Columns » John Brummett

The good and the good



Usually when I’ve found it appropriate to write approvingly of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, which has tended to be about 30 percent of the time, I’ve relied on a compensating technique.

That would be a Jekyll-Hyde theme, one of Good Mike and Bad Mike. It has facilitated my citing Huckabee’s occasional good while folding it into his bad. That has necessitated, of course, the recounting of at least some of that bad — the petty, the hyperbolic, the hypersensitive, the superficially glib, the ethically impaired.

There I go again.

It occurs that this might not have been altogether fair. Full context is important, yes. But the man never gets his unadulterated due when he’s good. All of us are battlegrounds of good and bad. Only percentages vary.

What follows, then, will limit itself to impressive things that Huckabee has done lately.

First, The New York Times published an article about Hillary Clinton’s religion. Those who hate the woman are thinking this was a short article. But it was reasonably lengthy. Mrs. Clinton has always been a fairly strict Methodist, not to mention a strident moralist, truth be known.

The reporter went to Huckabee, a pulpit artisan in a conservative religious group called Southern Baptist that is known in its central leadership, though not in all its autonomous congregations, for intolerance. The reporter asked Huckabee about Mrs. Clinton’s faith. The query must have been based on Huckabee’s being a minister and having known Mrs. Clinton in Arkansas.

Huckabee did not preach. He did not preen. He did not lord it over.

Here’s how he responded: “I think she has genuine faith. I go to a church that’s very expressive. It does not mean my faith is more genuine that someone who maybe worships in a much more liturgical manner, in a quiet way.”

It does not get much more decent and tolerant than that in modern American religio-politics. And it should not go unnoticed that a Republican acknowledging Clinton’s genuine religious faith runs a risk of offending his base.

Second, Huckabee last week became the first Republican presidential candidate in memory to accept an invitation to speak to the decidedly Democratic National Education Association. Apparently, he wowed them, extolling art and music instruction and explaining that testing was not the be-all and end-all.

Of course he fashioned a glib line, the kind that, actually, he tends to overdo, and the kind that, upon examination, gets revealed as fluff. But, alas, I just backslid into the old technique.

Huckabee said: “If indeed an uneducated population is a form of terror we cannot possibly tolerate, then today I would like to propose that we would unleash weapons of mass instruction.”

Finally, a blogger with the Atlantic magazine wrote of having been stranded with Huckabee through a lengthy delay at an airport. The writer extolled Our Boy Mike’s patience, grace and friendliness. He told of Huckabee helping a mother board the plane by carrying her baby buggy, then, because it was not yet his own turn to board, returning to stand properly in line.

It’s enough to make you wonder. The Republicans are in disarray. Bush and Cheney have pretty near ruined them. The GOP needs to do something creative. Giuliani is too liberal for them. McCain is fading. Romney’s being a Mormon is a political problem with some.

Fred Thompson is supposed to be the savior, but it just came out that he apparently got hired in 1991 to lobby a pro-choice position with the first Bush White House. (He says he doesn’t remember it and denies it. Mainly, this goes to show what happens when political myth, which is mostly what Thompson is, ventures toward political reality.)

Mike Huckabee — the one in this column — is somebody desperate Republicans might want to give a look.

Only because they’re desperate? OK. I’m incorrigible. Delete desperate.

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