Columns » Ernest Dumas

Huckabee's whoppers



Mike Huckabee may have set a record for the number of fibs told by a presidential aspirant in a single week, or perhaps in a year, which raises a question.

Was it a good week or a bad week for Huckabee?

Pundits seem to think it was a disaster that torpedoed the former governor's standing as the leading contender for the Republican nomination in 2012. George Will, the doyen of conservative thought, wrote that sensible Americans had to be detecting "vibrations of weirdness" in the Republican Party with the nutty pronouncements of Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, who is not terribly far behind Huckabee in Republican polls.

But Huckabee would be hurting only if justice and good sense were the prevailing factors in the chase for the Republican nomination, and they are not. Truth is not part of the equation.

The last week of February was an especially good one for Huckabee because he told the true believers, who are the gravitational force in the Republican Party, what they want to hear, and the fact that he was caught lying only gave him a bigger megaphone.

Let's take all the whoppers Huckabee told on the New York radio show of Steve Malzberg, a Glenn Beck wannabe who spouts all the crazy conspiracies of the right. Because he told a bunch of provable falsehoods, Huckabee's words spread across the country. If he had told the truth, no one but Malzberg's rapt listeners would have heard the slanders.

Huckabee said President Obama grew up in Kenya under the influence of his Muslim father and grandfather so he has a different worldview from that of real Americans. He said the president had a different view of "the Brits" than Americans because he sympathized with the Mau Mau revolution against British colonial rule in the 1950s. Obama demonstrated it, he continued, by removing a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and returned it to Great Britain, "a great insult to the British." Because he grew up in Kenya, he went on, Obama didn't get healthy influences like the Boy Scouts gave Americans.

Not a phrase of it was true. Obama saw his father only briefly as a child and never met his grandfather. He was born in Hawaii and spent the first five years of his life there, then spent several years in Indonesia with his mother and her new husband, and returned to Oahu, Hawaii, where he was raised by white grandparents and went to school. He went to Kenya for the first time in 1987, at the age of 26, to visit a sister.

And Obama did not return the Churchill bust to England but moved it to the family wing of the White House. He replaced it in the Oval Office with a bust of Abraham Lincoln. The Brits evinced no choler about it.

Oh, and Obama was in the Boy Scouts in Indonesia.

The head of Huckabee's political-action committee issued a statement explaining that Kenya was only a slip of the tongue. Huckabee meant to say Indonesia, not Kenya. He knew that Obama never lived in Kenya.

But what was all that stuff about the Mau Maus? There were no Mau Maus in Indonesia, an island nation that is oceans away.

That was on Monday. A day earlier, Huckabee was a guest on Chris Wallace's Sunday show on Fox News. Wallace said that if Huckabee ran for president the media would throw out "gotcha stories," such as the charges that when he was governor of Arkansas Huckabee raised taxes. How would he respond to that? By arrangement with Huckabee, obviously, Wallace flashed on the screen three of the many Huckabee tax increases — the ones Huckabee wanted to talk about.

That state income tax surcharge, Huckabee said, was "a misnomer." He opposed the tax but the legislature passed it anyway and he flatly did not sign it, Huckabee said.

As it has been pointed out many times — by no less than the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (then, not lately) — that is a lie. Huckabee called a special legislative session in 2003 to raise taxes. In his address to the Senate and House of Representatives he pleaded with the legislators to pass a tax bill and send it to him. He suggested an income tax surcharge, a sales tax or a tobacco tax. He said he would sign any tax bill they sent to him. The legislature sent him a bill imposing an extra 3 percent charge on individual and corporate incomes for two years and an increase in tobacco taxes. He signed it into law on May 8, the same day it passed the Senate, and praised the legislature for passing it. It's all in the record.

Wallace and Fox never pointed out the lie.

Huckabee also implied that the Arkansas Supreme Court made him raise the sales tax, which also was not true.

Three days earlier, meeting with national political reporters in Washington, Huckabee was asked about freeing an Arkansas inmate who went to Lakewood, Wash., and slaughtered four policemen in a coffee shop in 2009. Police gunned him down in a shootout later.

Huckabee said he would do it all over again. The kid was only 16 and had been sentenced to 108 years in prison for a burglary, he said. If Maurice Clemmons had been white and had a good lawyer, Huckabee said, he would not have served even one day in prison and would be working on Wall Street today. Clemmons wrote Huckabee a letter saying he had found Jesus.

Clemmons was not 16, he would have been eligible for parole after serving fewer than 20 years, not 108, and his crimes and prison misconduct were numerous and violent, not just a little burglary. All of that was documented.

That's only four days of prevarications. There's not space for Natalie Portman's pregnancy or the promotions for his new book of tired bromides.

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