National Review has a Rich Lowry article asking if Obama is this generation’s Jimmy Carter (an article available in its entirety to subscribers only). Here’s how Lowry describes Jimmy Carter, circa 1976:
Carter wasn’t really in the McCarthy-Hart-Bradley mold. He ran a conservative, or at least an ideologically indistinct, race in the 1976 Democratic primaries. He was cagey about his abortion views, but basically pro-life; relatively conservative on economics; and somewhat supportive of right-to-work laws. (As all the qualifiers suggest, he was hard to pin down on anything). Liberals distrusted him just because he was a southerner. He vied for the George Wallace vote and benefited from four major candidates — Morris Udall, Birch Bayh, Fred Harris, and Sargent Shriver — dividing liberal support.
The article goes on to track his similarities with Obama, such as the unexpected nature of his candidacy and the limited power of his experience.
Actually, I was thinking yesterday, after reading Robert Novak’s take-down of Mike Huckabee, that it is Huckabee who is the Carter of 2008, and that despite the fact that Huckabee is running as a Republican, not a Democrat. Here, in releveant part, is what Novak had to say about Huckabee’s decidedly unconservative tendencies:
There is no doubt about Huckabee’s record during a decade in Little Rock as governor. He was regarded by fellow Republican governors as a compulsive tax increaser and spender. He increased the Arkansas tax burden by 47 percent, boosting the levies on gasoline and cigarettes. When he decided to lose 100 pounds and pressed his new lifestyle on the American people, he was far from a Goldwater-Reagan libertarian.
As a presidential candidate, Huckabee has sought to counteract his reputation as a taxer by pressing for replacement of the income tax with a sales tax and has more recently signed the no-tax-increase pledge of Americans for Tax Reform. But Huckabee simply does not fit in normal boundaries of economic conservatism, as when he criticized President Bush’s veto of a Democratic expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Calling global warming a “moral issue” mandating “a biblical duty” to prevent climate change, he has endorsed the cap-and-trade system that is anathema to the free market.
In other words, like Carter, Huckabee is a Southern governor; like Carter, he is a devout Southern Baptist, so like Carter, he is the butt of media sneering about his religious and moral outlook; and, most significantly, like Carter, he believes in big, big government.
I’m pretty sure that Huckabee is a better man than Carter (and, on the moral trajectory Carter’s taken in the two decades, he could hardly be worse). I like his wit and I like his support for Israel. I bet I’d really enjoy spending time talking to the man. I’m also not too troubled by his lack of Ivy League credentials, since I think we’re tending towards a fearsome elitism if we begin to expect Ivy League degrees from all future presidents. But do remember that Carter’s religiosity did not stop him from embarking on a tax and spend governance that led to one of the saggiest, flabbiest economies America has suffered through. Nor did people take well to being preached at by the White House for their own good. It’s no coincidence that many people, myself included, consider him the worst President, if not ever, then at least of the modern era. It’s also no coincidence that it was Carter’s successor, the supply side, ebullient Ronald Reagan who captured America’s hearts and minds. And even if Huckabee isn’t Carter, he’s also definitely no Reagan.