JCN Takes Sotomayor Fight to the States

It looks like the Judicial Confirmation Network is taking its battle against the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the state level by teaming up with local activists and state-affiliates of national right-wing groups:

Grassroots Coalition Formed to Mobilize for SCOTUS Hearings

Little Rock -- On Thursday (June 4, 2008), key organizations from around Arkansas announced the formation of a “center-right” coalition, the Arkansas Judicial Network, in preparation for the nomination hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

The initial coalition will consist of the following individuals and/or organizations:

· Anne Britton – NRA National Volunteer of the Year (2000)
· Jerry Cox – President, Arkansas Family Council
· Betsy Hagan – Chairman, Arkansas Chapter of Eagle Forum
· Doyle Webb -- Chairman, Republican Party of Arkansas
· Brian Vandiver – Attorney and Chairman of the Arkansas Federalist Society
· Cory Cox -- Attorney and former Chairman of the Arkansas Federalist Society
· David Fort – Small Business Owner and Chairman, Arkansas Federation of Young Republicans

This Arkansas Judicial Coalition will partner with the Judicial Confirmation Network (JCN), ( to ensure that Arkansans understand the judicial philosophy of Barack Obama’s appointee to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

Let's see, this new groups consists of members of the Federalist Society and the Eagle Forum, NRA volunteers, and the head of a state's Focus on the Family affiliate who took the lead last year in preventing gays and lesbians from being able to adopt children.

Where exactly are those representing the "center" in this "center-right coalition"?

Right Wing Round-Up

  • The Huffington Post reports that Sen. Lindsey Graham tried to make the case for a more diverse and open GOP to the South Carolina Republican Party convention - it did not go well.
  • Steve Benen remembers back when Sen. Mitch McConnell believed filibustering a president's judicial nominee was just about the worst thing a senator could do - but those days are over.
  • Howie Klein notes that not only did Arkansas state Senate's GOP Kim Hendren call Sen. Charles Schumer "that Jew," but Doyle Webb, the state Republican chairman, called a Democratic legislator "that lesbian."
  • FireDogLake reports that parents, with the assistance of Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute, are fighting to keep "And Tango Makes Three" out of school curriculum.
  • AU weighs in on the news that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s daily top-secret briefings to former President George W. Bush during the early part of the Iraq War in 2003 featured covers festooned with photos of soldiers praying or in action in Iraq accompanied by Bible verses.
  • Finally, Jeffrey Toobin profiles Chief Justice John Roberts:
  • After four years on the Court, however, Roberts’s record is not that of a humble moderate but, rather, that of a doctrinaire conservative. The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society. In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.

Huckabee Too Polite To Come Right Out And Say It

If there is one word that can best describe Mike Huckabee's response to losing the Republican primary to John McCain after being savaged by the fiscal conservatives and snubbed by the social conservatives, it would be "bitterness."

As we've noted a few times before, for a guy who is presumably planning on making another run for the White House in 2012, Huckabee seems to be spending a lot more time settling scores with those who refused to back him than attempting to win them over ahead of his next campaign, which doesn't seem like a particularly smart political strategy.

And here he is yet again, calling out FreedomWorks' Dick Armey for mocking Huckabee's anti-Wall Street message when he was running for office while now trying capitalize on the right-wing "tea party" opposition to the bailouts and stimulus package and whatever else all those protests were supposedly about: 

"The tea parties are mostly an honest spontaneous effort by ordinary people from all over the political spectrum to express their outrage at government hubris from absurd spending, corporate bailouts, etc.," former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told ABC News in an email today, asked for a comment about today's protests.


Now, of course, Armey and FreedomWorks are rallying the tea party protests around the country that are protesting big government, Wall Street bailouts, higher taxes and President Obama's housing plan.

"As for Armey," Huckabee writes when I ask him to weigh in, "he and about 75% of the so-called 'conservatives' owe me a big apology. They misrepresented my record, took my statements totally out of context, and accused me of economic liberalism, which is utter nonsense. My campaign upset their orderly apple cart, because it really was run by grass-roots conservatives and small business owners and not those who as it turned out were wholly owned subsidiaries of recklessly run corporations and lobbyists.”

Huckabee says Armey and his cohorts "never listened to what I was saying, but just spoke out to protect their pals who were funding their faces—there’s a word for people who get to paid to show love, but polite people don’t use it openly. I’ve found it amazing to watch the huffy puffy types who skinned me alive during the campaign jump out and support TARP, and then change their tune when Obama and the Dems proposed stimulus.

