Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jay Rockefeller

A Tea Partier Gets Some Unusual Defenders

Last week I wrote about the entertaining series of stories in which reporters asked Senate Democrats why they didn’t stand with Rand Paul during his filibuster of John Brennan over civil liberties concerns. I noted that congressional Democrats judge foreign policy stands on partisanship alone, and the Democrats’ confused responses to reporters last week signaled they thought reporters were in on the joke.

But there are Democrats outside of government starting to pipe up on the issue of drones and secrecy, and it suggests Paul’s filibuster was even more successful from a publicity standpoint than it seemed at the time. This is because when it began, Paul’s concentration on the seemingly farfetched possibility that the government would drone critics like Jane Fonda as they sat in Starbucks left the initial impression that the filibuster was going to be a political theater of the absurd. But Paul proved many doubters wrong not only by attracting other politicians and rallying support on Twitter, but because the drone-Fonda case highlighted something that made people uneasy: if the federal government couldn’t or wouldn’t clearly deny its right to zap nonviolent people on American soil, was there anything the Obama administration would rule out?

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Last week I wrote about the entertaining series of stories in which reporters asked Senate Democrats why they didn’t stand with Rand Paul during his filibuster of John Brennan over civil liberties concerns. I noted that congressional Democrats judge foreign policy stands on partisanship alone, and the Democrats’ confused responses to reporters last week signaled they thought reporters were in on the joke.

But there are Democrats outside of government starting to pipe up on the issue of drones and secrecy, and it suggests Paul’s filibuster was even more successful from a publicity standpoint than it seemed at the time. This is because when it began, Paul’s concentration on the seemingly farfetched possibility that the government would drone critics like Jane Fonda as they sat in Starbucks left the initial impression that the filibuster was going to be a political theater of the absurd. But Paul proved many doubters wrong not only by attracting other politicians and rallying support on Twitter, but because the drone-Fonda case highlighted something that made people uneasy: if the federal government couldn’t or wouldn’t clearly deny its right to zap nonviolent people on American soil, was there anything the Obama administration would rule out?

And that, in turn, led to many asking a related series of questions: what exactly do we know about the drone program? Does it have limits, and if so, what are they? Why, people wondered, didn’t they know exactly what the federal government’s guidelines are regarding these floating robot assassins suddenly the centerpiece of our anti-terror efforts? Sensing they were losing the spin battle, the White House had Attorney General Eric Holder finally respond with a terse note, basically saying the government cannot drone Fonda. Not good enough, says Jane Harman, a former Democratic congresswoman from California who was the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and is now head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:

Still, the letter left more questions unanswered than answered. Indeed, a simple “no” is hardly reassuring when the policy it supports is not clear.

In the domestic context, drones should never be used against citizens unless there is an armed conflict on U.S. soil….

Only the Federal Aviation Administration has been tasked with reviewing safety of domestic drones – nothing related to legal or security issues….

In the absence of congressional action, more than 30 state legislatures are banning or contemplating bills governing domestic drone use. But we need a national solution – not a fragmentation of state and local laws.

Harman’s CNN.com op-ed is titled “Rand Paul is Right.” In a similar op-ed in the Washington Post, former Bill Clinton chief of staff John Podesta writes that “The Obama administration is wrong” to withhold documents being requested by Congress that would shed light on the secret drone programs. Podesta writes:

It is beyond dispute that some information must be closely held to protect national security and to engage in effective diplomacy, and that unauthorized disclosure can be extraordinarily harmful. But protecting technical means, human sources, operational details and intelligence methods cannot be an excuse for creating secret law to guide our institutions.

In refusing to release to Congress the rules and justifications governing a program that has conducted nearly 400 unmanned drone strikes and killed at least three Americans in the past four years, President Obama is ignoring the system of checks and balances that has governed our country from its earliest days. And in keeping this information from the American people, he is undermining the nation’s ability to be a leader on the world stage and is acting in opposition to the democratic principles we hold most important.

And there is one Senate Democrat who isn’t dropping the issue, either. West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller objected to the freezing-out of Congress in a meeting with President Obama this week, Politico reports. According to those at the meeting, Obama offered a magnificently unserious and contemptuous response: “This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” the president said.

Perhaps the usually humorless Obama was trying awkwardly to make a joke, and just isn’t very funny. But the Democrats in the meeting, especially Rockefeller, weren’t amused. According to Politico, the senators reminded Obama that if he were in the Senate and a Republican were in the White House, he would be outraged by this behavior. Obama apparently acknowledged that, yes, he was being quite hypocritical. Rockefeller also objected to the fact that when he was finally allowed to see a couple of memos in a secure room, the White House sent a babysitter in to watch him.

