Arkansas

The Bitterness That Drives Mike Huckabee

There is a truly exceptional review of Mike Huckabee's latest book up on Religion Dispatches that argues that the driving forces behind Huckabee, his campaign, and his new book tour are resentment and bitterness.  I have to say that I completely agree with that assessment ... probably because I happen to be the one who wrote it:

Billed as an inside look at “the movement that’s bringing common sense back to America,” the book is part campaign memoir, part policy statement, and partly a challenge to all Americans to stop being so fat, lazy, and mean. But mostly it is a means for Huckabee to settle scores with all those who failed to support his candidacy, see its genius and, consequently, to save America from itself.

From the very beginning, Huckabee makes no effort to conceal his disdain for his presidential rivals and seemingly goes out of his way to invoke Mitt Romney wherever he can, mentioning the former Massachusetts Governor by name more than sixty times in the first one hundred pages. While Huckabee doesn’t have anything particularly nice to say about Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, or John McCain—the others barely rate a mention—it is Romney who personifies everything that is wrong with the Republican Party.

It’s clear that Huckabee resents Romney’s wealth and the millions of dollars he pumped into his own campaign. Huckabee and his staff, who were often just scraping by, at one point blasted Romney for attempting “a leveraged buyout of the Republican presidential nomination,” calling him one of those “political wannabes with self-inflicted funding [who] let themselves be sculpted and focus-grouped into what a high-priced pollster thinks is a winning package.” Time and again he mocks the former Massachusetts Governor for spending millions, yet failing to win half the votes that Huckabee and his rag-tag campaign racked up, dismissing Romney’s entire campaign as a fraud perpetuated solely by the fact that his “net worth bought him instant status … [as] a serious contender.”

While Huckabee nurtures a deep personal dislike of Romney, what he truly despises is everything Romney represents: the rich, East Coast, insider elites who dominate the Republican Party. Huckabee, the son of a fireman who struggled to make ends meet, effectively wages class warfare against the party insiders and libertarian “faux-cons” in Washington; he lashes out at the likes of The National Review and the Club for Growth, whom he calls “the silk-stocking crowd,” for looking down their noses at the blue collar “values voters” that Huckabee claims to represent. Two chapters are devoted to holding himself up as the representative of those who shop at Wal-Mart and not Neiman Marcus; of those who eat at The Waffle House rather than Ruth’s Chris Steak House; of those who watch “Touched By an Angel” and not “Desperate Housewives.” He expends several pages rehashing old campaign attacks on his record from the Club for Growth and several more pages striking back at The National Review for their opposition to talk that John McCain might pick him as his running mate. But even here Romney remains representative of everything that “was wrong with our party.”

But you don't have to take my word for it.  Here's Huckabee displaying that bitterness during a book tour stop in Iowa earlier in the week:

Appearing on Christian conservative Steve Deace’s drive-time program, Huckabee said though he was criticized by “establishment Republicans” during his unsuccessful bid for the GOP presidential nomination, he has been proven right time and again.

“When I said the economy was beginning to sputter, I was absolutely pilloried by the Wall Street Journal and the National Review and all the other snobbish folks who thought that I was just a dumb hick from Arkansas who didn’t have a clue,” he said.

...

Huckabee’s book has gotten a lot of attention, mainly due to the portions that discuss his fellow Republicans. He was particularly hard on Gary Bauer, the conservative Christian leader and former presidential candidate, whom he described in the book as having an “ever-changing reason to deny me his support.” He also accuses Bauer of putting national security before social issues like the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.

Deace seemed to share his opinion of Bauer.

“The phrase ‘Better for one man to die than the whole nation to perish’ comes to mind,” Deace said.

Huckabee said he couldn’t pull any punches with the book because if he did he would lose credibility with his supporters.

“I want people to know the truth. I got a reputation during the campaign as someone who was plain spoken, who didn’t try to sugar coat or frost things over,” he said. “I would have lost credibility if I had written this book and not told some of the things that I try to at least bring forth.”

But the passages that discuss his fellow Republicans are just a small portion of the book, and the attention they are getting is disappointing, he said.

“Shouldn’t be surprised that people would take a few passages out of a 240-page book and act like that’s all that’s there,” Huckabee said. “This book lays out not just what’s happened and why we’ve had the problems we’ve had in the conservative movement, but it also lays out how we get our groove back.”

I take issue with Huckabee's repeated assertion that his attacks on Romney and various GOP-insiders constitute just a "few passages" in his book because, in fact, they make up the bulk of the first 130+ pages. 

Huck may like to pretend that the purpose of the book was to help resurrect the conservative movement, but the fact is that it was written to settle scores and position himself for a future run at president.  As such, his relentless trashing of the very Republican institutions from whom he will need support the next time around is inevitably going to grab the bulk of the media's attention.  If he wanted the press to pay attention to his "Fair Tax" proposals or dedicated to bad-mouthing Mitt Romney and the Religious Right.

