American Pravda’s big and little lies about the Obama-Ayers relationship

Palin has the AP, not just running scared, but spinning lies.  I’m careful about quoting the AP, because their stuff is proprietarial, but to the extent they have the public ear, they better damn well be honest, and the following story, which I print and fisk in relevant part, is not honest:

Sarah Palin defended her claim that Barack Obama “pals around with terrorists,” saying the Democratic presidential nominee’s association with a 1960s radical is an issue that is “fair to talk about.”

[snip]

At issue is Obama’s association with Ayers. Both have served on the same Chicago charity and live near each other in Chicago. Ayers also held a meet-the-candidate event at his home for Obama when Obama first ran for office in the mid-1990s, the event cited by Palin.

But while Ayers and Obama are acquainted, the charge that they “pal around” is a stretch of any reading of the public record. [Note the careful language about "the public record" since so much of what went on between Ayers and Obama is not in the public record.  Thanks to yeoman work from Stanley Kurtz, though, we know that they had a very close relationship leading up to and including work on the Annenberg Challenge.  We therefore know that, while Obama and Ayers may not have been beer-drinking buddies, Ayers probably mentored Obama, and Obama was certainly happy to have a long professional association with a self-professed, self-confessed domestic terrorist who only regrets not doing more.  See here, here and hereJoshua Muravchick has more on that relationship, too.  It's beyond disingenous for the AP reporter to read the phrase "pal around" so literally that it would exclude any relationship other than a weekly beer-drinking fest lasting some decades.] And it’s simply wrong to suggest that they were associated while Ayers was committing terrorist acts. Obama was 8 years old at the time the Weather Underground claimed credit for numerous bombings and was blamed for a pipe bomb that killed a San Francisco policeman.  [Again, disingenous.  Yes, Obama was a small boy when Ayers was active.  However, Ayers has never apologized or repented.  He's regretted only that he didn't go far enough and would do it all again.  Ayers' bomb-making days may have stopped, but he is the same man and he is currently, and has long been, Obama's social and political mentor.]

At a rally in North Carolina, Obama countered that McCain and his campaign “are gambling that he can distract you with smears rather than talk to you about substance.” The Democrat described the criticism as “Swiftboat-style attacks on me,” a reference to the unsubstantiated allegations about 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry’s decorated military record in Vietnam.  [How much substantiation do you need aside from dozens of eye-witnesses, plus Kerry's own verbal slip-ups?  Swift-boating has come to mean any accusation we, the Democrats, deny, regardless of the absence of evidence on our side, and the overwhelming amount of evidence on yours.]

During her stop in California, Palin was asked about an Associated Press analysis that said her charge about Ayers was unsubstantiated, a point made by other news organizations, and the criticism carried a “racially tinged subtext that McCain may come to regret.”  [To a hammer, everything is a nail.  To an MSM reporter, every criticism of Obama is racially tinged.  I, for one, am baffled about the racial connection, considering that Ayers is white.]

“The Associated Press is wrong,” Palin said. “The comments are about an association that has been known but hasn’t been talked about, and I think it’s fair to talk about where Barack Obama kicked off his political career, in the guy’s living room.”  [You go, girl! That's precisely what needs to be said.  Sarah is calling the AP and other members of the MSM on the fact that their refusal to report a story does not constitute proof that the story does not exist.]

In fact, Obama was questioned about Ayers during a prime-time Democratic debate against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton prior to April’s Pennsylvania primary.  [He was questioned, and he lied.  AP forgets to add that he downplayed his association so much that his statements were falsehoods.  Or, as Muravchik explains in the same article I linked to, above:

The details of Obama’s association with Ayers remain somewhat shrouded because both Ayers and Dohrn have refused to discuss it, while Obama and his spokesmen have prevaricated about it. When, during one of the televised primary debates, George Stephanopoulos asked about his connection to Ayers, Obama replied:

This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He’s not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense.

Later, Obama’s campaign manager, David Axelrod, added: “Bill Ayers lives in his neighborhood. Their kids attend the same school.” If this is true, Ayers’s children must be slow learners, since they are thirty-one and twenty-eight while Obama’s are nine and six. But Obama’s own reply, though less bald-faced than Axelrod’s, was thoroughly disingenuous. Thanks to the meticulous investigations of the Left-leaning blogger Steven Diamond (globallabor.blogspot.com), the story of Obama and Ayers’s collaboration has been seeping into the public record despite extraordinary efforts to seal it.

You can go to Kurtz's articles, to Muravchik's article, or to Diamond's website (globallabor.blogspot.com) to see just how untruthful Obama was -- but AP readily lets it pass.]

Eating our own *UPDATED*

I caught a minute of Mike Gallagher today, and he was talking about the fact that Republicans are more critical of Republican candidates than Democrats are critical of Democratic candidates. It occurred to me that, at least in this election cycle, that may be because there are real, substantive differences between the Republican candidates. We’ve got Ron Paul, who is a pure libertarian and possible white supremacist; John McCain, who is strong on defense, but weak on free speech, and spineless to environmental extremists; Mitt Romney, who has positioned himself as a traditional conservative who is for strong borders, a strong national defense, pro-life, etc., with a sound grasp of economic issues; Mike Huckabee, who is loudly Christian, a social conservative, and a big government liberal; and Rudy Giuliani, who is a social liberal and a hawk. With the exception of Ron Paul, all have had leadership experience, but of a very different type: McCain was in the military; Romney ran businesses and the Massachusetts government; Huckabee governed Arkansas; and Giuliani ran huge criminal prosecutions and New York. So, just as there are differences in their approach to conservative politics (and all are more conservative than not), there are also significant differences in their practical experience. Republicans have a real choice, and real choice begets real debate.

It’s different with the Dems. For one thing, none of them have any managerial experience. They’ve all been Senators, which means working with a group of 99 other people. None have them has taken the lead in the Senate, so they can’t even point to leadership experience in those august chambers. John Edwards has a bit more private sector experience than the other two but I can tell you that even the most successful lawyer cannot be compared to a manager. Managing a case is not the same as manager a system — whether that system is a business or a government. Obama was an academic, which is the antithesis of management, and Hillary was, well, Hillary managed Bill, I guess. They’re all good at manipulating people, Edwards because he’s a trial lawyer, and Obama and Hillary because they’re Alinsky disciples, but that’s not leadership or management. So, they’re pretty much the same looked at from that point of view.

In terms of politics, they’re peas in a pod: they want out of Iraq, they deny that Islamists pose a threat to America, they like open borders, and they want more government involvement in everything (parenting, health care, education, managing people’s money, controlling businesses, etc), which means more taxes on people they decide are “rich.”

The fact that Edwards, Obama and Hillary are virtually indistinguishable on paper may explain why identity politics has become so important. It’s not just Hillary’s dirty politics and it’s not just that the “identity politics” chickens are coming home to roost. The preeminence of racial or sexual identity in this race has become the only way you can tell one Democratic candidate from another. And poor Edwards, distinguished by being white and male, is precluded by political correctness from trumpeting that fact. In other words, identity, by being the only difference between the candidates, is also the only area of debate left for the Democrats. And it’s no surprise that it is in this area — the substance-free area that will have absolutely nothing to do with the way in which a Democrat, if victorious, will govern — that the Democratic debate has become most heated.

So, I guess I’m happy that Republicans are focused on substance, and using their free speech rights to hammer out important issues that will have a lasting effect on America (if a Republican wins). And I’m desperately sad that the cookie-cutter Democrats, in order to have a debate and distinguish themselves in the eyes of the voters, have almost completely backed off from any substantive issues (as to which they have no meaningful differences), and devolved into childish racial and gender name calling. If Americans elect one of them, the Country will deserve what it gets.

UPDATE: Regarding the enthusiasm gap the media professes to find between Dems and Republicans, if one does indeed exist, I suspect that has more to do with the enthusiasm Democratic voters have for a shot at the White House than with anything else. That is, I think that, even more than feeling excitement about their own candidates, Democrats are simply excited about a possible chance to defeat Republicans.

UPDATE II: For another reason why there might be an “enthusiasm gap,” keep in mind that, while Bush’s presidency is almost over, Bush Derangement Syndrome continues in full force. Indeed, with the inevitable end of his presidency drawing near, Bush haters seem to be drawing on after burners for some new energy.

Hitchens is almost right

Christopher Hitchens is totally right when he notes that Mike Huckabee’s defense of the Confederate flag harmonizes perfectly with racist views.  That is, a person could argue that the defense of the flag is all about States’ rights, but the fact is that the Confederate flag is so inextricably intertwined with the KKK and Jim Crow that such an argument is stupid or disingenuous at best, and fraudulent at worst.  Hitchens is also right that the press gave Huckabee a pass for this nasty remark.  Assuming that the pass was deliberate, and that the Huckabee story didn’t simply get swamped by the infinitely more fascinating fight between Clinton and Obama, one has to ask why the press was so passive.  Hitchens thinks it’s because it was afraid of offending racist Southern rednecks:

But when real political racism rears its head, our easily upset media falls oddly silent. Can you guess why? Of course you can. Gov. Huckabee is the self-anointed candidate of the simple and traditional Christian folk who hate smart-ass, educated, big-city types, and if you dare to attack him for his vulgarity and stupidity and bigotry, he will accuse you of prejudice in return. What he hopes is that his neo-Confederate sickness will become subsumed into easy chatter about his recipes for fried squirrel and his other folksy populist themes. (By the way, you owe it to yourselves to watch the exciting revelations about his squirrel-grilling past; and do examine his family Christmas card while you’re at it.) But this drivel, it turns out, is all a slick cover for racist incitement, and it ought not to be given a free pass.

I actually don’t think that’s the case.  Just as I’d prefer Hillary to win the Democratic primaries because I think she’ll be easier to beat than Obama, the press would prefer that Huckabee win the Republican primaries, because they know he’ll go down in flames in the Presidential election.  That’s why they’ve handled him with something approaching TLC — he’s their favored candidate because he’ll lose.

Speaking of different press approaches to the different parties and their candidates, Patrick, my favorite Paragraph Farmer, has an elegantly written article up at the American Spectator examining the way in which reporters delve deep into Romney’s and Huckabee’s theological beliefs (something that may be fair game because their beliefs stand out), while treating with kid gloves rather unusual theological revelations from candidates on the left.  Even if one pulls back from specific theological peculiarities, there is no doubt that the press has carefully ignored Hillary’s politically activist Methodism, which has more to do with socialism than God, and Obama’s truly unfortunate, and very strong, ties to a black supremacist church.  Likewise, a speech from a pulpit is non-news if you’re on the Left, and a threat to the separation of church and state if you’re on the right.  Double standards, anybody?

When she’s right, she’s right

The MSM is self-admittedly liberal leaning, usually far leaning. So Ann Coulter is right to say the following:

Dear Republicans: Please do one-tenth as much research before casting a vote in a presidential election as you do before buying a new car.

One clue that Romney is our strongest candidate is the fact that Democrats keep viciously attacking him while expressing their deep respect for Mike Huckabee and John McCain.

This point was already extensively covered in Chapter 1 of “How To Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)”: Never take advice from your political enemies.

Turn on any cable news show right now, and you will see Democratic pundits attacking Romney, calling him a “flip-flopper,” and heaping praise on McCain and Huckleberry — almost as if they were reading some sort of “talking points.”

Doesn’t that raise the tiniest suspicions in any of you? Are you too busy boning up on Consumer Reports’ reviews of microwave ovens to spend one day thinking about who should be the next leader of the free world? Are you familiar with our “no exchange/no return” policy on presidential candidates? Voting for McCain because he was a POW a quarter-century ago or Huckabee because he was a Baptist preacher is like buying a new car because you like the color.

The candidate Republicans should be clamoring for is the one liberals are feverishly denouncing. That is Mitt Romney by a landslide.

New York Times columnist Frank Rich says Romney “is trying to sell himself as a leader,” but he “is actually a follower and a panderer, as confirmed by his flip-flops on nearly every issue.”

But Rich is in a swoon over Huckabee. I haven’t seen Rich this excited since they announced “Hairspray” was coming to Broadway.

Rich has continued to hyperventilate over “populist” charmer Huckabee even after it came to light that Huckabee had called homosexuality an “abomination.” Normally, any aspersions on sodomy or any favorable mentions of Christianity would lead to at least a dozen hysterical columns by Frank Rich.

Rich treated Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” as if it were a Leni Riefenstahl Nazi propaganda film. (On a whim, I checked to see if Rich had actually compared Gibson to Riefenstahl in one of his many “Passion” reviews and yes, of course he had.)

Curiously, however, Huckabee’s Christianity doesn’t bother Rich. In column after column, Rich hails Huckabee as the only legitimate leader of the Republican Party. This is like a girl in high school who hates you telling you your hair looks great.

Liberals claim to be enraged at Romney for being a “flip-flopper.” I’ve looked and looked, and the only issue I can find that Romney has “flipped” on is abortion. When running for office in Massachusetts — or, for short, “the Soviet Union” — Romney said that Massachusetts was a pro-choice state and that he would not seek to change laws on abortion.  (Emphasis mine.)

Read the rest here.

The ugly populist attacks on Mitt Romney

I’m not a fan of populism in politics, since I think it usually boils down to an ugly appeal to people’s baser instincts, with the sole benefit accruing to the demagogue making the statements.  Huck is emerging as precisely that kind of populist, as Jay Nordlinger demonstrates by discussing Huck’s new attacks on Mitt.  Now that he’s finished with his attacks on Mitt’s religion, he’s going after Mitt’s social status:

I don’t intend to comment much about presidential politics in today’s column, but let me say this: I find the ganging up on Romney a little unseemly. I mean, not the fact of it, because this is politics, and we’re all grownups (allegedly). I’m talking about the manner and tone. There seems to be some envy about — to go with some other ugly qualities.

I know that a lot of people — anti-Romneyites — are fired up by that line of Huckabee’s: “People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off.” Apparently, he was alluding to Romney. And I find Huckabee’s one of the most depressing lines I have heard in ages — depressing from every point of view.

First, grammatical: They say Bush can’t talk? I thought Huckabee was supposed to be silver-tongued.

Second, philosophical, or political, if you like: Huckabee expressed low populism, or “sheer demagoguery,” as Ronald Reagan used to say. Huckabee’s line could have come out of the mouth of John Edwards, or John Sweeney, or David Bonior. Is this what we want in the Republican party now? Why not have just one big Democratic party?

And third — oh, call it moral: It seems we’re now campaigning on the basis of what the other guy looks like. What do we say about how Huckabee looks? Frankly, I think I would have liked him better when he was fat — he might have been humbler.

If I were a Romney spokesman, I might have responded roughly as follows: “To me, Mitt looks like a guy who can create jobs, create businesses, and create wealth — who can make the economy go, so that people like Mike Huckabee can spend their lives preachin’, gettin’ votes, and taxing people.”

It seems that there is a fair amount of resentment of Romney — for his wealth, success, etc. For the whole package he represents. And is there a worse human trait than resentment or envy? I also might note that I hear a fair amount of denigration of Romney’s business background — I mean, from Republicans. Which is terribly odd and dispiriting.

Romney has his faults, heaven knows — for one thing, his shifts in position are disquieting, smacking of opportunism as they do. (Of course, he also might have just changed his mind about some things.) But Republicans should welcome Romney at the highest levels of our politics. Are we so petty and crabbed and hidebound that we can’t make room for someone like him?

Years ago, Thomas Sowell wrote a column that I have never forgotten. He said that liberals field their A team, while conservatives field their B team. What did he mean by that? He meant that the “best and the brightest” of the liberals slaver to enter politics, or journalism, in order to control other people’s lives. But our best and brightest — the Right’s elite — are in the economy, inventing things, establishing businesses, and making the country grow.

Well, here is Romney, a clear member of our A team, who segued from business into politics, and succeeded. He is a mixture of private-sector accomplishment and political accomplishment. So boo, hiss, right? Wouldn’t we rather have our old, familiar pols, who have been in politics for about 8,000 years? When did John McCain start running for president? 1928?

I was reading an AP story yesterday — here — and saw something quite surprising: “millionaire Mitt Romney.” Here is the full sentence: “Among those listening to the affable Arkansas governor were evangelical Christians, who on Thursday night helped propel Huckabee past millionaire Mitt Romney to win the race’s first test of strength, the Iowa caucuses.”

So that’s how he’s to be described now? “Millionaire Romney,” as though he were merely some rich boy, running on his trust fund — to hell with the Olympics, to hell with Bain Capital, to hell with the governorship of Massachusetts? Was the 2004 Democratic nominee ever described as “millionaire John Kerry”? How about the other candidates this time? How much does Fred Thompson have? Will we ever read “millionaire Fred Thompson”?

Things might get interesting if Huck actually challenged Mitt’s policies, but to do so might expose Huck to more substantive anslysis than he can afford.

Why are home schoolers for Huck?

Rational self-interest is a great concept, but it’s amazing how often people deviate from it and behave completely irrationally. A case in point is the “Home schoolers for Huck” trend we’re seeing right now. Huck’s political policies and pronouncements are completely antithetical to home schooling. He wants the federal government to encroach more and more on public school and, during his time in Arkansas, oversaw laws restricting home schooling rights. The NEA loves him, which tells you way more than you want to know about the man’s politics. Home schoolers ought to be running as far away from his candidacy as they can, but they’re not. Instead, the Home School Legal Defense Program is supporting him. One can only assume that they are so thrilled that a Pastor will take the White House that they are blind to their own self-interest. And speaking of self-interest, I’m also willing to bet that many home schoolers would be opposed to a whole bunch of Huck’s other stands, which are detailed here. (Hat tip: W”B”S.)

I think a lot of Evangelical Christians have to sit down and ask themselves a serious question: Am I willing to put in the White House a man who espouses political policies that go against my self-interest as a Christian merely because he himself is a vocal Christian? As for me, I would be much more interested in measuring Huck by his acts than by his words. And his acts have all the impetus and effects of a liberal Democrat. (By the way, if you have any doubt that a devout Evangelical Christian can also be an ultra liberal Democrat, just put yourself in the way back machine to the years 1976-1980, when this Country was headed by a vocal Christian who was not only a liberal Democrat, but also one of the worst presidents ever.)

Christians are also being short-sighted if they think that Huck’s expanding the federal government will Christianize it. Next time the administration changes into Democratic hands, or next time the Democrats finally take effective control over Congress, these same Democratic political leaders will take the federal government that Huck so thoughtfully expanded for them and use that new power for very Progressive (read: Leftist) ends.

And yet more reasons for concern about a Huckabee candidacy

If you haven’t yet seen this Kimberly Strassel article, make the time to read it. Here’s a taste:

Mr. Huckabee is starting to get a look-see by the press, though whether the nation will have time to absorb the findings before the primaries is just as unknown. The small amount that has been unearthed so far ought to have primary voters nervous. It isn’t just that Mr. Huckabee is far from a traditional conservative; he’s a potential ethical time bomb.

On policy, Mr. Huckabee’s tenure in Arkansas has shown him to be ambivalent about tax increases, variously supporting sales tax hikes, cigarette and gasoline taxes and Internet taxes. Spending increased 65% from 1996 to 2004, three times the rate of inflation.

He’s so lackluster on education reform that he recently received an endorsement from the New Hampshire affiliate of the National Education Association–the first ever of a GOP candidate. The union cited Mr. Huckabee’s opposition to school vouchers. Mr. Huckabee is a fan of greater subsidies for farmers and “clean energy.” He’s proven himself a political neophyte on foreign policy, joining Democrats to skewer President Bush and glorify the “diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy” line.

Most of this is out there, thoroughly documented, and even now slowly filtering its way to voters. Of more concern is what has not yet been discovered about Mr. Huckabee’s time as Arkansas lieutenant governor and governor, in particular on ethical issues. There are signs that Mr. Huckabee’s background–borne of the same Arkansas establishment that produced Bill Clinton–is ripe to provide the sort of pop-up political scandal that could derail a general election campaign.

In Arkansas, Mr. Huckabee was investigated by the state ethics committee at least 14 times. Most of the complaints centered on what appears to be a serial disregard for government rules about gifts and outside financial compensation. He reported $112,000 worth of gifts in one year alone, nearly double his $67,000 salary.

Five of the 14 investigations resulted in admonishments: Two for failing to report gifts (one was later overturned), the other three for some $80,000 that Mr. Huckabee and his wife received but failed to initially report. One of these admonishments involved a $23,500 payment to Mr. Huckabee from an opaque organization called Action America that he helped found in 1994 while lieutenant governor, and that was designed to coordinate his speeches and supplement his income.

Mr. Huckabee caused an uproar when he used a $60,000 account intended to maintain the governor’s mansion for personal expenses, including restaurant meals, dry cleaning and boat supplies. He also faced a lawsuit over his assertion that $70,000 worth of furniture donated to the mansion was his to keep. Sprinkled among all this are complaints about the misuse of state planes and campaign funds, mistakes on financial disclosure forms, and fights over documents related to ethics investigations.

Any one of these episodes individually may appear penny ante, but they add up to a disturbing pattern. People I’ve spoken with who worked with Mr. Huckabee in Arkansas dispute the idea that he is “corrupt.” They instead ascribe his ethical mishaps to a “blind spot” rooted in his beginnings as a Baptist minister and a Southern culture of gift-giving; they suggest he never made the mental transition to public office.

Some will also argue Mr. Huckabee is no more ethically challenged than Mr. Giuliani, who is getting pounded with questions about Judith Nathan’s security detail and Giuliani Partner clients. The difference is that Hizzoner is a celebrity whose past bones were long ago picked clean by the media crows. Even the Nathan flap is an extension of news that made the rounds five years ago.

The obscure governor from Arkansas is, in contrast, a deep sea for media diving. Most recent have been stories about his pardons and commutations, as well as the news that R.J. Reynolds contributed to Action America. Mr. Huckabee–who now wants a national smoking ban in public places–responded that he never knew he accepted tobacco money, which has inspired a former adviser to claim Mr. Huckabee is being “less than truthful.” What’s next?

I’ve made clear my distaste with Huckabee.  Even for those who like him, though, they have to understand that there is almost no likelihood of his winning.  Despite the current excitement about him, his liberal stands on government spending, education, tax and foreign policy are going to alienate a large swath of conservatives and, despite those positions, his outspoken Christianity is going to repel most Democrats.  When the election finally rolls around, he’s be nowhere.

I want to win.  I hate the thought of a Democrat in the White House and think that we have a large number of completely excellent conservative candidates to sell to the American people:  Romney, Giuliani, Thompson and McCain.  It would be ludicrous if Huckabee, who is a liberal as regards everything but abortion and creationism, would front the Republican party.  November 2008 would be a lose/lose proposition since (a) he’d lose outright or (b) if he won, we’d have a repeat of either the Carter or the Clinton years.

Peggy Noonan hits Huckabee the nail on the head

Not only does Peggy Noonan, herself a very religious woman, get what was wrong with Huckabee’s Christmas ad, her description of the scene’s careful staging puts the lie to Mike’s assertion that the whole cross image was just a fortuitous accident (kind of like seeing Christ in a tortilla, I guess):

I didn’t see the famous floating cross. What I saw when I watched Mike Huckabee’s Christmas commercial was a nice man in a sweater sitting next to a brightly lit tree. He had easy warmth and big brown puppy-dog eyes, and he talked about taking a break from politics to remember the peace and joy of the season. Sounds good to me.

Only on second look did I see the white lines of the warmly lit bookcase, which formed a glowing cross. Someone had bothered to remove the books from that bookcase, or bothered not to put them in. Maybe they would have dulled the lines.

Is there a word for “This is nice” and “This is creepy”? For that is what I felt. This is so sweet-appalling.

I love the cross. The sight of it, the fact of it, saves me, literally and figuratively. But there is a kind of democratic politesse in America, and it has served us well, in which we are happy to profess our faith but don’t really hit people over the head with its symbols in an explicitly political setting, such as a campaign commercial, which is what Mr. Huckabee’s ad was.

I wound up thinking this: That guy is using the cross so I’ll like him. That doesn’t tell me what he thinks of Jesus, but it does tell me what he thinks of me. He thinks I’m dim. He thinks I will associate my savior with his candidacy. Bleh.

The ad was shrewd. The caucus is coming, the TV is on, people are home putting up the tree, and the other candidates are all over the tube advancing themselves and attacking someone else. Mr. Huckabee thinks, I’ll break through the clutter by being the guy who reminds us of the reason for the season, in a way that helps underscore that I’m the Christian candidate and those other fellas aren’t. As a break from the nattering argument, as a message that highlights something bigger than politics, it was refreshing.

Was the cross an accident? Please. It was as accidental as Mr. Huckabee’s witty response, when he accused those of questioning the ad of paranoia, was spontaneous. “Actually I will confess this, if you play this spot backwards it says ‘Paul is dead, Paul is dead, Paul is dead,’ ” he said. As Bill Safire used to say of clever moves, “That’s good stuff!”

Read the rest here.

I don’t like Mike

Mike was easy to ignore and, given his wit, easy to like when he was at the back of the back. Now that he’s burst into prominence though, he can’t be ignored, and I like him less and less. Kyle-Anne Shiver doesn’t like him either, comparing him to two other Southern governors, Clinton and Carter. Shiver also exposes a little more of history, some of which (those hard drives) I didn’t yet know:

Mike Huckabee has done a better job of covering his tracks than even former Governor and First Lady of Arkansas, Bill and Hillary Clinton. Right at the end of Huckabee’s eleven-year stint as Arkansas’ Governor, he ordered the hard drives crashed on every computer so that no one would ever have access to his papers. Not only that, but now the churches where he served as pastor refuse to release any of the sermons he delivered, and I am truly dying to know what’s in them that Huckabee finds so potentially offensive to mainstream America.

This is perfectly Clinton-esque; hidden or destroyed records seems to play well in Arkansas.

Now Mr. Huckabee may look and sound very salt-of-the-earth, but I find it downright bothersome that he had 5 formal ethics violations while in office, and that he used the operating budget (taxpayer money!) of the Governor’s mansion to pay for personal expenses like a doghouse, clothes and take-out meals. And wouldn’t you know it? The Clintons used taxpayer money to pay for Chelsea’s full-time nanny.

Add to that the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Huckabee, who had been married a full 20 years, set up wedding registries upon leaving the Governor’s mansion so “grateful” citizens (think lobbyists) could furnish their new, expensive house. Sound familiar? This is exactly what Bill and Hillary did when leaving the White House.

Also like the Clintons, the Huckabees tried to claim $70,000 worth of furnishings from the Governor’s mansion as their own. Using public office to rip off the taxpayers seems to be something of a nasty habit in Arkansas.

Some folks complain that they don’t like rich people running for public office. I don’t like people running for public office so they can get rich!

Mike Huckabee is as socially conservative as anyone running in 2008. And that is the only thing he has going for him. He has governed as a high-taxing, high-spending, government-can-make-the-world-perfect liberal in every way.

He has zero foreign policy experience, thinks we should practice the golden rule with terrorists and wants to close Gitmo so that the Europeans will start liking us again. He doesn’t even have a foreign policy adviser and he needs one more than anyone running.

Just because General Petraeus is now winning the war in Iraq does not mean we can let our guard down, and giving Mike Huckabee the Republican nomination will give Americans a choice next November between the-war-is-lost Democrats and a candidate who thinks that going to war with the terrorists in the first place was “arrogant.” He sounds more like a Clinton everyday. That’s precisely the word Hillary Clinton has used to describe the President’s war policy: “arrogant.” Quite a coincidence.

Are we willing to let little Iowa determine the entire Presidential election?

I don’t like Obama, whom I consider an empty shirt, utterly devoid of experience and elevated to his lofty position only because of his skin color, something that I consider that worst kind of racial identity politics. (I just checked and it turns out that, at this particular minute, Silky Pony, the radical rich plaintiffs’ attorney is in the lead in Iowa, a change from yesterday’s news, or even this morning’s. I find him just as distasteful as Obama, especially since I think he’s a huge hypocrite, living a life few of us can imagine, while demanding that we, in the working and middle classes, turn over our money to the government for him to manage. Pfeh!)

I’m no more thrilled about the Republicans’ potential Iowa frontrunner, Mike Huckabee. Indeed, the more I learn about him, the less I like him, despite his manifest charm. He’s a nanny stater; he’s too forgiving of sin, something that’s dangerous in a political leader, whether he’s being lenient to local killers or worldwide terrorists; he’s exceptionally ill-informed about the world about him, something scary in dangerous times; and he’s a religious bigot.

As to this last point, I have no problems with Huckabee being religious, a quality all of you know I admire. I do have big problems, however, with his exceptionally nasty remarks about Mormonism. I’m perfectly willing to concede that Mormonism has some wacky ideas but, viewed objectively, so do all religions. For example, to a non-believer, the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation does not make logical sense; the Jewish belief in some sort of ancient old covenant with God, a covenant that has caused Jews until untold suffering over the centuries, is hard to fathom; and the central Christian doctrine about Jesus’ resurrection reflects a leap of faith that the non-Christian just can’t make.

What should matter in America is not doctrine, but values. You practice your faith, and I’ll practice mine (or not). However, what I will scrutinize closely is, not your faith, but the fruits of your faith as expressed in the way you live your life and, if you’re a politician, in the direction you wish to take this nation. As to this, Mitt Romney has lived an exemplary life, one of hard and successful work, family values, and fiscal and social conservatism (especially, with regard to the latter, in the last few years). Nor has he ever given any indication during his very long public and private careers that he intends to use either his wealth or political power to impose his religious beliefs, doctrines or practices on anyone. In that, he differs substantially from, say, a devoutly religious Muslim, whose faith obligates him to try to impose Sharia law against one and all, including stoning, veils, amputations, etc. Whatever Mormon doctrines are, there’s no indication that those doctrines would affect Mitt’s governance. For Huckabee to run a campaign implying otherwise is just dirty campaigning.

However, much as I may not like these guys (Obama, Edwards and Huckabee), they are still the favored candidates going into the Iowa primaries. So be it. But am I the only one who is noticing that all the punditry seems to be saying that, if they take Iowa, they’re essentially the annointed candidates for their parties in the 2008 elections? With all due respect to the wonderful citizens of Iowa, I don’t think that the outcome of a single state’s primaries — especially a state that, in terms of population, comes in 30th, behind such states as Texas, New York, California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan — should be determinative of the entire election.

While Obama/Edwards, on the one hand, and Huckabee, on the other hand, will definitely get a boost if they take Iowa, the battle between the primary candidates will — or at least should — continue from one venue to another, and really won’t be resolved until February, when the big states have had their say. I mean, do you seriously expect all the other primary candidates just to drop out, to vanish, because these guys took Iowa? To ask the question is to expose the stupidity behind it.

I also think that, as least as to Huckabee, it’s just as likely that a Huckabee victory in Iowa will so frighten non-religious conservatives in New York, Florida, California, etc., that they’ll turn out in droves to vote for someone else during the primaries. (Of course, with Republican luck, they’ll vote for Ron Paul, won’t they?)

In any event, I refuse to fall into flat despair because of the Iowa predictions, nor will I respect American voters if they simply give up after Iowa and don’t turn out to support their candidate of choice. Iowa is a great place, I’m sure, but it shouldn’t be the alpha and omega of American presidential candidacies.

