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Tilting at Windmills

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December 29, 2007

DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT FOREIGN POLICY....In October, David Brooks, in an otherwise fawning column about Mike Huckabee, conceded that "his foreign policy thinking is thin." That was obviously a dramatic understatement.

Earlier this month, he didn't know what the National Intelligence Estimate was. A week later, the former governor identified Thomas Friedman and Frank Gaffney as his biggest influences on foreign policy, despite the fact that Friedman and Gaffney don't actually agree on anything.

This week, any shred of credibility Huckabee maintained on foreign policy quickly vanished. In the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, the Arkansan's first reaction was to argue that the slaying should lead to a reevaluation of U.S. immigration policy. Of course, the assertion didn't make any sense.

Indeed, it's been a particularly embarrassing couple of days for Huckabee. He argued that "we have more Pakistani illegals" entering the U.S. than any other nationality, aside from Mexico. That's not even close to being true. He said the Pakistani government "does not have enough control of those eastern borders near Afghanistan to be able go after the terrorists." He meant western borders.

His campaign tried to explain the candidate's ignorance.

A senior aide to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee admitted Friday that the former Arkansas governor had "no foreign policy credentials" after his comments reacting to the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto raised questions.

During an event Friday in Pella, Iowa, Huckabee said the crisis sparked by Bhutto's death should lead to a crackdown on illegal immigrants from Pakistan. The Huckabee official told CNN that when he said that, Huckabee was trying to turn attention away from scrutiny of his foreign policy knowledge.

How terribly odd. Huckabee is under criticism for his breathtaking confusion about foreign affairs, so he thought it was wise to make it worse, connecting the Bhutto assassination to Republican fears about immigration.

We're less than a week from the Iowa caucuses, and Huckabee has taken the lead in some national polls. Is it too much to ask that he, I don't know, start reading the newspaper in the morning? Couldn't he at least pretend to care about what's going on in the world?

Kevin's question from a few weeks ago is still salient: "[W]ill anyone press him on this? Or will he get the village idiot treatment that Republicans since Ronald Reagan have so often gotten, where they're sort of expected to say harebrained stuff and nobody holds it against them?"

Steve Benen 9:42 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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At what point should we expect Republican presidential candidates to meet the minimum experience requirements of their Democratic opponents. The MSM criticizes John Edwards as being a foreign policy "light weight" but shortly after Bhutto's assassination he was on the phone with Pervez Musharraf urging calm and an internationally lead investigation.

Huckabee's idea of foreign affairs is deporting Arkansas rapists to Missouri, yet he is the Republican front runner and gets the traditional George W. Bush wink, wink, nod, nod from the MSM on foreign policy. Hint to the MSM, Huckabee is a Baptist preacher. You will never be asked to drink a beer with him.

Posted by: corpus juris on December 29, 2007 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't so much mind Mike Huckabee's ignorance of foreign policy if he at least demonstrated that it was a fleeting occurrence that he was attempting to surmount and correct. Rather sadly, he instead appears to revel in it publicly.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 29, 2007 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

The Huckabee official told CNN that when he said that, Huckabee was trying to turn attention away from scrutiny of his foreign policy knowledge.

"It was okay because he was just trying to distract you press guys from noticing what an ignorant bumpus he is." Now that's what I call straight talk!

Posted by: DrBB on December 29, 2007 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

There was a book that came out 20 years ago called 'Reagan's Reign of Error', documenting all the bone-headed remarks he had made, showing that he really didn't know much about anything (especially foreign policy).

But hey, Republicans have built Reagan up into this mythical figure of Churchill/Lincoln proportions, so Huckabee can certainly slide by.

And your average American can't even find Canada or Mexico on a map, so as Americans become more ignorant, they think, "Hey, I wanna vote for a guy who's as dumb as I am! I'll show them egghead elitists!"

Posted by: Speed on December 29, 2007 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

The answer, of course, is NO! No one will hold Huckleberry accountable, as the conservative media bias in this country is so strong and prevalent.

We don't need another Southern-fried Cat in the Hat in the Oval Office, who comes in and creates a godawful mess and forgets to clean up when he leaves...

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 29, 2007 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmm -- I remember some other Presidential candidate who couldn't even name some prominent world leaders . . . his last name started with a B. . . .

Posted by: Tom Burka on December 29, 2007 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Mike Huckabee has clearly demonstrated he is supremely qualified to be President. That he's able to physically move an entire country from west to east through nothing more than the awesome power of his spiritual goodness is an indication of the wonderful world that awaits us upon his election.

• Our problem with illegal immigration across our southern border will be instantly solved as he moves Canada between us and Mexico.