The Huckabee Bitterness Tour Rolls On

As Mike Huckabee travels the country promoting his new book, the overarching theme seems to be “It Should Have Been Me,” in that the book is essentially a 200 page gripe about how the Republican Party lost its way and ended up losing the election primarily because it failed to choose him as its nominee:

The former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who won eight states and more than four million votes in the Republican Presidential primaries, spent Election Night at home in Little Rock. Eating takeout in the den with his family and a few staffers, Huckabee wasn’t surprised to see Barack Obama win, although he couldn’t help but think that things might not have turned out the way they did had he been the nominee. “It would’ve been very different,” he said the other day. “Because I would’ve campaigned that the economy was headed toward meltdown. And I was saying this back when I was getting laughed at by the Wall Street Journal and pilloried by the National Review. They were just dicin’ and slicin’ me for not following the company line.”

And while his book is basically an extended attack on Mitt Romney and all that he represents, it looks like Huckabee doesn’t exactly have warm feelings about Sarah Palin - or rather, he’s really miffed that all the insiders who wrote him off suddenly rallied about Palin when the only difference between the two was that, unlike her, he was arguably qualified for the position:

Asked about Sarah Palin, he responded, “She, uh, was an appropriate choice, because she put John McCain back in the game.” That was the get-along answer, but a few minutes later the new, aggrieved Huckabee resurfaced. He recalled, “It was funny that all through the primary—I mean literally up until McCain got enough delegates to win—people said, ‘You know, Huckabee’s really running for Vice-President. Gee, Huckabee would be a great Vice-President.’ And from that day forward, when I actually was no longer running for President, nobody ever said, ‘Gee, Huckabee would be a great Vice-President.’ ” Neither was he quite so unperturbed by the Palin pick: “I was scratching my head, saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute. She’s wonderful, but the only difference was she looks better in stilettos than I do, and she has better hair.’ It wasn’t so much a gender issue, but it was like they suddenly decided that everything they disliked about me was O.K. . . . She was given a pass by some of the very people who said I wasn’t prepared.”

I think that is actually a really smart observation on Huckabee’s part. Why was it that all the Religious Right and Republican insiders who dismissed Huckabee, with his ten years of experience as governor and staunch record on their issues, rallied around Palin with her limited time in office and a record utterly devoid of accomplishments?

And yes, we are looking at you, Gary Bauer.

Huckabee, Still Bitter About Hagee, Lashes Out At the Right

During his presidential campaign, one of Mike Huckabee’s signature traits was his willingness to publicly complain and whine about some supposed conspiracy among the nation’s Religious Right powerbrokers to refuse to support his candidacy.  And even though the campaign is over and Huckabee now has a lucrative new career on television and radio, it looks like he still hasn’t gotten over it, according to Time’s Michael Scherer who has gotten an early look at his new book:    

Many conservative Christian leaders, who never backed Huckabee despite their holding very similar stances on social issues, are spared neither the rod nor the lash. Huckabee writes of Gary Bauer, the conservative Christian leader and former presidential candidate, as having an "ever-changing reason to deny me his support." Of one private meeting with Bauer, Huckabee says, "it was like playing Whac-a-Mole at the arcade — whatever issue I addressed, another one surfaced as a 'problem' that made my candidacy unacceptable." He accuses Bauer of putting the issue of national security before bedrock social issues like the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.

Huckabee describes other elders of the social conservative movement, many of whom meet in private as part of an organization called the Arlington Group, as "more enamored with the process, the political strategies, and the party hierarchy than with the simple principles that had originally motivated the Founders." Later Huckabee writes, "I lamented that so many people of faith had moved from being prophetic voices — like Naaman, confronting King David in his sin and saying, 'Though art the man!'— to being voices of patronage, and saying to those in power, 'You da' man!' "

He calls out Pat Robertson, the Virginia-based televangelist, and Dr. Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University in South Carolina, for endorsing Rudy Giuliani and Romney, respectively. He also has words for the Texas-based Rev. John Hagee, who endorsed the more moderate John McCain in the primaries, as someone who was drawn to the eventual Republican nominee because of the lure of power. Huckabee speaks to Hagee by phone before the McCain endorsement, while the former Arkansas governor is preparing for a spot on Saturday Night Live. "I asked if he had prayed about this and believed this was what the Lord wanted him to do," Huckabee writes of his conversation with Hagee. "I didn't get a straight answer." Months later, McCain rejected Hagee's endorsement because of controversial remarks the pastor had made about biblical interpretations.

So Huckabee is calling Hagee a sell-out for backing McCain instead of him, even knowing that McCain was eventually forced to disassociate himself from him because of Hagee’s outrageous views?  Doesn’t it seem odd that instead of thinking that maybe he dodged a bullet by not getting Hagee’s support, Huckabee is still mad about it?

Of course, Hagee’s support for Huckabee probably wouldn’t have been especially noteworthy since his ultra-right-wing views were no different than those esposed by his other supporters like on Don Wildmon, Janet Porter, Rick Scarborough, and Tim and Beverly LaHaye.

But considering that Huckabee is mulling over a future presidential run, it seems a little counterproductive to start badmouthing the very people from whom he’ll need support the next time around, especially since their lack of support this time was what helped to doom his campaign.

