Since Mike Huckabee took off for LA early in the day today to film the Tonight Show with Jay Leno – didn’t want any foreign policy questions, apparently, at events he did attend today – I’m free to check out other candidates this evening. (Thanks to a local reader for sending a sign welcoming Huck on the writers' picket line in Hollywood.) I’ll probably go see Edwards, who has his own musical event with John Mellencamp. I’m not especially keen to hear yet another rendition of that song they always play on Chevy ads, but Edwards is reputed to have a pretty good stump speech.
But catching up from last night: I also went to the Huckabee-Norris love fest that Jay wrote about last night. I think Jay's right on about the Wallace-style populism we saw there, though I would emphasize that in many respects Huckabee's call to the masses is incredibly two-faced. Not so much when it comes to the Guns, God and Gays stuff – he's all too serious there – but the rhetoric he offers when discussing his economic policy is a bald-faced lie.
Read on the jump for more on this.
When I say "lie," I'm thinking mainly of the regressive FairTax policy he adopted ad hoc and decided to run with. (See here for a pithy dismantling of the idea that the government should be charging a national sales tax.)
The people behind the FairTax have their own bus. They were canvassing at the event. Why Huckabee has fallen for this is beyond me.
But the really disconcerting part is that his supporters seem to actually be buying this stuff. Most of the planned Huckabee voters I've spoken to cite religion as the number one reason he's their man, but none of them have objected to the FairTax, and a couple spoke of it very enthusiastically. Last night, the campaign even had Norris – a "great American hero," in Huckabee's words – up on stage touting the plan himself.
Here's how he defended the consumer tax: "When somebody buys a yacht or a jet, make them pay for it!" Presumably when somebody buys a Toyota Camry, an airplane ticket, or a garden hose, they'll have to pay a surcharge on that too, though Norris failed to mention it. But the ruse only works, of course, if people in the lower and middle classes fail to grasp that a consumer tax will suck up a greater proportion of their income than that of the wealthy.
But who cares if Chuck didn't give us the whole story: He's Walker, Texas Ranger, dadgummit! Who cares if this truly simple soul gives a totally bogus tax lecture as long as he promises to deliver a roundhouse kick to someone's face? Not most people in last night's audience, that's for sure.
This is what offends most about Huckabee. I could care less if he buys a lifetime supply of Alpo with government money. But by making a cheap appeal to the lowest common cultural denominator, Huck is doing his best to dumb down the political process. That Huckabee has been riding the Chuck Norris train for so long should tell you that something is wrong with this campaign. No competent candidate should have to rely on a c-list celebrity to draw in voters. Yet it works – Huckabee has somehow found a way to appeal to people’s cultural obsessions while at the same time picking their pockets and convincing them he’s authentic. The state of American politics – perhaps the state of American culture in general – is not well.
And some more photos:
The Huckaboom Continues:
Capitol Offense Offends: