At a local function, I stalked Mike Huckabee to within about 2 feet. We shook hands and had a brief chat. Huckabee wants the 2016 presidential nomination, just as he did in 2008 when he started strong and dropped out in March. He skipped 2012.
We’re about the same height, around six feet. Huckabee would be a shade taller were it not for being slightly bent over with a rounded upper back, a condition usually seen in much older people. Huckabee is 59. He’s bigger than you might think, and later, during a Question and Answer session, admitted to fighting a weight problem for a number of years. He talked of losing 100 pounds back in 2003, after a health scare from something he described as “the opposite of diabetes.” He was actually diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, after his weight had ballooned to as high as 300 pounds. He was told to change his health habits or accept the inevitable within a decade.
His net worth is around $5 million, but he manages to come off as one of the guys. We talked mostly about Elizabeth Warren. He doesn’t think she’ll run. He said he really likes her, even though he agrees with virtually nothing she stands for politically. He then headed off to the afternoon’s campaign speech and follow-up questions.
His campaigning style is highly avuncular, preaching gently to his flock. Not unexpected, given his background as a Baptist Minister. I took a seat at the back of the auditorium of the city campus of a community college. The lady running the whole shindig requested that I move up closer to the front. She obviously wanted to avoid media shots that would look like the reality that there was a half-full venue. Subsequent print coverage showed the candidate and a supporter taking a selfie at a local drive-in.
Huckabee gave some brief and humorous opening remarks, then answered questions from a carefully selected panel and a few twitter inquiries from a live-streamed site.
The panel was made up of slick TV, political and print folks, familiar with the skeletal facts of an issue, but not prepared to go in-depth. The wife of one panelist worked in the Bush White House. Another was a high-profile Republican State Representative, a third knew Huckabee’s adult daughter, Sarah, who had just presented the candidate with his fifth grandchild a few days earlier.
All the questions were pure fluff with tepid follow-ups It was Huckabee who provided the surprises.
In his brief speech, Huckabee said, “I’ll stand out from the crowded field because I’m a better quarterback who plays a better game.” He also likened himself to a veteran pilot flying into a thunderstorm as opposed to a first-time left-seater. He ended his talk by emphasizing the “Constancy of Biblical Truths.” Say whaaaa???
Huckabee was especially exercised over what he considered a misquote when accused of having said, “Women cannot control their libido.” His actual wording, in referring to women, was “they cannot control their libido.” So he effectively said the line, but was implying that’s what Democratic legislators believed. He referred to Democrats as “Uncle Sugar.” Huckabee actually accused the Democrats of insulting women by offering them birth control because “they cannot control their libido or their reproduction system without the help of the government.” That’s what he said and it’s been haunting him since he first uttered the nonsensical verbiage in January of 2014.
Read more of the story here. Try to find any Democrat who made that comment or anything remotely resembling that comment.
On the issue of education, “We get a lot of intrusion from Washington”, he doesn’t think there’s a federal role in education. He’d eliminate the Department of Education. For educating America’s children, his pecking order is, the mother and father, local school boards and state legislatures. Parents can home school or ship their kids out to whatever public or private school suits them; with vouchers, choice and public tax credits, of course, for the later. He doesn’t believe in evolution, but thinks prayer in school is great use of a youngster’s time. Nothing about doing whatever it takes to make all public schools equal centers of quality learning and preparation for life. Voters, the word of the day is “C H A O S.”
For being such a well-met fellow, there is an edge of insidiousness about the man. He’ll take a statement or issue and twist it way out of context. Learned that during his stint at Fox News, no doubt. The libido misdirection is one example, here’s another. When asked about his stand on raising the minimum wage, he blamed Democrats for not pushing for a “maximum” wage. He accused Congressional dems of selling workers short by only recommending a minimum wage of $12 dollars by 2020. He said that wouldn’t provide much support for a family. He added Democrats should be pushing for $30 an hour. He scolded liberal’s children majoring in ‘humanities’ in college. He said they should be studying for jobs that pay big bucks. OK, let’s tear this simplistic drivel apart.
There are about 145 million jobs in the U.S. Roughly 120 million are in the service sector. Some pay quite well, most don’t. The kind of work Huckabee is talking about, largely in the tech sector, is being farmed out to other countries so corporations don’t have to pay the wages he professes to support.
The big money in today’s society is through investments. Ten percent of the population controls eighty percent of investments. As for the working stiff, after adjusting for inflation, today’s average hourly wage has virtually the same purchasing power as it did in 1979. Yes, 1979! His response was an insult to the intelligence of thinking men and woman and a handy excuse to oppose any hike in the minimum wage. An increasing number of states are left to take up the cause.
There’s also the matter of Huckabee’s claim of being beloved at the polls by African-Americans. For years, he has claimed that in his first run for the governor’s office, he received 48% of the black vote. Of course, the sycophantic (and still uninformed) panel sat closed-mouthed, letting the claim slide by as gospel. Fact: the number is based on exit polling. Fact: academics, after studying the polling say the number is closer to 20%, though they do give Huckabee credit for lowering the racial temperature in historically racist Arkansas. Huckabee also appointed hundreds of blacks to state positions, though the total was still three percent below the African-American state population percentage.
The most bewildering part of the whole experience was the right-wing, anti-tax audience reaction when the candidate shared the fact that he had raised taxes to fund roads and infrastructure. At the end of this part of his spiel, the audience applauded enthusiastically, just as they did when he uncharacteristically told legislators not to mess with social security and Medicare.
Odd! Of course, most Republicans are odd.
Final analysis: I’d have a beer with the guy, toast the ten commandments and exchange humorous anecdotes, knowing he has as much chance of winning in ’16 as he did in ’08.