Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Huck is not helpful

Mike Huckabee, our gifted former governor, does some things very well. In nearly 10 years as governor, he could say one thing, do quite the opposite and win praise for both, a talent every politician covets. We found ourselves objecting to most of what he said, applauding most of what he did and then objecting again when he miscast his own record while pursuing the Republican nomination for president.

But international diplomacy? We never thought he would be good at that. Peace and understanding are never ends that Mike Huckabee thinks worth pursuing. Foes are always implacable. Friends are never even slightly wrong. Friends turned critics are to be cast into everlasting exile.

But it was not exactly with surprise that we read that Huckabee was in Israel for three days to hurl a wrench or two into the delicate peace process. Since he’s being talked about as a presidential candidate in 2012, his visit and his inflammatory words attracted some attention. He denounced the president of the United States and the nation’s Middle East policies.

While President Obama was conferring with the president of Egypt and pressing him to move other Arab nations toward accommodations with Israel, Huckabee was touring Israel and East Jerusalem denouncing the fundamental premise of United States policy for the past four presidents, that there should be a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. George W. Bush probably would have tried to have his citizenship revoked before he returned.

The president and the State Department have pushed the Israeli government to stop building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, with some but not enough success. That seems essential to getting the parties back at the negotiating table. President Obama praised Israel yesterday for moving in the right direction.

But Huckabee said Israel shouldn’t make any concessions. He goes far beyond even the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Huckabee said the United States has no business advising Israelis where they should live. They ought to be able to live anywhere they want to, he said. What if Israel tried to tell the people of New York City which borough they could and could not live in? he asked.

That’s not quite the same. The settlements are not in Israel. If Huckabee actually believed the doctrine he espoused, he would say that we have no business telling Arabs, Mexicans, Haitians and Dominicans they can’t live in the United States if they want to. Well, he did more or less say that in 2005 and 2006 and took some heat for it, but he took the contrary position when he ran for president.

Ateret Kohanim, an extreme religious group that wants more settlement in occupied lands, no nation for the Palestinians and no accommodation, sponsored Huckabee’s visit. His highly political visit flouts a historical principle, that Americans of either party do not go abroad to undermine U. S. foreign policy, whatever it is. It is no longer much observed but it served us well.

Come home, Mike.

—Ernie Dumas