Huckabee: King of All Media

In addition to being a former governor and presidential candidate, author, blogger, pundit, and television host, Mike Huckabee is now set to start appearing regularly on the radio early next year:

ABC Radio Networks announced today that it has signed former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee to its extensive roster of news/talk talent. The Huckabee Report will be broadcast weekday mornings and afternoons and provide listeners with the top news stories of the day while also drawing on Huckabee's experiences as a former governor and presidential candidate. The short form news features will launch on Jan. 5, 2009.

"It's truly an honor to add someone of Governor Huckabee's stature to our portfolio," said Jim Robinson, President of ABC Radio Networks. "His perspective on the day's leading issues and events as they relate to American culture and policies is sure to resonate with radio audiences looking for the latest headlines mixed with a bit of humor and common sense. This partnership has tremendous potential and will be a key win for our affiliates in the coming year."

It’s Not That Kind of Culture War

Townhall today features a gloating report on how evangelical and rural voters provided the muscle to push through Arkansas’ anti-gay, anti-family, anti-child constitutional amendment to prevent unmarried couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents.

 

Rural and evangelical voters propelled Arkansas to adopt one of the nation's few bans against unmarried couples becoming foster or adoptive parents.

Championed by religious conservatives and fueled by a pulpit campaign, the ban passed with the endorsement of 56.9 percent of the voters. Major support came from rural counties in southwest Arkansas, where about two-thirds of voters supported the measure.

. . .

The ban, which takes effect Jan. 1, will reduce the pool of available homes for children who need parents and guardians, the governor said.

 

 

 

 

They must be so proud.

 

I used to live in Arkansas, so I was a little confused by the photograph they used to illustrate the article. It didn’t look like any part of the state I remembered, but I guess that’s because it’s actually a Congolese rebel army.

 

Is this a signal of the next steps for the Religious Right? Preventing children from finding loving homes by any means necessary?
 

Christian Coalition Promises More Anti-Gay Amendments

On the heels of success of the anti-gay marriage amendments in Florida, California, and Arizona, the Christian Coalition announces that it's goal moving forward is to get amendments on the ballots in every state that has not already passed one:

Thus far, 30 states have outlawed homosexual "marriages" by an average close to 70% approval by voters through amendments to the state constitutions. In addition, the voters in Arkansas yesterday approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents. It will be the goal of Christian Coalition to ensure that the other 20 states adopt similar amendments banning homosexual "marriages" including the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut which also had two judicial decisions, by one vote margins, legalizing these abominations.

Considering that the Christian Coalition hasn't been particularly relevant for quite some time, it's pretty clear that they think that hopping on the bandwagon in pushing these amendments will be a way for them to regain at least some of their influence within the contemporary Religious Right movement.

The Nonpartisan Values Voters

I just wrote a post about the traditional claim from Religious Right leaders and activists that their votes are beholden to God and not tied to any one particular party.  It's an obvious fraud, as demonstrated by the fact that they'd rather vote for Satan than a Democrat, but it's what they have to say to convince themselves that they are somehow more principled than your run-of-the-mill partisan voter.

In my last post, I didn't provide any concrete examples of this contradiction because it is frankly so prevalent that I didn't think it really needed any.  But then I came across this article that perfectly sums up exactly what I was taking about:

From wall to wall, each pew was full on the Sunday before Election Day at Thomas Road Baptist Church.

“It is Election Day on Tuesday. We as Christians and we as Americans- this is something that we have been paying attention to,” said Pastor Jonathan Falwell.

Falwell introduced a friend, former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee – who the pastor previously endorsed. Huckabee, known as a conservative Republican, says he wants people to vote Christian.

“I would never use a pulpit of the church to try to tell people to vote Democrat or Republican or which candidate. That’s something they have to decide on their own conscience. But I never would hesitate to say vote on your principles,” Huckabee said.

He said parties are not as important and church members we talked to agree.

“Dr. Fallwell [says] don’t vote Republican, don’t vote Democrat, vote Christian. That’s how I voted,” said Linley Harrison.

If you just read that part, you'd think there might actually be something to this right-wing claim that they vote on their Christian principles regardless of party affiliation.  But then you read the rest of the article and find out that the church was passing out pro-McCain voting guides from the American Family Association and had McCain surrogates in attendance who were making the case for him:

The church passed out flyers from the American Family Association that listed key issues and whether McCain or Obama support or oppose them. Many in the congregation say it is Republicans like Huckabee who support the issues most crucial to them.

...

One of John McCain’s fellow POW’s during the Vietnam War was also at the service. Orson Swindle has been friends with John McCain now for 37 years. He was by his side in captivity, and now he’s helping in the campaign ... Two more of McCain’s fellow POW’s were also at the service.

Huckabee, Santorum, Corsi Show Up in New Anti-Obama DVD

The Associated Press reports that Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Ken Blackwell, Jerome Corsi, and others all make an appearance in a new anti-Obama DVD produced by Citizens United that is set to be included with newspapers in swing states just before the election:

Readers of Ohio's three largest newspapers, along with papers in Florida and Nevada, are finding an anti-Barack Obama DVD in editions this week.

Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group based in Washington, plans to release a 95-minute film in the five swing-state publications to highlight Obama's record on abortion rights, foreign policy and his past associations, including his relationship with former pastor Rev. Jermiah Wright. The group said it planned to spend more than $1 million to distribute about 1.25 million copies of "Hype: The Obama Effect."

"We think it's a truthful attack. People can take it anyway they want," said David Bossie, Citizens United's president.

Readers of The Columbus Dispatch received their copy Tuesday. The Cincinnati Enquirer, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post and the Las Vegas Review-Journal are scheduled to receive them in coming days.

The film raises questions about Obama's political base in Chicago and questions the media's reporting on Obama.

Among those interviewed are conservative columnist Robert Novak, former Clinton strategist-turned-pundit Dick Morris and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and discredited Obama critic Jerome Corsi also give interviews.

Huckabee Already Preparing for 2012

Over the weekend, Mike Huckabee attended a fundraiser for a couple of Republican candidates in Louisiana during which he urged those in attendance to get on their knees and thank God if John McCain wins … and get on their knees and pray if Barack Obama wins: 

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a minister, couldn’t resist a reference to prayer as he addressed a Republican crowd here Sunday during a fund-raiser to benefit party nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain.

“If Sen. McCain wins, we should get on our knees and thank the Lord,” said Huckabee, who was hosted by Squire Creek Country Club developer James Davison and 5th District U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander. “If Sen. Obama wins, we’ll need to get on our knees and pray even harder.”

He was also asked about his future presidential aspirations and said he couldn’t rule it out:

Huckabee didn’t rule out another run at the White House. “It’s hard to say,” he said when asked about his future role in the national party. “I honestly don’t know.”

That makes sense, especially considering that his PAC is currently offering “Huck” bumper stickers to its donors:

Want to annoy Barack Obama and the Democrats? Support Huck PAC and our conservative candidates with a contribution of $10 or more and we will send you our new Huck PAC "HUCK" bumper sticker.

It’s rather odd that Huckabee is offering stickers featuring his own name just a week before John McCain appears poised to lose this election.  Purely coincidence, I’m sure.

Dan Gilgoff has this image:

When In Doubt, Go With God, Guns, and Gays

During the GOP primary, we kept hearing about the emergence of a "new evangelical" movement that cared about issues beyond the standard anti-gay, anti-abortion right-wing agenda and were repeatedly told that Mike Huckabee was the most high profile example of this new type of leader.  

As we pointed out then, and have continued to point out, that was a dramatic oversimplification and fundamentally misleading.  Because, when you get down to it, people like Mike Huckabee are in fact fully aligned with the traditional Religious Right agenda and, as Dan Gilgoff smartly notices, inevitably revert to form when it comes crunch time:

Remember back to the Republican primaries, when Mike Huckabee campaigned as a new kind of evangelical candidate, adding issues like the environment, education, and poverty to the hot-button agenda of God, guns, and gays?

That big-tent Huck seems to be in much shorter supply now. An email the Arkansas governor just sent out soliciting donations for his political action committee--whose beneficiaries include John McCain and Sarah Palin--asks fors $5 for each of these five red meat issues:

1. Protection of Human Life 2. Traditional Marriage 3. Tax policy that doesn't punish people for working, but rewards them 4. 2nd amendment rights 5. Supreme Court and Federal Court judge selection

So much for all those professed concerns about poverty, the environment, and human rights. 

DeLay Backs Huckabee for 2012

Mike Huckabee may be content to busy himself with his TV show for now, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up the idea of running for president again in the future.  Just last week, he declared that he’d consider another run because "My experience in no way embittered me” – and if he decides to run again in 2012, it looks like he’ll have the support of Tom DeLay:

Tom DeLay was a supporter of Mike Huckabee in the Republican primaries, and likes his chances for the party's nomination in 2012 if John McCain loses in November, despite disagreeing with the former Arkansas governor on a number of issues.

"I've known Huckabee for 30 years," DeLay, the former House majority leader from Texas, told PolitickerCA.com. "I know what kind of man he is, how strong he is. I didn't agree with him on global warming, but I can overlook that knowing what a great man he is."

"I think that because of the kind of person he is, people like him," DeLay said. "If he weren't so populist, I think the conservatives would rally around him."

Huckabee encountered significant opposition during his campaign from various conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, which invested heavily in negative advertising against his candidacy.

DeLay said that he doesn't think Huckabee will be satisfied with his new job at Fox News, and hinted that the former governor was interested in running for president again if McCain loses. "He's looking ahead," DeLay said. "He's going to be out there helping build the party. He's going to be around.

Sarah Palin: Mike Huckabee’s Biggest Nightmare

Last week, we were noting with amazement how Sarah Palin went from complete unknown to de facto leader of the right-wing movement in a matter of weeks:

Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly, conservative cause prompter Richard Viguerie and Free Congress Foundation President Paul M. Weyrich - all considered movement founders - each gave The Times the same two-word answer to the question about the emerging leader of the right: "Sarah Palin."