The White House has tried to make it abundantly clear that they don’t appreciate oversight or transparency from Congress, least of all from members of the president’s own party. But those outside of Congress are starting to feel more comfortable openly challenging the president on executive authority, and going on record in support of Paul. The Kentucky senator is winning a second week’s worth of news cycles on this issue. The president may not consider himself accountable to Paul, but neither can he ignore him.

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Less than Meets the Eye — Again

The thing about Obama is that there is always less than meets the eye. He went to Copenhagen twice, each time with spinners expecting the fix was in and Obama could deliver a huge political win; but there was no game plan; there was no Chicago Olympics or global-warming deal. Obama intends to sweep away Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but not really. There is no executive order. There will be a long study and maybe, sometime, there will be congressional action. Obama had a plan for Iran: prove his bona fides by engagement, pivot to crippling sanctions, and hold military force as an option. Instead, he’s been meandering around in engagement and coming up with mini-sanctions. No cleverly devised plan after all.

Now we hear that the proposal to regulate CO2 by bureaucratic fiat is being whittled down to a mini-gambit that won’t go into effect until after 2010, when, by gosh, we’ll have a new Congress:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge Monday to move slowly on the implementation of upcoming greenhouse gas rules may give cover to some Capitol Hill Democrats to vote against blocking climate rules entirely, according to lobbyists and activists.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to a group of Senate Democrats on Monday that upcoming rules to limit emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities won’t take effect in 2010. She also told the eight Democrats — who mostly hail from coal-producing or coal-reliant states — that the rules will initially be narrower than EPA had planned.

On one level, this is another exercise in cynicism. You see, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has a plan to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But the Hill reports, “One environmental lobbyist said EPA’s action ‘absolutely’ gives Democrats cover to vote against [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s plan by providing time for work on climate legislation.” On the other hand, it’s evidence that the Obami aren’t really equipped to push through much of their radical agenda, so they must resort once again to delay, misdirection, and half-measures to avoid wigging out their base. Still, the EPA’s newest mini-gambit isn’t enough to win over some Democrats, especially those from energy-producing states:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who led the letter to EPA from the eight Democrats, is preparing a bill that would temporarily prevent EPA rules while Congress works on a broader climate and energy bill. He praised EPA’s action but said it hasn’t changed his mind. “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation into the future — this is good progress, but I am concerned it may not go far enough,” Rockefeller said in a prepared statement.

The environmental lobbyists are squawking about the need to “defend science from politics, defend our children’s future from polluters, and defend our economy from the stranglehold of special interests.” Maybe that sort of thing worked better before Climategate, record unemployment, and Obama’s ratings collapse. But now, it reinforces the chasm between Obama’s agenda and his accomplishments. It is further proof that the Obami have a lot of bark and no bite when it comes to reinventing America or putting in a New Foundation, or whatever they call it these days. That’s very good news indeed.

The thing about Obama is that there is always less than meets the eye. He went to Copenhagen twice, each time with spinners expecting the fix was in and Obama could deliver a huge political win; but there was no game plan; there was no Chicago Olympics or global-warming deal. Obama intends to sweep away Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but not really. There is no executive order. There will be a long study and maybe, sometime, there will be congressional action. Obama had a plan for Iran: prove his bona fides by engagement, pivot to crippling sanctions, and hold military force as an option. Instead, he’s been meandering around in engagement and coming up with mini-sanctions. No cleverly devised plan after all.

Now we hear that the proposal to regulate CO2 by bureaucratic fiat is being whittled down to a mini-gambit that won’t go into effect until after 2010, when, by gosh, we’ll have a new Congress:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge Monday to move slowly on the implementation of upcoming greenhouse gas rules may give cover to some Capitol Hill Democrats to vote against blocking climate rules entirely, according to lobbyists and activists.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to a group of Senate Democrats on Monday that upcoming rules to limit emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities won’t take effect in 2010. She also told the eight Democrats — who mostly hail from coal-producing or coal-reliant states — that the rules will initially be narrower than EPA had planned.

