Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mike Huckabee

Do Early 2016 Polls Matter? For Democrats, Not Republicans

There’s a strange asymmetry to the 2016 presidential primary polls. For the Democrats, the polls actually matter, or at least tell us something important. Hillary Clinton’s dominance over her rivals has led to some recalling the “inevitability” narrative in 2008 that was, of course, shattered by Barack Obama. But the polls that showed Clinton ahead in those days weren’t as lopsided, and the path wasn’t quite so clear. It’s true that there’s no such thing as a sure thing, but Clinton’s chances of cruising to the nomination are much better this time around.

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There’s a strange asymmetry to the 2016 presidential primary polls. For the Democrats, the polls actually matter, or at least tell us something important. Hillary Clinton’s dominance over her rivals has led to some recalling the “inevitability” narrative in 2008 that was, of course, shattered by Barack Obama. But the polls that showed Clinton ahead in those days weren’t as lopsided, and the path wasn’t quite so clear. It’s true that there’s no such thing as a sure thing, but Clinton’s chances of cruising to the nomination are much better this time around.

Additionally, the polls tell us something else: Democratic voters are not interested in nominating Joe Biden. That’s significant this time if only because he’s the sitting vice president, and therefore has some claim to be next in line. It also means he has high name recognition, which is the key to leading such early polls. (Although it’s worth pointing out that if this Jimmy Kimmel man-on-the-street experiment is any indication, Biden has lower name recognition than you might otherwise think.)

Name recognition, in fact, is basically both the question and answer to deciphering such early polls. So while it’s the reason polls showing Clinton in the lead are worth paying attention to, it’s simultaneously the reason polls of the Republican side of the equation are meaningless. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll makes this point pretty clearly:

Hillary Clinton continues to hold a commanding lead in the potential Democratic field for president in 2016, while the GOP frontrunner in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll is a familiar figure – but one not favored by eight in 10 potential Republican voters.

That would be Mitt Romney, supported for the GOP nomination by 21 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. That’s double the support of his closest potential rival, but it also leaves 79 percent who prefer one of 13 other possible candidates tested, or none of them.

But what happens when you remove Romney’s name from contention and ask his supporters the same question? This:

When Romney is excluded from the race, his supporters scatter, adding no clarity to the GOP free-for-all. In that scenario former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have 12 or 13 percent support from leaned Republicans who are registered to vote. All others have support in the single digits.

As I wrote last month on Republicans and name recognition:

Take this summer poll from Gallup on the public’s familiarity with 2016 candidates. The only two Republicans to crack 60 percent were Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. … If he wins reelection in Wisconsin, Scott Walker would be considered among the GOP’s strongest candidates (on paper at least, which is all we have so far for the newbies). … Yet Gallup found Walker with the lowest familiarity of any of the GOP candidates, at just 34 percent.

Similarly, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal–the human résumé–was at just 38 percent. Huckabee was at 54 percent, higher than previous candidate Rick Santorum (but lower than Rick Perry) as well as all the non-previous candidates except Christie, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul, who was at 55 percent. Huckabee also tied Christie for the highest favorability rating in that poll.

Now look at the new ABC/WaPo poll. There’s Huckabee, along with Jeb Bush and Rand Paul plus Romney at the top. Name recognition still roughly determines the outline of the race.

And that brings up another reason these polls aren’t much help: the actual makeup of the field when the primaries get under way. It’s doubtful Romney will run again. Huckabee is far from a sure thing to run again. Jeb Bush is probably more likely than not to pass as well, considering the fact that Christie still appears to be running and so does Bush’s fellow Floridian Marco Rubio.

Yet according to the ABC/WaPo poll, the top three vote getters on the GOP side are … Romney, Bush, and Huckabee. The pollsters took Romney out of the lineup to get a better sense of where Romney’s support was coming from (leaving Bush and Huckabee still in the top three), but they might have done better taking all three out of an additional question and seeing where the field would be without them. Rand Paul is the top voter-getter among those who either haven’t previously run for president or whose last name isn’t Bush.

After that, it gets more interesting–but not by much. Paul Ryan is a popular choice, but that’s name recognition as well since he ran on the 2012 national ticket. He also doesn’t seem all that enthusiastic about a run for president. If he doesn’t run, that means there’s a good chance three of the top four vote getters in the Romney-free version of the poll aren’t running, leaving Romney’s supporters without any of their favored candidates except Rand Paul.

Here’s another such poll, this one of Iowa voters from last week. The top two choices are Romney and Ben Carson, followed by Paul, Huckabee, and Ryan. Perhaps Romney really is running and Carson is a strong sleeper pick. But I doubt it on both counts. I also doubt Romney would win Iowa even if he ran, no matter what the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll says.

This is an indication of how wide-open the race is on the GOP side. But not much else. And the polls should be treated that way.

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The Ever-Expanding 2016 GOP Field

The nature of the GOP’s nominating race for 2016 is such that good polls for some potential candidates are also tempting for others not yet included in the polls. For example, the most recent polling on Iowa, which Jonathan wrote about last week, showed Mike Huckabee with a healthy lead. Early polls are about name recognition, so they can only be taken so far. Nonetheless, candidates who have already built name recognition by running in the past can’t help but notice the value of such recognition when some of their strongest competitors are, theoretically, relative unknowns nationwide.

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The nature of the GOP’s nominating race for 2016 is such that good polls for some potential candidates are also tempting for others not yet included in the polls. For example, the most recent polling on Iowa, which Jonathan wrote about last week, showed Mike Huckabee with a healthy lead. Early polls are about name recognition, so they can only be taken so far. Nonetheless, candidates who have already built name recognition by running in the past can’t help but notice the value of such recognition when some of their strongest competitors are, theoretically, relative unknowns nationwide.

Take this summer poll from Gallup on the public’s familiarity with 2016 candidates. The only two Republicans to crack 60 percent were Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. Other than those two, the potential candidates who had run presidential campaigns in the past tended to score higher than those who haven’t yet run–a quite logical finding. If he wins reelection in Wisconsin, Scott Walker would be considered among the GOP’s strongest candidates (on paper at least, which is all we have so far for the newbies). Walker was involved in a high-stakes national issue: the fight over public unions. And thanks to that, he was subject to a recall election that saw national press and mobilized national liberal groups. Yet Gallup found Walker with the lowest familiarity of any of the GOP candidates, at just 34 percent.

Similarly, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal–the human résumé–was at just 38 percent. Huckabee was at 54 percent, higher than previous candidate Rick Santorum (but lower than Rick Perry) as well as all the non-previous candidates except Christie, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul, who was at 55 percent. Huckabee also tied Christie for the highest favorability rating in that poll.

And that poll didn’t even include Mitt Romney, who shows up leading New Hampshire polls for the same reason Huckabee polls well in Iowa. And while a Romney candidacy would certainly have its cheerleaders, Huckabee is talking openly about testing those polls:

The Republican told a group of reporters on Monday over coffee at a restaurant just outside of D.C. that he learned from his failed 2008 bid that he can’t take money and fundraising for granted, even though he is leading in GOP early primary state polls.

Huckabee says he will make a decision early next year about another presidential run but noted he’s in a “different place than I was eight years ago,” due to a lucrative career as a Fox News and radio show host.

That career has also opened the door to meetings with donors he said he wouldn’t have gotten in 2008. Then, they’d say, “Who are you? How do you spell your name?”

In fact, Huckabee said he’s in talks with donors, and, “with a lot of people, it’s [going] pretty good.” He pointed to the nonprofit, America Takes Action, which he recently set up that, he says, has already raised seven figures.

“Not a single person I’ve asked [to contribute to the group] has said no,” he told reporters.

Huckabee had a decent run for an underdog in 2008 and he has a natural constituency, as well as an amiability that translates into votes. The same cannot be said for another retread who is the subject of speculation: former Utah governor Jon Huntsman.

Huntsman has a few things going for him: he’s got gubernatorial experience as well as foreign-policy chops from his time as ambassador to China, and he has considerable financial resources at his disposal. But unlike Huckabee, outside of the media Huntsman has no natural base (and the reporters who love him will vote for Hillary anyway in the general). And also unlike Huckabee, Huntsman is almost shockingly unlikeable for a politician.

Huntsman has a general disposition that is about as pleasant as nails on a chalkboard. He does not like Republican voters, and he does not want them to think otherwise. The feeling is mutual: Huntsman’s numbers from 2012 suggest the pool of Huntsman voters is made up entirely of people who are either named Huntsman or owe him money.

And then there is Jindal, a smart, wonky conservative with executive experience and a strong command of the issues. Jindal’s name recognition is so low that he’s forced to be less coy than others about his possible presidential ambitions:

“There’s no reason to be coy,” Jindal said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “I am thinking, I am praying about whether I’ll run in 2016. I said I won’t make that decision until after November.”

Jindal has certain strengths: he’s as smart as Huntsman pretends he is, for starters. And he’s far from insufferable about it: he doesn’t project arrogance, just competence. He’s been twice elected governor of Louisiana, so he has experience on the campaign trail. He’s proved himself in a crisis. And he seems to genuinely like interacting with voters.

But his competition would include another impressive, reformist conservative governor in Scott Walker; other young conservatives with poise and presence, like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and possibly Ted Cruz; and more experienced social conservatives such as, potentially, Huckabee, Rick Perry, and perhaps Mike Pence. The question, then, is whether Jindal could find some way to stand out from the pack. And with polls like those we’ve seen so far, that roster of rivals is likely to keep expanding.

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Deep Bench? None in GOP Stand Out for ’16

Paying attention to presidential polls two years in advance can be something of a sucker’s game. We are a long way from intense campaigning, let alone voting, which means such polls tend to be more about name recognition than anything else. Yet the latest poll of Iowa Republicans about 2016 makes it hard to avoid some hard conclusions about the nature of the race and the roster of possible candidates. While Democrats still appear to be ready to coronate Hillary Clinton as their nominee, the Republican race really is wide open. For the first time in recent memory, there really will be no one who can be considered a frontrunner.

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Paying attention to presidential polls two years in advance can be something of a sucker’s game. We are a long way from intense campaigning, let alone voting, which means such polls tend to be more about name recognition than anything else. Yet the latest poll of Iowa Republicans about 2016 makes it hard to avoid some hard conclusions about the nature of the race and the roster of possible candidates. While Democrats still appear to be ready to coronate Hillary Clinton as their nominee, the Republican race really is wide open. For the first time in recent memory, there really will be no one who can be considered a frontrunner.

The Iowa poll confirms the cliché about name recognition since the runaway leader in the survey of possible GOP presidential candidates is Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor has been a favorite in the Hawkeye State since winning the caucus there in 2008. But it’s been several years since the talk show was active politically and there is no indication that he will run. If we eliminate him we see that the leader is Rep. Paul Ryan with only 12 percent supporting him. The rest of the field is in single digits with none of the big names, such as Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, or Rick Perry making much of an impact. Nor has Rick Santorum, who won Iowa in 2012 in a huge upset after months of beating the bushes in rural counties, retained much support as he comes in as the preference of only three percent.

There’s good news and bad news for Republicans in these poll figures.

The good news is that 2016 shapes up to be a competitive and interesting race. No imposing frontrunner with deep pockets will be there to scare off talented candidates who want to test the waters. The GOP has to hope that in contrast to the chaos of 2012, with a more rational debate and primary schedule this time, the party will be able to run a competitive race that will produce a presidential candidate with the political moxie to effectively challenge Hillary Clinton.

The bad news is that although Republicans have spent much of the last two years bragging about their deep political bench, the roster of GOP presidential wannabes may not be as bright as they thought. By this time, somebody in the field should have been capable of impressing early state voters and caucus-goers as a potential keeper. But so far, none seems to stand out in contrast to the others.

Each would-be candidate has had his ups and downs. Christie might have been in a very strong position by now but Bridgegate derailed his potential juggernaut. Paul remains a strong candidate but ISIS and various other global crises have made his neo-isolationism a lot less attractive to the GOP mainstream. Rubio had a bad 2013 and the conservative base may never forgive him for backing an immigration reform bill. The others haven’t broken through yet and even old familiar names like Jeb Bush don’t seem to be attracting more than token support.

While this is good news for journalists who love a close horse race, it needs to be emphasized that this is really unexplored territory for Republicans who have a historical tradition of liking front-runners, especially those who have run and lost before. You have to go back to 1940 when dark horse Wendell Wilkie edged New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey to get the right to oppose Franklin D. Roosevelt’s bid for a third term to find a GOP presidential race that was as wide open as the one we will witness in 2016. In every presidential contest since then, there has been at least one or two genuine frontrunner types or former candidates who dominate the race. That means that whoever does emerge from this battle will almost certainly at least start the 2016 general-election campaign as a heavy underdog to Clinton.

It is possible that one or two of the current bunch scrambling for attention will break through in 2015 and enter the primary season as something resembling a frontrunner. But for now, it appears to be a struggle in which none have anything that looks like a clear advantage. Since even the best of them have little experience on the national stage, questions about whether this deep bench is equal to the task of running for president are entirely legitimate.

That’s why the buzz about Mitt Romney returning to the fray seems to be about more than buyer’s remorse about President Obama’s dismal second term or guilt on the part of conservatives that trashed their 2012 nominee but now realize the former Massachusetts governor wasn’t so bad after all. In a race where none of the contenders have a real political or financial advantage, a candidate with the name recognition and the fundraising prowess of Romney might sweep the field again as he did last time.

This isn’t an argument for Romney running again. A third trip to the well might not yield any better results for him than the previous one. He’s right to say, as he continues to insist, that it’s time for some one else to step up and take their turn. But it must be conceded that in a race this open, anything can happen. Instead of celebrating the diversity of riches in their candidate roster, Republicans need to be wondering which, if any of them, can step up and show they’re ready to tangle with Clinton. Right now, the sports cliché about all prospects being suspects seems to apply to the GOP field.

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Jeb Bush and the 2016 GOP Field

George Will wrote a column in which he said of Jeb Bush, “A candidacy by Florida’s former governor would be desirable” and “[he] does … deserve a respectful hearing from the Republican nominating electorate.”


I agree, partly because I admire Bush, who was a highly successful, reform-minded conservative governor. His record as governor of Florida was, in fact, more conservative in key respects than Ronald Reagan’s record when he was governor of California. (Mr. Reagan signed into law what at the time was the largest tax hike ever proposed by any governor, whereas Bush cut taxes every year he was governor, covering eight years and totaling $20 billion.) Governor Bush also has the ability to appeal to non-traditional GOP voters. For example, he won 61 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1998 and 56 percent of their vote in 2002. (Hispanics are one of the fastest-rising demographic groups in America; in 2012, Mitt Romney won only 27 percent of their vote.)

There are people who have doubts Bush will run and who say that even if he did, he wouldn’t win. Perhaps. For my part, I hope he does run, assuming he can do so with, in his words, “joy in my heart.”

But I also hope many others run in 2016, not only those I’m favorably disposed toward (like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and Scott Walker) but also those I’ve been more critical of (including Ted Cruz and Rick Perry). Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee would be formidable figures in a contest; I hope they, too, enter the contest. The same goes for Rand Paul, with whom I have substantial disagreements (he is far more libertarian than I am).

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George Will wrote a column in which he said of Jeb Bush, “A candidacy by Florida’s former governor would be desirable” and “[he] does … deserve a respectful hearing from the Republican nominating electorate.”


I agree, partly because I admire Bush, who was a highly successful, reform-minded conservative governor. His record as governor of Florida was, in fact, more conservative in key respects than Ronald Reagan’s record when he was governor of California. (Mr. Reagan signed into law what at the time was the largest tax hike ever proposed by any governor, whereas Bush cut taxes every year he was governor, covering eight years and totaling $20 billion.) Governor Bush also has the ability to appeal to non-traditional GOP voters. For example, he won 61 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1998 and 56 percent of their vote in 2002. (Hispanics are one of the fastest-rising demographic groups in America; in 2012, Mitt Romney won only 27 percent of their vote.)

There are people who have doubts Bush will run and who say that even if he did, he wouldn’t win. Perhaps. For my part, I hope he does run, assuming he can do so with, in his words, “joy in my heart.”

But I also hope many others run in 2016, not only those I’m favorably disposed toward (like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and Scott Walker) but also those I’ve been more critical of (including Ted Cruz and Rick Perry). Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee would be formidable figures in a contest; I hope they, too, enter the contest. The same goes for Rand Paul, with whom I have substantial disagreements (he is far more libertarian than I am).

Why do I hope the GOP contest will include people I’m not wild about? Because I want as many serious and substantial figures in the race as possible, in order to have the best representatives of various currents of thought (and style) within conservatism make their case. These debates can be clarifying, in a healthy way. (Some of us still regret that Governor Mitch Daniels, one of the most impressive minds and political talents in the GOP, didn’t run in 2012.)

In addition, people who look good on paper and sound impressive when being interviewed on Meet the Press don’t necessarily do well in presidential contests, where the scrutiny and intensity are far beyond what anyone who hasn’t run can imagine. Some people you might think would do superbly well in a presidential contest flame out; others who one might think would flounder rise to the occasion. You never know until the contest begins. So my attitude is the more the better, at least above a certain threshold. (Please, no more figures like Herman Cain, Ron Paul, or Michele Bachmann.)


The 2016 presidential contest should be winnable, but it won’t be easy. Democrats have important advantages right now when it comes to presidential contests. Which is why for Republicans to prevail it will take the best the GOP can produce. Who is that individual right now?

I have no idea. And neither do you. 

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GOP Plans to Be Ready for Hillary, Again

In 2007, speaking to the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden, Rudy Giuliani offered a declaration: “If you want to defeat Hillary Clinton, I would be the best person to do that because I can make this campaign nationwide.” It would be something of a theme of his campaign, though that was partly due to the fact that Clinton was, for some time, the frontrunner across the aisle. In Harnden’s piece, Giuliani explains that he thinks the Democratic ticket will eventually be Clinton-Obama, in that order.

In the end, it wasn’t Clinton-Obama or even Obama-Clinton. It was, for the purposes of that rivalry, just Obama. This surprised people on both sides, who expected Clinton to eventually run out the clock on Obama’s insurgent challenge, and was never able to. It was doubly challenging for the GOP: not only was Barack Obama a better general-election candidate, but the GOP candidates were unprepared for him. They had been planning for Hillary.

And they are again. Both CNN and the Washington Examiner noticed that the GOP leadership gathering in Washington last week seemed awfully preoccupied with Clinton. The Examiner notes:

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In 2007, speaking to the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden, Rudy Giuliani offered a declaration: “If you want to defeat Hillary Clinton, I would be the best person to do that because I can make this campaign nationwide.” It would be something of a theme of his campaign, though that was partly due to the fact that Clinton was, for some time, the frontrunner across the aisle. In Harnden’s piece, Giuliani explains that he thinks the Democratic ticket will eventually be Clinton-Obama, in that order.

In the end, it wasn’t Clinton-Obama or even Obama-Clinton. It was, for the purposes of that rivalry, just Obama. This surprised people on both sides, who expected Clinton to eventually run out the clock on Obama’s insurgent challenge, and was never able to. It was doubly challenging for the GOP: not only was Barack Obama a better general-election candidate, but the GOP candidates were unprepared for him. They had been planning for Hillary.