• The issues of dependence on despotic Middle Eastern regimes for their oil will disappear, as Saudi Arabia will be moved just offshore of Galveston, well within reach of U.S. Marines and Halliburton.

• The Moon and Mars will be quickly opened to colonization and exploitation, as Magical Mike brings them into near-Earth orbit next to the International Space Station.

• And most importantly, godless, evolution-believing, liberal-Satanic cities like New York and San Francisco will be relocated to Antarctica as a quarantine measure.

Posted by: bluestatedon on December 29, 2007 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Why has Huckabee been treated so well by the media? Why haven't they flayed him alive for his dumb comments?

Kevin attributes it to a pro-conservative media tilt: "treatment that Republicans since Ronald Reagan have so often gotten, where they're sort of expected to say harebrained stuff and nobody holds it against them"

But, Conservatives attribute it to the the liberal media's desire to see the Republican's nominate a weak candidate.

Either way, I agree with Steve that the media have been too kind to Huckabee.

Fortunately, he seems to be fading. Novak reports that he now lags Romney in Iowa a recent private poll, and that poll was taken before his gaffes during the last two days. http://www.townhall.com/columnists/RobertDNovak/2007/12/29/huckabee_slipping

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 29, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Riiight. Huckabee is weak on foreign policy experience. And Hillary is weak on Health Care (1994 anyone) and economics. Obama was threatening to nuke Pakistan a few months ago. Every candidate has weak spots and make unfortunate comments. But on Kevin Drum's Washington Monthly blog (is he afraid to give his own blog his own name?) all we ever hear about are the Republican weaknesses.

Nobody's perfect. The difference is that Republicans realize that; Democrats think they are perfect.

Posted by: egbert on December 29, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

What nonsense. I'm curious how long it will take to reach the inevitable Clinton v. McCain matchup.

Posted by: B on December 29, 2007 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

B, If we are very lucky, we will never be forced to choose between McCain and Clinton.

Posted by: corpus juris on December 29, 2007 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

corpus juris,

true, but when was the last time we got lucky.

Posted by: B on December 29, 2007 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, would you people stop picking on Mike Huckabee? We WANT Mike to be the Republican nominee! Why, the negative attack ads will practically write themselves!

Posted by: Grinderman on December 29, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

But he wouldn't be authentic if he were percieved as an egghead. And we all know authenticity comes second only to being a desirable drinking partner.

Plus who says he couldn't have a drink with Mike? Mike might opt for a non-alchoholic butter-milk, but he would still allow his partner his beer.

Posted by: bigTom on December 29, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Huckabee's ignorance is a good thing. All of the other candidates have an appetite for foreign military adventures. Part of that appetite exists because of their knowledge about the rest of the world. A president can only reach for the glory and riches of foreign military adventures if he is aware they exist. If Huckabee's ignorance prevents him from using American hard power, that might be the best outcome anti-war advocates could hope for from any of the presidential candidates.

Posted by: Brojo on December 29, 2007 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

I think Speed up above pretty much sums it up: the average Huckabee voter doesn't really know/care that he made a mistake, so its impact is probably going to be minimal. Of course it will give extra ammunition to the other candidates who attempt to appeal to at least some portion of the non-idiot vote that still counts in the Republican primary.

I think in ignoring this kind of stuff, the press does the public a disservice, but probably does so out of a sense that gaffes that betray a certain lack of intellectual heft in a candidate tend to be easily forgiven among Republicans. Remember how cute it was when George Bush couldn't recall the name of the president of Pakistan?

Posted by: jonas on December 29, 2007 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

When Mr Bush was running for president back in 1999, there was a TV interview held on a plane, where he was asked a series of test questions to see the breadth of his knowledge of foreign affairs. He was asked if he could name the leader of Pakistan. "Umm, ahhhh, umm, that'll be - umm - the - erm - name is'nt quite there for me - ermm......" And so he was elected president - (or more correctly managed to get himself declared president though he got less votes than Gore) in spite of his apparent ignorance of foreign affairs. To many Americans of a more Republikan bent,quite reasonably it seemed, there was no need for the Great Leader of Amerika to know the name of every tinpot ruler of every crappy little countrystan halfway round the world. Then came 9.11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, and Pervez Musharaff in neighbouring Pakistan became the Great Ally of the Supreme and Mighty Leader in the Grand Apocalyptic Final War Against Manichean Terror. The point is that geniuses like Bush can learn on the job and quickly come up to scratch, improvise and make it up as they go along. Only a cynic would doubt that a Republican candidate would be incapable of leading the nations of the world when he/she has heard of few of them and knows less about any of them than the janitor of a public lavatory in Ouagadougou.

