The Huckabees do NYC -- UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Huckabees do NYC -- UPDATE

Posted By on Fri, Sep 26, 2008 at 6:42 AM

A former aide to Rudy Giuliani who's also a convicted felon has begun blogging on his days with Rudy G., the New York Times reports. Among his disclosures is an anecdote about then-Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee, joined by his wife Janet, trying to promote Taiwanese interests with the then-mayor.

At one point, Mr. Harding said he sought to introduce Mr. Giuliani to Mike Huckabee after learning that Mr. Huckabee, then the lieutenant governor of Arkansas, was an up-and-coming figure in the Republican Party. Mr. Huckabee wanted Mr. Giuliani to attend a dinner for a Taiwanese group in New York — a prospect the mayor found distasteful.

Mr. Harding recalled that the mayor said he did not want to do anything that would annoy the Chinese, citing the recent purchase of a major building in the city by Chinese investors.

In the end, the mayor refused to meet with Mr. Huckabee, his future rival in the Republican presidential primary.

UPDATE: elwood took the trouble to peruse the actual blog and it turns out the passage on Lt. Gov. and Mrs. Huckabee's visit to NYC is even more colorful than the Times' post lets on. Mizriz Huckabee was NOT a happy camper on the occasion. And the New Yorker aide to Rudy had some suspicions about the Taiwanese group Huckabee was fronting for (I remember well when Huckabee turned up in the keeping of this shadowy group). Check it out.

FROM THE RUDY BLOG

I was hoping on party discipline to appeal to him to meet with Huckabee but the Arkansas appellation was killing my argument.

Notwithstanding having a president from there, the name of that state was sinking this for me. Not even the governor, but the lieutenant governor!!!  Not gonna happen. I left thinking classic Peter Powers; haughty and imperious, he thinks as deputy mayor he’s too good to meet with the lieutenant governor of another state even if it is Arkansas. Oh well. The meeting was now two weeks away.

By the time the day rolled around I had pretty much forgotten about it. City Hall life is pretty hectic and you take each day as it comes. I’m sure the Tweed Courthouse - behind City Hall where my office was located - was a big letdown to  Lieutenant Governor and Mrs. Huckabee and their guest. The difference between Lt. Gov. Huckabee and Mrs. Huckabee was that he was politician enough to hide it.

She could barely contain the loathing and seething contempt at how insulted she felt at the slight she perceived was directed at her and her husband; presumably by me and the mayor. She daggered me with her eyes for the next hour. Mike Huckabee could not have been more pleasant. He was a portly man but so were the Hardings so who was I to throw stones. It was the cheap light blue suit that called attention to himself here in New York, however. I was soon to learn why he was being so nice in the face of this perceived slight. He wanted something.

I thought that Mrs. Huckabee could have taken lessons from Liz Harding, my mother, on how to be a good political wife. If your husband wants something this badly then you suck up the slight yourself and make nice for the next hour. For all you know I’m your ally and fought for your meeting with the mayor. That’s what Liz Harding would have done, but she’s a pro at this after forty years.

After the initial chat we got to the point of all this. He named a Taiwanese organization with which he was deeply involved. “I’m here in New York for their function at the Marriott Marquis. I’ve been associated with this organization for some time,” he said.

The man who attended the meeting with him had some official relationship with this Taiwanese group, although he was not Taiwanese. Huckabee explained further, “We wanted to meet with Mayor Giuliani to invite him to speak to the group and welcome them to New York.” He went on to say that it was in fact an honor to have this meeting in New York and it was going to be a large turnout. While Huckabee seemed a fairly genuine sort of fellow, and the Mrs. continued to shoot me laser beams of hate, his friend seemed unctuous. Or an Arkansan misguidedly trying to attain unctuousness; smiling at me way too much.

Anyway, this Taiwan thing seemed a little fishy. Maybe I was imposing a New York sense of skepticism to something perfectly fine. But if he was a New York pol I would definitely say this group was funding him big time. It reeked of that.

They gave me the invitation and it seemed like it might be a well attended event. I had a feel for that after having attended political functions since I was six years old.  But why was the lieutenant governor of Arkansas mixed up with this major Taiwanese group?  Hmmmmmm.  Why Taiwan?  Was Huckabee a big anti-communist?  Was there a religious affiliation to this group?  Maybe a Baptist nexus - Huckabee is a Baptist minister.

