Sunday, December 23, 2007

Buffet throws two left jabs at Mike

To the unwitting GOP recipient of, stories number 1 and 2 on the list of breaking headlines today would seem to reveal some new negatives about Mike Huckabee. In a minute, I’ll get to the fact that they are neither new nor substantive and explain why. But that leaves the question as to why they are there in the first place. The answer is pretty simple really. Newsmax is owned by Warren Buffet, the billionaire businessman who supports the candidacy of one Hillary Rodham Clinton. Ergo, it is in Buffet’s interest to attack the GOP front-runner, thus to keep the intra-party GOP rivalry going as long and as contentiously as possible. I say this at the outset by way of a conflict of interest declaration, since displays no such courtesy.

The first headline is entitled “New Revelations about Huckabee and Mormonism”. It then quotes from the December 16 NY Times Magazine article, with Mike saying he “didn’t know much about” Mormonism. Thus does embark on the “What did he know and when did he know it” version of the ‘gotcha!’ game. The article then harks back to a 1998 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at which Mike was the keynote speaker. To quote the article directly: “At the annual meeting, the SBC distributed copies of a book entitled ‘Confronting the Contradictions Between Mormon Beliefs and True Christianity’”, authored by a high-ranking SBC official. The gist of the rest of the story is that this book contains many details about Mormon beliefs, and that it is likely that Mike Huckabee got a copy and at least perused it. The implication here is that Mike was somehow being disingenuous with the NY Times when he said he “didn’t know much about Mormonism”, because he probably had some familiarity with the book in question.

For the sake of argument, let us assume that Mike Huckabee read every single word of the SBC book about Mormonism. In fact, let’s go even further and assume Mike even memorized every word of it. But let us also assume that he is not familiar with much else about Mormonism, and that Mike is a fair-minded fellow (Why else would we even consider electing him US President?). So now Mike is asked about Mormonism (not because Mike—as some suggest—is injecting religion into the campaign, but because the media is preoccupied with it), and he is familiar with the details as expounded by a single source (the SBC book) which has a very clear and obvious bias (published by the SBC!). Well, if Mike is the fair-minded guy we expect he is, he sure wouldn’t presume to have any real knowledge of Mormonism—or anything else, for that matter—based on a single, biased source, would he? So the only honest answer Mike could give a journalist is that he “didn’t know much about Mormonism”, right? So where’s the beef in this story? There isn’t any, except to underscore that Mike is an honest and fair-minded fellow who neither knows nor cares much about his opponents’ religious affiliations.

The number 2 headline story from today is entitled “Huckabee Flip-flops on Cuba, Immigration”. The facts revealed in this story are not new in any way, and have been fully explained by Mike. But since raised the issue, I think it’s worth using the opportunity to flesh out the issue of experience in the context of the Presidential race.

The article cites the facts that, as Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee argued for lifting the trade embargo against Cuba (because it was hurting the business of Arkansas rice farmers), protested against a federal raid to round up illegal aliens working at an Arkansas poultry plant, and advocated in-state tuition for children of illegal aliens. Mike has publicly reversed himself on the issue of the Cuban trade embargo, and adopted a tough plan for dealing with illegal immigration. At least quoted Mike accurately regarding his new positions: “Rather than seeing it as some huge change, I would call it, rather, the simple reality that I’m running for President of the United States, not for re-election as governor of Arkansas.”

But then the article repeats an attack by Mike’s GOP rival Fred Thompson, who had accused Mike of “changing his position on the embargo ‘on a dime to appeal to a particular group of people right before an election.’” Easy for Fred to say. As a senator and an actor he never had to be concerned about the economy of a state for which he was responsible. What should a state governor do if the federal government does nothing to stem the tide of illegal immigrants who flock across the border for jobs in the US, and then tries to selectively enforce the immigration laws in his state, hurting businesses in his state? What should a state governor do when illegal immigrants have children in his state’s school system (about which he has no choice), and these students work hard and excel academically? Punish them because of their parents’ immigration status? As Mike said in one of the recent debates in defense of his position, “I think we’re a better country than that.” And what should a state governor do when his state’s farmers are denied access to a nearby market for their crops due to an international embargo?

Fred Thompson has never had to deal with these issues as part of any real life responsibility. So that brings us to the issue of the importance of the experience of being a successful state governor. The way I see it, there are two important aspects to this:
1) It is important to have a president who has the hands-on experience of reaching agreements with (mostly opposition party) legislative bodies (not to mention bureaucracies, the federal government and local governments, labor unions and other interest groups) re: all aspects of state government, from taxes to traffic to education to law-enforcement, and making it all work within the framework of a balanced budget, and
2) It is also crucial to have a president who has the perspective to understand precisely his role and responsibilities in the office to which he has been elected; to understand the difference between being governor of state (or mayor of a city, or CEO of a corporation, for that matter) and President of the United States.

And Mike Huckabee just keeps on demonstrating that he’s the best man for the biggest job.

No comments: