Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HUCKABEE AND BUSH....In his recent Foreign Affairs essay, Mike Huckabee had hard words for George Bush's approach to national security:

American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States' main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists.

Bold! Truthtelling! A brave effort to stand up to the Bush adminsitration's unthinking hawkishness. Except for one thing: as soon as Mitt Romney called him on it, Huckabee backed down:

I didn't say the President was arrogant....I've said that the policies have been arrogant....I'm the one who actually supported the President's surge. I supported the Bush tax cuts, when Mr. Romney didn't. I was with President Bush on gun control, when Mitt Romney wasn't. I was with the President on the President's pro-life position, when Mitt Romney wasn't.

What's funny about this is that, given the realities of magazine lead times, Huckabee almost certainly wrote his essay at least a month ago, and maybe earlier than that. Back then, like any candidate with no realistic shot at winning, he was occasionally willing to speak out and let the chips fall where they would. But the Republican presidential race has been so volatile that a mere month later Huckabee finds himself with an actual shot at the nomination. So no more truthtelling for the Huck! He's George Bush's biggest supporter now, and don't you dare think otherwise.

This is just another example of why everyone should ignore bold truthtelling from minor candidates. It's easy to take unpopular stands when you have no chance of winning, but not so easy when you're actually trying to scrounge up the votes to put yourself over the top. Huckabee is just the latest victim of this eternal truth.

Kevin Drum 11:31 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

Too bad he backed down. Romney is hardly the one to complain about anything and calling Bush on his behavior is the only way that any Republican has a chance in the general election.

I wonder if the Republicans might just nominate Huck so they can blame the religious folks when the disaster occurs.

Posted by: freelunch on December 17, 2007 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Huckabee is more of an example than a victim. No one held a gun to his head when he backpeddled.

Colin

Posted by: Colin on December 17, 2007 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

"It's easy to take unpopular stands when you have no chance of winning, but not so easy when you're actually trying to scrounge up the votes to put yourself over the top."

Wait, wasn't this the entire plot of "The Candidate"?

Posted by: NJ on December 17, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK
Mike Huckabee had hard words for George Bush's approach to national security:

Ma il Duce ha sempre ragione, non?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 17, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Wait, wasn't this the entire plot of "The Candidate"?

Yeah, and remember the final scene of that movie, when the victory party is going on and Redford, who was supposed to lose, gets his campaign manager off to the side and asks, "What do we do NOW?"

That would be Huckabee's question if the sky falls down and he wins in November 08.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on December 17, 2007 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad

I didn't say the President was arrogant....I've said that the policies have been arrogant.

Well, he did say "administration". Cheney undoubtedly has contributed hugely to an "arrogant bunker mentality". It is interesting that Huckabee didn't try to backpedal away from using the word "arrogant" the second time.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 17, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

The current media hysteria has it that Lieberman's endorsement of McCain means Saint John is officially hot again. But if truthtelling is something only the minor candidates can afford, where does that leave our favorite maverick? Will he back down on immigration? Climate change? Torture?

With Republicans, the issue is less important than the perception of an ongoing holy war with liberals. That's why they care so deeply about things they hardly understand.

Posted by: Walt on December 17, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Who cares about Huckabee? Ron Paul raised $6 million yesterday...yes, in one day.

You gonna write about it, Kevin? Or are you just gonna keep trying to ignore that "Fruitcake" Ron Paul?

Posted by: FZappa on December 17, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Lifelong Dem wrote: "... Redford, who was supposed to lose, gets his campaign manager off to the side and asks, "What do we do NOW?" That would be Huckabee's question if the sky falls down and he wins in November 08."

No worries. The neo-fascist corporate-feudalist CEOs of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. will tell him exactly what to do.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 17, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK
Who cares about Huckabee? Ron Paul raised $6 million yesterday...yes, in one day.

If it weren't for Perot, Paul'd be well on the way to the best-funded third-party challenge ever....

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 17, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of minor candidates, I just heard that Lieberman has endorsed McCain for president. Why doesn't the asshole just change parties?

Posted by: JeffII on December 17, 2007 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

I supported Bush's arrogance before I was against it.

Posted by: Hickabee on December 17, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Is Huckaby as ignorant of foreign policy as he pretends to be? By comparison, go back and read various comments by Henry Kissenger. Kissenger didn't talk about feelings and personal attitudes like "arrogance" or "bunker mentality." He talked about specific countries, specific leaders and treaty terms. He addressed substantive foreign policy measures.

I guess Huckaby thinks effective foreign policy can be designed by simply following Church teachings and applying good fellowship. What a jerk!

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 17, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

No worries. The neo-fascist corporate-feudalist CEOs of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. will tell him exactly what to do. Posted by: SecularAnimist

Worse yet, the "religious" right could have his ear!

"Corporate-feudalist," Sec? Not just a bit over-the- top since you are mixing exclusive economic models?

