Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Huck GOP’s best hope?

The national media has discovered our man Mike Huckabee, and the pundits from David Brooks of The New York Times to Jonathan Alter of Newsweek are writing glowingly about his charm, wit and middle-of-the-road positioning in the field of Republican presidential candidates. They note that the former governor is given to occasional stupid or even scary remarks but no more than the other candidates. And unlike any of the others, he evinces traces of compassion.

Occasionally, they catch another side of him, his propensity to exaggerate or to just make things up. In the Florida debate over the weekend, Huckabee was driving home his credentials as the most zealous social conservative. He linked his anti-abortion stance with the Declaration of Independence’s promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The people who signed Jefferson’s declaration, he added, were “brave people — most of whom, by the way, were clergymen” like himself.

Not quite, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, wrote. One out of 64 is not “most.” The only clergyman was John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister who was president of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. A large number — it’s impossible to say whether it was “most” — were not even traditional Christians but Deists.

But it was a forgivable gaffe, one largely ignored in the reporting on the debate. The governor has been guilty of more serious whoppers — his tax record in Arkansas and his softness for rapist/killer Wayne Dumond come to mind — but he gets a pass on these matters. Why bother to check on the accuracy of an also-ran candidate’s claims of what he did back in his state when the major candidates are stretching their own records beyond recognition?

If it’s true that Huckabee is climbing into the top tier of candidates he will need to become more circumspect. The unadulterated truth and nothing but is the right thing to do and the best political strategy. We hope he is capable of it.