On one level, this is another exercise in cynicism. You see, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has a plan to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But the Hill reports, “One environmental lobbyist said EPA’s action ‘absolutely’ gives Democrats cover to vote against [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s plan by providing time for work on climate legislation.” On the other hand, it’s evidence that the Obami aren’t really equipped to push through much of their radical agenda, so they must resort once again to delay, misdirection, and half-measures to avoid wigging out their base. Still, the EPA’s newest mini-gambit isn’t enough to win over some Democrats, especially those from energy-producing states:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who led the letter to EPA from the eight Democrats, is preparing a bill that would temporarily prevent EPA rules while Congress works on a broader climate and energy bill. He praised EPA’s action but said it hasn’t changed his mind. “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation into the future — this is good progress, but I am concerned it may not go far enough,” Rockefeller said in a prepared statement.

The environmental lobbyists are squawking about the need to “defend science from politics, defend our children’s future from polluters, and defend our economy from the stranglehold of special interests.” Maybe that sort of thing worked better before Climategate, record unemployment, and Obama’s ratings collapse. But now, it reinforces the chasm between Obama’s agenda and his accomplishments. It is further proof that the Obami have a lot of bark and no bite when it comes to reinventing America or putting in a New Foundation, or whatever they call it these days. That’s very good news indeed.

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Obama’s Own Begin to Turn on Him

When a presidency and an agenda are collapsing at the rate that President Obama’s are, it isn’t long before his party begins to distance itself from him. We’ve seen plenty of signs of this lately. Politico.com has a story today titled “Family feud: Nancy Pelosi at odds with President Obama.” According to the story:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s increasingly public disagreements with President Barack Obama are a reflection of something deeper: the seething resentment some Democrats feel over what they see as cavalier treatment from a wounded White House.

Then there are the comments by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who said, “He [Obama] says ‘I’m for clean coal,’ and then he says it in his speeches, but he doesn’t say it in here. And he doesn’t say it in the minds of my own people. And he’s beginning to not be believable to me.”

Much of what President Obama has said hasn’t been believable to many of us for quite some time now. But when influential figures in a president’s own party begin to make statements such as these — especially when you’re only 13 months into a presidency — it’s clear that things are beginning to become a bit unglued. Party discipline is tossed aside; the intra-party sniping makes the situation even worse. And the vicious cycle Democrats are caught in merely accelerates.

It has dawned on many Democrats that in hitching their fortunes to Obama and Obamaism, they have put themselves at enormous political risk. They are all complicit in this; Obama himself outsourced much of his agenda to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The entire Democratic establishment is the architect of what is shaping up as an epic political failure. But Mr. Obama is head of the Democratic party, and so the responsibility lies with him more than with anyone else. He is primus inter pares. And he is now, with every passing week, the target of their unhappiness. More is sure to follow.

This isn’t going to end well for them.

When a presidency and an agenda are collapsing at the rate that President Obama’s are, it isn’t long before his party begins to distance itself from him. We’ve seen plenty of signs of this lately. Politico.com has a story today titled “Family feud: Nancy Pelosi at odds with President Obama.” According to the story:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s increasingly public disagreements with President Barack Obama are a reflection of something deeper: the seething resentment some Democrats feel over what they see as cavalier treatment from a wounded White House.

Then there are the comments by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who said, “He [Obama] says ‘I’m for clean coal,’ and then he says it in his speeches, but he doesn’t say it in here. And he doesn’t say it in the minds of my own people. And he’s beginning to not be believable to me.”

Much of what President Obama has said hasn’t been believable to many of us for quite some time now. But when influential figures in a president’s own party begin to make statements such as these — especially when you’re only 13 months into a presidency — it’s clear that things are beginning to become a bit unglued. Party discipline is tossed aside; the intra-party sniping makes the situation even worse. And the vicious cycle Democrats are caught in merely accelerates.

It has dawned on many Democrats that in hitching their fortunes to Obama and Obamaism, they have put themselves at enormous political risk. They are all complicit in this; Obama himself outsourced much of his agenda to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The entire Democratic establishment is the architect of what is shaping up as an epic political failure. But Mr. Obama is head of the Democratic party, and so the responsibility lies with him more than with anyone else. He is primus inter pares. And he is now, with every passing week, the target of their unhappiness. More is sure to follow.

This isn’t going to end well for them.

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Apology Time, Or Not

Mike Huckabee made a remarkably stupid joke at the NRA convention about Barack Obama. To no one’s surprise, he apologized within twenty-four hours.