“Well,” I said, “I will have to talk to Rudy and get back to you. I can tell you his schedule would make it nearly impossible to accommodate a drop-by on this short notice.  I wish you had given me some idea before now that this was the point of the meeting and I could have pitched this. But this event is tomorrow.” He apologized and explained that he wanted to make the presentation in person. He thanked me for the meeting and I asked them if they wanted to go over to City Hall for a tour. Mrs. Huckabee’s mood seemed to warm up a little when we got to City Hall. I left them alone for a moment and poked my head into the Mayor’s office to see if he’d shake hands with him.  But no go.

After the tour we parted and I went back to my office to figure out what to do. Blow him off? Make a pitch to Rudy to go to the event? Ask Peter to go?

I slept on it and the next day decided I’d ask Rudy to stop by this thing and say hello as a gesture to Huckabee. Beth got me time. I took along a slew of documents that needed signing. While he signed I said, “Mayor, I met with the lieutenant governor of Arkansas. You turned down the meeting.”  “I passed that on to Peter,” he interrupted. “Right,” I said. “He passed on it.” “Oh, OK,” Rudy said. “His purpose for the meeting”, I began, “was to invite you to an organization he’s affiliated with that’s having an event at the Marriott tonight for a drop-by. It’s some sort of Chinese group he has a long-standing association with. Not sure who they are I haven’t checked them out. But he’s vouching for them. I’ve checked him out thoroughly with D.C. and everyone asks that you be accommodating to him. Says he’s gonna be governor or senator. I checked your schedule and you can do this for fifteen minutes. The party in D.C is asking you to be nice to this guy. They say he’s a comer.”

“Did you say Chinese?”  Rudy asked, “Yes, Taiwanese,” I clarified. “I don’t want to do anything to piss off the Chinese. They just bought that building and moved their consulate. I don’t want to do anything to upset them,” Rudy said.

“The Red Chinese? You don’t want to piss off the communists?” I asked sotto voce. I was actually confused. I knew what he was talking about - the Government of China had recently purchased a large building and had consolidated most of their various official and consular offices on the far west side of Manhattan. What I didn’t understand was why he thought this mattered and why he cared about Red China. I kind of assumed that like me, Rudy Giuliani had been a fierce anti-communist most of his life.

“Yes, the communists,” he responded. “OK,” I said. “Would you mind if Peter went?” You can ask him,” Rudy said, closing his Mont Blanc fountain pen. “Thank you, Mayor”, I said, gathering my documents before I left.

At a scheduling meeting with Peter later that afternoon I approached him about repping Rudy. Again the answer was a firm no. Although he never said the words, it was obvious he was thinking “yahoo”, not “serious pol”, when I said, “Lieutenant Governor Huckabee of Arkansas.” We agreed after looking at the invite that this Chinese group seemed fishy but Peter didn’t mind me having pitched the event to Rudy. I had explained D.C.’s interest in Huckabee’s future and that they viewed this as a request of Rudy. Peter and I both understood we could use all the good grace from the national party we could get. We did our other business and I went back to my office to call Huckabee.

“Governor, the Mayor won’t be able to fit this in on such short notice, I’m very sorry, I did try,” I told him. He was very gracious but threw me for a loop. “I appreciate all your efforts, Russell, I really do. Could we get a letter or a proclamation from the Mayor to the group welcoming them? Could you arrange that?”  He asked. The short answer is, of course. I’ve worked tougher miracles than that before for friends in a jam. But what were my instructions exactly from Rudy about this Chinese business?

What’s his obsession with Red China? Was I precluded from further assistance in his name? “I’m afraid I can’t do anymore on this with the time allowed. We have a whole process here for that. I’m very sorry, Governor,” I told him. “Would you come and say a few words to the group on behalf of the Mayor yourself, as my guest?” He asked. OH MY GOD, I thought. How do I get off this call?  “I’d be honored, Governor, but again, had I only known, I have a previous commitment this evening,” I lied, “I’m very sorry. I hope your event is a great success.”

I regret not going that night. He was gracious to invite me. He was clearly in a jam. He had promised Rudy to the group and I could have gotten him out of some of this difficulty without any harm to my principal.   I know, I know first rule: always check out the group before involving your principal.  But I don’t think much harm would have been done had Rudy went.  And certainly not for the reason he was espousing.  Pissing off the Red Chinese?  I was also really interested to see how deep Huckabee was with this group.  There was some connection there that has never been mentioned publicly, to my knowledge. 

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