"None of the above names - Romney, Gingrich, Huckabee, DeLay - will be the conservative movement's leader in the coming years," Mr. Viguerie said. "Governor Palin's VP nomination is huge. It changes conservative, Republican and American politics for the next 20 years."

Of course, this raises an interesting prospect for what happens to Mike Huckabee in 2012 if John McCain loses this year:  

The former Arkansas governor emerged as one of Palin’s most vocal defenders when he spoke shortly before she took the stage at the Republican National Convention earlier this month.

But depending on how this election shapes up, they could end up political rivals for a future presidential bid with narratives that overlap and appeal to the same constituency.

“I think in a lot of ways, they’re pretty similar figures,” said Jay Barth, a political scientist at Hendrix College in Conway. “Their kind of personal style has some similarities to it. I think she really does cut into his turf significantly.”

Palin’s pick as John McCain’s running mate energized evangelicals, especially those who had been worried that he would choose a running mate who would support abortion rights. She’s also sided with the majority evangelical view in opposing gay marriage and expressing a desire to see creationism discussed alongside evolution in schools.

Those positions cut into Huckabee’s base of support among evangelicals, who were attracted to the Southern Baptist minister for his conservative stance on social issues. And, with a quick wit, Huckabee was able to make up for the lack of name recognition with an ability to grab the limelight.

But Palin—who’s selling herself as a “hockey mom” who hunts moose—is now dominating that limelight. If McCain loses in November, she could become the next in line for the GOP.

Back when he was running for the nomination, Huckabee saw Mitt Romney as the biggest threat to his efforts to secure his position as the Right’s favorite candidate and was absolutely merciless in attacking him, and while he might be willing to take a back seat to Palin at the moment in order to help John McCain’s campaign, he probably won’t be so deferential down the line if he finds himself in a face-to-face showdown with Palin for the Right’s support.

God Created Marriage, Not "Party A" and "Party B"

Mike Huckabee gets active in the Proposition 8 campaign - on the “yes” side, naturally – and explains that the “purpose of marriage is not for you to be happy:”

Changing the definition of marriage would be like making Mona Lisa blond or touching up her smile, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said Sunday morning in Newbury Park.

The former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist preacher spoke from the pulpit of Calvary Chapel Thousand Oaks in two services focused on Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He told about 1,000 people that marriage was created and defined by God, just as the Mona Lisa was created by Leonardo da Vinci.

"God doesn't want me to take my brush and paint over his masterpiece," he said … "The purpose of marriage is not for you to be happy," Huckabee said. "The purpose of marriage is so God can teach us how to love, like he loves us."

Speaking of couples who are not happy about the current state of marriage in California,

Last month, Rachel Bird exchanged vows with Gideon Codding in a church wedding in front of family and friends. As far as Bird is concerned, she is a bride.

To the state of California, however, she is either "Party A" or "Party B."

Those are the terms that have replaced "bride" and "groom" on the state's new gender-neutral marriage licenses. And to Bird and Codding, that is unacceptable.

"We are traditionalists – we just want to be called bride and groom," said Bird, 25, who works part time for her father's church. "Those words have been used for generations and now they just changed them."

Bird says her crusade is “personal – not religious,” but she getting solid support from her father, Doug Bird, pastor of Roseville's Abundant Life Fellowship, who is now sending out letters to his congregation and fellow pastors urging them to join the fight:  "I would encourage you to refuse to sign marriage licenses with 'Party A' and 'Party B. If ever there was a time for the people of the United States to stand up and let their voices be heard – this is that time."

Why exactly is Bird so upset about the change?

"We just feel that our rights have been violated," she said.

To some, the couple's stand may seem frivolous. But others believe "bride" and "groom" are terms that are too important for the state to set aside.

"Those who support (same-sex marriage) say it has no impact on heterosexuals," said Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute. "This debunks that argument."

So there you go:  treating gays equally must be stopped in the name of protecting the more important rights of straight people to be referred to as “bride” and “groom” on their legal paperwork.

Huckabee's Anti-Romney Crusade Marches On

Today's papers are filled with articles about Mitt Romney's presence at the Democratic Convention in Denver, suggesting that his high-profile role is something of an audition for the vice-presidential spot on John McCain's ticket.

As the Politico reports, McCain is preparing to name his running mate soon and Romney is clearly among the front-runners

So McCain seems to be applying the Woody Hayes axiom of football to politics: Two of the three things that can happen when you put the ball in the air are negative (an incompletion or an interception).

Instead, he’s likely to make the vice presidential equivalent of a handoff up the middle.

Or, in the words of a top adviser, “a solid, safe pick.”

For months, the selection of Romney had been dismissed because of one  seemingly intractable problem: McCain simply didn’t like the guy.

But according to this adviser, that has changed.

“He has really gotten to like Romney. They’ve come a long way.”

