Fred vs. Huck: Substance vs. Stupid
By Rick Moran Posted in Archived — Comments (72) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
The 40% of Iowans who self identify as Christian conservatives evidently don't get out much. Either that, or they've simply decided to take an early Christmas holiday from reality. Otherwise, I can't understand why so many would have fallen so completely for the flim flam being perpetrated by the least knowledgeable, least prepared, and most backward thinking of all the Republican candidates in the field -and that includes candidates going back to the 1950's.
I am talking about the walking, talking disaster-in-the-making that is Mike Huckabee - former governor of a small, impoverished state, a baptist preacher whose conservative views on social issues make him a perfect candidate for the Leave it to Beaver wing of the GOP, and a man whose thinking is so shallow a warning sign should be plastered on his forehead reading "Absolutely no diving beyond this point."
Now one might think the best way to get our Iowa brethren to abandon this silly love affair with a silly candidate would not accuse them of being dunces. I disagree. Sometimes, you need to throw a bucket of cold water on people to call their attention to erroneous thinking. And I would think they would find that preferable to the buckets of bullsh*t Huckabee has been tossing their way for months.
Kevin Drum is a liberal Democrat but a keen political observer nevertheless. When I find myself in total agreement with someone from the other side, you've got to believe that either some liberal witch has cast a spell on me or we both see the same thing from the empty headed former fatty from Arkansas:
Ross Douthat has more on the fact that Mike Huckabee is basically just making stuff up as he goes along and plainly doesn't have clue about most of the things he's asked about. Economic policy? How about a 30% sales tax? Foreign policy? He likes Tom Friedman and Frank Gaffney, two pop commentators with almost nothing in common. Energy policy? Let's eliminate oil imports by 2017. Immigration policy? Ship everyone back to Mexico. Etc. It's grade school stuff.
And not to beat this into the ground, but what's really astounding about this is that nobody actually seems to care much. But eventually somebody will, because eventually this weird combination of barstool ignorance and internet-email-list credulity is bound to produce a howler of the kind that the press likes to latch onto. There's no telling what it will be, but it's coming, and when it does the Huckabee boomlet will be over.
Drum didn't mention health care. Here are the Huckster's deep thoughts on fulfilling a promise he made yesterday in the debate where he said that by the end of his term as president, all Americans would be covered by health insurance:
I advocate policies that will encourage the private sector to seek innovative ways to bring down costs and improve the free market for health care services. We have to change a system that happily pays $30,000 for a diabetic to have his foot amputated, but won't pay for the shoes that would save his foot.
We can make health care more affordable by reforming medical liability; adopting electronic record keeping; making health insurance more portable from one job to another; expanding health savings accounts to everyone, not just those with high deductibles; and making health insurance tax deductible for individuals and families as it now is for businesses. Low income families would get tax credits instead of deductions. We don't need all the government controls that would inevitably come with universal health care. When I'm President, Americans will have more control of their health care options, not less.
Boilerplate mush and about as detailed as a connect-the-dots Santa drawing. Besides, you might note all those nifty tax deductions and tax credits. I wonder how he squares that with his tax policy?
I'd like you to join me at the best "Going Out of Business" sale I can imagine - one held by the Internal Revenue Service. Am I running for president to shut down the federal government? Not exactly. But I am running to completely eliminate all federal income and payroll taxes. And I do mean all - personal federal, corporate federal, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, self-employment. All our hours filling out forms, all our payments for help with those forms, all our shopping bags filled with disorganized receipts, all our headaches and heartburn from tax stress will vanish. Instead we will have the FairTax, a simple tax based on wealth. When the FairTax becomes law, it will be like waving a magic wand releasing us from pain and unfairness.
The FairTax will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax, like the taxes on retail sales forty-five states and the District of Columbia have now. All of us will get a monthly rebate that will reimburse us for taxes on purchases up to the poverty line, so that we're not taxed on necessities. That means people below the poverty line won't be taxed at all. We'll be taxed on what we decide to buy, not what we happen to earn.
Now I'm no economist or policy wonk or anything but how are we going to give poor folk a tax credit to buy health insurance if there's no such animal in Governor Huckabee's brave new Fair Tax world?
Drum mentioned conservative blogger Ross Douthat who interviewed Huckabee last month and was struck by his unpreparedness for national office:
But when it comes to preparedness, to the hard work of scaling up one's understanding from state-level challenges to national issues that any aspiring candidate needs to do, Huckabee is way out of his depth. This was my sense talking to him, certainly. Set him off on health care or education or what-have-you in the context of Arkansas politics, and he's got enough juice to make you think: Here's a guy who might make a good President. But widen the focus to the nation as a whole, and you're left thinking: Here's a smart guy who hasn't come close to doing his homework. For a charming also-ran with a chance at the Vice-Presidency, that wasn't a problem. For someone leading in Iowa, it is.
You can't help but compare the vapid and depthless "policy" ideas extruded from the Huckabee campaign machine with the meaty, thoughtful, and detailed "white papers" issued by the Thompson campaign.
Take Fred's detailed tax plan that was praised by the Club for Growth and the National Review among other conservative media. In it's 7 points, Thompson lays out a coherent, conservative plan to cut taxes on individuals and businesses. He couples that with a spending plan that envisions widespread and necessary reform of entitlements along with an end to pork barrel projects. It is a demonstration of muscular - some might even say courageous - thinking that makes Huckabee's campaign for class president platform look silly by comparison.
By all that is right and fair in the world, Fred Thompson should have enjoyed that surge that Huckabee experienced over the last month. But then, Fred didn't run around Iowa hinting the Mormonism isn't really a Christian sect in order to pander to the baser instincts of Christian conservatives. Nor does Fred have the ready charm and unctuous delivery of the sermonizing Huckster. Fred is, well, Fred. He heaves his 6'5" frame up to speak and delivers it straight from the shoulder - no gimmicks, few wasted words.
And little inspiration, I'm afraid. While yesterday's debate showed an animated Fred Thompson, even a passionate Fred at times, his claim is on our heads, not our hearts. For some reason, he has not made that personal connection a candidate must make with the voter that marks the difference between a contender and an also-ran. Perhaps he can take these last few weeks before the Caucuses and find a way to reach beyond the intellectual and touch people's emotions. If he can discover a way to do that, he has a chance to surprise the field.
In the meantime, Huckabee's obvious failings as a candidate are lost on the voters in Iowa who may actually agree with a statement signed by Huckabee in 1998 contained in a full page ad in USA Today that declared:
“I affirm the statement on the family issued by the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention.” What was in the family statement from the SBC? “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”
The ad wasn’t just a blanket, “we support the SBC statement,” but rather highlighted details. The ad Huckabee signed specifically said of the SBC family statement: “You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband’s sacrificial leadership.”
That's 1998 not 1898, by the way.
Nor do many Iowa supporters of this neophyte on foreign policy care that he wants to drop the economic blockade against Cuba (Or at least he did 3 years ago. Where he'll be on the issue next week is anyone's guess) and talk to the Iranians (a la Obama). It also doesn't seem to matter that the guy granted twice as many pardons and clemencies to state prisoners as his three predecessors combined.
As long as Huckabee is right on their issues, he could be revealed as an empty headed lout and still get their support.
A sad state of affairs, indeed.