Mike Huckabee: We have a Churchill in Trump

They’re not unalike. Both are men and both were portly in their old age. And who could forget Churchill remarking on the “very fine people” on both sides in the late 1930s?

I’m a day late on this but it’s too fun not to blog. Which administration job is Huck angling for, I wonder.

First point: If you’re going to draw this analogy, draw it for something substantive. To Huck and 95 percent of the public, “Chamberlain” is just shorthand for “timid diplomacy towards evil” and “Churchill” is shorthand for “resolute confrontation with evil.” You can force a Chamberlain/Churchill template onto Obama and Trump if you like by focusing on their respective approaches to Iran — although even there, while formally decertifying the nuclear deal, Trump has kept it in place. He’s been sanguine about letting Iran’s and Russia’s puppet, Bashar Assad, remain in power in Syria for the foreseeable future too. But at least if you tried an Iran analogy, you’d be showing some effort. Huck’s points of comparison are facile to the point of glibness, stuff that could be said with some truth about any wartime leader. Both men had political enemies who criticized them harshly, and both were bold communicators! The same was true of Lincoln. The same will be true of any hawkish statesman who oversaw an era-defining conflict and left behind memorable oratory. All that’s missing in Trump’s case is the conflict and the oratory. Churchill had “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” and World War II, Trump has “FAKE NEWS!” and a counteroffensive in the war on Christmas. There’s always next year.

Which leads to the second point: It does Trump no favors to compare him to one of western civilization’s great statesmen, certainly the greatest of the 20th century, and to do it when he hasn’t notched 12 months in office yet. No leader has ever had a single year in power to rival a record like Churchill’s. As such, Huckabee’s hyperbole operates as an alley-oop to Trump critics to dunk on him, over and over:


You would think Huck might pause at the idea of comparing a Nobel winner to a guy who sporadically needs to rewrite his tweets due to basic misspellings. And it dishonors Churchill’s memory to compare a great enemy of fascism to someone who quasi-endorsed the National Front candidate in last year’s French election, part of a lifelong pattern of admiration and apologetics for the ruthless “strength” of nationalist authoritarians.

So why would Huckabee do it? Why fart out a Churchill comparison that’s destined to backfire by handing critics a gigantic yardstick against which to measure Trump and find him wanting? The theory that he wants a job from POTUS, whether for himself or for his daughter Sarah (if Tom Cotton ends up at the CIA, the White House will need an Arkansan to fill his Senate seat), is plausible. Trump will enjoy the outlandish flattery of being likened to Churchill; supposedly Huckabee was offered a cabinet position once before and turned it down but may be signaling that he’ll be more receptive now. Another real possibility, though, is that Huck understands the media landscape he inhabits and has calculated that there’s no price to pay for praising Trump in the most ludicrously effusive terms. On the contrary. MSNBC and CNN will laugh at him, the 60 percent of the country that disapproves of Trump will roll their eyes at him, but in a tribal era all he needs to do is make the other 40 percent happy by telling them what they want to hear. CBN is running segments about prophecies involving Trump, for fark’s sake. There’s no way to go too far in complimenting him so long as you’re content to stay in your own partisan media ecosystem, just as there’s no way to go too far in criticizing him if you’re a liberal who appears on MSNBC.

In the end, is Huckabee saying anything different from what Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity says every day? Rush and Sean might not deploy Churchill analogies to describe Trump’s greatness but the message is the same, that he’s a once-in-a-century leader seemingly destined to save the west from barbarians of various stripes. No sense punishing Huck just because he prefers a point of historical reference for his idolatry.

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David Strom 8:01 AM on February 03, 2023
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