We'll try and be polite here as well and not mention the word that Huckabee obviously has in mind.

When he was running for the nomination, there were lots of articles quoting sources familiar with Huckabee's tenure in Arkansas that remarked on his petty vindictiveness and willingness to hold a grudge.  Those tales never worked their way into the narrative around his campaign as they couldn't overcome his media-driven reputation as a "aw shucks" bass-playing everyman ... but it sure seems as if Huckabee is doing everything he can to make sure that it becomes a theme in his next potential campaign.

Storm Debris and Religious Discrimination

When a severe ice storm hit parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began coordinating federal assistance to the affected states and making aid available to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

But among the things it wouldn’t do was remove debris from commercial properties because, as FEMA states, “it is assumed and expected that these commercial enterprises retain insurance that can and will cover the cost of debris removal.”

Now an Arkansas church is complaining that FEMA used its parking lot during the recovery efforts but then refused to pick up the debris from its property … and so it has now contacted the Alliance Defense Fund, which is accusing FEMA of religious discrimination:

Following instructions in the local media that all properties should pile their debris by the street for FEMA to pick up, the church piled its debris near the street, but a FEMA supervisor advised the church that FEMA would not be collecting the church’s debris because “churches are considered a commercial business.”  FEMA denied assistance to other churches in the community as well.

“The denial of disaster relief to Southside Community Church constitutes discrimination in its worst form,” the ADF letter states.  “A church is not a ‘commercial business’ but is a vital community partner and participant in disaster relief....  Further, the rationale that a church is a ‘commercial enterprise’ seems to mask the fact that what is really occurring here is religious discrimination....  FEMA is mandated to provide disaster services without discriminating on the grounds of religion.”

FEMA reportedly did not pick up debris from any church which, instead of being taken as a sign of standard policy, is being held up as proof that FEMA is engaging in religious discrimination.  But for its part, FEMA insists it did not use church grounds as a staging area and that the church never requested public assistance with its clean-up efforts:

FEMA spokesman Win Henderson said federal and state government log records show the church was not a FEMA staging area during the debris clean up from the January ice storm.

Also, Henderson said, the church is a private nonprofit organization and did not qualify for debris pick up. In addition, he said, the church did not submit a request for public assistance.

This is yet another example of the tendency I commented on earlier this month, whereby seemingly standard practices, when they happen to inconvenience Christians, become further evidence to the Religious Right that there is a conspiracy afoot to discriminate against them.

When Immigration Law and Christian Victimization Collide

One of the things that has fascinated me most about the Religious Right's crusade to convince themselves that Christians are under relentless attack is how seemingly random things, when they happen to Christians, become evidence of the overall conspiracy.

Last week I noted this tendency in relation to the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission's response to the recent murder of a pastor in Illinois, when it claimed that the act was proof that "anti-Christian hostility is reaching a new, more violent level" despite the fact that there appears to be absolutely no evidence that the gunman was motivated by "anti-Christian hostility."

On a related, but less violent, note comes this article explaining that the United Kingdom changed its immigration laws last year and the new changes are causing some confusion for travelers:

"All migrants, not just charity workers, coming to the U.K. to work or study require a Certificate of Sponsorship," said a U.K. Border Agency spokesman. "Anyone without this certificate and the right visa will be refused entry."

Daniel Webster, parliamentary officer for the London-based Evangelical Alliance, said the regulations were introduced in response to illegal immigration and the increased threat of terrorism. But the complicated rules have left many ministers confused.

Inevitably, some Christians were among those confused about the new rules and found themselves denied entry which, in turn, leads to article like this where people voice disbelief that anyone would dare to deny entry to Christians and see it as evidence that "Christians have to operate under the radar all over the world":

A prominent Christian musician and a team of college-age missionaries were recently deported from the United Kingdom under new immigration rules that require religious workers to be sponsored by a licensed organization and obtain visas to enter the country.

In early March, Colorado-based singer Don Francisco was denied entrance into London and a Master's Commission team from Arkansas was deported from Scotland because immigration officials said they needed work visas under new regulations introduced in November.

"One of the things that has been said to me over the last few days is that Christians have to operate under the radar all over the world," said Judy Littler Manners, a Christian leader based London. "But this is the first time they may be forced to do it in this country."

Francisco was scheduled to participate in the Christian musical Why Good Friday, which includes 10 of his songs. But when he arrived at Heathrow Airport on March 2, he was detained, fingerprinted and escorted onto a flight back to the U.S., because immigration officials said he lacked the proper paperwork.