Posted by: Mike on December 29, 2007 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Huckabee represents an opportunity to complete the trifecta: from War is Peace (Junta Boy's first term) to Freedom is Slavery (Junta Boy's second term) to Ignorance is Srtength.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 29, 2007 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

What nonsense. I'm curious how long it will take to reach the inevitable Clinton v. McCain matchup.
Posted by: B on December 29, 2007 at 11:13 AM

I am beginning to think that McCain may end up with the nomination after a brokered convention. If Rudy and Romney are behind and they pledge their votes, can anybody seriously think they would pledge their delegates to Huckabee? I think not.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 29, 2007 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Egbert, you've revealed yourself as the ideal Huckabee supporter: short on facts, long on certitude.

Your assertion that Democrats "...think they are perfect." is easily disputed with a two-minute stroll through such angry liberal blogs as DailyKos or ThinkProgress, but what you said is more or less subjective, and essentially irrelevant anyhow.

Regarding Hillary's health care expertise, I'd bet a big box of money that her knowledge about that subject dwarfs whatever it is Huckabee knows about foreign policy, but that's my opinion, not a fact I can prove.

However, when you state "Obama was threatening to nuke Pakistan a few months ago." you are, in brilliantly typical Republican fashion, turning facts upside down, otherwise known in some quaint, old-fashioned quarters as lying.

From the 8/3/07 NY Times blog, The Caucus:

"During an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Obama, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, initially ruled out using nuclear weapons in the region as part of the effort to defeat terrorism and root out Osama bin Laden.

“I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,” he said, pausing before he added, “involving civilians.”

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/03/obama-takes-heat-on-pakistan/

In fact, he was criticized by some for even bringing the subject up, and by others for appearing to take the nuclear option off the table. At no time did Barack Obama threaten to "nuke Pakistan."

Posted by: bluestatedon on December 29, 2007 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you tempered it very nicely. I was far harsher when I posted about his organic ignorance. I don't want another president who can't read a map.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 29, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Remember how cute it was when George Bush couldn't recall the name of the president of Pakistan?

Bush supporters claimed that was one he got right - he called him "General." Yes, that's exactly how stupid people who voted for George W. Bush were. Sadly, they still are just that stupid.

Posted by: heavy on December 29, 2007 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

"Hey, would you people stop picking on Mike Huckabee? We WANT Mike to be the Republican nominee! Why, the negative attack ads will practically write themselves!
Posted by: Grinderman on December 29, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK"

That's what a lot of Democrats said about Reagan. What if Huckabee wins? Then the US is fucked. Unfortunately, there are no tolerable choices among this GOP crop. There is no mostly sane Dole or Bush I running. Even the anti-torture candidate is the neocon's darling.

Posted by: Reality Man on December 29, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Riiight. Huckabee is weak on foreign policy experience.

Correct. The Huckster has trouble locating Pakistan on a fucking map. This is intolerable.

And Hillary is weak on Health Care (1994 anyone) and economics.

I am willing to, you know, like, read and stuff - and at least consider that she might possibly have learned something from the experience. To date, she is the only person who has ever actually tried to do anything. And insurance money and Newt killed it - it wasn't all that bad a plan. S-CHIP came out looking a lot like the Kids First portion of her plan. So maybe we should look at the big picture instead of those stupid fucking Harry & Louise ads.

Obama was threatening to nuke Pakistan a few months ago.

One of the reasons I am supporting a different primary contender. But he would still be head and shoulders above any of those pander-bears vying to be the repugnant nominee, and I will support him should he secure the nomination.

Every candidate has weak spots and make unfortunate comments.

Of course. But it loses "unfortunate" at the bakery when a candidate is so woefully ignorant - and apparently willfully so - as Huckabee.

But on Kevin Drum's Washington Monthly blog (is he afraid to give his own blog his own name?) all we ever hear about are the Republican weaknesses.

Kevin is employed by the Washington Monthly, you idiot.

How often do they highlight the strengths of te Democratic field at Free Republic? Powerline? Don Surber? Any of those crap-flinging baboons on winger blogs?

Nobody's perfect. The difference is that Republicans realize that; Democrats think they are perfect.

Selective hearing much? You aren't even entertaining. You are just an idiot. You aren't good at parody, and you are an embarrassment as a satirist.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 29, 2007 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

I think in ignoring this kind of stuff, the press does the public a disservice

Understatement rating: 9.8

The irresponsibility of the MSM continues to grow unabated. As long as they continue their fluff coverage, the sheeple will continue to pay more attention to American Idol and bizarro reality tv.

