Leader Blues

Friday, September 05, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Can Huck save GOP?

Anticipating a primetime speech or debate appearance by favorite son Mike Huckabee always fills us with both expectation and dread, and he never fails to fulfill both. The former governor’s address to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night was the perfect Huckabee peroration.

The organizers sandwiched Huckabee between two other losing presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and the irrepressible Rudy Giuliani, an hour before the evening’s highlight, the maiden speech of Sarah Palin, the vice presidential nominee. The pompous Romney was absurd with his condemnation of the “elitist” Democrats – imagine the billionaire Romney from Massachusetts calling anyone elitist – and his charge that liberals were running the entire national government. Republicans have controlled all three branches for six of the last eight years, the Democrats having got marginal but ineffective control of the Congress 20 months ago. Republicans own the Supreme Court 7 to 2 and every federal appellate court in the land.

Huckabee was a refreshing contrast. He had just the right mixture of self-effacement, populism and humor, and his delivery is still better than anyone in the big field of nattering politicians who pranced across the podium at St. Paul. Alone of all the speakers, he talked about the concerns of blue-collar Americans. He had that field to himself throughout the primaries. But then the bad Huckabee, the one who is careless with the truth, never disappoints either. Facts never get in his way, whether he is talking about his own record or someone else’s. The commentators had enough time to mention a couple of them but the speech was sprinkled with provable falsehoods almost from the beginning.

He said Palin had received more votes in her two races for mayor of the Alaska town of Wasilla (population about 5,400 when she was mayor) than Sen. Joe Biden received nationally in his race for the Democratic nomination for president. Biden withdrew from the race before the first primary in January, but his name still appeared on the ballot in a number of states and he received more than 100,000 votes.

Huckabee said that despite being tortured by the North Vietnamese, John McCain would not say anything bad about the United States. But McCain did make such a statement, as did other tortured prisoners, and it was the basis of McCain’s opposition to the Bush administration’s sanction of torture. McCain said torture produced worthless confessions such as his rather than real intelligence.

Huckabee said Abraham Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party; he wasn’t. Its first candidate for president was John C. Fremont. Huckabee attributed to Honest Abe the quote “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” President Gerald Ford said it in an address to Congress in 1974. Others, but never Abe, had expressed similar thoughts, though not those words.

Huckabee reprised all the applause lines from his campaign, including growing up bathing with Lava hand soap and for the hundredth time the utterly pointless story of a teacher who wouldn’t give her students desks until they told her how they could “earn” them. It turned out that they had desks because soldiers had already “earned” them for the students. But don’t kids in dictatorships have desks, too? Who earned the desks for children in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia and Hussein’s Iraq? The vets might have earned them the freedom to utter whatever beliefs they wanted but not the good fortune of having a school desk.

But this is politics. If he would stick reasonably close to the truth, we would give the man some license in the interest of manufacturing a little patriotic fervor.