"I felt like they were looking for reason to keep me out," said Francisco, who has traveled throughout the U.K. for 30 years without incident.

The UK has regulations covering all sorts of visitors, students, and workers and explanations of what must be done in order to gain entry and obviously these travelers did not comply and were, for that reason, sent back home.

That may be unfortunate, but it is not evidence of anti-Christian bias or some nefarious agenda to inconvenience Christians.

ADF Riding to the Rescue in Arkansas

Last month we mentioned that the Arkansas Family Council was seeking in intervene in the lawsuit challenging the initiative passed last November barring gay couples from adopting children because they did not believe that the state's Attorney General would work hard enough to defend it and demanding that the Alliance Defense Fund be allowed to step in to do so.

Today, a state judge granted the request:

A state judge ruled Friday that a conservative group can intervene in a lawsuit challenging Arkansas' ban on unmarried couples adopting or fostering children.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza on Friday granted the Arkansas Family Council's request to help the state defend Initiated Act 1 that the council worked to put on the November election ballot.

The judge said after an hour-long hearing that his decision was not a reflection of how he felt about Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's ability to handle the case. Piazza said he believed allowing the group to help defend the measure would allow the case to be "fully developed."

"I'm a firm believer that you can't be afraid of what someone is going to say," Piazza said.

Byron Babione, an attorney representing the council, said the conservative group had a unique interest in the case because it had pushed to get the measure on the ballot and had mobilized volunteers during its successful fall campaign.

Babione also noted that McDaniel and Gov. Mike Beebe, both Democrats, had opposed the act. Beebe and McDaniel had both publicly opposed the measure during the election, and McDaniel's political action committee gave $1,000 to a group that campaigned against the new restriction.

"Nobody really likes to have their interests represented by somebody who doesn't believe in their cause," said Babione, who is senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.

RWWIF: The Right Re-Tools as a 'Resistance Movement'

Our latest Right Wing Watch In Focus is now posted, explaining how, since Barack Obama's election, the Right has re-launched itself as a "resistance movement":

The failure of right-wing leaders to coalesce behind a presidential candidate early in 2008 led some pundits to write, yet again, an obituary for the political influence of the religious and political right. But the movement maintained enough strength within the Republican Party to keep John McCain from choosing his preferred running mate and used the nomination of Sarah Palin as a way to energize its base. It also was able to exercise significant political muscle in state-wide ballot initiatives banning marriage equality in California, Arizona, and Florida and outlawing adoption by gay people in Arkansas.

Now that the Religious Right and the Republican Party are regrouping from significant electoral defeats, many progressives as well as pundits are tempted once again to dismiss the movement or the continued threat it poses to the constitutional principles of equality, privacy, and separation of church and state. But the legal, political, grassroots, and media infrastructure that has been built steadily over recent decades is still largely in place. It maintains a powerful ability to shape public debate and mobilize millions of Americans. And it is finding a renewed focus in opposing the Obama administration and obstructing progressive change.

Read the whole thing.

Right Wing Round-Up

Today's best reporting on the Right from around the web:

  • Think Progress has video of "Joe the Plumber" suggesting that some members of Congress ought to be shot.
  • Speaking of Joe, Steve Benen reports that, despite the fact that he seems to be the face of the conservative movement these days, nobody actually cares what he has to say.
  • RH Reality Check explains how the Arkansas legislature just rammed through "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act" by declaring "an emergency and proclaimed the passage of the bill immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety."
  • MY DD takes a look at the ad being run by the global warming deniers at Americans for Prosperity featuring the founder of The Weather Channel.
  • Pam reports on Colorado State Sen. Dave Schultheis, who wants babies to get AIDS because it'll demonstrate the negative consequences of promiscuity. Seriously.
  • Is Barack Obama Hitler or the Antichrist?  Crooks and Liars posts a Daily Show video arguing that he is, in fact, both.
  • The Washington Blade reports that donations from the Gill Action Fund made up nearly one-third of the Log Cabin Republican's budget, which is news that is sure to only sharpen the Right's opposition to the group.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the Youth for Western Civilization, which was co-sponsor of CPAC and even held its own reception during the conference, has a variety of ties to white nationalist groups.
  • Finally, the Texas Freedom Network reports that the right-wing Free Market Foundation is looking for a new name and offers up several possible suggestions.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • California State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth, one of Proposition 8's strongest supporters, has maneuvered his way into the leadership of the Republican caucus after state Senator Dave Cogdill was ousted for his support of last week's budget deal.
  • The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission proclaims that Hollywood has declared war on God and that "to say that God loves everyone regardless of their willful, sinful rebellion is blasphemous."
  • The Arkansas Times profiles Jerry Cox, executive director of the Arkansas Family Council, and his role in helping to pass the state's anti-gay adoption measure last November.
  • Tom Tancredo says that Gov. Bobby Jindal's presidential aspirations are over and that Grover Norquist ought to be in jail.
  • Finally, among the individuals Fl. Gov. Charlie Crist appointed to the state's census panel is Dennis Baxley, director of the Christian Coalition of Florida.

