It’s only 2009, and he’s already ready for another close-up
From everything I’ve read and everything I’ve heard, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was his phenomenally dynamic self at CPAC yesterday. That’s about as surprising as finding an earmark in Pelosi-crafted legislation.
During his speech (four-part video of which can be found HERE), Huckabee said exactly what needed to be said about John McCain’s conservative failings, about our unstoppable bailout mentality, about tax cheat Timothy Geithner running the Treasury Department, about the so-called “stimulus,” and much, much, much more. And from this review of his speech by the folks at The Weekly Standard, we can get an idea if the manner in which he made his perspective known:
And, judging by his speech, the Huckabee revolution will be word-smithed and catch-phrased, aggressively. After an oddly off-color opening joke, which finished with— I kid you not— a teacher tasting puppy piddle, Huckabee called for “family conservatives,” “fiscal conservatives,” and “freedom conservatives” to come together as “compentent conservatives.”
Employing the Obama-style couplet he urged “deliberation over desperation” and “prudence over panic” in financial crises, reiterating his opposition to the first bank bailout in 2008. The stimulus bill became the “Congressional Recovery Action Plan,” because “we all know it’s pure Congressional Recovery Action Plan and smells like Congressional Recovery Action Plan.” He renamed pork-filled stimulus and spending bills, “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”
As for conservatives, they are called to be “vertical politicians” and “vertical patriots,” who don’t worry about what moves Americans right or left, but what moves them up and down. In so doing, the party can earn the votes of the broad middle class, because if we “lose that connection, we lose the election.”
Invoking Katrina as a metaphor for the party’s decline, he said it must once again become “the party of a shining city on a hill, not the party of the ruined city in the sea.”
On regulation, Republicans must be the “party of just right,” not allowing overzealous regulation or deregulation to endanger the Goldilockses of America.
The Republican Party, he said, must communicate that it is the party that believes opportunity in America is a “ladder,” not a “stepstool.” It believes in life as a “World Series,” where the exceptional are allowed to shine, benefiting everyone; not “tee ball,” where everyone is forced to play on the same level.
The first time I was exposed firsthand to Huckabee was at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council during the summer of 2007 where, using the questionable media credentials associated with my day job, I wiggled my way into the meeting in order to catch a glimpse of Fred Thompson. Waiting in the lobby outside the meeting room, I think I was the only person to notice when Huckabee and an assistant briskly walked through — after his performance that day, however, I was immediately aware that he wasn’t going to be anonymous for long.
Huckabee killed. Introduced by Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, Huckabee approached the podium to a room filled by obligatory applause — but he left the dais to a raucous standing ovation. He was incredible. In fact, most of the conversations at the end of the day centered on Huckabee rather than Thompson, who disappointed many expecting a stump speech by giving a [great, but wonky] speech on federalism.
I like Mike. I really, really do. Like any politician, he has his good points and his bad, but a lot of people look at my support of Mitt Romney in 2008 and say that, somehow, I cannot have it both ways. In fact, I’m constantly taken aback by the disdain between supporters of the two former governors, a deep distrust and animosity which has not appeared to wane since the primary season one year ago. It must.
We hear about these problems between supporters of Romney and supporters of Huckabee and supporters of Sarah Palin and more. It must stop. These people all have their shortcomings, but have all established themselves as solid and attractive candidates to anchor the resurgent conservative movement. And, of course, that’s not to discount Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Eric Sanford and Govs. Bobby Jindal and Mark Sanford — but last I checked, their crowds aren’t feuding with anyone.
Listen, we should be happy–thrilled–that conservatism has so many young and competent champions. Huckabee has one of the strongest, most articulate voices seen within the conservative movement in years. Palin has the ability to connect with average, God-fearing American people like nobody since Ronald Reagan. Romney is eminently qualified and, despite being a little starched and stiff, is without a doubt exactly what Huckabee said yesterday that we need: a “competent conservative.” If anything comes out of this year’s conference, I hope it is the sentiment that we do not need party unity as much as we need unity among conservatives. If Huckabee and Romney and Palin and their respective corners, crowds and advocates could sort out their differences — my goodness, what a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t invited to CPAC (not surprised at that . . . after all, who the heck am I?) but given my work, law school and family schedules, I’m not so sure I could have made it anyway. Still, I think the overarching message in that setting and beyond is that the road to Republican redemption goes through the heart of conservative principles. We don’t need to build a bigger tent to cover those in the middle as much as we need to patch the holes in the tent over those on the right.
Every day, it seems as though we’re being dealt blow after blow after blow, and indeed we are. That which does not kill us, however, will only make us stronger. And, as John Bolton said yesterday at CPAC: “If we get our act together, [Obama] will be a one-termer.”