So one would think that, as the liklihood of Romney getting the nod increases, Republicans would be rallying around him - but you'd be wrong because Mike Huckabee seems bizarrely intent on slamming Romney right up until the very last minute:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says if John McCain selects former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, it eliminates what he calls "the Joe Biden issue" for Republicans.

"During the primary, Romney attacked McCain. He attacked me," the one-time presidential hopeful said today on Rush Limbaugh's radio show. "One of the problems McCain would have if he picked Romney was that it takes the Joe Biden issue off the table where Biden is saying great things about McCain and terrible things about Obama. They'll be running those tapes back over and over during the debates when Romney was attacking McCain and saying, 'Which time do we trust you? Then or now?'"

Limbaugh responded he didn't think the primary infighting among Republicans would make much of a difference in the general election.

"That's true for both parties, and McCain's running ads right now featuring Hillary endorsing him," Limbaugh said. "There is a gold mine of Hillary audio and video that McCain can make an ad of. Those things happen in primaries."

Huckabee said he would still support McCain even if Romney is selected as running mate, citing his opposition to abortion rights.

Huckabee has committed himself to doing whatever he can to help John McCain win, but has also repeatedly made clear that he really, really wants the vice-presidency and doesn't think Romney is an acceptable option.

As his own hopes seem to fade, Huckabee can't quite seem to let go of his personal animosity toward Romney or realize that constantly slamming the man who may very well become McCain's running mate is not helping the cause.

Increasing Adoptions By Limiting the Pool

The AP reports that a ballot initiative preventing “gays and lesbians from becoming foster or adoptive parents was cleared Monday to appear on this fall's ballot in Arkansas”:

The measure would prohibit unmarried couples living together from fostering or adopting children, and Arkansas doesn't allow gays to marry or recognize gay marriages conducted elsewhere.

"Arkansas needs to affirm the importance of married mothers and fathers," Family Council President Jerry Cox said. "We need to publicly affirm the gold standard of rearing children whenever we can. The state standard should be as close to that gold standard of married mom and dad homes as possible."

You’d think that banning willing gays and lesbians from becoming foster or adoptive parents would only end up shrinking the pool of those willing to raise these children in need, but you’d be wrong – according to the Family Council Action Committee, putting this on the ballot will amazingly result in even more foster and adoptive parents:

[T]he campaign to pass this act is designed to increase the number of families willing to adopt or serve as foster parents. By circulating petitions in churches and elsewhere, we will spend the next several months highlighting the need for more foster and adoptive homes. We’ve published a book entitled, Adoption and Foster Care in Arkansas. Volunteers in this campaign will not only be circulating petitions, but they will be encouraging families to consider adopting a child or becoming a foster parent. Overall, we expect this effort to increase the number of foster care and adoptive homes in Arkansas.

Presumably, the Family Council thinks that “traditional” couples will suddenly start clamoring to take these children once they’ve ensured that they gays can’t have them.  And, if not, it’s just as well that the kids remain safely in the care of the state rather than being “used to promote the social or political agenda of any special interest group.” 

 In short, the effort nails the trifecta:

This act protects the welfare of children, it blunts a homosexual agenda, and it encourages more people to adopt children or serve as foster parents. That’s what this act does. Anyone who tries to tell you anything less isn’t telling the whole story.

Will McCain Poke The Right in the Eye?

Ezra Klein predicts that John McCain will choose Joe Lieberman as his running mate and explains his reasoning:

For the Republicans, however, 2008 can't be [about] mobilization. Their half is too small. Their brand is too damaged. And they recognized that when they chose John McCain -- who's not a base mobilizing evangelical conservative anyway -- as their nominee … [Lieberman] lets McCain telegraph an ideological ambiguity and shift towards a policy agenda that's about process, about "reaching across party lines and getting things done," rather than about sops to the conservative base.

That may very well be true, but for this strategy to work one has to assume that the McCain camp would be willing to sacrifice nearly the entire Religious Right base in an effort to win support of moderates and independents because, as the Right has made abundantly clear, their now tepid support for McCain hinges almost entirely on his choice of running mate.  

Just last week, we were noting how the Right was nearly unanimous in their opposition to Lieberman and that, while they were just starting to warm up to McCain, their efforts at mobilizing their grassroots activists on his behalf came to a screeching halt when he suggested that he was open to the idea of naming a pro-choice running mate.  

Right-wing activists have been battling one another over whom best fills the McCain campaign’s need to appease the base for weeks now, a battle that continues even to this day:

Among those doing some soul-searching this week is Betty Kanavel, who lives in the tiny Monroe County town of Ida and will vote for no one who isn't anti-abortion. She would like McCain to pick Mike Huckabee, the charismatic preacher and former Arkansas governor who finished third in Michigan's primary.

The 56-year-old Kanavel, who works part-time at her church, also is concerned over Romney's religion.

"I probably shouldn't go there, but I will anyway: The Mormon religion is totally not the Bible," Kanavel said, adding: "It's very hard, but if he's the choice, OK. He is a good man."

