If Huckabee indeed fades after these 15 minutes, he clearly will have his own shallowness to blame.
Huckabee may have realized that Dumond did, in fact, rape Ashley Stevens, but was unwilling, after having publicly championed the criminal's cause, to suffer the humiliation of admitting he'd been duped.
There's Frank Rich: He writes effusively about Huck as the man of the moment (the Republicans' Obama), but notes, in passing:
Mr. Huckabee may well be doomed in the long term. He has little money or organization. He’s so ignorant of foreign affairs that he hadn’t heard of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran a day after its release. His sometimes wacky economic populism riles his party’s most important constituency, Wall Street. And who knows how many other Arkansas scandals will be disinterred along with the paroled serial rapist who popped out last week? That Mr. Huckabee has gotten as far as he has shows just how in sync his benign style is with the cultural moment.
BUT TODAY'S BIG NEWS:
The Newsweek package is generally favorable. (A sidebar on Janet Huckabee quotes her as saying she's often been called the "queen of fun.") But, uh oh, former Huckabee friends -- Greg Graves and J.J. Vigneault -- finally spilled the secrets about Action America, the Huck's secret money-making machine back in his early days in public life.
Two of Action America's directors, J. J. Vigneault and Greg Graves—both former Huckabee political consultants—tell NEWSWEEK that the group was substantially funded by one source: R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant. Vigneault and Graves—who were both also R.J. Reynolds consultants—say the company hoped to use Huckabee's political skills to drum up grass-roots opposition to the national health-care plan then being pushed by First Lady Hillary Clinton. The idea was that Huckabee would fly around the country persuading evangelicals to come out against the Clinton proposal, which included a cigarette tax. The two Action directors say Reynolds pitched in $40,000, making it the fund's largest contributor. Vigneault, a Little Rock lobbyist who served as one of Huckabee's chief strategists, says the idea for the group was hatched in the Admirals Club of the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, where Huckabee had mentioned his financial troubles to Vigneault. Vigneault says the group was incorporated in Texas because "we didn't want anybody to find out about it."
Huckabee tells NEWSWEEK that there was nothing illegal about Action America and that he reported the income on his disclosure forms. "I fully complied with every bit of the law," he says. He insists he had "no idea" where the funds came from. "I don't even know who all the donors were." He specifically says he did not know anything about the tobacco money. Yet Vigneault says some of the details of the fund were worked out at a meeting with a Reynolds executive that took place inside Huckabee's Little Rock apartment: "Hell, Huckabee had some ideas. He thought we needed to play up that this was the first step to socialized medicine." Comically, Vigneault says Huckabee made the tobacco exec step outside to have a smoke. (R.J. Reynolds did not return calls seeking comment.)
Huckabee, choosing his words with Clintonian precision, says he doesn't remember a thing about the alleged get-together in his apartment: "I don't recall those meetings. I'm not saying they never happened. But I don't have any recollection of them," he tells NEWSWEEK. "If they can show me pictures of me there, that might help." He insists that none of the speeches funded by Action America had anything to do with tobacco. "They sure didn't get anything out of me," he says. Graves, who was president of Action America, says he was "incredulous" to hear that Huckabee denied knowing where the money came from. "I don't know how he could have not known," he says.
Will the rest of the national press delve into how the anti-tobacco crusader of recent years was propped up by tobacco money in his early years? We shall see. Surely the Democrat-Gazette, which vigorously pursued Action America way back when, will want to take a second look.