by Max Brantley
Stephens Media coverage of Gov. Mike Huckabee at the Dobson/Wildmon/Coulter "values" fest in Washington causes me to reconsider a posting yesterday based on a couple of blog accounts. From those blogs, most of Huckabee's remarks seem calculated to reach this unpleasant base.
But in Stephens coverage, it seems clear the governor was sharply differentiating himself for the audience, the most rabid of right-wing fundamentalists.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Friday urged some of the most conservative members of the Republican Party to ally with feminists, gay-rights advocates and labor unions to attack social problems.
The possible 2008 GOP presidential candidate said he disagreed with the goals of those unlikely partners, but was willing to work with liberal groups to address key issues.
Huckabee proposed teaming with feminists to fight pornography and domestic abuse, same-sex marriage proponents to combat the spread of AIDS and unions to improve wages and workplace safety.
Speaking at the Family Research Council's "Values Voters Summit," he criticized what he said were Washington's ineffective, partisan politics.
This sounds as if his speech was designed as a Huckabe "Sister Souljah moment" -- as when Bill Clinton took on the incendiary entertainer before the NAACP. In Washington yesterday, some of the righties were clearly uncomfortable about Huckabee's ideas.
Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, said the strange alliances may be difficult to put into practice. For example, he said many same-sex marriage advocates support condom use as a way to curtail AIDS. He and hopefully Huckabee, he said, would fight AIDS by fighting homosexuality.
"I don't know where we'd sit down in the room with (homosexuals) and iron out an AIDS policy," Wildmon said of Huckabee's proposals.. "This is fine in theory. I just don't have any examples of it in real life."
That, really, is the rub. It's hard to believe that, given the animosity that many in this gathering hold for feminists and gay people, that they could reach common ground on just about anything. But Huckabee knows he'll get points in the middle for trying. Thus the question: how will this resonate in the important media pack? We'll keep watching.
But a tip for the Huckster: You don't demonstrate your openness to work with and respect for gay people by making Brokeback Mountain jokes.
Media notes: Reuters missed the point. AP had him as an also-spoke. LA Times lumped him with a group of speakers depicted as catering to the audience, while noting that McCain and Giuliani did not attend. (This article is worth reading; leader Wildmon talked about using churches to distribute voter guides tailored to inspire this base -- which his related Family Council does in Arkansas.) NY Times and Washington Post had no coverage.