Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 2, 2008
By: Christina Larson

MIKE HUCKABEE, REALITY-TV PRODIGY....Republicans have long worked miracles in uniting improbable coalitions: social conservatives and Club for Growth plutocrats; missionaries and war-mongers; disgruntled blue-collars and impervious bluebloods. At present moment, Mike Huckabee has managed to, if not literally unite, at least draw affection from both bonafide social conservatives and ironic horn-rimmed glasses folks, like yours truly, who enjoy watching him call out the absurdities of the campaign process. (Note: that's some affection, not a vote; he has many dubious policy positions.)

Usually he does this by playing the straight man as a foil to overbearing reporters. The way he reacts to leading questions doesn't so much make him seem wise, as make the questioner seem hopelessly illogical. This tact allows Huckabee to stoke a certain vituperative glee without uttering a mean word himself. It's not the liberal media, but the loopy media. (And even the staunchest press advocates admit that this particular journalistic horserace has its loopy moments, its questionable Tim Russert ambushes.)

  • For instance, there's the reporter who wants to know, at the end of an Iowa pheasant hunt, if Huckabee has devilishly named the pheasants he downed "Romney" and "Thompson."

  • There's the debate questioner who persists in being hyper-literal about his own creationism question.

  • And, of course, there's the Chuck Norris ad, which isn't really about Chuck or Huckabee, but about the odd genre of endorsement ads.

I admit it. I'm cheering for Huckabee in these moments. It's not because I think his answers are right, but because I think he's correctly fingered the absurdity of the rituals.

The man might make a very scary president, but he's a genius at reality-TV. YouTube, after all, is really an extended reality show about the campaign. Most of the other candidates aren't acknowledging that the interview segments are pretty corny, and that the furniture in the living-room sets isn't their own. But Huckabee plays it with more panache than the Bachlorette. For better or worse; being president really isn't an episode of "Survivor."

UPDATE: In case it wasn't clear, I'm in no way rooting for Huckabee but trying to understand the uncanny (some may say dangerous) charisma that's fueling his surge.

Christina Larson 10:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Just what the world needs: another PoMo creationist.

Christina Larson doesn't blog; she invents the Internet in her sleep each night.

Posted by: lampwick on January 2, 2008 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

"If anybody wants to believe that they are the descendant of a primate they are certainly welcome to believe that..."

I can't cheer for someone who has spent a life so sheltered from all things scientific that he can make a statement like that.

My Gawd, my parents were primates.

Posted by: Dave Howard on January 2, 2008 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Can I suggest saving these type of pieces until sometime in the near future? 2009 works for me. Meanwhile, those with a better sense of priorities might want to ask Huck a question.

Posted by: TLB on January 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

OMG!, Don't be surprised if you see Mike Huckabee break down and go negative on Mitt Romney sooner or later with an attack ad like this.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 3, 2008 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

I'm an ACLU member and a liberal Democrat who will probably vote for Obama or Edwards. But I've got to go with reality over the filter of the media on Huckabee, and the reality is that he seems far more intelligent, cogent, knowledgeable, and unaffected- i.e. unselfconscious (like in his Russert Meet the Press segment on December 30th) than the people I plan to vote for. You can almost see the machinations going on, the feverish calculating, as Edwards, Obama- and for sure, Hilary Clinton, are deciding how or whether to answer a question. Huckabee, simply put, like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, is comfortable with who he is and what he stands for. He'll let you know it, and if you want to vote for him, great. If not, he's not going to try to do an instant makeover, a la Guliania, Romney, or Clinton, to win you over.

That's my impression from seeing him on Real Time with Bill Maher several times and Meet the Press a couple of times. But I could be wrong.

Posted by: James Finkelstein on January 3, 2008 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

My Gawd, my parents were primates.

Mine too! Are we related???

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on January 3, 2008 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

In case it wasn't clear, I'm in no way rooting for Huckabee...

Why on Earth not? I certainly am! I can't even imagine a better wedge issue -- and this one walks, talks, and has a campaign warchest!

Go Huck! Give 'em H-E-double-toothpicks!

Posted by: bleh on January 3, 2008 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

I watched him on Jay Leno tonight. He killed. My wife, who is pretty liberal, but not overtly political and willing to vote Republican on occasion was truly impressed. I told her about Wayne Dumond and she questioned my sources. That nice man would never turn a vicious rapist loose just because his supporters insisted that after all he had only raped a Clinton relative and he had been born again in prison.

I have said it before and I will say it again, Mike Huckabee is by far the strongest candidate in the Republican field. He is the only candidate any of the top three Democrats have to fear. He could crush Hillary by snatching up all the independents. Where are the Republicans going to go?

You better pray that Romney wins in Iowa tomorrow or at least that Huckabee is stopped in New Hampshire the next week. If he survives into South Carolina and the south, he is the nominee. Then it is Katy bar the door.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 3, 2008 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

Huckabee, simply put, like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, is comfortable with who he is and what he stands for. He'll let you know it, and if you want to vote for him, great.

Well, that's one interpretation. Another is that Huckabee was a long-shot candidate when this race began and had nothing to lose by "being himself." In contrast, the media scrutiny upon Obama/Edwards/Clinton has been sky-high since the beginning. It's much more difficult to act natural when 500 reporters are trailing every move and praying for a slip-up.