And they are again. Both CNN and the Washington Examiner noticed that the GOP leadership gathering in Washington last week seemed awfully preoccupied with Clinton. The Examiner notes:

Concern about Clinton is framing many GOP officials’ approach to the 2016 contest and was much on the minds of those who gathered in Washington this week for the party’s annual winter meeting. Indeed, the GOP’s ongoing overhaul of voter turnout machinery — and the rules changes governing its presidential primary process — are being conducted with an eye toward helping the eventual GOP nominee overcome the Clinton juggernaut.

Giuliani’s experience provides a cautionary tale, but it also in some ways justifies the GOP’s focus on Hillary. The cautionary tale part is obvious: they thought she was inevitable, she wasn’t, and the concentration on Hillary constituted an opportunity cost in preparing for Obama. Additionally, the party structure around a presidential candidate needs to offer its own agenda, a vision for governing the country. A referendum can only be held on the administration in office, and in 2007-2008 the GOP was the party in the White House.

Republicans were able to run that kind of campaign against Obama in 2012, but it won’t be so simple when there’s no incumbent and they are trying to convince the country to give them back the levers of power. And if they prepare only for Hillary, and she doesn’t run (or loses the nomination/coronation somehow) they will be in the same situation as Giuliani.

However, that’s not the whole story. Giuliani, in fact, got a few things right. The first was how to run against Hillary. She would have been a historic candidate, and still would be, by attempting to be the first woman president. Giuliani seemed to understand the pitfalls of running against her better than Rick Lazio, her 2000 Senate opponent, did when he was faulted for looking like a bully. (This critique of Lazio from the left, painting Hillary as a damsel in distress, should actually have been quite offensive to her, and perhaps gave an indication of the trouble she’d have winning a Democratic Party nomination.)

In that Telegraph piece, Giuliani indicated that he would treat Hillary like a run-of-the-mill liberal and ignore her historic status. He also honed his attacks on policy: “If we do HillaryCare or socialized medicine, Canadians will have no place to go to get their health care,” Giuliani quipped at a GOP primary debate.

There is still plenty on the policy side to criticize Clinton, even (or especially) in areas the burgeoning Clinton campaign thinks it’s strongest. For example, in Amy Chozick’s New York Times magazine piece on Clintonworld, we learn:

If there is one thing that Clinton allies want to make sure you know — and will keep reminding you, over and over, in interviews — it’s that Hillary Clinton’s State Department was run nothing like her chaotic 2008 presidential campaign. When Clinton accepted the job as secretary of state, she did so with the understanding that she could bring some of her most loyal people — called the Royal Council by one aide — along with her. …

The cloistered State Department offered Clinton a chance to define herself away from her husband and to shed the stench of managerial dysfunction that still lingered from the campaign.

And wouldn’t you know it, she failed that test spectacularly. Even the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi noted massive organizational and managerial incompetence when Clinton was in charge at Foggy Bottom. Those who wanted to exonerate Clinton from the consequences of the attacks relied on her managerial incompetence to do so: a fuzzy chain of command, confusion over safety requirements, failure to prepare a slow-moving bureaucracy for the challenges of postwar Libya.

Republicans are playing the odds by betting that Clinton–especially with no one like Obama in her path this time–remains the favorite for her party’s 2016 nomination. There is much to be said for being prepared to face a challenging opponent. In that sense, they’re right not to interpret Giuliani’s loss as an argument against such preparation. At the same time, they should remember that Giuliani understood far better than some current Republicans–Mike Huckabee comes to mind–how to run against a candidate of her status in the identity politics world. But they’re also the party out of power, and they’ll have to make sure to have plenty of ideas of their own.

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RE: GOP Hoof-in-Mouth Outbreak Helps Dems

I agree with Jonathan that Mike Huckabee was entirely correct in what he said about the birth-control mandate and hopelessly wrong in how he said it. Making birth control a mandatory entitlement under ObamaCare doesn’t make it “free” and it diminishes everyone’s freedom in the process. And giving liberals an easy way to distort what he said just allows the mainstream media—whose attention to journalistic due diligence is non-existent when it comes to politics—to beat up conservatives, claiming proof of a “war on women.” (By the way, could someone please ask a liberal talking head, the next time he or she invokes that phrase, why a political party in a democracy would declare “war” on a majority of the electorate? Republicans, after all, want to win elections as much as Democrats do. Declaring war on most voters seems a strange way to achieve victory.)

So how can Republicans attack the birth-control mandate without being declared at war with women? How about just looking at the economics of it, which are very simple? Birth control isn’t expensive, I’m told, (about $25 a month). So why should it be covered by insurance at all? Insurance is meant to protect people from unpredictable and catastrophic expenses that they can’t budget for. That’s why automobile insurance covers collision and liability, not oil changes and tire rotations.

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I agree with Jonathan that Mike Huckabee was entirely correct in what he said about the birth-control mandate and hopelessly wrong in how he said it. Making birth control a mandatory entitlement under ObamaCare doesn’t make it “free” and it diminishes everyone’s freedom in the process. And giving liberals an easy way to distort what he said just allows the mainstream media—whose attention to journalistic due diligence is non-existent when it comes to politics—to beat up conservatives, claiming proof of a “war on women.” (By the way, could someone please ask a liberal talking head, the next time he or she invokes that phrase, why a political party in a democracy would declare “war” on a majority of the electorate? Republicans, after all, want to win elections as much as Democrats do. Declaring war on most voters seems a strange way to achieve victory.)

So how can Republicans attack the birth-control mandate without being declared at war with women? How about just looking at the economics of it, which are very simple? Birth control isn’t expensive, I’m told, (about $25 a month). So why should it be covered by insurance at all? Insurance is meant to protect people from unpredictable and catastrophic expenses that they can’t budget for. That’s why automobile insurance covers collision and liability, not oil changes and tire rotations.

If it did cover them, what would happen? Suppose an oil change costs $25 and you need four a year. Right now, the car owner just goes to his garage and pays them $100 a year to change the oil in his car. But if oil changes were covered by his insurance, the insurance company would pay for them, shelling out $100 as well. But where does that $100 comes from? It comes from the insurance premiums paid by the car owner, of course. So it’s not insurance at all, it’s a prepayment plan, no different from layaway plans at department stores of old.

But there’s more. The insurance company has overhead to cover. If it pays for oil changes, it must keep track of them, account for them, cut checks for them, audit those accounts, etc. etc. The car owner must pay for that too. And he has to pay for the profit the insurance company needs to stay in business.

So instead of the oil changes costing the car owner $100 a year, they would cost him, say, $144. The only difference is that instead of paying $25 every three months to his garage, he pays $12 more a month in premiums to his insurance company.

It’s the same with birth-control pills. Women can pay for them themselves or pay more to an insurance company to pay for them. ObamaCare forces women to choose the more expensive alternative. So who’s really at war with women?

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GOP Hoof-in-Mouth Outbreak Helps Dems

Mike Huckabee is defiant. Faced with a torrent of criticism for comments he made during his address to last week’s meeting of the Republican National Committee, the talk-show host and former Arkansas governor isn’t backing down from saying Democrats want women to think “they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government”—a reference to the ObamaCare mandate that effectively treats free contraception as a constitutional right.

“I am not going to roll over and apologize,” Huckabee said in an interview on John Gibson’s Fox News Radio show. “Without a doubt this was a way to knock me out early by the left.”

Many conservatives came to his defense, claiming his critics are manufacturing a controversy over his words that distorts his meaning. They point out Democrats are trying to change the subject from a discussion of ObamaCare and a paternalistic liberal philosophy that reduces citizens to dependency to one about a nonexistent Republican war on women. They’re right about that. But it doesn’t matter.

Huckabee’s comments on ObamaCare are accurate, but by using words that obscure his principled and constitutional objections to the mandate he made it appear that he and other conservatives want to control women’s sexual behavior. In doing so he handed liberals the same kind of gift that Rush Limbaugh gave them in 2012 when he called Sandra Fluke—the law student who testified before Congress about her belief that she was entitled to free contraception—a slut. That single word—trumpeted throughout the mainstream liberal media as an unconscionable attack on a courageous young woman for speaking her mind—altered the national discussion from one about the administration’s outrageous onslaught on religious freedom through ObamaCare to a debate about Republicans who were portrayed by the mainstream liberal media as seeking to deny women the rights only Democrats would “protect.”

Rather than simply defending Huckabee, what conservatives should be doing instead is asking themselves why some of their most prominent speakers are so slow to understand how gaffes such as these undermine the very cause they seek to promote. The defeat of an oppressive government regulation and giveaway will not be achieved by language that seems to attack the women who wish to avail themselves of such an entitlement.

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Mike Huckabee is defiant. Faced with a torrent of criticism for comments he made during his address to last week’s meeting of the Republican National Committee, the talk-show host and former Arkansas governor isn’t backing down from saying Democrats want women to think “they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government”—a reference to the ObamaCare mandate that effectively treats free contraception as a constitutional right.

“I am not going to roll over and apologize,” Huckabee said in an interview on John Gibson’s Fox News Radio show. “Without a doubt this was a way to knock me out early by the left.”

Many conservatives came to his defense, claiming his critics are manufacturing a controversy over his words that distorts his meaning. They point out Democrats are trying to change the subject from a discussion of ObamaCare and a paternalistic liberal philosophy that reduces citizens to dependency to one about a nonexistent Republican war on women. They’re right about that. But it doesn’t matter.

