Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Who is Mike Huckabee?

It's remarkable how quickly the political landscape can shift leading up to the primaries. If you'd have asked me six weeks ago, I would have told you that Rudy Giuliani was a virtual shoe-in as the Republican candidate for the 2008 presidential election. But no sooner had Pat Robertson endorsed him, then the race began to markedly change. Despite the illustrious support of the hate-mongering host of the 700 Club, it appears that Christian Conservatives are unsure about Giuliani's reactionary credentials. I knew that they would have a problem getting behind the pro-gay, pro-choice, and pro-gun control former mayor of NYC- but I didn't think they would decide on an alternative as quickly as they have. It really seems like the Evangelical rank-and-file is preparing to line up behind Mike Huckabee.

Not too long ago this former Arkansas Governor looked like a long-shot. The only thing most people knew about him was that he had recently dropped 110 pounds of excess weight. Few realized that he is an ordained Baptist minister. Huckabee has used this fact to knock Romney from his second place standings in the polls. By strategically bringing his Mormon competitor's beliefs into question, he has managed to bring his own faith into the forefront. After watching this not-so-subtle but effective maneuver, I wondered what other surprises Huckabee had up his sleeve. As his political star rises, his record and positions are going to be analyzed in much greater depth. I wanted to get a head start in understanding where he is coming from.

Huckabee was born into a middle class Arkansan family in 1955. He attended Baptist universities, and upon graduation worked as a staff member for a televangelist. Later he served as a pastor for several Baptist congregations and became president of the Arkansas State Baptist Convention. He credits "divine intervention" for much of his success , and has publicly stated that politics and religion are absolutely inseparable. Huckabee considers abortion akin to "holocaust", characterizes homosexuality as abberrant, unnatural and sinful, and opposes gun control. He has supported a "Covenant Marriage Act"- which seeks to limit divorce and the resulting lawsuits, and compels troubled partners to seek counseling. He has tried to designate October as "Student Religious Liberty Month" in an effort to promote school prayer. And Huckabee has been clear about his belief that creationism should be presented in public schools.

Despite his social conservatism- when Huckabee was running for state Lieutenant Governor he worked to be seen as a political moderate. This was on the advice of his campaign manager, Dick Morris. When he ascended to the Governor's Office, he made good on his promises. He tried to adjust property taxes to make school funding equal across the state. He tried to put a small portion of the state's sales tax toward parks and resources. He made an effort to decrease the number of children in Arkansas without health insurance. In his second term as governor, Huckabee mandated annual body mass index measurements for all public school children. At the same time he tended to more frivolous pursuits like deciding where the University of Arkansas should play its football games, and playing in a band called "Capitol Offense".

Despite his generally wholesome public perception, Huckabee has garnered some controversy. He is quite vulnerable to the influence of campaign contributors. Having been bought and paid for by the poultry industry, he has worked hard to fight measures to decrease water pollution. He also granted clemency to a longtime supporter named Eugene Fields, who had been convicted of four 'driving while intoxicated' charges. More damningly Huckabee has been criticized for granting clemency to a convicted rapist (Wayne Dumond), for what some have called political reasons. When Dumond was released with Huckabee's help, he went on to sexually assault and murder at least one woman in Missouri.

A lot of fiscal conservatives are loath to throw their support behind Huckabee, as they accuse him of having been a tax-and-spend Governor. Still Huckabee backs the "Fair Tax", which would replace all existing federal taxes with a single national sales tax. Meanwhile his stance on immigration is also raising eyebrows. Although he claims to be in favor of a secure border, Huckabee would also like to see illegal immigrants extended rights and benefits including college scholarships and the free access to jobs. He says he has never heard of an incident where a lawful citizen's opportunity to work was supplanted by an illegal immigrant. In his opinion they merely occupy jobs that Americans "don't want". That contention should resound heavily in the ears of the American worker.

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