From Hope to Higher Ground: 12 STOPs to Restoring America’s Greatness
By Mike Huckabee, Center Street, hard cover, $20
If 12-step programs are as popular as they seem to be these days, Author/Governor Mike Huckabee should have a best-seller on his hands. He gives the reader 144 steps. This is industrial-sized self-improvement.
Already the most prolific writer among Arkansas governors, Huckabee has a new book out, “From Hope to Higher Ground: 12 STOPs [sic] to Restoring America’s Greatness.” The title of each of the 12 chapters begins with the word “stop,” written in capital letters to show that Huckabee’s serious about people quitting; mere cutting down will be insufficient. Each of the 12 chapters ends with a list of 12 steps to take. From the first chapter, “STOP being cynical”:
1. Don’t believe bad reports without documentation. 2. Read the Bible more; blogs less. [Here the governor must have been tempted to write “especially the Arkansas Times blog.” He resisted.] 3. Read more from the “Features” page and fewer from the “Letters to the Editor.” 4. Listen to more music and less talk radio. 5. Watch classic films made before 1968. [You wonder how he chose the cutoff date. Was there a 1968 movie that was particularly offensive?] 6. Read biographies. 7. Read magazines about your favorite hobbies. (“I read Runner’s World, Bassmaster, Ducks Unlimited, Men’s Health, and Bass Player for example, among others.”) 8. Have regular conversations with people very unlike you (race, religion, political party, ethnic background). 9. Do volunteer work with the impoverished, disabled, or ill. 10. Write letters of praise to total strangers you read about who do wonderful things. 11. Practice what my Arkansas philanthropist friend Jennings Osborne calls “Random Acts of Kindness.” 12. Watch TV Land and Nick @ Nite more; network TV less.
As this list shows, most of Huckabee’s steps are inoffensive if ineffectual. Many are just goofy. A few will outrage some readers. (“Take part in a March for Life.”) According to his book, Huckabee is even more fiercely anti-abortion than he’s appeared: “I am not pro-life because I am in politics. It would be fair to say that I am in politics because I am pro-life. By no means am I a single-issue person, but on that single issue I am, and will remain, steadfastly consistent.
He notes that “Even though Arkansas has been considered one of the most pro-life states in the country, successfully passing pro-life legislation through the Arkansas General Assembly had been virtually impossible prior to 1997. This was due in large part to a complete roadblock in the Senate Health Committee, a liberal bastion where senators saw to it that no matter how reasonable a bill might be, if it protected an unborn child, they would see the bill aborted before it would ever be allowed a fighting chance on the Senate floor.” Huckabee doesn’t name them, but Sen. Jay Bradford of Pine Bluff, the committee chairman, and Sen. Nick Wilson of Pocahontas were two Health Committee members persistently adamant in protecting a woman’s right to ownership of her own body. Legislative enemies otherwise, they allied to thwart the anti-abortionists. Huckabee generally avoids naming names, but he probably considered making an exception for Wilson, who eventually resigned and went to prison for corruption unrelated to the abortion issue. In life, as opposed to literature, Huckabee tried to tar other Democrats with the Wilson brush, including new governor Mike Beebe, who was actually an enemy of Wilson’s in the Senate.
Huckabee is not an ideologue, and if he sounds like a right-winger on abortion, he could pass for progressive on other issues. Here he is on the subject of immigration:
“I respect the fact that many people are seriously concerned about the security of our borders and protecting our nation from terrorists slipping in. I respect, as well, those who hold an honest regard for the law and feel any violation is unacceptable. However, I would be remiss if I failed to point out that some of the passion I hear in the context of this debate is rather disturbing. I’m referring to passion that has nothing to do with regard for law or anxieties about security, but that drives some of the most inflamed emotions: the passion sparked by the unholy flames of racism.”
Considering that the author was a governor, “From Hope to Higher Ground” is not badly written, although Huckabee is too generous with his exclamation points, impressed as he is with his own thoughts. He’s proved he’s a skillful communicator, so we’ll assume he wrote the book himself, or most of it. He probably had help with the 144 steps.
“From Hope to Higher Ground” is not as bad as one might expect, nor good enough to be recommended. Sort of like Huckabee as a presidential candidate.