2012 tea leaves | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, November 8, 2009

2012 tea leaves

Posted By on Sun, Nov 8, 2009 at 7:19 AM

Between his book tour, busy website and TV show, Mike Huckabee's name stays current in political attention on future elections. I think this mention in Power Line, a widely read conservative blog, might be worth a look in assessing the Republican echo chamber that's so important in future nomination battles. Huckabee still isn't sounding tough enough for Power Line's taste. Power Line lauds Huckabee's communication skills. But, reflecting on on shortcomings the blog saw in 2008, it doesn't sound like the former Arkansas governor has made a convert yet.

Once he emerged as a serious candidate, however, it became clear to some -- and certainly to me -- that he might not make much of a president, especially in the realm of foreign policy and national security policy. Some of the problem appeared to be a product of provincialism. For example, Huckabee's advocacy of trading with Cuba had its origins in his desire, as governor of Arkansas, to find a new market for Arkansas agricultural goods. These sorts of positions were ones that Huckabee could presumably outgrow.

Other positions, though, seemed like the product of bad instincts.


On Wednesday, I was listening to hear whether Huckabee has picked up the music and some of the lyrics to a more Republican-sounding foreign policy. After all, he's now been a controversialist on the national stage for two years. At first the signs were positive. Asked about Afghanistan, he called President Obama's performance "disappointing," and added that Obama should listen to General McChrystal. Huckabee also emphasized that our decision about troop levels should not depend on our view of the Afghan government.

But then Huckabee began a riff about the pressure a sustained commitment to winning in Afghanistan would place on our military. In typical, sympathetic Huckabee fashion, he focused on the strain on our military families, as soldiers take on their fifth or sixth tour of duty. Huckabee concluded that there were limits on how long we can continue to fight in Afghanistan.

Huckabee's concern is certainly not insignificant. But it left me wondering why he said he was disappointed in Obama. Military "over-stretch" presumably is one of the considerations that's keeping the president from "pulling the trigger" on the surge. Obama's critics think that we need to win this war notwithstanding the price that doing so will exact. Does Huckabee? I couldn't really tell, but it didn't seem that way.

In the 2008 cycle, many of Huckabee's critics -- pointing to his Carteresque foreign policy pronouncements and his tax raises as governor -- argued that Huckabee isn't really a conservative. I never shared that view. Huckabee's a conservative, all right; the question is: what kind? The answer is: he's a Mike Huckabee conservative.

There's nothing inherently wrong with that. In fact, I think it's admirable that Huckabee marches to his own tune, not a more orthodox one.

It's just that I'm not a Mike Huckabee conservative.

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