But, yes, even I -- a strong supporter of Obama, btw, and someone definitely opposed to Huck's worldview -- found myself smiling and sort of rooting for him tonight as I watched him chat with Jay Leno. He's one helluva campaigner.

Posted by: RyanMcC on January 3, 2008 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

Oh boy, a darling on the right. Huckabee is wily, he knows how to work a room -- he did it every Sunday for years. He's a pro.

If he is nominated (quite likely) and if he wins the presidency (less likely, but quite possible) there will be a lot of Democrats who will begin to miss George Bush kinda like how most of us now miss Nixon.
__________________________________________
(Blue Girl, I have an aunt with red hair.)

Posted by: Dave Howard on January 3, 2008 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

If he survives into South Carolina and the south, he is the nominee. -corpus juris


That's when Bloomberg's campaign goes into full swing to split the Republican vote (a la Perot) and to make sure the Dems win it...

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 3, 2008 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

Huckabee has a sense of humor. Huck, huck, huck.

I used to think a sense of humor was a sign of at least some character, until I ran into a company snitch who was a total jerk, but had a great sense of humor.

Posted by: Luther on January 3, 2008 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

He's a huckster.

Posted by: deejaayss on January 3, 2008 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

The latest rise of yet another judgmental GOP ignoramus with delusions of grandeur is precisely why the old extended primary season -- in which the voters had both opportunity and time to vet the candidates -- should be resurrected, and not continually contracted and front-loaded to the point where the parties' nominees will in all likelihood have clinched their spots at the top of the ticket nine months before the general election.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 3, 2008 at 3:58 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, he's an absolutely charming demagogue. See Greg Stillson in Stephen King's The Dead Zone.

He's also appallingly ignorant about anyting outside the Old Testament (NIE? What's an NIE? Writers strike? Oh, they settled that already). Or else his mendacity rivals that of Bush & Cheney put together. Take your pick.

He's a scary, scary man.

Posted by: Helena Montana on January 3, 2008 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK

You better pray that Romney wins in Iowa tomorrow or at least that Huckabee is stopped in New Hampshire the next week.

Posted by: corpus juris

Indeed. The Huckster may make some of us smile, some of the time -- like a clown does. But make no mistake: He is an evil clown. And, just remember what Lon Chaney, Sr. is alleged to have said about clowns:

"There is nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight."

And, given this nation's darkening problems, there is absolutely nothing funny about this particular foul clown in the White House.

Posted by: Econobuzz on January 3, 2008 at 6:15 AM | PERMALINK

He could crush Hillary by snatching up all the independents. Where are the Republicans going to go?

Well, for one thing, they could stay home. For another, Democrats outnumber them.

I hope I'm not dreaming, but I don't see Huckabee, or any other Republican, having much of a chance in November.

Huckabee may be charming but he's got serious baggage.

Posted by: mattski on January 3, 2008 at 7:32 AM | PERMALINK

mattski

You are right, he does have serious baggage, but so did Bill and so did GWB. The press will ignore the baggage. They won't report it until the end of November. I look for Bloomberg to get into the race and possibly deliver the election to Huckabee much as Perot did to Clinton.

Huckabee is a different kind of Republican. He is aimed straight at the portion of the electorate who has been pissed on by the beltway establishment, you know, most of us. His populist message will resonate with evangelicals. Read Blue Girl's post.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 3, 2008 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

Tack - as in port or starboard tack.

Not tact as in the opposite of rude.

Posted by: Paul Dirks on January 3, 2008 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

I would love for Ms. Larson to explain the "absurdity" of a debate questioner pursuing the idea that a presidential candidate lets his faith determine what bits and pieces of science he chooses to accept or discard--in this case evolution, one of the basic tenets of biological science. The question was not whether he "believed in God," but in whether he would acknowledge the scientific consensus of evolution, despite it conflicting with the literal reading of his particular religious tradition. God and evolution are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The "absurdity" that Ms. Larson should be worked up about is not that he was pressed on this but that he was allowed to parry it and give a diversionary answer that didn't sound as scary as the truth.

As it stands, though, he let the truth slip anyway. It was one thing for him (and two others) to passively not raise his hand when originally asked about evolution. But, with his "primate" line here, we have a leading presidential candidate in 2007 America OPENLY MOCKING long-established science. Openly mocking not just evolution, but those that accept it. And he wants to lead the world. If it's not the most shocking and revealing moment of the campaign so far, what is?

Posted by: balisardo on January 3, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

As with balisardo above, I see nothing wrong with the question asked of Huckabee regarding his views about evolution and the bible.

It is well known that there are many fundamentalists who do believe that the story in Genesis is literally true, that, in particular, the Creation took exactly six days, as we understand that duration literally, and that the Creation took place roughly 6 thousand years ago. It is quite fair for a reporter to ask Huckabee whether he accepts those tenets, because whether he does so an important open question, and would doubtless affect his point of view in enforcing educational and scientific policies.

And, of course, Huckabee's mocking of the idea that we might be descendants of "primates" is pretty important for people to know too. It gives the American voter a much sharper idea of what Huckabee will offer in terms of modern leadership.

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