Senator Tom Harkin criticized John McCain for his and his family’s apparently excessive time in military service:

“I think he’s trapped in that . . .Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous. . . [I]t’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up. . . I just want to be very clear there’s nothing wrong with a career in the military . . . But now McCain is running for a higher office. He’s running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian. And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don’t know if they need a whole lot.”

Yes, I suppose it would have been far better had George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower not had all that military training. So far, nothing from either Harkin or the presumptive Democratic nominee apologizing for impugning all that service to America.

The Left’s reflexive disdain for all things military has not endeared them to average Americans in the past. Obama, who let Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s jibe at McCain’s military service go without a direct rebuke, should decide if he wants to perpetuate this error. For a candidate who has generated concern about his willingness to express patriotic emotion (and who seems divorced at times from the cultural values held by millions of Americans), it might be a good idea for him to start repudiating these comments.

Oh, I forgot . . . absent an appearance at the National Press Club by the offending speaker, he doesn’t do repudiation.

Mike Huckabee made a remarkably stupid joke at the NRA convention about Barack Obama. To no one’s surprise, he apologized within twenty-four hours.

Senator Tom Harkin criticized John McCain for his and his family’s apparently excessive time in military service:

“I think he’s trapped in that . . .Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous. . . [I]t’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up. . . I just want to be very clear there’s nothing wrong with a career in the military . . . But now McCain is running for a higher office. He’s running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian. And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don’t know if they need a whole lot.”

Yes, I suppose it would have been far better had George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower not had all that military training. So far, nothing from either Harkin or the presumptive Democratic nominee apologizing for impugning all that service to America.

The Left’s reflexive disdain for all things military has not endeared them to average Americans in the past. Obama, who let Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s jibe at McCain’s military service go without a direct rebuke, should decide if he wants to perpetuate this error. For a candidate who has generated concern about his willingness to express patriotic emotion (and who seems divorced at times from the cultural values held by millions of Americans), it might be a good idea for him to start repudiating these comments.

Oh, I forgot . . . absent an appearance at the National Press Club by the offending speaker, he doesn’t do repudiation.

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What Can They Call McCain?

On a recent radio show John McCain said

I detest war . . .It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description … Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war.

Indeed, he should know.

With McCain as the presumptive Republican nominee, the call for the President’s daughters to suit up and go into combat has probably been sounded for the last time. The same goes for the charge that the President is a “chickenhawk,” or a war-hungry “armchair general” who’s avoided combat in his own life. Because those two “points” can find no purchase when applied to McCain’s support for the Iraq War, they have finally been excised from the Iraq discussion. And not a moment too soon.

A cause is rendered just or unjust based on considerations intrinsic to that cause, not because Jenna Bush isn’t a soldier—or because Joseph Stalin’s son was one, and not because those who decide to fight have not themselves necessarily seen battle.

The anti-war crowd that cries “chickenhawk” subscribes to the fallacy that people who have seen war would never again support combat. What’s most interesting about John McCain’s quote is the “might not” part. McCain–who never discusses his own son’s service in Iraq–understands that there are things worse than war. Tyranny without end perhaps being one of them. While that’s very easy for me to type, it can’t be easy for McCain to say. With the exception of Senator Jay Rockefeller, no one has questioned McCain’s firsthand war experience, and no one can call for him to “send” his own children into Iraq. John McCain’s presence in the presidential race can be credited with ridding us of some of the more frivolous aspects of the Iraq discussion and getting the public to focus on the cause itself.

On a recent radio show John McCain said

I detest war . . .It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description … Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war.

Indeed, he should know.

With McCain as the presumptive Republican nominee, the call for the President’s daughters to suit up and go into combat has probably been sounded for the last time. The same goes for the charge that the President is a “chickenhawk,” or a war-hungry “armchair general” who’s avoided combat in his own life. Because those two “points” can find no purchase when applied to McCain’s support for the Iraq War, they have finally been excised from the Iraq discussion. And not a moment too soon.

A cause is rendered just or unjust based on considerations intrinsic to that cause, not because Jenna Bush isn’t a soldier—or because Joseph Stalin’s son was one, and not because those who decide to fight have not themselves necessarily seen battle.

The anti-war crowd that cries “chickenhawk” subscribes to the fallacy that people who have seen war would never again support combat. What’s most interesting about John McCain’s quote is the “might not” part. McCain–who never discusses his own son’s service in Iraq–understands that there are things worse than war. Tyranny without end perhaps being one of them. While that’s very easy for me to type, it can’t be easy for McCain to say. With the exception of Senator Jay Rockefeller, no one has questioned McCain’s firsthand war experience, and no one can call for him to “send” his own children into Iraq. John McCain’s presence in the presidential race can be credited with ridding us of some of the more frivolous aspects of the Iraq discussion and getting the public to focus on the cause itself.

