Sunday, December 09, 2007

Huckabee Record Raises Critical Questions

The state of the race for the Republican Presidential nomination is not a promising one. It seems like each of the formerly front running candidates are facing perhaps insurmountable problems, and increasingly, the polls show, the GOP electorate is turning to a Baptist minister from Arkansas, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who simply is unqualified to become President of the United States.

Just reviewing the other prominent candidates, John McCain has lost his edge and, at 70, is showing his age. A principled man, he has frequently taken positions unpopular with most Republicans. Mitt Romney has turned out to have flip-flopped on major issues. His speech last week discussing his Mormon religion was widely judged to have been a failure. Rudy Giuliani has personal problems and, while in the front runner position, has not been able to increase his standing in the polls. Rather, he has been in a slow drift downward. Fred Thompson has proved an indifferent and even lazy campaigner. Mostly, he seems over the hill.

Under these circumstances, Huckabee has been getting a run, and now leads in polls regarding the important Iowa caucuses, the Jan. 3 first voting test. Huckabee is personable, an evangelical Christian able to appeal to many evangelicals who are Republicans, and he has received fortunate exposure in a number of debates.

But he kind of sneaked up on people without his record, up to recently, being thoroughly examined. Years ago, when the primaries were strung out over a period of months, there was an opportunity for fresh faces among the candidates to be subject to more scrutiny, and quite often these candidates stumbled when more became known about them. Now, with the primaries being so front loaded that the contests for the party nominations might be decided as early as Feb. 5, there is more of a chance that an unsuitable candidate like Huckabee could emerge as one of the nominees.

Two elements of Huckabee's record as governor, in addition to his almost complete lack of experience in foreign affairs, must certainly give pause to those considering voting for him.

A front page Los Angeles Times story by the careful Richard Serrano yesterday detailed Huckabee's involvement as governor in the parole of a rapist who won his support by claiming to have become a "born again" Christian. Although this man, Wayne DuMond. had demonstrated, at the very least, great personal instability by allegedly castrating himself, possibly as a ploy for mercy on the rape charge, Huckabee seems to have convinced the Arkansas parole board to release him after 14 years in prison based on his supposed religious conversion. DuMond moved to Kansas City and, a year later, murdered at least one woman and possibly two. Both were suffocated.

Today, the New York Times follows up with its own front-page story by Michael Luo. This article, in addition to dealing with the DuMond parole, also notes that Huckabee had, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1992, advocated the quarantining of AIDS victims and described homosexuality as an "aberrant, unnatural and sinful life style" that posed a "dangerous public risk."

In his column yesterday, Tim Rutten of the L.A. Times, questioned whether it was really a good idea, in any event, to make a clergyman President of the U.S.

I think not, especially when one notes that his religious views have led Huckabee into such bizarre policy positions. There are historical cases in which a religious leader has proved an adeph politician, such as Cardinal Wolsey, but, for the most part, the two professions should not cross.

There seems to be some feeling in the Republican party that, because the leading two candidates for the Democratic nomination are a woman, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and a black man, Sen. Barack Obama, the Republican candidate will have a chance, because of voters' biases, even in what normally would be considered a Democratic year.

I'm not prepared to agree this is necessarily the case. I think both Clinton and Obama could be elected.

But it would be viewed as very unfortunate by many voters if they were left a choice next year between a kook on the right and somebody they might view as unacceptable on the left.

Huckabee, according to the developing evidence, may be that kook on the right. It is to be hoped that he doesn't win the Republican nomination, no matter how personable he is.

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