That Huckabee is basically an idiot, and that this is not really a broadly acknowledged issue is a pathetically bad reflection on the intelligence of the American public.

Until people stop paying attention to the MSM crap news (Paris Hilton), I can't see this irresponsible coverage changing anytime soon. I wish I had more faith that we will not elect another idiot.

Posted by: E Henry Thripshaw on December 29, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

You know, you'd think someone who was running for president who had a few weak spots in his knowledge would take the time to read a few books and attend a few briefings on the issues he needed to inform himself about.

What the heck is so difficult about that such that Huckabee can't seem to be bothered with it?

Posted by: Tyro on December 29, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

What the heck is so difficult about that such that Huckabee can't seem to be bothered with it?

If he did this for all his weak spots, he would not have time to campaign until some time late in 2056.

Given the enormity of the task, he's just forging ahead on a wing and a prayer. Emphasis on prayer.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 29, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

East, West; those I can understand mixing up. At least it wasn't, you know, East and North or whatnot.

How much worse could Huck be than Bush? Bush doesn't even know the things that Huck's making the mistakes about. It's just a matter that Huck's handlers are... Well, he doesn't have the capitalist-corporate handlers that Bush does.

Posted by: Crissa on December 29, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

On Friday, GOP Iowa frontrunner Mike Huckabee suggested Benazir Bhutto was killed because she posed a threat to the fundamentalist vision of the role of women. That vision, it turns out, is not far from his own.

For the details, see:
"Huckabee: Bhutto Did Not Graciously Submit to Woman's Role."

Posted by: Raging on December 29, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

"He argued that "we have more Pakistani illegals" entering the U.S. than any other nationality, aside from Mexico."

The Huckster was probably thinking of that 7-11 guy in The Simpsons.

Posted by: Rula Lenska on December 29, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

BGRS - I think it goes much, much deeper than that, as was pointed out above. With the Huckster America is looking at the institutionalization of ignorance as one of the two prerequisites for modern conservatism's royalty fetish (the other being never, ever waver from your 'gut feeling'/faith). Bushie was a straight up con, a simulacrum of what ol' Huck instantiates whole cloth. This isn't just your average lowest common denominator politics; no, this is sweet revenge for every American who's been infantilized/ emasculated by relentless exposure to media's impossible dreams, to polyester godheads of not-credible perfection; a modeling which results in a fundamental blurring of the boundaries between the objective self and one's projections. Bush (and his kin) did their jobs: they stretched the envelope, rescribed the limits; with the 'slot' of what's acceptable now being vacated by a (barely credible) pretender the vacuum is ready for the real thing, so as to make the dream real for all those for whom "left behind" has no ironic connotation whatsoever.

Posted by: Conrad's Ghost on December 29, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Huckabee's response to Bhutto's death is about as sensible as attacking Iraq in response to 9/11. So what's the problem?

Posted by: Diane on December 29, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Nobody's perfect. The difference is that Republicans realize that; Democrats think they are perfect."

That's a pretty ignorant thing to say. Democrats think they are perfect-able. Republicans think they're born to a particular station in life and should line up behind the nearest better-born patron. That's basically the liberal conservative divide 200 years ago and poof (No, not a Noonan poof) it's back. Two hundred years of American liberalism down the drain, half this country, with Scalia at the lead, are headed back to the Dark Ages.

Bye, don't forget to take your creationism with you. But, there's no Bud where you're going so forget the beer test.

Posted by: dennisS on December 29, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

And just as Huckabee is too befogged to read a map, the trolls are too dim to read the big bright colorful words "Steve Benen" at the top of the post.

Posted by: pbg on December 29, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

But, Conservatives attribute it to the the liberal media's desire to see the Republican's nominate a weak candidate.

Bwa ha ha! Yes, that's right, the Liberal Media Cabal meet every Friday and decide which GOP goofball to promote to the heartland. Then, that moron wins, and the Dems do great! Yes sir, we've seen that in action over and over and...

You can't really be this blind, can you? Well, yes, I suppose you can.

Posted by: craigie on December 29, 2007 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Google this up:

"This is Mike Huckabee saying 'Congratulations, Canada, on preserving your national igloo.'"

Wot a goob.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on December 29, 2007 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

Agree with you on Huckabee but "start reading the newspaper in the morning" as a solution! Please get serious.

Posted by: Robert on December 30, 2007 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Is there any chance that we as democrats can stop piling on Huckabee until after the Repub primaries? Is he not our dream candidate? Besides Alan Keyes, that is.

Posted by: BD on December 30, 2007 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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