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Another Chapter In The Battle For The Narrative

John McCain is not accepting “uncle” from the likes of Sen. Jay Rockefeller. In a Fox interview he turns up the heat on the candidate himself:

I don’t understand that but I would call upon Senator Obama to repudiate Senator Rockefeller’s remarks. If he is surrounded by people like that, than I think he should have a direct repudiation. I frankly am unfamiliar with that rhetoric by a U.S. senator. I do believe that if Senator Obama is going to maintain the type of campaign that he says that he is–a respectful campaign–and this is one of his closest and strongest supporters, than I think he should repudiate Senator Rockefeller. Immediately.

And he’s not letting go of the “100 year” comment fight, clearly believing he can turn the tables on Obama:

It’s not respectful of the commitment that Senator Obama made. He continues to say it. Anyone who reads the context of my remarks knows that I was talking about after the war–a security relationship . . . so it’s really a direct contradiction of Senator Obama’s stated purpose of conducting a respectful campaign. And I think the American people will evaluate that.

Whether accurately or not, the McCain team seems convinced that Obama is banking on his crossover appeal to general election voters as a “new kind of politician.” It is not a bad supposition, given the emphasis Obama has placed on this theme in the primary race. It follows then that McCain will take every opportunity to try to smudge up that image and suggest Obama is “more of the same.” So long as Obama and his surrogates give McCain material, you can bet they will use it. We’ll see whether Obama “blinks” on these issues, either apologizing about Rockfeller himself or getting off the “100 year” refrain. I suspect he won’t.  And that will be just fine with the McCain camp.

John McCain is not accepting “uncle” from the likes of Sen. Jay Rockefeller. In a Fox interview he turns up the heat on the candidate himself:

I don’t understand that but I would call upon Senator Obama to repudiate Senator Rockefeller’s remarks. If he is surrounded by people like that, than I think he should have a direct repudiation. I frankly am unfamiliar with that rhetoric by a U.S. senator. I do believe that if Senator Obama is going to maintain the type of campaign that he says that he is–a respectful campaign–and this is one of his closest and strongest supporters, than I think he should repudiate Senator Rockefeller. Immediately.

And he’s not letting go of the “100 year” comment fight, clearly believing he can turn the tables on Obama:

It’s not respectful of the commitment that Senator Obama made. He continues to say it. Anyone who reads the context of my remarks knows that I was talking about after the war–a security relationship . . . so it’s really a direct contradiction of Senator Obama’s stated purpose of conducting a respectful campaign. And I think the American people will evaluate that.

Whether accurately or not, the McCain team seems convinced that Obama is banking on his crossover appeal to general election voters as a “new kind of politician.” It is not a bad supposition, given the emphasis Obama has placed on this theme in the primary race. It follows then that McCain will take every opportunity to try to smudge up that image and suggest Obama is “more of the same.” So long as Obama and his surrogates give McCain material, you can bet they will use it. We’ll see whether Obama “blinks” on these issues, either apologizing about Rockfeller himself or getting off the “100 year” refrain. I suspect he won’t.  And that will be just fine with the McCain camp.

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William Jennings Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s silver-tongued performance at the October 18 Values Voters forum in Washington, DC, together with his rising poll numbers in Iowa where he is in second place, has shaken up the GOP. Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who’s never needed to employ a speechwriter, was greeted with a standing ovation. In what has to be the first ever presidential candidate shout-out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Huckabee made his case for the little guy. “It’s a lot better to be with David than Goliath,” he declared. “Or with Elijah than 850 prophets of Baal. Or with Daniel and the lions than the Babylonians.”

Huckabee drew sustained applause when he told the crowd that “We do not have the right to move God’s standard to meet the cultural norm but we need to move the cultural norm to meet God’s standards.” But he struck a note with broader appeal when he drew laughter and applause by telling the crowd, “It is high time for us to tell Saudi Arabia that in ten years we will have as much interest in their oil as their sand; they can keep both of them.” “For too long,” he continued, “we have financed both sides of the war on terrorism; our tax dollars pay for our military to fight it and our oil dollars—every time you fill the tank—is turned into the madrasahs that teach terrorists and the money that funds them.”