Huckabee’s comments on ObamaCare are accurate, but by using words that obscure his principled and constitutional objections to the mandate he made it appear that he and other conservatives want to control women’s sexual behavior. In doing so he handed liberals the same kind of gift that Rush Limbaugh gave them in 2012 when he called Sandra Fluke—the law student who testified before Congress about her belief that she was entitled to free contraception—a slut. That single word—trumpeted throughout the mainstream liberal media as an unconscionable attack on a courageous young woman for speaking her mind—altered the national discussion from one about the administration’s outrageous onslaught on religious freedom through ObamaCare to a debate about Republicans who were portrayed by the mainstream liberal media as seeking to deny women the rights only Democrats would “protect.”

Rather than simply defending Huckabee, what conservatives should be doing instead is asking themselves why some of their most prominent speakers are so slow to understand how gaffes such as these undermine the very cause they seek to promote. The defeat of an oppressive government regulation and giveaway will not be achieved by language that seems to attack the women who wish to avail themselves of such an entitlement.

Let’s be clear that the distortions of Huckabee’s words, just like the similar treatment afforded Limbaugh, are unfair. Neither Huckabee nor Limbaugh was seeking to oppress women or deny them any rights. Limbaugh erred by attacking Fluke personally; his correct opposition to Fluke’s disingenuous advocacy of free contraception could easily have been made in a way that didn’t insult the student. But while Huckabee avoided singling out any specific woman, his statement that without ObamaCare’s help women may be unable to control their sexual urges, he made the same mistake as Limbaugh.

That’s a shame, because the content of his speech was otherwise a laudable description of the inherent dangers of an administration policy that sees all women as the mythical “Julia” of the 2012 Obama campaign commercial whose life story could be told through the government programs, including ObamaCare, that funneled benefits to her. Rather than waging a war on women, conservatives are, as Huckabee rightly pointed out, fighting for their empowerment and against a paternalistic Democratic mindset that sees them only as victims or grateful recipients of big-government largesse.

But politics is, as Huckabee ought to know by now, a contact sport. Conservatives who have no compunction about exploiting gaffes by liberals cannot cry foul when liberals play the same game.

Conservatives have an excellent case against the ObamaCare mandate that forces all employers—including religious institutions and businesses owned by people of faith—to pay for services that offend their consciences and are directly contrary to their religion. To claim that opposition to the mandate is merely an attempt to deny women the right to seek any contraception is a lie. One needn’t share the beliefs of such individuals to understand that a government mandate of this kind is an attempt to roll back First Amendment rights of religious freedom. But when leading conservative figures use language that is open to interpretation as demonizing women who use contraception, that makes the Democrats’ case for them.

The same thing happens when conservatives who rightly oppose late-term abortions and support sensible restrictions on the procedure, which are supported by the vast majority of Americans, discuss abortion and rape in ways that are clearly offensive and allow liberals to blast them as Neanderthals who hate women.

There is no Republican war on women. Conservatives speak for the majority of Americans when they oppose ObamaCare. There is no constitutional right to free contraception and it is no offense to women to state this just as it is not an insult to women to oppose the butchery of viable infants that takes place in the name of abortion rights, as we saw in last year’s Kermit Gosnell murder trial.

But it’s no use whining about unfair liberal pundits distorting their words when conservatives themselves employ arguments that place the focus on sexuality rather than the Constitution and individual rights. That’s not evidence of a Republican war on women. It is, however, indicative of an outbreak of hoof-in-mouth disease among Republicans. Far greater discipline is necessary when anyone on the right discusses this explosive issue. Off-the-cuff comments such as these can spell disaster in November, in a year when Democrats have an uphill fight against the backlash of the millions hurt by ObamaCare. Conservatives must learn from Huckabee’s self-inflicted wound and ensure that such discourse doesn’t become another epidemic of the kind that helped Democrats win in 2012.

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Huckabee and the Other GOP Civil War

Ever since the era of Ronald Reagan, victorious Republican coalitions have always been built via coalitions of disparate but essentially compatible factions. While most of the mainstream liberal media these days tends to lump Republicans into only two categories–establishment types and Tea Party extremists–the same groupings that worked together to elected Reagan as well as the first and second George Bush are still there. Fiscal conservatives, libertarians, social conservatives, and foreign-policy hawks are still the building blocks of the right’s hope to take back Congress and the White House. But the days of GOP unity are long gone as some elements of that coalition are already at odds. Libertarians led by Senator Rand Paul have already clearly broken with the conservative consensus on maintaining a strong American presence abroad and seem willing to not only retreat from the Middle East, as Barack Obama seems to intend, but to pull back on other fronts as well. Disagreements over budget cuts and the sequester have also highlighted the increasing tensions between the fiscal hawks, libertarians, and the shrinking constituency for a strong national defense. But with the campaign for the 2016 GOP nomination already in its early stages, perhaps the most fascinating battle is the one that might be brewing between libertarians and the evangelicals.

The possibility for such a conflict was displayed on Friday when, as Politico reports, the Club for Growth issued a statement slamming former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee for what it considered his insufficiently conservative fiscal record. Given that Huckabee–though a force among Christian conservatives–will be committing against a deep Republican bench of governors and senators that include Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and even the 2012 runner-up Rick Santorum, the decision of the Club to launch a pre-emptive strike on the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucus seems like a curious decision. Why would the home office of the libertarian critique of tax-and-spend liberalism think it worth the time and the effort to take a shot at a favorite of Christian conservatives in this manner? Are they really that concerned about nipping a Huckabee boomlet in the bud before it gains momentum and ultimately harms the chances of candidates like Paul, Cruz, or Walker that are more to their liking? Or is this merely the opening shot of much bigger struggle inside the conservative tent for control of the direction of the party or at least its Tea Party wing?

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Ever since the era of Ronald Reagan, victorious Republican coalitions have always been built via coalitions of disparate but essentially compatible factions. While most of the mainstream liberal media these days tends to lump Republicans into only two categories–establishment types and Tea Party extremists–the same groupings that worked together to elected Reagan as well as the first and second George Bush are still there. Fiscal conservatives, libertarians, social conservatives, and foreign-policy hawks are still the building blocks of the right’s hope to take back Congress and the White House. But the days of GOP unity are long gone as some elements of that coalition are already at odds. Libertarians led by Senator Rand Paul have already clearly broken with the conservative consensus on maintaining a strong American presence abroad and seem willing to not only retreat from the Middle East, as Barack Obama seems to intend, but to pull back on other fronts as well. Disagreements over budget cuts and the sequester have also highlighted the increasing tensions between the fiscal hawks, libertarians, and the shrinking constituency for a strong national defense. But with the campaign for the 2016 GOP nomination already in its early stages, perhaps the most fascinating battle is the one that might be brewing between libertarians and the evangelicals.

The possibility for such a conflict was displayed on Friday when, as Politico reports, the Club for Growth issued a statement slamming former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee for what it considered his insufficiently conservative fiscal record. Given that Huckabee–though a force among Christian conservatives–will be committing against a deep Republican bench of governors and senators that include Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and even the 2012 runner-up Rick Santorum, the decision of the Club to launch a pre-emptive strike on the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucus seems like a curious decision. Why would the home office of the libertarian critique of tax-and-spend liberalism think it worth the time and the effort to take a shot at a favorite of Christian conservatives in this manner? Are they really that concerned about nipping a Huckabee boomlet in the bud before it gains momentum and ultimately harms the chances of candidates like Paul, Cruz, or Walker that are more to their liking? Or is this merely the opening shot of much bigger struggle inside the conservative tent for control of the direction of the party or at least its Tea Party wing?

What needs to be first understood about these core GOP constituencies is that there is considerable overlap between those who call themselves Tea Partiers and those who identify with Christian conservative causes. Every single one of those Republican leaders who have sought to mobilize party support on behalf of cutting government spending and holding the line on taxes can appeal to evangelicals on key issues like abortion. Indeed, support for the pro-life position is virtually a given in the contemporary Republican Party and encompasses a consensus that even includes so-called moderates like Christie.

That said, although Democrats have emphasized social issues in the last two election cycles as they sought to smear their opponents as waging a faux “war on women” on issues like abortion and the ObamaCare contraception mandate, most Republicans have spent more time in recent years talking about fiscal issues and ObamaCare than abortion. Many of those GOP candidates who were labeled as culture warriors, like the disastrous Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin, not only lost but helped sink other Republicans as well. As a result, in a party that was primarily focused on stopping or repealing ObamaCare, we haven’t heard as much from Christian conservatives.

But the 2012 GOP primaries should have reminded us that the social-issue vote could still be a powerful force. By winning over the same constituency that made Huckabee a force in 2008, Rick Santorum came from the back of the pack to be the last man standing in the Republican contest other than the eventual nominee Mitt Romney. If groups like the Club for Growth are worried about Huckabee returning to the presidential fray it is because they know that not only is his core constituency an important voting bloc, but that those who identify as evangelicals are often some of the same people rallying to the Tea Party banner.

With a little more than two years to go before that crucial 2016 Iowa caucus, it’s far from clear how exactly these factions or the potential candidates will sort themselves out. But whoever emerges as the frontrunner in Iowa is going to have to appeal to both of these key constituencies. Christie may hope to win via Romney’s more centrist approach as the sole moderate conservative in the field. But as Santorum proved, anyone who can corner the evangelical vote will have a chance in Iowa and many other states. Their votes will be all the more crucial since so many potential candidates will be competing for the same libertarian and Tea Party votes.

Blasting Huckabee, who has shut down the radio show he had for the last year and a half and appears to be gearing up for another presidential run, may seem premature. But the willingness of one of the leading libertarian/fiscal conservative think tanks to put him in the cross-hairs shows that the real GOP civil war may not be the bally-hooed conflict between the Karl Rove types and the grass roots activists that we’ve been hearing so much about in the last year. Instead it may turn out to be a complicated and often confusing battle for the hearts and minds of fiscal conservatives who also happen to think of themselves as Christian conservatives.

