Were it not for one trifling frailty, Mike Huckabee's decision in the dog days of Iowa summer to become God's candidate for president looks prophetic and almost credible.
To wrest the crucial evangelical vote in Iowa from the faltering Republican field, he set out in bold and subtle ways to make his faith and his preacher background the central issue. Except in carefully chosen venues he had downplayed his religion in his 15-year Arkansas political career. But it has worked better than even Huckabee must have dared hope. The “Christian Leader” whose Baptist faith will instruct him as president, as his Iowa commercials proclaim, surged from the bottom to the top both in Iowa and, if you believe the polls, in the rest of the nation as well.
Huckabee can make a case that he is doing the work Jesus would do. While he has always talked Republican conservatism, he used his tax-raising and clemency powers as governor to help the poor, the sick and the aged and to befriend people in prison, as Jesus cautioned his disciples to do “for the least of these” if they wanted to go to heaven. As the Associated Press reported this week, the governor exercised his clemency power for killers, rapists and other felons far more than his three predecessors combined and probably more than the previous six governors, none of whom had preacher confidantes to tell them which cons deserved redemption. Until very recently Huckabee also was more or less kind to immigrants, and almost everyone else but gays, newspaper reporters, women who wanted an abortion and “wacko” environmentalists.
Would God endorse the harebrained “Fair Tax” that Huckabee embraced back in the spring to separate himself from the pack? God wanted the hated Roman tax collectors to be paid, but who can say that He does not despise the IRS, which Huckabee promises to abolish when he imposes a 30-plus percent national sales tax. The bureaucracy that would be needed to enforce a humongous tax on everything from new homes to the yardman would make the IRS look like the cashier at a church bazaar, but Huckabee may be right that it is the Christian thing to do.
Oh, what about that little frailty?
Mike Huckabee has a serious aversion to truthfulness, and this year it has got worse, not better, outside the confining tethers of home where people are a little familiar with what he has done. A real Christian Leader does not bear false witness.
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. (Prov. 12:22) Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. (Psa. 120:2) The Bible says much more, but that should suffice.
It may be that Huckabee rationalizes the exaggerations, deceptions and outright lies because there is a lower threshold for truth in politics. Everybody supposedly does it. Huckabee does it with such warmth and authenticity when, let's say, he is talking to a Fox News host that he seems to feel uniquely endowed to create the truth. If he says it, it becomes the truth.
When he was an also-ran ignored by fact-checking media, he got away with scores of fibs and distortions. He was the first governor to cut taxes, he reversed the mindset of higher and higher taxes, he slashed government spending and he shrank the government. None of it was true. When the huge increase in government spending and the 20 percent hike in government employees on his watch were cited, he said he had control of only a small fraction of the state budget, which was pure nonsense. The governor proposes and signs off on the entire state budget except pension benefits.
When the big motor-fuel tax increase was brought up, he said over and over that 80 percent of the voters of Arkansas approved the taxes. The taxes never went to a vote of the people. As for sales taxes, he said, he had no option to raising taxes because the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered it. It didn't. The court ordered the state to fix the disproportionate quality of education across the state, and the legislature and governor chose to do it by raising taxes.
When he was called on freeing the murderer and rapist Wayne DuMond he said he strongly opposed DuMond's parole and blamed it on Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker. The accounts of parole board members and his own aide who accompanied him to a closed meeting and his own prepared statement on the day of the parole and his letter to DuMond put the lie to the claim.
Then there is his denial in this week's Newsweek that he met with tobacco people at Dallas and in his Little Rock apartment to get money for a then-secret fund to supplement his income as described by two Republican advisers. If someone has a picture of the meeting he would agree that it happened, he said. Otherwise, he does not know who gave him all that money. Huckabee protected the tobacco people for eight years, halting a regulatory ban on smoking in restaurants and vetoing a cigarette tax increase in favor of a huge tax on nursing home patients, before turning on them.
Huckabee has a lot of inconvenient truths. He will be a Christian Leader and presidential timber when he begins to face them.