No, Mike Huckabee didn’t say he was against gay marriage because gay sex was “icky.”
I’m on record as thinking Mike Huckabee is the most dangerous politician now active on the Republican side – like Reagan, someone with the personality and temperament to make nutty ideas seem reasonable, but with far nuttier ideas than even Reagan had – so I’m glad to see my friends keeping up the oppo on him. Poking fun at Sarah Palin is just sport; going after Huckabee is serious business.
But serious business ought to be done seriously. Dangerous or not, Huckabee is entitled not to have his words twisted out of shape and used against him. And it does not seem to me that the good folks at ThinkProgress are treating Huckabee with the fair-mindedness that ought to characterize liberalism.
As a retreaded fundamentalist preacher, Huckabee has decided to make opposition to improving the legal status of gays and lesbians – – sorry, “the defense of traditional marriage” – a centerpiece of his politics. He does so with a mix of Scriptural quotations and simple-minded biology.
In a New Yorker profile by Ariel Levy, which captures both parts of Huckabee’s scariness, the reporter asks him about gay rights, and Huckabee replies:
I do believe that God created male and female and intended for marriage to be the relationship of the two opposite sexes. Male and female are biologically compatible to have a relationship. We can get into the ick factor, but the fact is two men in a relationship, two women in a relationship, biologically, that doesn’t work the same.
Now it seems clear to me that Huckabee is distancing himself from the “ick factor,” which (as Huckabee notes in his response to the flap over this quote) is actually
Martha Nussbaum’s phrase, part of an argument that the policy arguments against gay rights are merely disgust dressed up as analysis. Nussbaum’s characterization clearly applies to much anti-gay “thinking,” but there’s no evidence from the article that it applies to Huckabee’s. He’s saying that apart from any “ick factor,” he thinks there are biological and theological reasons to disapprove of gay marriage.
(Huckabee later adds the argument about child-rearing, confusing the question of whether two-parent families are better than single-parent families with the question of the gender mix in a two-parent family, but admits he’s not interested in research on the topic. Why should he be, if God has already decided the question?)
So I think Huckabee is getting a bad rap. Too bad, when there are so many good ones to hit him with. In a target-rich environment, there’s no need to blow up decoys.
Footnote Just to be clear, I have respect for Huckabee’s talents without having any respect for what he stands for; if – God forbid! – one of the current crop of Republicans has to wind up as President some day, I’d far rather have it be Romney.
I regard Huckabee as very intelligent, albeit ill-educated, and somewhat saner on a purely personal and interpersonal level than the average Presidential candidate, without the sheer lust to hurt people that characterizes so much of his party. But like Reagan’s, Huckabee’s niceness has its limits. He moves from denying that the Palestinians constitute an historical nationality – a plausible enough position – to the astounding conclusion that they aren’t entitled to self-government where they live. And his comments about not finding Nancy Pelosi and Helen Thomas sexually desirable – albeit prompted by the reporter’s joke about an affair between Pelosi and Huckabee – fall somewhat short of the civility he professes.
But whether Huckabee is a nice guy or not, he’s entitled not to have what he said mis-stated.
Update Huckabee apparently misattributed; the phrase “ick factor” was used by a journalist on a gay-activist site to describe Nussbaum’s theory; Nussbaum used the less catchy phrase “projective disgust.”