Mike Huckabee had a rough week last week. And rightly so. Unfortunately, as a spokesmouth for the Republican Party whether he–or we–like it or not, those of us who care deeply about our country had a bad week as well.
First, the former Arkansas governor took the “birther” bait from a talk show host and went off on an ill-advised and inaccurate radio rant about the origins of President Barack Obama. Now, you and I both know that the president has been less than forthcoming when it comes to records from his earlier years, and you and I both know that there are significant questions about the nature of his upbringing, but one thing we do know is that Barack Obama was not raised in Kenya. And, yet, Mike Huckabee said this:
I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits –
George Will was right to blast the governor:
The most recent vibrator is Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who won the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa and reached that year’s national convention with more delegates than Mitt Romney, and who might run again. Huckabee, now a Fox News host, was asked by Steve Malzberg, a talk radio host, this:
“Don’t you think it’s fair also to ask [Barack Obama] . . . how come we don’t have a health record, we don’t have a college record, we don’t have a birth cer – why, Mr. Obama, did you spend millions of dollars in courts all over this country to defend against having to present a birth certificate. It’s one thing to say, I’ve – you’ve seen it, goodbye. But why go to court and send lawyers to defend against having to show it? Don’t you think we deserve to know more about this man?”
Huckabee should have replied, “I’ve seen paranoia, goodbye.” Instead, he said:
“I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya. . . .”
Huckabee thereupon careened off into the (he thinks) related subject of Obama having sent back to the British Embassy in Washington a bust of Winston Churchill that Obama’s predecessor had displayed in the Oval Office: “. . . a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists.”
The architects and administrators of the British Empire were imperialists? Perish the thought. A contemporary of William Jennings Bryan once said of the three-time Democratic presidential nominee, “One could drive a prairie schooner through any part of his argument and never scrape against a fact.” But an absence of facts means there is no argument.
A spokesman for Huckabee dutifully lied, saying his employer “simply misspoke”: “The governor meant to say the president grew up in Indonesia.” Obama did not really grow up there – he spent just five of his first 18 years there and the other 13 years in Hawaii. But obviously Huckabee, with his dilation on the Mau Maus, was deliberately referring to Kenya. Unless Huckabee thinks the Mau Maus were Indonesians, which he might count as another “one thing that I do know.”
Much more troubling, to Huckabee and to the Republican Party and actual conservatives as a whole, was perhaps the most ill-timed and ill-advised statement of all.
One of the things that’s troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, ‘Hey look, you know, we’re having children, we’re not married, but we’re having these children, and they’re doing just fine.’ But there aren’t really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie. Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that’s the story that we’re not seeing.”
But, is Huckabee right? Sure. Kids born out of wedlock are a a distinct disadvantage, and most are living with less for having not being born into a traditional nuclear family. But good God, man, whoever is advising Mike Huckabee in terms of public relations should be fired.
It doesn’t take a genius, or a Frank Luntz poll wheelie-machine for that matter, to understand that so-called independent voters can make or break a candidacy and election. In advance of 2012 and what could very well be a difficult election if the president is able to successfully run to the center (and, with him, bring a media all too ready to conveniently forget what happened during his first two years in office), the GOP is going to need to look as attractive as possible to those purportedly independent voters, many of whom consider themselves fiscally responsible and socially permissive.
Wanna know one way to alienate those voters? It’s simple: go on the attack against America’s Sweetheart.
Right now, say what you will about her acting chops (she did the best she could have done with George Lucas’ writing, people!), but Natalie Portman is the America’s Sweetheart du jour. It has only been a week and a day since she took to the stage at the Academy Award, balanced that statuette on her adorably protruding belly, and allowed those Americans who pay more attention to Hollywood than Washington to bask in her pre-maternal glow. Every week throughout awards season, people across the country want to see what she’s wearing; pregnant women from coast to coast are looking at their own bellies and at her, wondering if they could pull off the same look, wondering if they could smile while standing for an hour on the red carpet in skyscraper heels. Calling that pregnancy “troubling” is troubling in itself, in more ways than one.
What’s troubling about Mike Huckabee’s statement goes beyond that statement’s effect upon pregnant and sentimental voters. To me, what’s most troubling is the inherent hypocrisy in such a statement.
Look, for a moment, at the current political climate. Look at how conservatives across the country have fought to show America that there is more to conservatism than anti-gay marriage rhetoric and the family values statements of old. The Tea Party has taken the conservative message and made it “cool” to be a fiscal hawk. A year or two ago, the teacher’s union protests in Wisconsin would have engendered sentiment from the masses – how dare that evil conservative governor do what he’s doing?, they might have asked. Now, because of the successful re-branding of conservatism, those same masses understand that conservatives in turn understand what’s at stake in our growing fiscal crisis.
Cutting budgets is in. Bloated spending is out. People across the country are finally beginning to understand the correct role and function of the federal government. It is not the federal government’s place to tell us whether or not we should purchase health insurance. It is not the federal government’s place to build high-speed rail. The more the federal government let’s us run our own businesses and live our own lives, the better. That’s the message that the American people are getting.
And then, there’s Mike Huckabee, who thinks it is somehow his place to publicly condemn a girl for getting pregnant. How are we supposed to earn the trust of the American people by maintaining that conservatives understand the merits of a laissez faire approach to governance while simultaneously enduring self-described conservatives inserting themselves into someone else’s private life?
I’ve had enough. This time around, the values voters need to understand that their values will never, ever, ever have a chance to be implemented or even heard if the left is out of power, and they need to understand that in order to get there, it is fiscal concerns which must–and will–win the day. If a candidate wants to successfully challenge this particular incumbent, he must prioritize his message according to the concerns of the American people, and those American people who are out of work, or underwater on their homes, or struggling to keep their businesses afloat — they don’t care whether Natalie Portman is pregnant; they just want her to make good movies so that, a few months down the road, they can rent them for $1.00 from the nearest Red Box and escape from the realities of their lives, even if just for an hour or two.
For the sake of the entire GOP field, I hope that Huckabee’s suspension of his exploratory committee is permanent. He, and others who cannot prioritize according to reality, need to stay home this primary season.