UPDATE: Noooo! Say it ain’t so, pollsters! Huck is tops nationwide, not just in Iowa? Well, so was Dean once upon a time. Americans can be fickle, and they like shiny new things.

UPDATE II:  Sorry for all the typos (including the one I corrected in the post caption).  I was pretty tired last night when I wrote this, and it shows.

Mitt the Competent — Mitt the Candidate

I’ve noted in the past that I really, really like competence and the ability to take responsibility, both in the people who surround me and, especially, in the people who are tasked with guiding me. I’ve also noted that Mitt’s Mormonism isn’t a problem for me, and that it shouldn’t be a problem for people who are more religious than I am (something Dennis Prager has tackled too).  I’ve been forgiving of his changed positions on abortion, because I understand those changes, having moved along that trajectory myself over the years.

Mona Charen now points to his spectacular achievements, achievements made all the more impressive by the fact that he makes it look easy:

But then Romney has been masterful in everything he has attempted. It is not insignificant that this cum laude JD/MBA graduate of Harvard guided Bain Capital to become a hugely successful private equity investment firm and rescued Bain & Company from financial collapse. Romney was brought in to save the 2002 Winter Olympics when the games were mired in scandal and $379 million in debt. Romney was able to turn the situation around completely so that the games actually turned a $100 million profit instead. (He also gave back his salary.) That’s not slick, that’s substance.

When Mitt Romney took office as governor of Massachusetts, the state had a $1.2 billion deficit. Four years later it was in surplus. He boasts that fourth and eighth graders in Massachusetts achieved the highest scores in the nation in reading and math, though they were doing so before he became governor as well. But his program of assessment, merit pay for good teachers, English immersion and a focus on math and science may have helped keep them at the top.

It is difficult to find any significant weakness in Romney. He is refreshingly articulate, exceedingly well prepared and self-disciplined, clearly an excellent manager with both private and government experience, happily married with a large, supportive family, and well within the mainstream of conservatism on every major issue. His nomination would not divide the base.

I also think that National Review is correct about the way in which his policies appeal to the broadest principles uniting conservatives (and you know that I care deeply about broad principles that ought to bind conservatives of all stripes):

Romney is an intelligent, articulate, and accomplished former businessman and governor. At a time when voters yearn for competence and have soured on Washington because too often the Bush administration has not demonstrated it, Romney offers proven executive skill. He has demonstrated it in everything he has done in his professional life, and his tightly organized, disciplined campaign is no exception. He himself has shown impressive focus and energy.

It is true that he has less foreign-policy experience than Thompson and (especially) McCain, but he has more executive experience than both. Since almost all of the candidates have the same foreign-policy principles, what matters most is which candidate has the skills to execute that vision.

Like any Republican, he would have an uphill climb next fall. But he would be able to offer a persuasive outsider’s critique of Washington. His conservative accomplishments as governor showed that he can work with, and resist, a Demo­crat­ic legislature. He knows that not every feature of the health-care plan he enacted in Massachusetts should be replicated nationally, but he can also speak with more authority than any of the other Republican candidates about this pressing issue. He would also have credibility on the economy, given his success as a businessman and a manager of the Olympics.

Some conservatives question his sincerity. It is true that he has reversed some of his positions. But we should be careful not to overstate how much he has changed. In 1994, when he tried to unseat Ted Kennedy, he ran against higher taxes and government-run health care, and for school choice, a balanced budget amendment, welfare reform, and “tougher measures to stop illegal immigration.” He was no Rockefeller Republican even then.

We believe that Romney is a natural ally of social conservatives. He speaks often about the toll of fatherlessness in this country. He may not have thought deeply about the political dimensions of social issues until, as governor, he was confronted with the cutting edge of social liberalism. No other Republican governor had to deal with both human cloning and court-imposed same-sex marriage. He was on the right side of both issues, and those battles seem to have made him see the stakes of a broad range of public-policy issues more clearly. He will work to put abortion on a path to extinction. Whatever the process by which he got to where he is on marriage, judges, and life, we’re glad he is now on our side — and we trust him to stay there.

As I noted above with reference to abortion, I’m untroubled by Romney’s changed positions over the years because two things have happened:  (1) the world has changed dramatically since 9/11 and (2) he’s grown older.  As to the first, it signals his intelligence that, in the face of drastic changes at home and abroad, he is capable of revisiting positions and recognizing that they are no longer viable, something the 60s liberals are utterly incapable of doing.  This is not flip-flopping, because these appear to me to be principled changes reflecting reality, rather than any desperate attempt to keep to the right side of the polls.  In this regard, no one should forget that, before the Nazis, Churchill was a liberal.  And as to the second, we all know that people often settle into more conservative positions as they age as they grew in wisdom, stability and experience.

I think Giuliani is great and would happily vote for him as against any Democratic candidate.  I’m more lukewarm about Thompson and McCain, but would still happily vote for them as against anyone the Democrats field.  I could not vote for either Huckabee or Paul.

With regard to Huckabee, as I’ve said before, I’m sure he’s a very, very nice, good man, but am troubled by his aggressive Christianity, which indicates that he wants to become the nation’s pastor, rather than a Christian man who is president; his compassion run amok, which sees him pardoning evil people left and right (which is fine for an ordinary Christian, but profoundly dangerous for a political leader); his apparent greediness, which recalls another Arkansas governor’s conduct; his profound ignorance of and lack of curiosity about foreign affairs; the religious bigotry he displays in his attacks toward Romney; and his desire to have government police every aspect of my private life, including my diet.  All of these things frighten me about him, and make him every bit as dangerous in my view as a big-government liberal.  It would be the 1990s all over again, except with more God references.

And as for RuPaul, er, Ron Paul, his fellow travelers tell me too much about the man.  He may be talking out loud as a libertarian, but there’s some subliminal code out there that is drawing to him every racist, neo-Nazi, American supremacist, antisemite in America. With that kind of baggage, who needs him?

And so I’m going to second National Review and endorse Romney.  Failing some scandal or meltdown, I agree with the National Review that he is the most broadly conservative candidate and the most competent candidate.  I’m also going to put my faith in the American conservative movement and assume that, in a race between Romney and any Democratic candidate, people who have doubts about Mormons will be able to put those doubts aside and vote for the candidate whose values and political outlook are most closely aligned with theirs.