CPAC is Coming, Lower Your Expectations

The Washington Times reports that organizers of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference are expecting record turn-out this year as the movement tries to get its act together after seeing its Republican allies tossed out of office during the last several elections:

CPAC is expected to draw nearly 9,000 activists and college students from across the country, up from the record 7,000 who attended last year, when the main attractions were personal appearances by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the four remaining Republican presidential nomination hopefuls - former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene says that CPAC is an opportunity for movement leaders to find ways to overcome its current problems and win back the trust of voters … and he sees hope for them all in the fact that GOP is, at the moment, exhibiting an ability to stay on message:

“In calling President Obama's $787 billion plan a 'spending' rather than a 'stimulus' package, the Republican Party finally is showing signs of doing a better job of formulating its message,” Mr. Keene told reporters at the National Press Club on Tuesday.

If Republicans voting essentially in lock-step in opposition to President Obama’s efforts to ameliorate our current economic crisis because it was a “spending” bill rather than a “stimulus” bill is their best evidence that things are turning around for them, then it look like they are going to be wandering in the political wilderness for several election cycles to come.

Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Anyway, CPAC starts tomorrow and the American Family Association will be streaming it live, so you’ll be able to watch it here.

One last thing, I am the only one who finds the AFA's choice of image for its CPAC site a little odd:

Was Mitt Romney's speech dropping out of the presidential race really the highlight of last year's event? How sad is that?

Huckabee Rolls Out the Robo-Calls

Yesterday, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that Mike Huckabee is working hard to hold on to the influence he gained during the Republican primary via his political action committee, Huck PAC.  Unfortunately, Huckabee's popularity with grassroots conservatives has not necessarily been translating into significant funding, and so Huck PAC is focusing, at the moment, on building up an army of volunteers:

The former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate this week will boost his political action committee's effort to string together a nationwide web of grass-roots organizers.

That network, with foundation-laying parties set for more than 120 homes Thursday night, is meant to push conservative causes forward and to fight much of the work supported by a similar - and larger - coalition topped by President Barack Obama.


Looking ahead, Huckabee's outfit appears ready to focus less on dollar signs than on door knockers. During his presidential run, Huckabee surprised the political world by stretching his low-budget campaign into a second-place showing, with much of his support swelling up from evangelical Christians and those who favor a national sales tax.

So far, that combination of light wallets and devout followers seems to be propping up Huck PAC.

The PAC has been outpaced both in fundraising and in direct candidate support by that of Romney ... Romney's Free and Strong America PAC, begun roughly at the same time as Huckabee's, spread more than $230,000 to 80 congressional candidates last year. Huckabee spent about $49,000 to support political causes last year, including 30 candidates ranging from Republican presidential nominee John McCain to an Iowa state legislative hopeful.  

Given his relatively small fundraising totals, perhaps what Huckabee needs to generate some cash for his PAC is some new controversial issue he can start hammering away on in order to scare up donations, kind of like he tried to do a few weeks ago with the stimulus bill. 

Maybe something like the Freedom of Choice Act ... and as Marc Ambinder reports, that seems to be exactly what he's doing:

Ex-AR Gov. Mike Huckabee has recorded an automated telephone call warning pro-lifers that Democrats and President Obama plan to eliminate all state and federal laws restricting abortion. The calls have been reported in Virginia and Washington State. The caller identification traces the origin of the recording to a Northern Virginia telephone number, 703-263-0488; that number is used by FiSERV, Inc. an automated call center used by conservative groups. Huckabee's statement refers to the Freedom of Choice Act, which President Obama has promised to sign into law, although it has not yet been introduced in the new Congress. Proponents say the law would simply codify the regime that Roe v. Wade allows and would reduce abortions; opponents insist that it's not constitutional and would effectively reduce the latitude that states have to restrict abortion. A spokesperson for Huckabee's PAC did not return an e-mail seeking comment.