That’s why Club for Growth seems so eager to take out Huckabee before he even gets started as well as why many of those GOP candidates who have been obsessing about ObamaCare and taxes in the last year may now start to spend more time talking about abortion and other issues of interest to evangelicals. The Republican who can best unite both factions will have a substantial advantage in 2016.

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The Flawed Christie-Giuliani Narrative

The political press has picked up the comparison between Chris Christie 2016 and Rudy Giuliani 2008 with gusto. This is a flawed comparison, though one can understand why reporters would be drawn to it. It fits a preexisting narrative and offers superficial similarities. But the problem is not only that the parallels may be weaker than they seem (they almost always are); it’s that the initial frames are wrong to begin with, and the press end up comparing new candidates to former candidates who never really existed.

That’s especially true in Giuliani’s case, since the “first draft of history” written about his campaign is demonstrably false. Yet it has somehow become Giuliani’s story anyway. And it finds its way into even solid stories by knowledgeable reporters. For example, here’s Politico’s latest on the Christie-Rudy comparison. It does a good job debunking many of the supposed similarities, but then we find this, as a red flag:

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The political press has picked up the comparison between Chris Christie 2016 and Rudy Giuliani 2008 with gusto. This is a flawed comparison, though one can understand why reporters would be drawn to it. It fits a preexisting narrative and offers superficial similarities. But the problem is not only that the parallels may be weaker than they seem (they almost always are); it’s that the initial frames are wrong to begin with, and the press end up comparing new candidates to former candidates who never really existed.

That’s especially true in Giuliani’s case, since the “first draft of history” written about his campaign is demonstrably false. Yet it has somehow become Giuliani’s story anyway. And it finds its way into even solid stories by knowledgeable reporters. For example, here’s Politico’s latest on the Christie-Rudy comparison. It does a good job debunking many of the supposed similarities, but then we find this, as a red flag:

There are two constants between Giuliani and Christie – advisers Mike DuHaime and Maria Comella.

DuHaime, Giuliani’s presidential campaign manager, is a senior adviser to Christie since 2009. Comella, a Giuliani presidential campaign press aide, is Christie’s communications director.

DuHaime came under fire for Giuliani’s failed “Florida firewall” strategy, but has since been integral to Christie’s two successful campaigns. Comella is broadly respected and her team has shown the kind of web proficiency necessary in a modern campaign. …

Craig Robinson, a former executive director of the Iowa Republican Party and founder of The Iowa Republican website, argued that Christie’s team needs to show more than they did with Giulian (sic). If they do, he said, “the sky’s the limit” for Christie.

This “Florida firewall” myth has stuck, but it’s just that–a myth. That’s due in large part to Giuliani himself, who wanted to deflect concern about his early primary losses by suggesting he was waiting for Florida to turn the tide. But that’s not actually what happened.

“Rudy Giuliani would bypass early-voting Iowa and New Hampshire on his way to more moderate, voter-rich states like Florida and California, many pundits once predicted,” scoffed the New York Daily News in October 2007. “But a look at the presidential hopeful’s campaign datebook shows the former mayor is hunkering down in the two early battlegrounds far more than in other primary states.”

The Daily News backed up its headline, “Rudy Giuliani defies critics, campaigns hard in early states,” by reporting that Giuliani had spent more time in New Hampshire and Iowa than did John McCain, who eventually went on to win the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. The Daily News was onto something. In January 2008, after the New Hampshire primary in which Giuliani placed fourth, Jake Tapper and Karen Travers reported for ABC News that Giuliani held more events in New Hampshire than McCain, Mike Huckabee, Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton did.

And it wasn’t just events. Giuliani spent millions on television advertising in New Hampshire–almost as much as McCain and more than Huckabee and Ron Paul combined. So what happened? Tapper and Travers explained:

But after a few weeks, when his poll numbers traveled downward instead of in the preferred direction, the former mayor’s campaign said it would stick with his original plan. In December an anonymous “top Giuliani aide” told The Politico newspaper that the new plan would allow the former mayor’s campaign “to marshal our resources for Florida and Feb. 5, while keeping options open for changes in the early states.”

He was competing and still losing, so he told Politico that he wasn’t really trying, that he was waiting for Florida and letting the other candidates tussle over the early states while he built his “firewall.” And so the “Florida firewall” story was ingested by Politico and remains a fixture of Giuliani-related stories to this day.

And now that Christie employs one of the same Giuliani advisors who was an architect of a plan that ultimately stayed on the shelf, the other comparisons between the candidates come alive, as if Christie would–or even could–run the same kind of campaign Giuliani did.

He can’t, though. Giuliani had to lean on 9/11 to a certain degree because he was otherwise incompatible with Republican primary voters. The former mayor ran as a pro-choice Republican. Christie is pro-life. And though Giuliani proved himself on 9/11 to be the kind of leader the country could count on in a crisis, national-security issues just don’t tend to dominate presidential elections.

Overall, the two candidates have major differences on nearly every subject of consequence. Yes, they’re both from the Northeast. But if political reporters can’t tell the difference between candidates because they hail from states near each other, 2016 is going to be a long silly season.

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Governor Huckabee’s Clarification

Having said some critical things about former Governor Mike Huckabee in the context of his comments about the Newtown massacre, it’s only fair, I think, to point out that Huckabee’s tone was much more reasonable and less offensive yesterday morning. It’s worth pointing out that Huckabee, perhaps aware of some of the criticisms he has received, went out of his way to say, “I’m not suggesting by any stretch that if we had prayer in schools regularly as we once did that this wouldn’t have happened.” 

That is, of course, exactly what Huckabee suggested in his comments on Friday. There’s simply no other way to interpret these comments on the day of the killings:

We ask why there’s violence in our schools but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we do not want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability. That we’re not just going to have to be accountable to the police, if they catch us, but we stand one day before a holy God in judgment…  Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we would not have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.

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Having said some critical things about former Governor Mike Huckabee in the context of his comments about the Newtown massacre, it’s only fair, I think, to point out that Huckabee’s tone was much more reasonable and less offensive yesterday morning. It’s worth pointing out that Huckabee, perhaps aware of some of the criticisms he has received, went out of his way to say, “I’m not suggesting by any stretch that if we had prayer in schools regularly as we once did that this wouldn’t have happened.” 

That is, of course, exactly what Huckabee suggested in his comments on Friday. There’s simply no other way to interpret these comments on the day of the killings:

We ask why there’s violence in our schools but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we do not want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability. That we’re not just going to have to be accountable to the police, if they catch us, but we stand one day before a holy God in judgment…  Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we would not have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.

The fact that Huckabee made a similar comment in the aftermath of the killings in Aurora, Colorado doesn’t help his “I’m not suggesting by any stretch” assurance.

I would have preferred if Governor Huckabee had simply said that his initial comments were badly wide of the mark and after careful consideration, he wanted to revise them. But that may be asking too much.

In any case, Governor Huckabee certainly seems to have changed his tune–and even his theology–since Friday. That is all to the good, I think, and it’s only right to point it out.

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The Newtown Massacre and Mike Huckabee’s Offense

The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut is too awful for anyone to fully comprehend, especially from a distance. You watch the coverage of people you don’t know and will never meet, and yet you still find yourself nearly overwhelmed as the stories of terror, of immense sorrow and loss, and of heroism are told.

Particularly as a parent, you cannot help but wonder: What if it had been my child gunned down in elementary school? And then you begin to realize there’s a reason the death of a child is said to be the hardest thing for a human being to endure, the “grief surpassing all.”

Just last week I wrote an acquaintance–a good and decent and gentle man–who lost his son. Like everyone else in a similar situation, I hoped there might be something I might say to assuage, even just a bit and even for just a moment, the pain. (There’s not.) But there’s something else you’re aware of in situations like that, which is to try to avoid saying something stupid or shallow or insensitive that will only add to the grief.

I thought about that after hearing the comments of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Appearing on Fox News’s “Your World,” host Neil Cavuto asked Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, how God could let something like this happen.

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The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut is too awful for anyone to fully comprehend, especially from a distance. You watch the coverage of people you don’t know and will never meet, and yet you still find yourself nearly overwhelmed as the stories of terror, of immense sorrow and loss, and of heroism are told.

Particularly as a parent, you cannot help but wonder: What if it had been my child gunned down in elementary school? And then you begin to realize there’s a reason the death of a child is said to be the hardest thing for a human being to endure, the “grief surpassing all.”

Just last week I wrote an acquaintance–a good and decent and gentle man–who lost his son. Like everyone else in a similar situation, I hoped there might be something I might say to assuage, even just a bit and even for just a moment, the pain. (There’s not.) But there’s something else you’re aware of in situations like that, which is to try to avoid saying something stupid or shallow or insensitive that will only add to the grief.

I thought about that after hearing the comments of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Appearing on Fox News’s “Your World,” host Neil Cavuto asked Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, how God could let something like this happen.

And here (courtesy of Mediaite.com) is what Huckabee said:

It’s an interesting thing. We ask why there’s violence in our schools but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we do not want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability. That we’re not just going to have to be accountable to the police, if they catch us, but we stand one day before a holy God in judgment…  Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we would not have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.

When I watched this I had quite a strong, negative response, and in trying to understand why, I settled on several reasons.
 
One is that Huckabee’s argument is painfully ignorant. The odds are extremely high that the killer was either afflicted with an antisocial personality disorder–meaning a person without conscience or empathy–or suffering from some other personality disorder.

According to media reports, Adam Lanza killed his mother and then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he proceeded to kill 20 children and six adults before killing himself. For Huckabee to assume Lanza went on his rampage because “God has been removed from our schools” is witless. A diseased and twisted mind would not be dissuaded from carrying out a massacre by a generic prayer said at the beginning of the school day.