More comparisons between Huckabee and Carter

As you may recall, I compared Huckabee to Jimmy Carter, foreseeing with the former some of the same problems we saw with the latter (and that despite the fact that Huckabee seems like a much more ebullient and nicer person than Carter). I’m not the only one making those comparisons. After listening to Huckabee opining about foreign policy and comparing himself to Reagan, Power Line had this to say:

When it comes to foreign policy, Huckabee more closely resembles another former governor, Jimmy Carter. It was Carter, not Reagan, who viewed foreign policy as an extension of his own character and personal principles. Carter stood for a foreign policy “as decent as the American people.” Reagan stood for defeating our enemies. When Huckabee frets about how Gitmo is making us appear to foreigners, when he asserts that “we broke Iraq,” and when he says he’s qualified to be commander-in-chief because of his character rather than because of his understanding of our enemies, it’s pretty clear that his foreign policy roots extend nowhere near the fertile soil of Reaganism.

Huckabee may be a good and witty human being (and an excellent candidate because of that wit), but he’s not the President this country needs at this time in its history.

UPDATE: See also Laer’s post looking at the naiveté of Huckabee’s foreign policy positions.

Render unto Caesar that which is Caesars….

I went to law school in the Bible Belt, so many of my fellow students were devout Christians. Thomas, however, out-Christianed everyone. His parents were missionaries, and he’d been raised with a level of faith no one else at the school could equal. He was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, a truly Christian person in the best sense of the word, but he was also quite unworldly. It was this latter quality that came to the fore when it was time for us to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (or, as we called it, the MPRE). This exam is a prerequisite for practicing in just about every state in America, or at least that was the case a couple of decades ago.

The MPRE tests students on generic rules (as opposed to state-specific rules) of professional responsibility. These rules cover such scintillating topics as engaging in business transactions with ones clients, billing, dealing with clients who are deadbeats, the proper ways to approach the Court, conflicts of interest, and other wonderfully arcane topics that tend to have a surprisingly large effect on the average lawyer’s work day.

With one exception, everyone in my graduating class paid $200 dollars and trooped off to a one day review session in order to prepare for the MPRE. That one exception, of course, was Thomas. He announced to anyone who asked that he didn’t need to take a class in professional responsibility because the Bible taught him everything he needed to know about ethics.

I’m sure that, by this point, it won’t surprise you to hear that Thomas was the only student in our year (indeed, the only student in law school history) to fail the MPRE exam. The Bible did not prepare him at all for picayune rules about the proper way in which to handle retainers or the balancing of interests that needs to be done in taking on two similarly situated, but not identical, clients. In other words, Thomas’ deep and strong morality had nothing to do with procedural rules for being a lawyer in the modern era.

I’ve been thinking about Thomas a lot in connection with Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. The fact that Huckabee is a devout Christian is turning a lot of equally devout Christian voters his way. With Mitt, we see the reverse. Because he is a devout Mormon, devout Christians are rejecting him. As regards Mitt, I have heard from Christians who believe that any man who makes a profound doctrinal error cannot be trusted with any other task. Conversely, because Huckabee is on the right path doctrinally, they’re convinced that this will lead him automatically towards being a good national executive.

Thinking about these viewpoints, I can’t help but feel that people who are imposing a religious test on these two candidates are making the same mistake Thomas did: they think that reading the Bible the right way is sufficient to getting the task done, forgetting that some tasks have different rules. This is not to say, of course, that one must abandon ones Biblically-based morality and ethics. It is to say, however, that a deep knowledge of the Bible won’t get you through all of the necessary tasks of a specific job — especially the President’s job.

When you separate Mitt’s and Mike’s theology out from their political values and abilities, you get a rather different picture. I’m the first to admit that Mike is a charming, witty, Biblically erudite man. I also freely acknowledge that his values are entirely consistent with the values that social conservatives espouse, especially when it comes to abortion. However, there is no doubt that he is a tax and spend politician who believes that the government should use its power to coerce people into engaging in government approved behaviors — which is fine, perhaps, if Mike is the government and you agree with his ideas. It becomes a fearsome precedent, however, if the subsequent President is say, Obama, Hillary or Edwards, all of whom have freely admitted that they want to use government coercion on citizens, usually in ways that are disagreeable to conservatives. (Here are just the two most recent examples of Edwards, Hillary and Obama in nanny state mode.)

As for Mitt, even if you find his theology loopy, you have to agree that his end point is pretty consistent with the same end point a traditional Biblical Christian reaches, with the added bonus that he is an economically conservative Republican. I’ll offer just two examples of his social conservatism. The first is the wonderful answer he gave during the BoobTube debates to the question about black on black crime. Rather than coming out with just another tired old chestnut about throwing more money into black communities, something that hasn’t made a positive difference in the last 40+ years, he made a values statement: we need to encourage intact families amongst blacks:

YouTube question: Hi, this is me and my son Prentiss. We’re from Atlanta. I want to ask you guys a question (inaudible) every year. But what about the war going on in our country, black on black crime? Two hundred to 400 black men die yearly in one city alone. What are you going to do about that war? It feels like the (inaudible) is right outside.

Cooper: He’s talking about black-on-black crime, crime in the inner cities.

Governor Romney?

Romney: Well, first of all, Printes is pretty fortunate because he’s got a dad standing next to him that apparently loves him by all appearances there, and that’s probably the best thing you can do for a kid is to have a mom and a dad.

(Applause)

And it’s time in this country that we go back to the kind of values that allow kid to have moms and dads. In the African-American community today, 68 percent of kids born are born out of wedlock. And so we’re going to try and once again reinculcate in this country the try of values that have made us so strong: family values.

The second example is his pro-Life stance. I happen to know that many of you are suspicious because he came to it late in the day, but I’m not inclined to hold that against him, because my views have shifted so dramatically on the subject. For me, the moment came when I saw the first ultrasound of my first baby, aged 16 weeks. It was so clearly a baby, with a little spine like a string of pearls. Before that moment, I’d truly never connected the “fetus” with a baby. Growing up in liberal land, with the focus on “me, me, me (the woman),” I’d managed to avoid the obvious connection. If I were to get pregnant now, even though my pregnancies are Hell and I don’t want another child, I’d do something that would never have occurred to me 20 years ago: I’d stay pregnant. People change and Mitt ought to get the benefit of the doubt on this. In any event, the most important thing he can do, since he can’t set abortion policy (that’s not the White House’s job), is appoint conservative justices, who will read the Constitution as written and not snatch rights out of thin air.

