Mike Huckabee is making noise again about running for President and a poll mentioned by Fox and Friends this morning has him leading with Jeb Bush and Chris Christie second and third. He has the gift of gab and loves to talk about restoring America’s Greatness. Most of us here in Arkansas would be happy if our state was restored to the condition it was in before his pitiful reign.
Mike Huckabee hilariously claimed that he would base part of the decision on whether to run for president on how his book sold. The returns are in and his book has bombed according to USA Today. Make no mistake, Huckabee still has his fawning fans who only know what he says, not what he actually does. In his get-even book, Huckabee blasts Mitt Romney, his principal rival in Iowa.
Huckabee writes that the former Massachusetts governor’s record was “anything but conservative until he changed the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for president.” He notes that Romney declined to make a congratulatory phone call after Huckabee beat the odds to win the Iowa caucuses, “which we took as a sign of total disrespect.” He mocks Romney for suggesting, during one debate, more investment in high-yield stocks as a solution to economic woes. “Let them eat stocks!” Huckabee jokes. I believe Romney and Huckabee are both woefully lacking in conservative credentials.
As governor of Arkansas, Huckabee dramatically increased state spending. During his two-term tenure, spending increased by more than 65 percent. The number of government workers increased by 20 percent, and the state’s debt services increased by nearly $1 billion. The annual state budget in those days was about $3 billion. Huckabee financed his spending binge with higher taxes. Under his leadership, the average Arkansan’s tax burden increased 47 percent, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, including increases in the state’s gas, sales, income, and cigarette taxes. He raised taxes on everything from groceries to nursing home beds. Huckabee had said he would eliminate sales tax on groceries during the campaign. A Democratic State Senator introduced a Bill to do just that but Huckabee fought the Bill tooth and nail. Keep in mind that Arkansas is a poor state with per capita income at the very bottom of the barrel. By the time Huckabee was finished, Arkansas had the highest per capita taxes in the South. At this time his supporters will say, “Yeah but he is such a sweet righteous man!”
On its annual governor’s report card, The Cato Institute gave Huckabee an “F” for fiscal policy during his final term, and an overall two-term grade of “D.” Only four governors had worse scores, and 15 Democratic governors got higher grades, including well-known liberals like Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. That’s right, Blago did a better job handling money and he’s in prison. But Huck’s Army members still dote over the jolly old fellow who lost 120 pounds, wrote a book about losing 120 pounds and then put all the weight back on. He has not written a book about putting the weight back on yet, maybe we can look forward to that in the future?
Huckabee was, incidentally, the only Republican candidate for president who opposed school choice. He is proud of his record in Education. Most politicians promise to improve Education. After attending the National Governor’s Association Convention Huckabee learned about his state and sent out an e-letter saying, “some startling statistics last year… took my breath away.” The fact that these statistics were breath-taking to the governor made me catch my breath as well. You see, the Governor has, for 10 years, been pushing educational reforms (to the tune of $1 billion in just his last three years as governor) but did not know what the college remediation and dropout rates were in Arkansas and the nation. He was shocked to learn that ” twenty percent of Arkansas ninth graders do not stay in school until graduation …and more than 50 percent of Arkansas students who go straight to college require remedial courses in both math and English.” I have always said that Education is not about money, it is about learning. Huckabee might have been better off buying magic beans with that extra billion dollars?
Arkansas’ Ethics Commission admonished Mike Huckabee for violations five times, once for taking money from an organization whose donors have never been listed. Here are the most serious violations:
• $43,150 from his lieutenant governor’s campaign for use of his personal airplane. As I recall he rented his campaign his own airplane at a rate much higher than a plane could be rented from any Rental Company.
• $14,000 Janet Huckabee received from his U.S. Senate campaign, and
• $23,500 from a tax-exempt organization he incorporated with others, but whose funding source isn’t known. The Action America organization, Huckabee said, was set up to coordinate parts of his private-sector speaking schedule during his three years as lieutenant governor.
He jokingly attributed his weight loss to a “concentration camp” diet and once called Arkansas a “banana republic.”
Huckabee lashed out after reporters questioned wedding-gift registries set up to furnish his new $525,000 home in North Little Rock. The wedding account was set up for Mike Huckabee and his wife Janet, who have been married since 1974.
Huckabee has called for increased federal spending on a variety of programs from infrastructure to health care. He wants more energy subsidies, including, naturally, more subsidies for ethanol. In fact, he supports increased agricultural subsidies generally. He is the only Republican candidate who opposes President Bush’s veto of the Democrats’ proposed expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and he is skeptical of most conservative proposals for entitlement reform. Calling himself “a different kind of Republican,” Huckabee often appears to be channeling John Edwards or Lou Dobbs. He rails against high corporate profits and attacks free trade agreements. As governor, he raised the minimum wage and increased business regulations. He says it is “a biblical duty” to pass more regulation to fight global warming.
Perhaps Huckabee’s only claim on conservative credentials is that as a former Baptist minister, he is more anti-abortion and anti-gay than the other candidates. In many ways, he has been running an overtly religion-based campaign. But even here, his preference is to increase and centralize federal government power. Unlike Fred Thompson, John McCain, or Ron Paul, Huckabee rejects federalist solutions to these issues and would have the federal government overrule state abortion and marriage laws. What other candidate for President could go to Iowa and preach in local Baptist Churches. That, of course, would not be campaigning. Huckabee raised taxes in Arkansas, not Iowa.
Under the Bush administration, the Republican Party increasingly drifted away from its limited government roots. It has come to be dominated by a new breed of conservatives who believe in increasing the size, cost and power of government to achieve “conservative ends,” even if that means limiting personal freedom in the process. Bush brought us No Child Left Behind, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and a 23-percent increase in domestic discretionary spending, and Huckabee’s been right there with him.
On election night in 2006, 55 percent of voters leaving the polls said they believed the Republican Party had become the party of big government. Mike Huckabee is doing his best to convert the other 45 percent.
Mitt Romney, Huckabee’s principal rival in Iowa, receives the roughest treatment. Huckabee writes that the former Massachusetts governor’s record was “anything but conservative until he changed the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for president.” He notes that Romney declined to make a congratulatory phone call after Huckabee beat the odds to win the Iowa caucuses, “which we took as a sign of total disrespect.” He mocks Romney for suggesting, during one debate, more investment in high-yield stocks as a solution to economic woes. “Let them eat stocks!” Huckabee jokes.
His treatment of former candidate Fred Thompson, a rival who helped sink Huckabee’s upstart ambitions in South Carolina, is somewhat more favorable, if only because it is less personal. Huckabee maintains that Thompson’s biggest mistake was strategic: he didn’t understand the need to expand the Republican Party beyond its base. “Fred Thompson never did grasp the dynamics of the race or the country, and his amazingly lackluster campaign reflected just how disconnected he was with the people, despite the anticipation and expectation that greeted his candidacy,” Huckabee writes.
Many conservative Christian leaders — who never backed Huckabee, despite their holding similar stances on social issues — are spared neither the rod nor the lash. Huckabee writes of Gary Bauer, the conservative Christian leader and former presidential candidate, as having an “ever-changing reason to deny me his support.” Of one private meeting with Bauer, Huckabee says, “It was like playing Whac-a-Mole at the arcade — whatever issue I addressed, another one surfaced as a ‘problem’ that made my candidacy unacceptable.” He also accuses Bauer of putting national security before bedrock social issues like the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.
Huckabee describes other elders of the social-conservative movement, many of whom meet in private as part of an organization called the Arlington Group, as “more enamored with the process, the political strategies, and the party hierarchy than with the simple principles that had originally motivated the Founders.” Later, Huckabee writes, “I lamented that so many people of faith had moved from being prophetic voices — like Naaman, confronting King David in his sin and saying, ‘Thou art the man!’ — to being voices of patronage, and saying to those in power, ‘You da’ man!’ ”
He calls out Pat Robertson, the Virginia-based televangelist, and Dr. Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University in South Carolina, for endorsing Rudy Giuliani and Romney, respectively. He also has words for the Texas-based Rev. John Hagee, who endorsed the more moderate John McCain in the primaries, as someone who was drawn to the eventual Republican nominee because of the lure of power. Huckabee says he spoke to Hagee by phone before the McCain endorsement while preparing for a spot on Saturday Night Live. “I asked if he had prayed about this and believed this was what the Lord wanted him to do,” Huckabee writes of the conversation. “I didn’t get a straight answer.” Months later, McCain rejected Hagee’s endorsement because of controversial remarks the pastor had made about biblical interpretations.
In a chapter titled “Faux-Cons: Worse than Liberalism,” Huckabee identifies what he calls the “real threat” to the Republican Party: “libertarianism masked as conservatism.” He is not so much concerned with the libertarian candidate Ron Paul’s Republican supporters as he is with a strain of mainstream fiscal-conservative thought that demands ideological purity, seeing any tax increase as apostasy and leaving little room for government-driven solutions to people’s problems. “I don’t take issue with what they believe, but the smugness with which they believe it,” writes Huckabee, who raised some taxes as governor and cut deals with his state’s Democratic legislature. “Faux-Cons aren’t interested in spirited or thoughtful debate, because such an endeavor requires accountability for the logical conclusion of their argument.” Among his targets is the Club for Growth, a group that tarred Huckabee as insufficiently conservative in the primaries and ran television ads with funding from one of Huckabee’s longtime Arkansas political foes, Jackson T. Stephens Jr.
The national media gets no pardon either. “Reporters facilitate the greedy and grubby process whereby too many elections go to the highest bidder and his sharpie hirelings,” he writes. He remains sore about the degree to which a candidate’s credibility is judged by his or her bank account and notes that during the debates, he was often asked about religion while the other candidates dealt with questions of government policy. Why, he asks, was a “floating cross” in the window of one of his ads such a media controversy when reporters gave a pass to a Barack Obama direct-mail piece that obviously photographed the Democrat before a large Christian cross?
But for all the sharp words Huckabee has for his fellow Republicans, score-settling is not the major thrust of the book, Huckabee’s sixth. Rather, Huckabee, who now hosts a weekend show on Fox News, spends most of the pages celebrating the grass-roots success of his surprisingly successful campaign and laying out, again, his vision for the future of the Republican Party, which includes instituting a national sales tax to replace the income tax and renewed focus on health-care prevention and education. He mentions McCain only in passing, and with praise, calling him a “true statesman and a man of honor.”
Huckabee also has some fun along the way. We learn that the actor Chuck Norris, a prominent Huckabee supporter, actually does use the Total Gym at home. (Norris hawks the Total Gym in a well-known late-night infomercial.) In the middle of a disquisition on libertarianism, Huckabee pauses to praise the musician Cher for tours that are “an amazing blend of rock concert, circus and fashion show.”
He also returns again and again to stories of his supporters, like the woman who gave him her wedding ring on a rope line in Michigan because she could not afford to make a contribution to his campaign and the truck driver who appeared on his behalf at public rallies. “I was only carrying mail to the mailboxes,” he writes. “It was the salt-of-the-earth types like my unknown angel in Michigan who actually wrote the letters.”
Yes, Mike Huckabee is a different kind of Republican, after doing a number on Arkansas, he moved to Florida where there is no State Income Tax. Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Glenn Beck have spent hours exposing Governor Huckabee, is anybody listening?