Monday, November 26, 2007

Bob Novak on Huckabee: "The False Conservative"

Columnist Robert Novak writes in a Cybercast News Service commentary:
Who would respond to criticism from the Club for Growth by calling the conservative, free-market campaign organization the "Club for Greed"? That sounds like Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards, all Democrats preaching the class struggle. In fact, the rejoinder comes from Mike Huckabee, who has broken out of the pack of second-tier Republican presidential candidates to become a serious contender -- definitely in Iowa and perhaps nationally.

Huckabee is campaigning as a conservative, but serious Republicans know that he is a high-tax, protectionist, big-government advocate of a strong hand in the Oval Office directing the lives of Americans. Until now, they did not bother to expose the former governor of Arkansas as a false conservative because he seemed an underfunded, unknown nuisance candidate. Now that he has pulled even with Mitt Romney for the Iowa caucuses with the possibility of more progress, the beleaguered Republican Party has a frightening problem on its hands.

Huckabee clearly departs from the mainstream of the conservative movement in his confusion of "growth" with "greed." Such ad hominem attacks are part of his intuitive response to criticism from the Club for Growth and the libertarian Cato Institute for his record as governor. On Fox News Sunday Nov. 18, he called the "tactics" of the Club for Growth "some of the most despicable in politics today. It's why I love to call them the Club for Greed because they won't tell you who gave their money." In fact, all contributors to the organization's political action committee (which produces campaign ads) are publicly revealed, as are most donors financing issue ads.

An uncompromising foe of abortion can never enjoy full media backing. But Mike Huckabee is getting enough favorable buzz that, when combined with his evangelical base, it makes real conservatives shudder.

[Read the whole thing]
My Comments:
I must say that I share some of Huckabee's disdain for the so-called "pro-growth" and libertarian wings of the Republican party. Don't get me wrong. I think economic policies that promote growth and economic freedom are preferable to the tired old socialist policies that the left is wedded to. But I am first and foremost a social conservative who believes that government policy should have as its highest priority the preservation of the basic social unit - the traditional family. To the extent that "pro-growth" economic policies conflict with that value (and I'm not saying they necessarily do conflict), then my priorities lie with promoting the social conservative agenda rather than the economic conservative one.

Nevertheless, I am having trouble embracing the Huckabee campaign because he seems to be a nanny statist with no qualms about adopting the demagogery of the left. That, and the fact that I believe his campaign resorted to anti-Catholic bigotry to help derail Brownback's campaign during the lead-up to the Iowa Straw Poll.

I'll just say, once again, that the jury continues to be out on whether Huckabee is someone I could support.

NB: So happy am I with the University of Arkansas' defeat of the previously # 1 ranked LSU Tigers (thereby giving The Ohio State Buckeyes an outside shot at playing in the BCS Title Game) that I have suspended forthwith the use of the "Arkansas Sux" label that I would normally include when blogging about Arkansas politicians such as the Clintons and Huckabee.

Arkansas, I hereby forgive you for Jerry Jones, Wal-Mart, and Bill Clinton.


UPDATE (29 November)
Deacon Keith Fournier responds to the Novak column here.

(Hat tip: Policraticus at Vox Nova)

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
National Catholic Register Asks: "Will Brownbackers Back Huckabee?"

"Pro-Life" Candidate Huckabee Clueless on Mexico City Policy

Republicans Are "Taxing the Hand That Feeds Us"

Huckabee Campaign Criticizes Pope for Long Vacation, Extended Stay in Summer Residence

Huckabee Campaign: "How Dare Sam Brownback Take Time Off from Campaigning for His 25th Anniversary?"

Deal Hudson Rips Evangelical Pastor (a Former Catholic) for Disparaging Sen. Brownback's Catholicism

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At 11/27/2007 12:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Catholic in Iowa who supported Huckabee but when his people started an anti-Catholic whisper campaign I switched to Brownback. Unfortunately many of my evangelical friends, who outnumber Catholics politically here in Iowa, switched from Brownback to Huckabee.

They hate Catholics, and Huckabee did nothing to stop it!

At 11/27/2007 4:14 AM, Anonymous Victor said...

Re Novak:

We all know once we reflect on it in the right way that economics is a secondary matter, not the stuff of being (most certainly of all in a society as rich as this one). Money can't buy happiness, etc.

And rhetoric aside, the differences in American politics on economics are relatively minor -- both parties back regulated capitalism with a welfare state, and the differences are ones of degree. One party advocates more regulation, redistribution and a larger welfare-insurance role, the other relatively less. There certainly is no fundamental value clash between the two parties. Democrats (this side of Nation-reading Kossacks) do not advocate worker control of the means of production; Republicans (this side of Reason-reading Paulbots) do not wish to repeal the New Deal and return to the Lochner era. Anyone who says otherwise on either point is a fool, a liar or a hack.

But abortion, gay "marriage" et al are clashes of fundamental values. As Steve Forbes noted in 2000, life comes first because it's the prerequisite for everything else. And as Pat Buchanan said in his first book, "voodoo economics is redundant ... [but] one part of our country believes that our country should conform more closely to Biblical values, while another part believes progress is measured by how far we get from such repressive and stifling nonsense."

Given the fact that fundamental-value clashes occur in the US primarily on the "social issues," it makes far more logical sense and it is far more possible, and separate from all considerations of who is substantively right, for parties to have "litmus tests" on those issues, rather than "degree-type" economics matters, because those are the issues where there is a cleavage rather than a flat spectrum.

And therefore, to bring this to Huckabee, to write the man off as a CINO based on economics, on which there is no fundamental value clash, strikes me as intellectually irrational and from-the-hip presumptuous.


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