Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Huckabee’s latest tome

No sooner had he been eliminated from the Republican presidential sweepstakes than Mike Huckabee got down to the business of getting out another book. Sure enough, he beat everyone else to the market to capitalize on the momentous 2008 campaign, and this week he began a tour of Republican states to push sales. When a buck is to be made no one is going to beat our former governor to the throttle.

“Do the Right Thing,” as Huckabee titled the little volume, will win no literary awards and neither will it be long pondered for its keen analysis of the body politic and the most transforming election in 75 years. That is only partly because he rushed to finish the volume before much had happened beyond his own defeat. He said he finished it in June, long before the Republican Convention. One worshipful reviewer said the book was disappointing because people would have liked to know what Huckabee made of the economic cataclysm that did more than anything to cost Republican John McCain the presidency.

But the other thing that devalues the book as a political science tract is that its principal mission is to get even. Doing the right thing, it turns out, is settling scores with your opponents and those who should have supported you but backed someone else.

Turning the other cheek is not an impulse that often moves the former evangelist.

His main quarry is Mitt Romney, the slick former governor of Massachusetts, whose flush campaign crashed in the fall of 2007 a full year before the election. Romney appears more often in the book than anyone except Huckabee himself. Smarmy, arrogant, profligately rich, slippery and politically deaf, Romney is an easy target. Huckabee exults in Romney’s embarrassing defeats after spending obscenely in the early caucuses and primaries. He accuses Romney of flip-flopping on issue after issue for political advantage, a practice that Romney shared with no one so much as Mike Huckabee. Huckabee’s campaign became the polar opposite of his 10-year reign in Arkansas, when he enlarged government, built debt and raised personal taxes more than any governor in Arkansas history. He ran for president as an unrelenting foe of taxes and big government. Back in Little Rock he had called for people to treat unlawful immigrants as Jesus would have treated them, but sensing a different impulse in the national Republican base, he tried to outdo the nativist Tom Tancredo in his attacks on immigrants.

The Club for Growth, the right-wing rich man’s coterie, gets its come-uppance. Bankrolled by Little Rock’s Jackson T. Stephens Jr., the club dared to call attention to Huckabee’s fiscal record as a taxer and spender in Arkansas.

So do all the huckstering evangelists like Pat Robertson and John Hagee, who stiffed their fellow preacher in the Republican campaign and supported the sinful Rudy Giuliani or John McCain or else the Mormon Romney. Opportunists all, Huckabee maintains.

There is a measure of truth in all his characterizations and there is deserved pride in what he did, making a creditable bid for the nomination for president of the United States without money and with nothing more than a smile and a quip. He got a plurality in eight states, five in Dixie and three along the border, which was more than anyone but McCain and Romney.

By writing so quickly, Huckabee missed the point. It is not a season for getting even but for charity and concert. Maybe in four years or even one year, but not now.

But Huckabee was writing for 2012. People need to fix the mess, he said.

“It starts now. It starts with me,” he said, adding “and it starts with you.” That is the Huckabee we know.