Leader Blues

Friday, March 07, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Bright future for Huckabee

Our gallant neighbor, Michael Dale Huckabee, ended his quixotic quest for the presidency Tuesday night and retired to his Shady Valley home in North Little Rock, like the original Don Quixote to La Mancha. We hope he does not suffer the disillusionment with chivalric causes that beset the poor Quixote.

There is no sign that he will. Despite a couple of weeks in which he was derided for carrying on when John McCain had the Republican nomination wrapped up and a catastrophic primary night in which he was swamped in four states, including Texas, his second home, Huckabee sounded as exuberant as ever.

With a captive national television audience looking on for the last time, he delivered the longest speech of the night — and he was the biggest loser. He made all his central campaign points, including the harebrained 30 percent-plus national sales tax, and recited enough biblical verses and sports parables to fill 700 Club broadcasts for a week.

Wait, that may be just the point. A few had speculated all along that Huckabee’s goal had been to impress enough with his glibness and folksy humor to get a national radio or television show. He is better than most of the Fox News talking heads.

There is no shortage of right-wing gab artists from mad-dog Willie Cunningham to Rush Limbaugh, but Huckabee comes at you more softly with a (right) wing and a prayer. We can see him replacing the aging and increasingly erratic Pat Robertson, who thought God told him last year to endorse the serial adulterer and grifter Rudy Giuliani for president. Huckabee told news people after his valedictory that if any of the networks were interested he would be by his telephone.

The vice presidency seems to be out. Huckabee makes no one’s list of potential running mates for McCain. He succeeded in marginalizing himself as a religious candidate, which presidential candidates have historically tried to avoid, most lately Mitt Romney. Though he was the last candidate to leave the race, if you do not count Ron Paul, Huckabee hardly endeared himself to the Republican electorate as the legatee for 2012 once John McCain abandons the leadership, one way or another. His claiming the mantle of God’s choice fixed him forever as the candidate of conservative religious orthodoxy. That clearly is not the Republican Party’s future.

It need not have been that way. Huckabee had an appealing argument as a politician who got progressive things done for a needy state in the face of partisan disadvantages. But he ran from that record because some on the right called him a liberal. Too bad.

If he can land a network or syndicated talk show or a good gig in televangelism, second prize will not be too bad. They pay better than president, too.