Dennis Prager likes to say (and I’m paraphrasing) that we have to look more to what people do, and less to what animates their actions. Whatever path Mitt has taken, he has arrived at a spot where he is a pretty rock solid conservative candidate, both socially and economically. And whatever path Mike has taken, he has arrived at a spot where he is a rock solid conservative socially, but a flat-out liberal in terms of economics and nanny-state government policies. Also, unlike Mitt, Mike is unelectable. As a former liberal, I can assure you that anyone who espouses his religious views and calls himself a Republican (despite his Democrat proclivities) is more unpalatable to the average liberal even than George Bush was. In other words, a vote for Mike is a vote for Hillary, Obama or Edwards. And a vote for any one of those three will see outcomes that will make most conservatives, whether social or economic (or both) very, very unhappy.

Is Obama Jimmy Carter or is Huckabee?

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.

Huckabee and the Jews

After reading my post about Huckabee, my friend the Soccer Dad directed me to an Israel Matzav post about Huckabee’s visits to Israel and to Yad Vashem. Reading that post, I can only conclude that (a) Huckabee recognizes Israel as a nation amongst nations and (b) that Huckabee has correctly understood that one of the main messages to take away from the Holocaust is that bad things happen when good people do nothing.

If you liked this post, vote for it at Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Huckabee wire by clicking here.

He sounds like a nice guy

I guiltily admit that I haven’t paid too much attention to Mike Huckabee, not because I disagree with his politics, but because I’ve been focusing on the Republican front runners. With a lot of front runners, even if one falls, there are so many more to take his place, it still seems likely to me that one of them will ultimately be the name on the ballot in 2008.

I was charmed, however, when I read about Mr. Huckabee’s style, which is to use humor — not buffoonery and underwear exposure, but real humor — on the campaign trail:

But for those who have followed Mr. Huckabee as he has traveled across the country these past six months, he has distinguished himself in another way: as a candidate of considerable humor who stands apart in this oh-so-serious field of presidential contenders (think Mr. Giuliani talking about the threat of terrorist attacks). Mr. Huckabee uses humor as a way to court voters, soften rivals, make political arguments and seamlessly slice an opponent.“I was the first governor in America to have a concealed handgun permit — so don’t mess with me!” Mr. Huckabee told a conservative convention in Washington.

Or consider this, as he invited Republicans to join in “a Q. and A.” with him in West Des Moines. “What it really stands for is questions and avoidance,” he explained. “I do my best not to say anything that would end my political career.”

Or this, talking about what Mr. Huckabee has described as frequent accusations of political corruption in the state: “It got to be where the five most feared words for an Arkansas politician were, ‘Will the defendant please rise’.”

Mr. Huckabee’s use of humor amounts to a style of politicking that many audiences have found engaging, and that stands out in an era of bloggers and journalists recording a candidate’s slightest slip.

To me, this kind of wit is always a sign of (a) intelligence and (b) self-awareness. I’ve suddenly become interested. Of course, it ultimately may not lead anywhere. While wit worked for John F. Kennedy, it did nothing for Adlai Stevenson who, because of his wit, was my father’s favorite candidate.

UPDATE: Here’s a Weekly Standard report with some meat to back up that humor:

Huckabee is offering what might be called “results conservatism.” The conservative part is fundamental because it identifies where governing, for him, must be grounded, in terms of philosophy and ideas. And as he makes his campaign stops, Huckabee takes care to assert his conservatism. He explains how, growing up in a very blue county, he became a conservative “by conviction” when he was a teenager. He states his preferences for “less government, not more” and “lower taxes, not higher.” He insists on understanding marriage in traditional terms, as the union of a male and a female. He stresses the sanctity of human life and calls for protecting it from the moment of conception. He criticizes Roe v. Wade as having “imposed an unconstitutional concept of privacy” upon the country. He cites the Tenth Amendment as a bulwark against an overweening federal government. And he underscores that the “first job” of the president “is to protect the American people,” which, he emphasizes, means protecting the country against “fanatic jihadists” who are waging “a theological war” against us. Huckabee’s results conservatism is not to be confused with President Bush’s compassionate conservatism. In fact, Huckabee rejects the latter term on the ground, as he told me, that compassion isn’t a matter of political ideology but is related to “your spirit and heart.”

***

On specific issues, Huckabee says that the immigration bill failed because it didn’t “take care of the first test of a real immigration policy, which is having a secure border.” On energy, he declares that we need “to produce our own energy sources” and quit our dependence on foreign sources. On the No Child Left Behind law, he states his agreement with its general thrust and would make only minor changes. On health care, he argues that the country needs to shift from an intervention-based system to one based on prevention. On judges, he says he would appoint judicial conservatives like Antonin Scalia, whom he calls “the gold standard” for judging. And on the question of the Supreme Court’s overruling Roe, he’s emphatically for it.

On Iraq–a subject that generates only one or two questions at each event–Huckabee supports the surge, and opposes any timetable for pulling troops out, and he accuses Democrats of playing politics. On the war on terrorism more broadly, he says we have to be in it for the long run: “What people don’t understand is what we’re up against. . . . We’re fighting people who don’t care if it takes a thousand years. They’ve been at it for longer than that. A few hundred more years won’t matter.”

The one big idea Huckabee advances on the stump is the fair tax. Huckabee told me he became a fair-tax proponent after first being attracted to the flat tax. “But then I realized that the flat tax . . . was a tax on productivity, which is not the way you stimulate entrepreneurial activity.” During his early campaigning in Iowa, he says, people asked him about the fair tax. “But I wasn’t familiar with it.” So he bought The Fair Tax Book: Saying Goodbye to the Income Tax and the IRS by Rep. John Lindner of Georgia and Neal Boortz, the Atlanta talk-show host. Huckabee says he read it twice and was persuaded. As he explains the concept in his speeches, the fair tax would replace all current taxes on productivity with a consumption tax of 23 percent on all goods and services (education being the lone exception). It would be so simple to administer, he says, that “a seven-year-old running a lemonade stand would be able to figure it out.” We could eliminate the IRS, he adds, since the government no longer would collect taxes. “And”–an applause line–”April 15 would be just another spring day in America.”

So, he sounds not only witty, but intelligent. Hmmmm….

(If you liked this post, vote for it on Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Huckabee wire by clicking here.)