You've got to hand it to Huckabee; for all his talk of bringing a new message to the Republican Party, he sure does have a knack for trotting out the standard right-wing tropes whenever he needs to raise some money or remind everyone that he is still around.

Update: We have been informed by FiSERV that they were not the originator of this call:

In fact, Fiserv was not the originator of those calls, nor are we an automated call center or a telemarketer. Fiserv is the leading technology company for the financial services industry.

We operated a data center in Virginia using that number for incoming calls, but last year we sold that business, and no longer own that number. When we contacted the phone carrier about why our name was still on the caller ID, they said the number is now used by ccAdvertising, who may be conducting the Robocalls. The carrier is working to remove the Fiserv name, as it is not correct.

Did Huckabee Doom Saltsman?

Chip Saltsman was always a long-shot for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee and probably didn't help himself much by trying to woo RNC members by distributing a CD featuring the offensive "Barack the Magic Negro" song and then blaming the whole thing on the media.

But, as it turns out, there might have been other factors at work - namely, the support of Mike Huckabee, who came out with an early and strong endorsement of his former campaign manager and, in doing so, quite possibly doomed his hopes, as Marc Ambinder explains:

Tennessean Chip Saltsman's bid was clipped early on when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee began to make calls on his behalf. As there is no frontrunner for the 2012 nomination - not even Sarah Palin merits that designation - the committee doesn't want to endorse a chairman who is beholden to a particular candidate.

And now that the election is coming down to the wire, Hotline On Call is reporting that Saltsman might not even manage to make it onto the ballot and appears to have all but given up:

Sources say Chip Saltsman, former chairman of Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign, is unlikely to meet the threshold to get on the ballot for Republican National Committee chairman. Rules require each candidate to be endorsed by the majority, or two of three members, of three state delegations. He hasn't been spotted at the committee meeting at the Capital Hilton either.

On Call also reports that supporters of Ken Blackwell, the designated choice of the Religious Right, are already being approached by different candidates' campaigns seeking their support on the assumption that Blackwell will go down early once the voting begins, with one insider saying "He's roadkill."

Right Wing Leftovers

  • How cool is Facebook?  So cool that even the hipsters over at the American Family Association now have their own page.
  • John Hagee writes that he is praying "fervently for [Barack Obama's] success" and calls on the Religious Right, when they disagree with the new president, to do so with "the same civility and respect that he has thus far shown to us."
  • The AP reports that the Arkansas Family Council is trying to intervene in a lawsuit stemming from the recent passage of the law banning gays from adopting children, arguing that the current Attorney General is not supporting of the law and trying to bring in the Alliance Defense Fund to help defend it.
  • Much like the right-wing criticisms that helped sink Mike Huckabee's presidential aspirations, some commentators are now saying that Gov. Bobby Jindal "doesn't actually walk his conservative talk."
  • Phill Klein now has his own website called Stand With Truth where he can share his views:
  • President Obama did not mention abortion once in his inaugural address despite the issue being the most divisive in our nation. Just as President Franklin Pierce did not once mention slavery in his only inaugural address in 1853, less than a decade before the issue plunged the nation to war.

    On abortion, politician Obama has survived through political calculation, deception and with gratitude to a self-indulgent culture full of distraction and willful ignorance. And his first actions have been aggressively opposed to this significant civil rights issue. Yet, President Obama will not escape the judgment of history.

  • Finally, last week we noted that Sen. Orrin Hatch had stepped in to help save Rob Schenck's annual National Service for the Pre-born, allowing it to be held at the new Capitol Visitor Center - now some footage of the event has been put on-line:

Right Wing Leftovers

I'm thinking of starting a new semi-regular feature consisting of some of the things I see during the day that don't necessarily warrant a post of their own but are still worth noting. 

For instance, here is Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin offering up his take on the best and worst things of 2008 - among his "worst" is something that'll get no argument from us:

In addition to the mainstream media, and worthless talk show hosts such as Sean Hannity, I must include the majority of so-called leaders within the Religious Right as making my "worst" list for 2008. I include James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Tony Perkins on this list.

For all intents and purposes, the Religious Right has become nothing more than a gaggle of glorified hacks for the Republican Party. They have sacrificed virtually every principle worth defending. For the sake of sitting at the king's table, or not losing financial support from brain-dead contributors, these men have sold the cause of freedom and constitutional government down the river. Their mindless support for John McCain was inexcusable and embarrassing! In so doing, they have lost all credibility.

Elsewhere, Phyllis Schlafly laments that America is losing its "common national identity" and has a rather odd solution to remedy it:

We should celebrate and honor our nation's heroes, starting with George Washington. Federal law clearly specifies that the name of the "legal public holiday" on the third Monday in February is "Washington's Birthday."