If on the other hand Huckabee believes that removing God from our schools lifted His protection from 20 children and seven adults in Newtown, which resulted in their deaths, then he’s very confused theologically. For one thing, Huckabee is part of a faith that teaches that sometimes suffering and death are evidence of one’s devotion to God (see the fate of Jesus and almost every one of His disciples). For another, why would the victims be people who had nothing to do with the offenses that so upset Huckabee? And why would anyone link the attacks to “removing God from our schools” rather than indifference to the plight of the poor–a concern spoken about much more often in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament?

Governor Huckabee is using a heartbreaking and inexplicable mass killing to push his conservative social agenda. Now as it happens, I’m somewhat (though not entirely) sympathetic to the conservative social agenda. But to use this incident, even before the bodies were removed from the school, to argue that if only we had let God in “on the front end” we wouldn’t now need him “on the back end” borders on being grotesque. And it’s not the first time Huckabee has done this. He made similar comments in the aftermath of the mass killing in Aurora, Colorado. The psychologist Abraham Maslow once said that if you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. For Mike Huckabee, his hammer is removing God from school–and he tends to see every massacre as a nail.

Theodicy–how to square the existence of a loving God with the existence of evil–is a profound and complicated issue. It doesn’t lend itself to easy answers. Yet Huckabee has now, on several occasions, reduced things to a cartoonishly simple level. 

Mr. Huckabee may have thought he was defending God in what he said. In fact, in a moment of overwhelming grief and sorrow–one that called for some measure of grace, humility, and wisdom (which President Obama showed in his beautiful and moving tribute)–Huckabee offered an explanation I found flippant and offensive. And my guess is I’m not the only one.

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Mike Huckabee and the Mind of God

Shortly before the election, former Governor Mike Huckabee narrated an ad urging Americans to vote according to conservative biblical principles.

“Your vote will affect the future and be recorded in eternity,” he says in a Value Voters USA ad. “Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire?” Governor Huckabee goes on to pinpoint the issues that will be recorded in eternity.

“Many issues are at stake, but some issues are not negotiable,” Huckabee says. “The right to life from conception to natural death. Marriage should be reinforced, not redefined. It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for the government to force the church to buy the kind of insurance that leads to the taking of innocent human life.”

This ad sparked some lively discussion, including in this interview with Jon Stewart.

Now I’m quite sympathetic to those who believe religious faith has a place in the public square. But I find the ad Governor Huckabee appeared in to be problematic, perhaps because I tend to be wary of those who claim we know which votes will have eternal significance and, in the process, can provide us with the hierarchy of God’s concerns.

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Shortly before the election, former Governor Mike Huckabee narrated an ad urging Americans to vote according to conservative biblical principles.

“Your vote will affect the future and be recorded in eternity,” he says in a Value Voters USA ad. “Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire?” Governor Huckabee goes on to pinpoint the issues that will be recorded in eternity.

“Many issues are at stake, but some issues are not negotiable,” Huckabee says. “The right to life from conception to natural death. Marriage should be reinforced, not redefined. It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for the government to force the church to buy the kind of insurance that leads to the taking of innocent human life.”

This ad sparked some lively discussion, including in this interview with Jon Stewart.

Now I’m quite sympathetic to those who believe religious faith has a place in the public square. But I find the ad Governor Huckabee appeared in to be problematic, perhaps because I tend to be wary of those who claim we know which votes will have eternal significance and, in the process, can provide us with the hierarchy of God’s concerns.

It’s not at all clear to me, for example, that a vote against the same-sex marriage initiative in Maryland has more eternal significance that our policies on genocide, world hunger, sexual trafficking, slavery, religious persecution in Islamic and Communist nations, and malaria and global AIDS. A study at the University of British Columbia found that George W. Bush’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) saved 1.2 million lives in just its first three years. Might that have more eternal significance than knocking on doors for Todd Akin? 

My point isn’t that Mike Huckabee’s troika of issues aren’t important; it’s that I don’t have confidence that we know the mind of God well enough to declare which legislative votes or particular initiatives matter most to Him.

Nor am I saying that people of faith shouldn’t focus on different issues, given their particular interests, expertise, and calling. That is one thing, and often a good thing; but it’s quite another running an ad announcing with precision the three issues that will be recorded in eternity. Doing so places one right in the thicket of what a “faithful” and “unfaithful” Christian should believe in politics. It begins to move us down the path of a “Christian scorecard,” which I think is a bad idea, and implies that you can’t be a faithful Christian and be a progressive, which is absurd and self-refuting.  

Nor am I saying that we shouldn’t argue for our positions based on what we understand to be biblical principles. But there should be some humility when we do so, and some sense that while justice is a very serious matter, our prudential judgments on the application of justice tend to be imperfect and clouded by our bias and political predispositions. That is, for a complicated set of reasons, we’re drawn to some issues more than others — and those of us who are people of faith tend to build a theological case around the issues we’re instinctively drawn to rather than allow the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament to shape our deepest concerns and commitments.

When people of faith engage in politics, then, it requires them to walk a tightrope. There are responsibilities and temptations, which is why it’s important to act with a special measure of care and thoughtfulness. In this instance, in my judgment, Governor Huckabee fell short. 

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Mike Huckabee’s Double Standard

I like Mike Huckabee, but he’s gotten off to a bad start as a host of his own radio show. In an interview with Ted Nugent – Huckabee’s “hunting buddy and good friend” – Governor Huckabee was extremely supportive of Nugent.

I wonder why.

As Jonathan pointed out, Nugent told an NRA audience over the weekend that President Obama was “vile,” “evil,” and “America-hating.” And Nugent vowed that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

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I like Mike Huckabee, but he’s gotten off to a bad start as a host of his own radio show. In an interview with Ted Nugent – Huckabee’s “hunting buddy and good friend” – Governor Huckabee was extremely supportive of Nugent.

I wonder why.

As Jonathan pointed out, Nugent told an NRA audience over the weekend that President Obama was “vile,” “evil,” and “America-hating.” And Nugent vowed that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

But what Nugent said “isn’t threatening at all,” according to Huckabee. Of course not. The “Nuge” is a great guy. Boys will boys. It was all in good fun. Et cetera.

In fact, what Nugent said was stupid and offensive – and if Huckabee was a true friend of Nugent’s, he would have told him so, at least privately. But for Huckabee to ridicule the critics of Nugent, as if the musician’s comments were totally appropriate, was pathetic. I guarantee you that if the shoe were on the other foot – if, say, Bruce Springsteen had made the same comments about President Bush before a National Education Association gathering – Huckabee would have (rightly) considered them as indefensible.

This is what happens when politics is viewed as a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, when political opponents become mortal enemies, and when political disputes take on cosmic importance. At that point it becomes fine to characterize one’s opponents not as wrong but as evil, not as misguided but as malevolent.

This happens on both the right and the left, far more often than it should. And Mike Huckabee could have done his audience, and political discourse in general, a favor if he had confronted rather than promoted his pal Ted.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, done prior to the start of his radio gig, Huckabee played up the fact that he was all about “conversation” rather than “confrontation.”

“I’m not a person who would call anyone by names that would cause my late mother to come out of her grave and slap me to the floor,” he said.

I wonder what Huckabee’s mother would think of her son playing footsie on the radio with a man who, in a public speech, referred to the president of the United States as “vile,” “evil,” and “America-hating” – and vowed that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

Probably not much.

 

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Yes, Rudy Is Considering Another Presidential Run

Get ready to see America’s mayor back in action. The New York Post reported this morning that Rudy Giuliani is readying himself for another presidential run in 2012, and now it sounds like his plans have been in the works for several months. A source familiar with the issue tells me that Giuliani has been reaching out to people about launching another presidential bid since at least last summer.

The former mayor would obviously be a long shot in the race — especially after his disastrous campaign in 2008 — but it may be premature to discount him entirely. One of the problems that plagued his last run was his unwillingness to mount tough attacks against his close friend Sen. John McCain. There were also reports that several of Rudy’s opponents were sitting on treasure troves of damaging opposition research on him, but I’m told that time may have made that information less of a concern.

And according to the Post, Rudy could have other reasons to be confident. Sources told the paper that the former mayor “thinks the Republican race will be populated with far-right candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, and there’s opportunity for a moderate candidate with a background in national security.”

Which really gets down to the brass tacks of why Giuliani is probably mounting this bid: he wants to ensure that his issues — primarily national security — play a prominent role in the election. Obviously his chances of winning are small, but at least by running he can keep a foot in the game and keep his policy interests in the spotlight.

Get ready to see America’s mayor back in action. The New York Post reported this morning that Rudy Giuliani is readying himself for another presidential run in 2012, and now it sounds like his plans have been in the works for several months. A source familiar with the issue tells me that Giuliani has been reaching out to people about launching another presidential bid since at least last summer.

The former mayor would obviously be a long shot in the race — especially after his disastrous campaign in 2008 — but it may be premature to discount him entirely. One of the problems that plagued his last run was his unwillingness to mount tough attacks against his close friend Sen. John McCain. There were also reports that several of Rudy’s opponents were sitting on treasure troves of damaging opposition research on him, but I’m told that time may have made that information less of a concern.

And according to the Post, Rudy could have other reasons to be confident. Sources told the paper that the former mayor “thinks the Republican race will be populated with far-right candidates like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, and there’s opportunity for a moderate candidate with a background in national security.”

Which really gets down to the brass tacks of why Giuliani is probably mounting this bid: he wants to ensure that his issues — primarily national security — play a prominent role in the election. Obviously his chances of winning are small, but at least by running he can keep a foot in the game and keep his policy interests in the spotlight.

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Morning Commentary

New START picked up support from Republican Sens. Scott Brown, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, and George Voinovich on Monday, making it look like the treaty may actually get ratified before the end of the week. Sens. Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins had previously come out in favor of New START, which means Democrats now just need to pick up two more GOP “yes” votes to get the treaty ratified.

