by Max Brantley
But the Huckabee who has emerged in the early days of the long run-up to the 2016 presidential election is far different. Happy Huckabee seems to be gone, the smile replaced by a snarl.
“He is not a different person, but the outlook then was better. We are in a different time. It calls for some tougher language.”
This new Huckabee told the New Hampshire Freedom Summit, “I’m beginning to think that there’s more freedom in North Korea than there is in the United States.” It’s the Huckabee who said Democrats want the women of America to “believe that they are helpless with Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government.” Gone is the talk of evangelicals approaching the political sphere “with joy in our hearts.” Instead, Huckabee now wonders, “Why is it that Christians stand back and take it in the teeth time and time and time again?” It is this Huckabee who defended the Duck Dynasty reality star’s comments on gay marriage and civil rights in the South but accused those who criticize Chick-fil-A’s corporate anti-gay marriage stance of engaging in “vicious hate speech.”
Longtime Huckabee observers back from his days in Arkansas say his new public pronouncements do not surprise them.
“He might have been a Baptist preacher, but he had a mean streak a mile wide,” said Jimmy Jeffress, a former Arkansas lawmaker who served in the statehouse during Huckabee’s tenure. Although the two battled bitterly in Little Rock, Jeffress said that since the governor the statehouse, “He has just become a complete opportunist. He says these things to reach out to the hearts of Republican voters. I don’t think that is what he feels, but he wants to get more support and he doesn’t want to just go home to his multimillion-dollar mansion on the Florida coast...and put his feet in the water.”