Americans should refuse to buy the calendars that wrongly label this February holiday as "Presidents Day." This calendar mischief is very offensive because there are quite a few presidents who are not worthy of a special "day."

As for Mike Huckabee, he's still traveling the country and delivering speeches at his favorite venue - church:

An ordained Baptist minister, Mike Huckabee was right at home Tuesday night at the pulpit of Community Bible Church.

The former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate was the guest of honor at the church's annual Men's Wildlife Supper, an event that drew an all-male audience of more than 3,500 to the church on Parris Island Gateway.

After dining on a free buffet of alligator tail, wild boar and venison, the crowd packed the church's auditorium as Huckabee delivered an impassioned 45-minute speech with the feel of a Sunday sermon.

"There's a lot of anxiety in the world right now with the economy, and no one is really sure what's going to happen," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen in 2009, but no matter what happens with the economy, God is still God."

Finally, I don't really have anything to say about this graphic from a recent Family Research Council Washington Update other than to say that I think they might be getting a little paranoid:

Huckabee Picks Up Where He Left Off

One of Mike Huckabee’s favorite strategies during his primary campaign was to show up in local churches for Sunday services and speak from the pulpit.  It was something he did repeatedly and he always insisted that he was there to deliver a sermon, not a political speech, though it was often rather difficult to tell the two apart.

Now that he is out on the trail again, this time selling his new book, it looks like he’s dusted off his favorite play from his campaign playbook:

As guest pastor of a Sunday evening church service at Westside Baptist Church, Mike Huckabee wasted no time joking about his unique situation of delivering a sermon as a former politician who once vied for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination … Although Huckabee, 53, told the congregation he wasn't there "to be political," the first 20 minutes of his 40-minute sermon was sprinkled with references to the presidential election and self-deprecating commentary on his own unsuccessful bid to capture the nomination.

In an interview shortly after signing hundreds of copies of his new book, Huckabee, who now keeps busy hosting a weekly Fox News Channel show, said he's taking it one step at a time.

"It's too early to start thinking about that," he said regarding a possible second bid for the presidency.

Of course Huckabee has to say that it’s too early to be thinking about another presidential run, but considering that he ended his new book with a pretty definitive declaration that he intends to make another run, that is a little hard to believe.

And news like this only serves to make it even harder to believe:   

Barack Obama is more than six weeks away from assuming the presidency, and the next Iowa caucuses are more than three years away, but a national poll out Friday suggests that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin top the list of potential 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls.

Huckabee leads in the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Friday. The survey is an early measure of possible support for the next GOP presidential nomination.  

The margin for error in the poll means that Mike Huckabee (34%) is essentially tied with Sarah Palin (32%), but he still comes in ahead of other possible candidates like Mitt Romney (28%), Newt Gingrich (27%), Rudy Giuliani (23%), and Bobby Jindal (19%).

Huckabee's Plan to Limit Government

Following up on the last post about my review of Mike Huckabee's new book, I just wanted to highlight one section from his book regarding his concept of "limited government" that didn't make it into the review because I couldn't figure out how to work it in.

Huckabee, being a conservative, is a big fan of limiting the size of government and thereby lowering taxes but he also realizes that you can't just start slashing taxes if we have societal problems like crime that the government needs taxpayer dollars to deal with. 

Thus, in Huck's view, the key to limiting the size of government is to get people to be better citizens, thereby reducing the need for government programs and funds to deal with the ne'er-do-wells, and thus reducing the overall size of government. As he says:

If we really are serious about wanting less government, lower taxes, and more limited government, it doesn't start with lowering taxes - it starts with raising better kids who will contribute to society rather than financially drain the rest of us.

That makes a certain amount of sense, but one wonders exactly how we are supposed to go about doing that.  It turns out that even Huckabee apparently doesn't know because on the very next page of his book he relates this piece of information:

When I became governor [of Arkansas] in 1996. we had fewer than eight thousand inmates in the care of the Department of Corrections. By the time I left office ten and a half years later, we had more than fourteen thousand and the costs for operating the DOC were more than $220 million.

So Huckabee has apparently figured out that the key to limiting the size of government is to start "raising better kids," yet, in his decade in office, he saw the prison population in his state nearly double.

I don't know about you, but that sort of record doesn't make me particularly eager to give Huckabee an opportunity to try and implement his vague "make people better" agenda on a national scale.

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."

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