought that this post was going to be about something else.

Posted by: Ruck on December 11, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Huckabee:

"Rather than seeing it as some huge change, I would call it, rather, the simple reality that I'm running for president of the United States, not for reelection as governor of Arkansas."
I wonder if the next sentence out of Huckabee's mouth after this wasn't: "Did I say that out loud?"

Posted by: frankly0 on December 11, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

In the novel The Dead Zone, there's a scene where Greg Stillson, a candidate running for Congress who happens to be a dangerous sociopath, throws hot dogs at constituents at some rally or fundraiser. "Serious" commentators dismissed the guy as a nut or performance art or something. However, a more perceptive character noticed that Americans have such a dim view of politics, and at the same time such a love of celebrity, that an unserious candidacy could be a very good way to get elected.

Yes, that's low-hanging fruit.

If Huckabee wants credit for being unusually honest, he would have stuck to his original opposition to the embargo (or, if his current statement is the genuine one for some weird reason, he should apologize for the previous one). Anything else is just an un-subtle attempt to send the message, "Hey, I hate politicians as much as you do! Wouldn't I be a fun guy to have a beer with?"

Posted by: Cyrus on December 11, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'm running for president of the United States, not for reelection as governor of Arkansas."

What's good for Arkansas is bad for the nation.

Posted by: tomeck on December 11, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

alex writes:
If a candidate says "I've changed my position on X because most voters disagree with me", that's perfectly reasonable

This could be the inspiration for a complete chapter in my next book, "Profiles in Cowardice".

Posted by: JFK on December 11, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Cyrus wrote: "In the novel The Dead Zone ..."

One of Stephen King's better novels, by the way -- more focused and tightly written than his later sprawling self-indulgent epics, and much better than the smarmy cable TV series based on "characters created by ...".

However, the 1983 film version directed by David Cronenberg with Christopher Walken as the protagonist, coma victim turned clairvoyant turned assassin Johnny Smith, and Martin Sheen as the "dangerous sociopath" politician Greg Stillson (the antithesis of Sheen's character on The West Wing) was excellent, disturbing as a Cronenberg film should be, and very faithful to the original novel. Probably after the original film version of Carrie with Oscar-nominated Sissy Spacek in the title role, the best film adaptation of a King novel.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 11, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

God, I hope he wins. This is not a bright man. I LOVE this little anecdote: "Huckabee refused to sign legislation to assist storm victims because the measure referred to tornadoes and floods as "acts of God." Putting his name on such legislation, Huckabee explained, "would be violating my own conscience" due to the bill equating "a destructive and deadly force" as "an act of God."

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE0DB173BF932A15750C0A961958260&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/H/Huckabee,%20Mike

Posted by: owenz on December 11, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'll just also say that I think its better to just straight out say you're changing positions to get support of a constituency than to make up some bullshit. The embargo on cuba is not one of the top 50 problems facing the country, if you're going to pander on something, might as well make it something not important and just come up front and say it.

Posted by: Jor on December 11, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't there a West Wing episode where Jed told some milk farmers that he was changing his position from his gubernatorial days because he now had to represent what's best for all Americans and not just New Hampshire residents?

This is obviously different than what Huckabee has said, since his change of heart is purely based on political expediancy, and not doing what would be in the best interests of more Americans.

I will give him points for being forthcoming about his pandering.

Posted by: drjimcooper on December 11, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

(Sigh!) What the fuck?

Nearly a half-century after the gratuitously corrupt Batista regime was driven from Havana alongside the Mafia's casino interests, why do we allow our politicians to continue to pander to this vociferously obnoxious boutique interest group that comprises maybe one or two percent of the U.S. population?

The Cold War is over, and Fidel Castro's 81 years old and in failing health. Even though it's obvious that change is inevitable, do these clowns actually think that after fifty years, the Cuban people will ever allow them to re-assume their former positions of privilege atop a re-established neo-colonial society?

I'm sorry, but with the passage of time and events, these people are now Americans. The clear majority of them were born in this country.

Therefore, I would suggest that instead further indulging such nonsensical flights of fancy, that we now insist that they start behaving as proper American citizens, rather than as persecuted political refugees burdened by a perpetual exile.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 11, 2007 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

drjimcooper, that would be the season two opener.

Posted by: Keith G on December 11, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Huckabee doesn't get any respect points for me for his "honesty." He will get points from me if he gets a huge fundraising bonanza from the Cuban-American commuinity, wins florida and thus the presidency because of the cuban vote, and then ends the embargo when he takes office.

THEN, I'll respect Huckabee for making this policy stance change.

Posted by: Tyro on December 11, 2007 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

... disturbing as a Cronenberg film should be...

Long live the new flesh!

Posted by: junebug on December 11, 2007 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Is it not possible that state policies and national policies might sometimes be in opposition? Isn't that the crux of the crisis over Hillary's driver's license answer a while back? That New York state might have interests that don't match those of the federal government? In a federal system in which different responsibilities of government are split among different levels government, it's inevitable that they will come into conflict.

Posted by: daveadams on December 11, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

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