Posted by: JeffII on December 17, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Kissenger didn't talk about feelings and personal attitudes like "arrogance" or "bunker mentality." He talked about specific countries, specific leaders and treaty terms. He addressed substantive foreign policy measures.

I guess Huckaby thinks effective foreign policy can be designed by simply following Church teachings and applying good fellowship.

Posted by: ex-liberal

i guess there are many paths to cruddy foreign policy.

if it ends up with not so many hundreds of thousands dead, with few clear benefits, maybe we should give huckabee's a whirl.

your pal,
blake

Posted by: blake on December 17, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

He's George Bush's biggest supporter now, and don't you dare think otherwise.

Such a big supporter he felt compelled not only to specify how he sided with Bush on foreign policy, but to go on to enumerate his agreements with Bush on domestic policy as well--when that wasn't part of the question.

Posted by: Swift Loris on December 17, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Don't you love farce?
My fault I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want.
Sorry, my dear.
But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here."
- Stephen Sondheim, A Little Night Music"

Posted by: Rudy & the Boys on Broadway on December 17, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think calling the Bush Adminisration's foreign policy the result of an arrogant bunker mentality actually hurts Mike Huckabee with his base. His problem is keeping the base from concluding he is a hypocrite while he sucks up to the remaining beltway people who still think Bush's approach to foreign policy is A-OK

Posted by: corpus juris on December 17, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

This is the first suggestion of a problem bound to dog whomever the Republicans nominate. How can they say they like Bush while hating all that he's done? They'll be running to him and then away from him throughout the general election campaign.

Posted by: MarkH on December 17, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

the remaining beltway people who still think Bush's approach to foreign policy is A-OK

There are none. There are many who think that it is in their best careerist interest to defend him and his foolish decisions, but I doubt that even the most frothing-mad neocon thinks that Bush's approach to foreign policy is A-OK.

Posted by: freelunch on December 17, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Huckabee's article comes from a speech he gave in September. Take a look at it here:

http://media.csis.org/csistv/?070928_huckabee

I thought it was a fantastic speech, myself. And I don't know that Huckabee is backpedaling at all - he stands by his criticisms. He does point out that there are areas of agreement with the president, and that it is hypocritical of Romney to demand an apology.

Posted by: Wonders for Oyarsa on December 17, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

I read the article Huckabee allegedly wrote for Foreign Affairs. That article was so detailed and specific about the Middle East, there is no way Huckabee could have written it.

Two weeks ago Huckabee knew nothing of the Iran NIE that everyone was talking about. He is a know-nothing. When it comes to foreign policy, Huckabee is a completely empty vessel--no better than Bush in 1999.

Who is Huckabee's ghost writer? Maybe he should read the stuff he writes, eh?

Posted by: daveb99 on December 17, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

This is just another example of why everyone should ignore bold truthtelling from minor candidates.

I realize we're talking about the modern Republican Party here, but shouldn't "ignore" be downgraded to "not over-rate"? Bold truth-telling has merit beyond distinguishing minor candidates, and I think we should encourage as much of it as possible. In fact, minor candidates trying to grab headlines by goring sacred cows is about the only saving grace of our otherwise stupid first-past-the-post electoral system.

Posted by: Eric Scharf on December 17, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I disagree strongly with the idea that we should ignore "bold truth telling" from minor candidates. Because they are minor candidates and have little to risk, they help expose the hypocrisy of the panderers, and thereby perform a valuable role. And perhaps sometimes the truth tellers don't fold when give a bigger spot-light. Dose Howard Dean in the '04 race count as a truth teller who stuck to his guns (about the Iraq war)?

Posted by: evan500 on December 17, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

seems to me he didn't know much but he thought using certain moral principles was a good basis. All of a sudden he panics, my principles might cost me the nomination! Unfortunately character shows through. (Unless wonders is right and we are all misreading the backpedalling).

Posted by: bigTom on December 17, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

"ex0-liberal" wrote: Is Huckaby [sic] as ignorant of foreign policy as he pretends to be?

I dunno....are you?

Posted by: Gregory on December 17, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Huck as Truth Teller....
As Governor of Arkansas, he opposed the trade embargo with Cuba, as it was bad for (rice) business. As a candidate for President, he told south Floridians he was in favor of the trade embargo. When asked about his change of positions, he said, "I was running for Governor of Arkansas then. I am running for President of the United States now."

Posted by: sceptic on December 17, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

How the hell can they still be afraid to pick on Bush? Really, who of consequence would matter if they were offended? If it does still matter, what does that tell us about either how stupid many voters still are, or who can pull what sort of creepy strings and stick in what kind of shivs?

Posted by: Neil B. on December 17, 2007 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

This is just another example of why everyone should ignore bold truthtelling from minor candidates.

Does Ron Paul count? He's been awfully consistent, and he certainly doesn't talk as if he's ever listented a focus group.

Posted by: amorphous on December 17, 2007 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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