Taking a shot at Mitt Romney, he drew cheers when, speaking in the cadences of a man at the pulpit, he insisted “it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language.” The argument took. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council concluded that Huckabee “comes out of here clearly as a favorite.” The rank and file attendees concurred. In an event where all the major candidates spoke, Huckabee was the runaway winner with 50 percent support (with Romney a distant second at 10 percent).

Huckabee’s rise has brought a sharp response from some (like conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly) who consider him too soft on illegal immigration. But the big guns have been fired by low-tax, free-trade, business Republicans (such as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth) who are mindful of Huckabee’s verbal volleys aimed at the financial sector’s sizable profits. These Republicans don’t see how Huckabee, who has expressed some doubts about free trade, can win the top spot. Still, they fear that he has established himself as a strong candidate for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket, where he could alienate the fiscally conservative swing voters who deserted the GOP in 2006.

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Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s silver-tongued performance at the October 18 Values Voters forum in Washington, DC, together with his rising poll numbers in Iowa where he is in second place, has shaken up the GOP. Huckabee, a Baptist preacher who’s never needed to employ a speechwriter, was greeted with a standing ovation. In what has to be the first ever presidential candidate shout-out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Huckabee made his case for the little guy. “It’s a lot better to be with David than Goliath,” he declared. “Or with Elijah than 850 prophets of Baal. Or with Daniel and the lions than the Babylonians.”

Huckabee drew sustained applause when he told the crowd that “We do not have the right to move God’s standard to meet the cultural norm but we need to move the cultural norm to meet God’s standards.” But he struck a note with broader appeal when he drew laughter and applause by telling the crowd, “It is high time for us to tell Saudi Arabia that in ten years we will have as much interest in their oil as their sand; they can keep both of them.” “For too long,” he continued, “we have financed both sides of the war on terrorism; our tax dollars pay for our military to fight it and our oil dollars—every time you fill the tank—is turned into the madrasahs that teach terrorists and the money that funds them.”

Taking a shot at Mitt Romney, he drew cheers when, speaking in the cadences of a man at the pulpit, he insisted “it’s important that the language of Zion is a mother tongue and not a recently acquired second language.” The argument took. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council concluded that Huckabee “comes out of here clearly as a favorite.” The rank and file attendees concurred. In an event where all the major candidates spoke, Huckabee was the runaway winner with 50 percent support (with Romney a distant second at 10 percent).

Huckabee’s rise has brought a sharp response from some (like conservative doyenne Phyllis Schlafly) who consider him too soft on illegal immigration. But the big guns have been fired by low-tax, free-trade, business Republicans (such as John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth) who are mindful of Huckabee’s verbal volleys aimed at the financial sector’s sizable profits. These Republicans don’t see how Huckabee, who has expressed some doubts about free trade, can win the top spot. Still, they fear that he has established himself as a strong candidate for the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket, where he could alienate the fiscally conservative swing voters who deserted the GOP in 2006.

Pat Toomey argues that Huckabee’s record as governor (he oversaw an increase in taxes, including those on sales, gas, grocery, and nursing home beds, producing a 47 percent overall tax hike) should disqualify him from national consideration. John Fund, who knows Huckabee well, strikes a similar note, and adds that Huckabee, “who was the only GOP candidate to refuse to endorse President Bush’s veto of the Democrats’ bill to vastly expand the SCHIP health-care program” has scant support from Republicans who served in the legislature when he was governor.

Rich Lowry, of National Review, has described Huckabee as a cross between the famous early 20th century preacher Billy Sunday and Ronald Reagan. But with Huckabee’s talk of applied Christianity, the early 20th century figure he most closely resembles is the great populist orator in the cause of Free Silver, William Jennings Bryan. Three times the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Bryan, “The Great Commoner,” with his blend of fervent but tolerant Christianity, his distrust of the banks, and his economic egalitarianism, was the hero of Great Plains and Southern Democrats.

The migration of liberal, Eastern Establishment Republicans like Ned Lamont and Jay Rockefeller into the Democratic camp has made the modern Dems into the party of a noblesse oblige-accented gentry liberalism that repels upwardly mobile middle- and lower-middle-class whites. But while blue collar religious whites are an uncomfortable fit with the modern Democratic Party, the deeply religious former Southern Democrats who have migrated into the GOP camp make for an uneasy fit with traditional Republican business interests. It’s not surprising then that a new Bryan—of sorts—has arisen to represent an important if relatively recent GOP constituency.

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