But this is a debate that has raged over Mike Huckabee vs. Mitt Romney and is rooted in the fact that both are, at least nominally, pro-life.  Lieberman, for all his faults, is ostensibly pro-choice - a fact that will not be easily glossed over by the Religious Right: 

Let us be clear on this. Our values and our respect for the Constitution make clear that women must have the right to choose—and we will continue to fight for that right

When McCain floated the idea of a pro-choice running mate a few weeks ago, the Right went completely off the rails and leaders like Richard Land have been taking every opportunity to make absolutely clear just what such a decision would mean to McCain's campaign: 

If he picks a pro-life running mate, it will really cement evangelical support. If he picks a pro-choice running mate it will give oxygen to all those doubts, and deflate the momentum that has been building.

As James Dobson explained last month when he announced that he was changing his position from “never” to “maybe” on McCain, his support hinged in large part on McCain’s choice of running mate:

I don't even know who his vice-presidential candidate will be. You know he could very well choose a pro-abortion candidate and it would not be unlike him to do that because he seems to enjoy a frustrating conservatives on occasions. But as of this moment, I have to take into account the fact that Senator John McCain has voted pro-life
consistently and that's a fact.

In case that wasn’t clear enough, FOF’s Tom Minnery recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that Dobson is essentially waiting to see who McCain picks before officially endorsing him:

"Admittedly, for a lot of us, McCain is an acquired taste," said Tom Minnery, who leads the government and public policy division for Focus on the Family.

But if McCain chooses a strong social conservative for his running mate, Focus on the Family's leader, James Dobson - whose conservative radio broadcasts are heard by 200 million people worldwide - could endorse him.

"We'll wait to see who his vice president is before embracing him," Minnery said.

If the McCain campaign decides that a pro-choice running mate is what the campaign needs, it’ll be because it has concluded that he can with without the Right or, more likely, that the Right will put aside its principles because they have no alternative but to support the campaign regardless of his running mate.  But the Right is in no mood to be insulted in this manner.  As it stands now, McCain’s support from the right-wing base is tenuous at best and will likely collapse completely were he to fill out his ticket with a pro-choice candidate.

As Dobson explained it, McCain has a history of going “out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes” of the Religious Right – and choosing a pro-choice running mate would be the ultimate poke in the eye to the Right; one that would make it nearly impossible for them to support him.

Huck Will Take VP, But Nothing Else

While Mike Huckabee’s supporters are busy threatening mutiny unless their candidate gets the nod as John McCain’s running mate and launching a seemingly endless parade of anti-Mitt Romney efforts, Huckabee himself as been a most loyal of soldiers, saying that his sole goal is to do whatever is most helpful to McCain and that “this isn't about me anymore. It's really about John McCain and winning.”

And if what McCain decides is most helpful to him would be to name him as his vice presidential candidate, then that would be just swell with Huckabee:

Mike Huckabee on Tuesday said he has not been approached by John McCain about being the U.S. presidential candidate's running mate. But he'd certainly consider the offer.

Huckabee said he didn't think anyone who has run for the U.S. presidency would turn down a chance to be vice president. The former Arkansas governor dropped out of the presidential race last March after McCain clinched the Republican nomination.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, Huckabee said he has received "no indication" that McCain is considering him as a running mate. But if asked, Huckabee said it would be hard to resist.

"I don't think anybody that runs for president turns around and says no," he said.

Huck’s Army Falls Back In Line

Last week, we reported that the on-line activists who constitute Huck’s Army were warning that they would not support John McCain if Mike Huckabee was not named his running mate or at least chosen to deliver the keynote address at the upcoming convention.  

While Huckabee obviously can’t control what his on-line supporters do, that doesn’t mean he can’t undercut them:

Huckabee said he assumes he will be asked to speak during the convention, but didn't know whether he'd be a major player in the GOP's quadrennial pep rally.

"My goal right now at the convention would be to be the most helpful I can be to Sen. McCain," Huckabee said. "Whether that's visible or invisible, that's something he's got to decide, not me."

His schedule will include a couple performances with his Arkansas-based rock band and a conference on obesity. Huckabee also will join the Creative Coalition for a news conference on the importance of music and art education in schools.

"What I want to do is help not just Sen. McCain, but my party and my country," he said, adding, "This isn't about me anymore. It's really about John McCain and winning."

And predictably, the activists behind Huck’s Army have now sent out a clarifying email saying that the previous message was not the official position of the group:

The message that went out to our forum members today is not the official position of HucksArmy and was a communication from a few of our members who were concerned by some dismissive treatment toward supporters of conservative cultural values.

Many of our members and leaders consider the earlier statement overly harsh and demanding. Understand that any directives that HucksArmy sends out is not a command but an option.

HucksArmy is a community and not an organization and so we rarely issue statements representing the whole of our community.

HucksArmy as a whole is not demanding that Huckabee be the VP or be given a keynote at convention or else. While we would love to see these things happen, we do not have any official demands as a collective group.

But just because Huckabee and his supporters are playing nice, that still doesn't mean they've given up their almost militant opposition to Mitt Romney:

Bauer said he personally believes that Romney "would be a great running mate" and said he has conveyed that message personally to Romney. Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families political action committee, said he was not allowed to say whether he advised McCain to pick Romney.

