Against symmetry: Republicans-love-being-lied-to edition

Mike Huckabee calls Lara Logan a “hero journalist” for airing a false story.

Lots of us liberals felt sorry for Dan Rather for having used what turned out to be fabricated documents in reporting on George W. Bush’s derelictions of duty while using the Air National Guard to dodge service in Vietnam. Some of us even suspected that he’d been mousetrapped by Karl Rove: that the phony documents had been planted on Rather, or on his source, for the purpose of discrediting a true story.

But once the fabrication had been brought to light, no liberal blogger – let alone any liberal politician – called Rather a “hero” for running with his story.

Contrast Mike Huckabee, who – if he’s right that America’s sinfulness has drawn down on it the Wrath of God – might actually be President some day. He’s “shocked” that the “hero journalist” Lara Logan has been suspended from her job at CBS.

It’s simply not the case that the Red Team and the Blue Team are symmetric. Yes, they both act factionally, and both camps include some lunatics. But we don’t let ours run the asylum.

Huckabee’s madrassas and the Republicans’ structural problem

You can’t get elected President as a raving winger lunatic. But you can’t get nominated via the Republican primaries except as a raving winger lunatic. That’s a problem if you’re a Republican who wants to be President or someone who wants to see a Republican elected President.

Matt Yglesias thinks that Mike Huckabee’s “Mau Mau” comment about Obama was a mere gaffe, and therefore unimportant in considering his chances of winning a general election in 2012 or 2016. My reading of the situation is that Huckabee’s problem is more profound than that.

Huckabee’s latest comments seem to support my side of that argument.
Continue reading “Huckabee’s madrassas and the Republicans’ structural problem”

Mike Huckabee and the Balinese Mau Mau

Huckabee blunders, and tells a blundering lie in backing off. Maybe the Reagan trick of telling hate-inspiring lies with a smiling face isn’t as easy as it looked.

Of the current crop of Republican contenders for the White House, Mike Huckabee scares me the most, because of his many virtues: sanity, intelligence, humor, partial independence from the plutocracy, and a sense of proportion. So I won’t pretend to be dismayed by Huck’s blundering flirtation with birtherism and the even more absurd lie he told in trying to back off from that blunder.

(In the original interview, he said that Obama’s having grown up in Kenya made him anti-British out of sympathy with the Mau Mau. In his retraction, he says he meant to say that Obama grew up in Indonesia. But last time I checked, the Mau Mau never got within several thousand miles of Indonesia, where the colonialists were Dutch. Ooops!)

That even Huckabee fell into this trap in the context of a friendly interview with a right-wing talk jock suggests a serious problem for the Republicans as they attempt to re-take the White House in 2012 or 2016.
Continue reading “Mike Huckabee and the Balinese Mau Mau”

Religious fanaticism in Egyptian and U.S. politics

The Muslim Brotherhood meets Mike Huckabee.

A day or so ago I saw the text of an interview with someone described as one of the “moderates” in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He mostly managed to sound fairly reasonable (with some ambiguity about the status of women), until the topic of Israel came up. There his position was clear: there should be one state encompassing Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, with the future of that state determined democratically.

In English, of course, that means that the Arab majority in that state would get to vote to drive the Jews out, just as Arabs have driven the Jews out of Syria, of Egypt, and of Iraq: all places where the Jewish population long pre-dated the arrival of the Arabs and existed continuously until the late 20th Century. (The Jewish community in Baghdad descended from th exiles brought to Babylon c. 600 B.C., or roughly thirteen centuries before the Arabs expanded from the Arabian Peninsula. Jews had been in Alexandria since Alexander’s time.)

So the “effectual truth,” as Machiavelli would say, of a democratic one-state solution is … ethnic cleansing.

Well, I said to myself, too bad. Let’s hope that the MB has less hold on the Egyptian electorate than it seemed to have as virtually the sole organized opposition to Mubarak. But we certainly can’t rule out the possibility that the current uprising will wind up delivering Egypt into the hands of a bunch of lunatic religious fanatics..

Then, a day later, I saw a story about Mike Huckabee’s latest speech, given in Israel. He said that Jews should be allowed to settle anywhere they want to in the West Bank, on the grounds that God gave them the land. If Palestinians want their own state, he says, it should be carved out of “the vast amount of territory that are in the hands of Muslims” outside Greater Israel.

In English, of course, that means that Israeli Jews get to expel Palestinian Arabs from anywhere the settlers want to squat, and that if the Arabs don’t like it they can leave.

In other words, the “effectual truth” of Huckabee’s position is … ethnic cleansing.

I have great respect for Mike Huckabee, though I disagree with him about almost anything. He’s no Sarah Palin. He’s badly educated, but as far as one can judge from a distance he’s extremely smart, maybe at the Obama level. Also like Obama, Huckabee is personally saner than the average Presidential aspirant. He has some humility, some irony, and a sense of humor, and lacks the outright meanness and delight in the suffering of others that characterize too many high-level politicians.

For all I know, that’s true of the Muslim Brotherhood guy, too. Either one might be fun to have dinner with (not, of course, the proverbial beer). But both are in the grip of religious/political ideologies that make otherwise decent people perfectly capable of advocating ethnic cleansing.

And Huckabee doesn’t have the excuse of coming from a part of the world where such things are considered normal.

Huckabee, gay people, and the “ick factor”

He’s getting a bad rap. Too bad, when there are so many good ones to hit him with.m

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.”

Meet the 2008 Republican nominee

It was only a matter of time before John McCain’s support started cratering: his whole appeal was his independence, so when he sacrificed that, it figured to erode his standing. Combine that with his uber-hawkish position on Iraq, and it’s no surprise that he is rapidly losing popularity.

Who fills the gap? Not Mitt Romney: his flip-flopping on social issues will, I believe, seriously injure him both in Republican primaries and with the GOP elite. He’s damaged goods. Not Rudy Giuliani, who at least is more honest than Romney about his positions, but as Stuart Rothenberg persuasively argues, kills him with the Republican base.

Who does that leave?

Meet Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor. He’s a Baptist minister, conservative enough for the base, outsider enough for the electorate, and he carries the argument that he can work across the aisle. He’s an outstanding politician, and will be able to make the outsider argument better than anyone else in the field. Put another way, he’s the George W. Bush of 2008. In fact, I think his whole argument will be about changing the tone in Washington.

Yes, I know: it was garbage when Bush said it, and it’s garbage when Huckabee says it. But that doesn’t matter.

The Republicans aren’t stupid, and they are still a tightly organized ship. They will look for someone who is right-wing but doesn’t really seem like it. That’s Huckabee, and given everyone else’s flaws, they will, I believe, turn to him. The key is whether he can get funding.

If it happens, you heard it here first. The 2008 Republican nominee will be Mike Huckabee, and he will be a formidable challenger. We’d better start the opposition research now.