Pandering to the base | Arkansas Blog

Pandering to the base

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It's the age-old dilemma. Republican politicians, to win the Republican primary, generally think they have to bow and scrape to the right-wing base. It doesn't make for a candidate very palatable to the other 78 percent of American voters. But Mike Huckabee, so far lacking traction in the crowded Republican primary, has apparently decided to shamelessly pander to that base. How? With his head-in-the-sand position on sex education earlier today and, now, beating up on Jimmy Carter as an excuse to avoid breaking bread with a group of moderate (in only a relative sense) Baptist group. Moderation, thy name is not Michael D. Huckabee.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)--Mike Huckabee, Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Arkansas, has withdrawn from the New Baptist Covenant Celebration planned for next January in Atlanta in protest of former President Jimmy Carter's labeling of the Bush administration's foreign policy as "the worst in history."

Huckabee, who told the Florida Baptist Witness of his decision to drop out of the Baptist gathering in an exclusive telephone interview May 21, also said the roster of speakers "does seem to tilt left," which gave him concern about participating. Huckabee called Carter's comments an "unprecedented personal attack."

The New Baptist Covenant Celebration is being organized by Carter and Mercer University President Bill Underwood under the umbrella of the North American Baptist Fellowship -– a division of the Baptist World Alliance -– to bring Baptists together to work on social concerns and improve what they regard as the judgmental image of Baptists, according to Associated Baptist Press.

Also involved in the Jan 30-Feb. 1 meeting will be former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore. Like Carter, Clinton and Gore are Baptists who have been very critical of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Huckabee's involvement in the New Baptist Covenant Celebration was announced May 17 as part of a line-up of speakers intended to respond to early criticism that the meeting may have presidential political overtones in light of the timing of the meeting and prominent involvement of Democratic politicians. Other Republican Baptist speakers announced were U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

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