Bauer said that he recently conducted an unscientific poll among activists about who should be picked for vice president and said that Romney won a plurality of votes. He said that "it was notable" that among those who backed Huckabee, "many of them said negative things about Governor Romney."

In fact, a battle between Huckabee and Romey supporters continues to unfold in Michigan:

In a blistering e-mail Friday to Michigan Republicans, a former aide to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign accused Michigan social conservative activist and Mike Huckabee supporter Gary Glenn of "a vicious smear campaign" against Romney.

Katie Packer, the strategist for Romney's successful Michigan primary campaign, accused Glenn, the head of the American Family Association of Michigan, of distorting Romney's record on social issues and "declaring war on other members of the Republican party."

Glenn, in an e-mail to The Detroit News, responded with a list of criticisms of Romney's record on social issues. "If Katie wants to have another full-fledged public debate about Mitt Romney's pro-abortion, pro-homosexual record, now is an excellent time," he wrote.

Who’s McCain Meeting in Michigan?

The Detroit News reports that John McCain is set to meet with “10 social conservative activists and religious leaders from around Michigan” on Wednesday, though the stop does not appear on his schedule of events and the names are not being released.  

Meanwhile, Marlys Popma, the campaign’s director of evangelical outreach, is scheduled to join former Mike Huckabee supporters to be told, once again, that he had better not pick Mitt Romney as a running mate:

McCain's vice presidential selection is likely to be a major topic at both meetings. Matney said Huckabee supporters want the former Arkansas governor on the ticket; failing that, she said, many would oppose Romney. While the Michigan native and former Massachusetts governor got significant support from many conservatives during his primary campaign, others say they are suspicious of his relatively recent move to social conservative positions on issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

Some Huckabee supporters will not back McCain if Romney is on the ticket, Matney said. "That's not the sentiment of everybody," she said. "(But) we would certainly rather have somebody other than Romney on the ticket. Who he chooses will speak volumes to us."

The Saginaw meeting also will include supporters of the so-called "Fair Tax," a proposal Huckabee embraced during his primary campaign. It would eliminate income taxes in favor of a flat-rate sales tax.

It was unclear Monday exactly who McCain himself would meet with and where.

One person familiar with the planning, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the meeting, said arrangements could change, but that the meeting would involve about 10 social conservative activists. Again, opposition to Romney was likely to be among the topics, this person said.

Huckabee: I'd Rather Be On TV Than Serve in Government

Mike Huckabee recently sat down with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to discuss the current state of politics and his emerging television stardom.  During the course of the conversation, Huckabee weighed in on a variety of topics: proclaiming that if Fred Thompson had not entered the race, he would have won the South Carolina primary and would be the GOP nominee today; reiterating that he has no reason to think that he’ll be John McCain’s running mate; asserting that “it would be beyond imagination if I didn’t get a prime speaking spot” at the GOP Convention; and declaring that there is “no way” that he’ll take a position with the administration if McCain wins:

If McCain wins and offers you a position in his administration, would you consider it ?

No. No way.

Why ?

Why would I want to do that ? What possible reason ? I’m gonna have a good life out here in the private sector. Why would I go back to telling everybody in the world how much money I make and being limited to what I can make and living in a very expensive city and barely surviving to have some obscure Cabinet post and have some 20-year-old from the White House telling me what I’m gonna do ? Thanks but no thanks. I have better things to do with my life.

Of course Huckabee can't be bothered to serve in government ... not when he’s got a television program in the works:

The week after our interview, Huckabee was scheduled to fly to New York to shoot a pilot for his new TV show this fall on FOX. His new book about the campaign, Do the Right Thing, is to hit stores on November 17 th. He had just returned from a business trip to Japan, while a trip to Rwanda with other politicos loomed. Oh, and he would also be subbing on the radio for Paul Harvey during his stint in Manhattan.

First, the TV bit. It seems such a natural as to be a stereotype. Huck TV. What else but ? Mike Huckabee is to radio, television, Internet, YouTube, multi-media and anything involving a microphone-and-camera as leaves are to trees. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Of his show, Huckabee offers only generalities: “I can say it’s gonna be unlike anything else that’s on FOX and maybe on cable.” When asked if it’s a talk show, Huckabee says, “yes and no. Not a talk show like you’ve seen. We’ll have a live studio audience and some very innovative features.” But surely it’ll be about politics, right ?

“Politics will be a part of it, but it certainly won’t be all of it,” Huckabee says. “I mean, what isn’t politics a part of now ? There are entertainment shows that have a political overtone. I think this may be a political show that has an entertainment overtone.” Images of the Howard Cosell variety hour come frighteningly to mind in the worst-case, fish-out-of-water scenario. In the best case, a conservative version of Jon Stewart without the snarkiness. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine any show that could be unlike anything on cable. What hasn’t been done, you know ?

Here’s a possible clue: One of the producers working with Huckabee is a man named Woody Fraser, who was the original producer of the Mike Douglas Show and Good Morning America.

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