by Max Brantley
Life is generally too short to endure Tim Russert, but he'll have Mike Huckabee on this morning. I'm guessing it'll be a critical point for the candidate to turn around a growing media perception about his weaknesss in foreign affairs. Time here: 9 a.m.
UPDATE: I watched. I'd say Huckabee did reasonably well in defending himself against Russert's thrusts on Pakistan, tax increases, homosexuality and abortion, at least to the extent some of the positions are defensible.
Most troubling to voters, I'd think, would be his continued defense of a desire to make pre-emptive strikes in Pakistan against U.S. enemies.
It's a small point, perhaps, but he continues to be dishonest (not a good thing when he's attacking Romney for dishonesty) by saying tax increases were court-ordered. In the case of schools, tax increases WERE the only practical and rational way to meet court rulings. But, as a matter of accuracy, none was ordered.
His other stretch from my vantage poingt was to defend his desire for a ban on abortion not as an article of faith but as a U.S. constitutional imperative, a matter of equal rights for all humans. This is true only if you accept that even a minutes-old fertilized egg is a human being. Many religions do not take that view. If that constitutional view does gain acceptance, it will unleash some unbelievable consequences in legal areas far removed from abortion and its legality.
BUBBLE BURSTS: McClatchy poll has Huckabee trailing Romney in Iowa. I think it's just about impossible to accurately poll the caucuses. I still think given the nature of Iowa caucus goers and Huckabee's fervent special interests -- hard-core evangelicals, home schoolers and fair taxers -- that he's the favorite.
SELLING SOAP: Here's an interesting article about how a Huckabee speaking appearance in Iowa dovetailed with a presentation by a multi-level marketing outfit. Pyramid schemes anyone?
BACKFLIPS: The NY Times editorial page discovers the candidate's feet of clay on immigration. That singular praiseworthy moment in which Huckabee rebuked Romney for his lack of compassion to immigrants has given way to something else, the newspaper observes.
For a while it looked as if Mike Huckabee would be a sensibly contrarian Republican. As governor of Arkansas he supported financial aid for illegal-immigrant students, and when Mr. Romney rebuked him for it in a debate, he scolded right back, “Our country is better than that, to punish children for what their parents did.” Then this month he did a stunning backflip, unveiling his “Secure America Plan,” which would require the expulsion of all illegal immigrants within 120 days. And last week, after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, he used the turmoil in Pakistan as an argument for building a border fence, and said the United States needed to watch whether “there’s any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country.”
THE NEW REAGAN: Does Mike Huckabee hold the key to a new winning coalition of evangelicals, the working class, etc.? NY Times opinion section piece ponders his chances for creating a new Republican dynamic.
THE HEAT OF THE SPOTLIGHT: Politico wonders if Huck can hang on and, if not, suggests why:
But after months of close-up examinations of Romney’s newly conservative views, it has been Huckabee’s record and rhetorical hiccups that have drawn most of the attention for the past month.
It has been a devastating bill of particulars.
Huckabee has undergone scrutiny for his ethical transgressions in Arkansas, his support for the pardon of an Arkansas sex offender who committed murder after being released from prison, his 1992 statement that AIDS victims should be quarantined, his decision to continue to draw a salary from a nonprofit financed in part by tobacco money and his policy of taking speaking fees from controversial groups prior to his campaign.
Then there have been self-inflicted wounds like his Pakistan comments, his wondering out loud to The New York Times magazine whether Mormons believe Jesus and the devil are brothers, his description of the Bush administration’s foreign policy in Foreign Affairs as one of an “arrogant bunker mentality,” his unfamiliarity with the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program and his assertion that he was receiving foreign policy advice from people who said they had never spoken with him.
Asked whether they had been prepared for the level of scrutiny that has come their way, campaign manager Chip Saltsman said with a laugh: “I don’t think anybody is ready for that.”
STIll MORE PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKABEE: On Daily Kos, a real bashfest.