Quin Hillyer: The case against Huckabee

This piece made a little stir in headlines so I’m bringing it down to Times Square. On a day when we’re staring down the barrel of the DREAM Act, it seems only appropriate to give an open-borders advocate a little unwanted attention. John Hawkins has his own case against (and for) Huck out this morning amounting to “he’s George Bush with better oratory,” but Quin Hillyer gets a bit more specific. Huck’s selling points are that he’s got all the right moves on social issues and knows his way around a podium; combine that with his status as a minister and you’ve got the preacher candidate social cons have dreamed of.

Not so fast, says Hillyer.

Ask lots of folks in Arkansas, including Republicans, and a fair number will probably tell you that Huck is for Huck is for Huck. National media folks like David Brooks, dealing in surface appearances only, rave about what a nice guy Huckabee is, and a moral exemplar to boot. If they only did a little homework, they would discover a guy with a thin skin, a nasty vindictive streak, and a long history of imbroglios about questionable ethics…

Fourteen times, the ethics commission — a respected body, not a partisan witch-hunt group — investigated claims against Huckabee. Five of those times, it officially reprimanded him. And, as only MSNBC among the big national media has reported at any real length, there were lots of other mini-scandals and embarrassments along the way.

He used public money for family restaurant meals, boat expenses, and other personal uses. He tried to claim as his own some $70,000 of furniture donated to the governor’s mansion. He repeatedly, and obstinately, against the pleadings even from conservative columnists and editorials, refused to divulge the names of donors to a “charitable” organization he set up while lieutenant governor — an outfit whose main charitable purpose seemed to be to pay Huckabee to make speeches. Then, as a kicker, he misreported the income itself from the suspicious “charity.”…

All of which leads one to ask two questions: First, how can voters whose primary concerns are moral look beyond so many of a candidate’s problems with ethics? And, second, if Republicans in general have concluded, as most of them have, that repeated scandals among Washington GOPers played a huge role in Republican defeats in 2006, how could they possibly nominate somebody who seems to have such big ethical blind spots?

The answer to the first question is easy: Huck is “right” on gays and abortion, particularly vis-a-vis his opponents, and that’s enough. The second question is harder and points to serious problems in a general election contest, especially if he faces Hillary, who’ll have plenty of Arkansas contacts to sniff around for other cases of ethical lapses. Exit question, and it’s Hillyer’s exit question too: Why hasn’t Duncan Hunter done better as an alternative? He’s a Vietnam vet, he’s acceptable to social cons, and he doesn’t have Huckabee’s nanny state tendencies. Is it just a fatal lack of charisma? What gives?

Note: I imported comments from the headline item into the comment thread below.

Update: To burnish his own preacher-like credentials, Huck is apparently telling people that “most” of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were clergymen. Not even close.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023