The latest Public Policy Polling survey of conservative voters in eight states found Sarah Palin to be the top pick for a 2012 presidential run. She’s followed closely by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, with Mitt Romney in last place. PPP has more results and analysis from the poll on its blog.

Sadness: Melanie Phillips explains why the left is at war with itself over whether to canonize Julian Assange as a hero or convict him as a rapist without trial: “To understand why there is such an ear-splitting screeching of brakes from The Guardian, it is necessary to consider the mind-bending contradictions of what passes for thinking on the Left. For it believes certain things as articles of faith which cannot be denied. One is that America is a force for bad in the world and so can never be anything other than guilty. Another is that all men are potential rapists, and so can never be anything other than guilty.”

Steve Chapman discusses how political correctness in American schools helps turn top students into mediocre ones: “The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, ‘The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There’s a long-standing attitude that, “Well, smart kids can make it on their own.”’ But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math—lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.”

Nathan Glazer reviews Kenneth Marcus’s latest book on campus anti-Semitism and the inclusion of Jews in Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An essay adapted from Marcus’s book was published in the September issue of COMMENTARY.

The nastiness of the anti-Israel fringe is now invading the morning commute. JTA reports that Seattle buses will soon be plastered with ads decrying “Israeli war-crimes.” From JTA: “The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign has paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning Dec. 27, the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities, according to Seattle’s King 5 News. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading ‘Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.’”

New START picked up support from Republican Sens. Scott Brown, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, and George Voinovich on Monday, making it look like the treaty may actually get ratified before the end of the week. Sens. Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins had previously come out in favor of New START, which means Democrats now just need to pick up two more GOP “yes” votes to get the treaty ratified.

The latest Public Policy Polling survey of conservative voters in eight states found Sarah Palin to be the top pick for a 2012 presidential run. She’s followed closely by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, with Mitt Romney in last place. PPP has more results and analysis from the poll on its blog.

Sadness: Melanie Phillips explains why the left is at war with itself over whether to canonize Julian Assange as a hero or convict him as a rapist without trial: “To understand why there is such an ear-splitting screeching of brakes from The Guardian, it is necessary to consider the mind-bending contradictions of what passes for thinking on the Left. For it believes certain things as articles of faith which cannot be denied. One is that America is a force for bad in the world and so can never be anything other than guilty. Another is that all men are potential rapists, and so can never be anything other than guilty.”

Steve Chapman discusses how political correctness in American schools helps turn top students into mediocre ones: “The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, ‘The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There’s a long-standing attitude that, “Well, smart kids can make it on their own.”’ But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math—lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.”

Nathan Glazer reviews Kenneth Marcus’s latest book on campus anti-Semitism and the inclusion of Jews in Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An essay adapted from Marcus’s book was published in the September issue of COMMENTARY.

The nastiness of the anti-Israel fringe is now invading the morning commute. JTA reports that Seattle buses will soon be plastered with ads decrying “Israeli war-crimes.” From JTA: “The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign has paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning Dec. 27, the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities, according to Seattle’s King 5 News. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading ‘Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.’”

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Waiting for Cream to Rise to the Top

Fred Barnes writes:

Why do the potential Republican presidential candidates (with one exception) seem so old, dull, and uninteresting? There are a few simple answers. Most of the candidates are a generation older than most of the new Republican luminaries, compared with whom they are indeed duller and less interesting. At the moment they’re not where the political action is either. They’re not quite irrelevant, but close.

He argues, quite correctly, that at least for the next few months, all eyes will be on Congress:

At this time four years ago, the presidential race was about to take off. But the center of gravity in politics and government has shifted. The big play is now in Congress with Republicans in control of the House and in the statehouses with governors like Jindal, Christie, Perry, and a slew of newcomers like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, and Rick Scott in Florida. The presidential contest will have to wait.

But implicit in his analysis is the conclusion that the likely contenders don’t match up all that well against the non-candidate Republicans. Part of the issue is generational, as Barnes points out. But there are other problems with the batch of commonly mentioned candidates.

For one thing, they all seem to have been around forever. Yes, in most cases, they’ve been on the national stage for only a couple of years. Mickey Kaus has called it the Feiler Faster Thesis – the omnipresence of media has sped up the pace of coverage and the pace of politics. A year on the national stage is now like five years in the 1990s. We’ve seen so much of many of the likely contenders (e.g., Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee) that they seem tired and old hat. Is there anything either of them could say that would surprise us? Most likely, only a gaffe.

And of course, each of the likely contenders has not simply small flaws but jumbo problems. Republicans are far more self-aware than the mainstream media give them credit for being. A majority of Republican activists and primary voters know that RomneyCare is quite possibly a debilitating issue for Romney. Many Republicans — Tea Partiers included — understand that Sarah Palin has serious issues with independents and is increasingly obsessed with how the media cover her. (One dig against John McCain was that he was thin-skinned; Palin is quickly developing the same reputation.)

The focus of the country will turn both to Congress and to a slew of new governors. And after a few months, Republicans might discover that one or more of the congressional standouts or one of the governors seems fresher and more capable than the retreads currently mulling a race. So I’d suggest that you ignore the likely candidates and watch the performance of people like Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, John Kasich, and Bobby Jindal — the best of the lot may wind up at the top of the presidential contender list.

Fred Barnes writes:

Why do the potential Republican presidential candidates (with one exception) seem so old, dull, and uninteresting? There are a few simple answers. Most of the candidates are a generation older than most of the new Republican luminaries, compared with whom they are indeed duller and less interesting. At the moment they’re not where the political action is either. They’re not quite irrelevant, but close.

He argues, quite correctly, that at least for the next few months, all eyes will be on Congress:

At this time four years ago, the presidential race was about to take off. But the center of gravity in politics and government has shifted. The big play is now in Congress with Republicans in control of the House and in the statehouses with governors like Jindal, Christie, Perry, and a slew of newcomers like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, and Rick Scott in Florida. The presidential contest will have to wait.

But implicit in his analysis is the conclusion that the likely contenders don’t match up all that well against the non-candidate Republicans. Part of the issue is generational, as Barnes points out. But there are other problems with the batch of commonly mentioned candidates.

For one thing, they all seem to have been around forever. Yes, in most cases, they’ve been on the national stage for only a couple of years. Mickey Kaus has called it the Feiler Faster Thesis – the omnipresence of media has sped up the pace of coverage and the pace of politics. A year on the national stage is now like five years in the 1990s. We’ve seen so much of many of the likely contenders (e.g., Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee) that they seem tired and old hat. Is there anything either of them could say that would surprise us? Most likely, only a gaffe.

And of course, each of the likely contenders has not simply small flaws but jumbo problems. Republicans are far more self-aware than the mainstream media give them credit for being. A majority of Republican activists and primary voters know that RomneyCare is quite possibly a debilitating issue for Romney. Many Republicans — Tea Partiers included — understand that Sarah Palin has serious issues with independents and is increasingly obsessed with how the media cover her. (One dig against John McCain was that he was thin-skinned; Palin is quickly developing the same reputation.)

The focus of the country will turn both to Congress and to a slew of new governors. And after a few months, Republicans might discover that one or more of the congressional standouts or one of the governors seems fresher and more capable than the retreads currently mulling a race. So I’d suggest that you ignore the likely candidates and watch the performance of people like Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, John Kasich, and Bobby Jindal — the best of the lot may wind up at the top of the presidential contender list.

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Add at Least One More Name to the 2012 List

In her post about potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, Jennifer noted that “the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism” and that fresher faces such as Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are not interested.

Even with the addition of Christie and Rubio, however, that list contains only eight names. Consider the following from Jimmy Carter’s White House Diaries, indicating that only a year and a half before being nominated, Carter ranked considerably lower than ninth:

About the time I announced my candidacy for president in December 1974, Gallup published a poll that included the question “Among Democrats, whom do you prefer as the next nominee?” There were thirty-two names on Gallup’s list of potential candidates, including George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, Henry (Scoop) Jackson, Walter Mondale, John Glenn, and even Georgia legislator Julian Bond. My name was not mentioned.

This is not to say that Republicans should be looking for a new face simply because the usual suspects carry varying weights of baggage. Someone may seem an attractive alternative only because he lacks the baggage any person who has been in the arena will have acquired. Surely the past two years have taught us that the presidency is not the right place for someone, no matter how attractive, who does not have much on his resume under the categories of “Experience,” “Accomplishments,” and “Significant Votes Other Than Present.”

But there is at least one person who combines a relatively fresh face with substantial experience and accomplishments: Mike Pence. The current issue of Imprimis features his remarkable Hillsdale College speech, “The Presidency and the Constitution,” worth reading in its entirety. Here are excerpts from the final paragraphs, which reach a level of eloquence considerably beyond hope, change, and receding oceans:

As Americans, we inherit what Lincoln in his First Inaugural called “the mystic chords of memory stretching from every patriot grave.” They bind us to the great and the humble, the known and the unknown of Americans past—and if I hear them clearly, what they say is that although we may have strayed, we have not strayed too far to return, for we are their descendants. … We owe a debt to those who came before, who did great things, and suffered more than we suffer, and gave more than we give, and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for us, whom they did not know. …

Many great generations are gone, but by the character and memory of their existence they forbid us to despair of the republic. I see them crossing the prairies in the sun and wind. I see their faces looking out from steel mills and coal mines, and immigrant ships crawling into the harbors at dawn. I see them at war, at work and at peace. I see them, long departed, looking into the camera, with hopeful and sad eyes. And I see them embracing their children, who became us. …

They are silent now and forever, but from the eternal silence of every patriot grave there is yet an echo that says, “It is not too late; keep faith with us, keep faith with God, and do not, do not ever despair of the republic.”

It may be worth noting that Pence also gave a significant speech last month at the 10th Annual Friends of the Family Banquet. It was in Iowa.

In her post about potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, Jennifer noted that “the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism” and that fresher faces such as Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are not interested.

Even with the addition of Christie and Rubio, however, that list contains only eight names. Consider the following from Jimmy Carter’s White House Diaries, indicating that only a year and a half before being nominated, Carter ranked considerably lower than ninth:

About the time I announced my candidacy for president in December 1974, Gallup published a poll that included the question “Among Democrats, whom do you prefer as the next nominee?” There were thirty-two names on Gallup’s list of potential candidates, including George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, Henry (Scoop) Jackson, Walter Mondale, John Glenn, and even Georgia legislator Julian Bond. My name was not mentioned.

This is not to say that Republicans should be looking for a new face simply because the usual suspects carry varying weights of baggage. Someone may seem an attractive alternative only because he lacks the baggage any person who has been in the arena will have acquired. Surely the past two years have taught us that the presidency is not the right place for someone, no matter how attractive, who does not have much on his resume under the categories of “Experience,” “Accomplishments,” and “Significant Votes Other Than Present.”

But there is at least one person who combines a relatively fresh face with substantial experience and accomplishments: Mike Pence. The current issue of Imprimis features his remarkable Hillsdale College speech, “The Presidency and the Constitution,” worth reading in its entirety. Here are excerpts from the final paragraphs, which reach a level of eloquence considerably beyond hope, change, and receding oceans:

As Americans, we inherit what Lincoln in his First Inaugural called “the mystic chords of memory stretching from every patriot grave.” They bind us to the great and the humble, the known and the unknown of Americans past—and if I hear them clearly, what they say is that although we may have strayed, we have not strayed too far to return, for we are their descendants. … We owe a debt to those who came before, who did great things, and suffered more than we suffer, and gave more than we give, and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for us, whom they did not know. …

Many great generations are gone, but by the character and memory of their existence they forbid us to despair of the republic. I see them crossing the prairies in the sun and wind. I see their faces looking out from steel mills and coal mines, and immigrant ships crawling into the harbors at dawn. I see them at war, at work and at peace. I see them, long departed, looking into the camera, with hopeful and sad eyes. And I see them embracing their children, who became us. …

They are silent now and forever, but from the eternal silence of every patriot grave there is yet an echo that says, “It is not too late; keep faith with us, keep faith with God, and do not, do not ever despair of the republic.”

It may be worth noting that Pence also gave a significant speech last month at the 10th Annual Friends of the Family Banquet. It was in Iowa.

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Right to Be Concerned, But Not Panicked, About 2012

Monday morning I was in a supermarket parking lot in my neighborhood in Northern Virginia. An older gentleman was putting grocery bags in his truck, festooned with “NO OBAMA” and “McCain-Palin” stickers. Another shopper approached him, commenting, “I like your McCain sticker but who we gonna get this time!”

That sums up what most Republicans are wondering these days. To say that the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism would be putting it mildly. That, in part, accounts for the effort to change Chris Christie’s mind about a 2012 run or lure some other candidate(s) into the race. The media narrative that Palin would instantly be the “front runner” (I guess, in the way, Rudy Giuliani was the front runner before it meant anything) is belied by the determination by so many Republicans to find some other, not yet obvious, candidate.

This is more, I think, than the usual desire to find that mythical perfect candidate with oodles of experience, a fresh face, and no baggage. There is unease that those who are running are deeply flawed (either hobbled within the party or not viable in a general election) or unexciting, while those most attractive aren’t interested this time around (e.g., Christie, Marco Rubio).

To a large degree, the concern is premature. If 2008 showed us anything, it was that an early start, high name recognition, and gobs of organization don’t necessarily mean all that much two years before the first primary. Otherwise, Giuliani or Romney would have been the last nominee. But the concern among Republican activists is a healthy sign — a recognition that electability, personality, experience, and ideology must all be balanced and that this is a very critical election, too critical to roll the dice on a shaky candidate. Along with the sober House GOP leaders has come recognition in the GOP ranks that not any Republican on the ballot can win, no matter how badly the Obama administration performs.

There’s no rush for the Republicans to find the right candidate, but the GOP may have learned some lessons: get viable candidates into the race, choose wisely, and don’t sit around waiting for Obama to complete his meltdown.

Monday morning I was in a supermarket parking lot in my neighborhood in Northern Virginia. An older gentleman was putting grocery bags in his truck, festooned with “NO OBAMA” and “McCain-Palin” stickers. Another shopper approached him, commenting, “I like your McCain sticker but who we gonna get this time!”

That sums up what most Republicans are wondering these days. To say that the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism would be putting it mildly. That, in part, accounts for the effort to change Chris Christie’s mind about a 2012 run or lure some other candidate(s) into the race. The media narrative that Palin would instantly be the “front runner” (I guess, in the way, Rudy Giuliani was the front runner before it meant anything) is belied by the determination by so many Republicans to find some other, not yet obvious, candidate.

This is more, I think, than the usual desire to find that mythical perfect candidate with oodles of experience, a fresh face, and no baggage. There is unease that those who are running are deeply flawed (either hobbled within the party or not viable in a general election) or unexciting, while those most attractive aren’t interested this time around (e.g., Christie, Marco Rubio).

To a large degree, the concern is premature. If 2008 showed us anything, it was that an early start, high name recognition, and gobs of organization don’t necessarily mean all that much two years before the first primary. Otherwise, Giuliani or Romney would have been the last nominee. But the concern among Republican activists is a healthy sign — a recognition that electability, personality, experience, and ideology must all be balanced and that this is a very critical election, too critical to roll the dice on a shaky candidate. Along with the sober House GOP leaders has come recognition in the GOP ranks that not any Republican on the ballot can win, no matter how badly the Obama administration performs.

There’s no rush for the Republicans to find the right candidate, but the GOP may have learned some lessons: get viable candidates into the race, choose wisely, and don’t sit around waiting for Obama to complete his meltdown.

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Who’ve They Got?

Politico has a lengthy article on GOP-establishment efforts to stop Sarah Palin in 2012.

Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin. … Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin’s nomination would ensure President Barack Obama’s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee — an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy — have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.

The premise of the article and the blind quotes are a bit silly. I don’t doubt that many Republican insiders feel this way. But here’s the thing: the way to “stop” Palin, if that is the goal, is to find someone better. If we’ve learned anything this year, we know that the smoke-filled rooms have been replaced by mass rallies and upstart candidates. There is no party machine that can prevent a determined candidate — one who can raise millions at the drop of a hat — from running.

So who’ve they got? So far, the most dynamic (Chris Christie) and the sharpest not-really-new face (Paul Ryan) say they aren’t running. Mitt Romney is well financed and experienced but has authenticity and RomneyCare liabilities. Mitch Daniels has stumbled out of the gate, revealing a certain imperviousness to the concerns of the primary voter (e.g., touting a VAT, proposing a truce on social issues, sounding a preference for a penny-pinching national security policy). Tim Pawlenty is good on paper but has yet to excite anyone. John Thune is perfectly acceptable to many conservatives but hard to see catching fire. And Mike Huckabee’s liabilities in 2008 (an anti-free-market strain of populism, problematic pardons while governor) remain.

That is not to say that these candidates cannot overcome their weaknesses and impress the electorate. But someone will have to if Palin is to be “stopped.” It is hard to upend a candidate in a primary on the electability argument. So the question for these insiders is: who ya got? I throw out one possibility. Last night at the World Series game, Bush 41 and 43 were greeted with rousing cheers; Bush 43 threw the first pitch, hard and over the plate. Yes, it was Texas. But “Bush” is no longer an epithet. Just saying.

Politico has a lengthy article on GOP-establishment efforts to stop Sarah Palin in 2012.

Top Republicans in Washington and in the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over: Stop Sarah Palin. … Many of these establishment figures argue in not-for-attribution comments that Palin’s nomination would ensure President Barack Obama’s reelection, as the deficiencies that marked her 2008 debut as a vice presidential nominee — an intensely polarizing political style and often halting and superficial answers when pressed on policy — have shown little sign of abating in the past two years.

The premise of the article and the blind quotes are a bit silly. I don’t doubt that many Republican insiders feel this way. But here’s the thing: the way to “stop” Palin, if that is the goal, is to find someone better. If we’ve learned anything this year, we know that the smoke-filled rooms have been replaced by mass rallies and upstart candidates. There is no party machine that can prevent a determined candidate — one who can raise millions at the drop of a hat — from running.

So who’ve they got? So far, the most dynamic (Chris Christie) and the sharpest not-really-new face (Paul Ryan) say they aren’t running. Mitt Romney is well financed and experienced but has authenticity and RomneyCare liabilities. Mitch Daniels has stumbled out of the gate, revealing a certain imperviousness to the concerns of the primary voter (e.g., touting a VAT, proposing a truce on social issues, sounding a preference for a penny-pinching national security policy). Tim Pawlenty is good on paper but has yet to excite anyone. John Thune is perfectly acceptable to many conservatives but hard to see catching fire. And Mike Huckabee’s liabilities in 2008 (an anti-free-market strain of populism, problematic pardons while governor) remain.

That is not to say that these candidates cannot overcome their weaknesses and impress the electorate. But someone will have to if Palin is to be “stopped.” It is hard to upend a candidate in a primary on the electability argument. So the question for these insiders is: who ya got? I throw out one possibility. Last night at the World Series game, Bush 41 and 43 were greeted with rousing cheers; Bush 43 threw the first pitch, hard and over the plate. Yes, it was Texas. But “Bush” is no longer an epithet. Just saying.

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What’s It Going to Take in 2012?

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

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