by Max Brantley
Mike Huckabee is getting some favorable notices on his Iowa debate appearance, thanks particularly to the Frank Luntz focus group in which 29 Iowa Republicans responded favorably to statements Huckabee made.
Example: The numbers went off the charts when Huckabee said one solution to health care in America would be to give every American the kind of health care plan Congress has. But he didn't really mean that. Here, when he tried to make nice with filmmaker Michael Moore, he makes clear universal health care isn't squarely in his sights:
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee reached out to filmmaker and liberal activist Michael Moore on Monday, suggesting that the two of them meet to discuss ideas about health care reform because they “could find some common ground and make some positive change.”
“The two of us may have something in common: a passion for reforming the health care system in America,” Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate, said in a letter to Moore. “While I respect your efforts to call attention the health care crisis in this country in your movie “Sicko,” I feel that your view that all would be improved with free universal and government provided health care is simplistic.”
Raw Story gets it, even if Republican viewers did not.
The system enjoyed by Congress under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which Huckabee invoked at the debate, involves the government negotiating contracts with private health plans and covering up to 75% of the premiums for those enrolled.
Luntz concluded the segment by showing the members of his focus group describing Huckabee as "honest" and "refreshing" and said that he has a real chance to break out of the second tier.
Huckabee, remember, joined other candidates in saying he didn't endorse Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley's plan to expand health care for poor children by raising cigarette taxes. But the listeners heard him say, effectively, that he backed universal health insurance.
The pattern repeated. Huckabee's for rebuilding infrastructure. He promises no taxes need to be raised to do it. He promises a "middle ground" on the war in Iraq -- "victory with honor." All of these things sound so good. But what do they mean? Just where are the specifics by which he'd achieve these universally lauded aims?
We know from experience you can fool a lot of the people and a lot of the press with bromides like these. Will the illuminating questions get asked if Huck becomes the media flavor of the day?