After the tragedy of the sadistic cop-killer Maurice Clemmons, whom Mike Huckabee pardoned while he served as Arkansas governor, the self-effacing Huckabee is back on the keynote circuit, telling boastful jokes on himself—"It's great to be in Tennessee. It's one of the states I carried"—and slipping around questions about running for president again. Huckabee is also voluble these days as a TV, radio, and publishing personality, dispensing folksy clichés that are forgotten before he chortles at himself and offending no one at all, not even the Democrats. Mike Huckabee has completed his conversion from Republican dark horse in the 2008 presidential campaign to what appears to be a harmless, aimless novelty who will perk up like a favorite son of Mayberry to confess, “The Fox gig I’ve got right now is really, really wonderful.”
The lone partisan significance of the cop-killer episode is that Huckabee’s largest donors in Israel now regard him as extremely unlikely as a candidate who can be trusted to make choices between the Devil and common sense.
Then again, there is no reason to believe much of Huckabee’s palaver when he claims he is “less likely to run” because “I would have to see the Republicans unite behind me.” Mike Huckabee is an ambitious and craven Republican politician who will do exactly what he must to exploit his effectiveness in the weakest parts of the GOP—the bullying evangelicals, the cloying faux-Confederate vote, and the cynical elitists like Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, and Rush Limbaugh, whom I think of as Republican zombies. Mike Huckabee, 54, is no one’s idea of a well-educated citizen. As a youth, Huckabee was a Baptist pastor in Arkansas—mostly as a platform to exhibit his hambone one-liners on cable channels—and he wears this fleeting experience like a Harry Potter invisibility cloak to cover up his incuriosity of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. That he performed notably at all in 2008 is not a credit to Huckabee but rather a verdict on the mortification of a party that was left without more than John McCain’s worn stubbornness and Mitt Romney’s deaf arrogance, and that today enjoys no stronger field, staring at the exuberant glamour of Sarah Palin and the leaden Sam’s Club marketing of Tim Pawlenty to add to Romney warmed over like cold liver.
Huckabee will loiter in Republican circles until the party confronts its addiction to the cunningly insufferable over the last 40 years, such as Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan, Gary Bauer, and the new winking scold, Palin. Huckabee’s ambition includes two hand-holds that he believes will keep him viable as a presidential candidate. First, Huckabee believes that creationism provides a sturdy constituency. He is a not just a grinning creationist, he is also willing to disdain Darwinism with a sinister pugnacity. In a 2007 New Hampshire Republican debate, Huckabee pontificated when asked if he believed the world was created by God in six days' time and is now 6,000 years old, “I don’t know, I wasn’t there, whether God did it in six days or whether he did it in six days that represent periods of time…”
It is challenging to say what is worse for the GOP in the 21st century: that Huckabee is sincere and doesn’t know that our planet is a product of 4 billion years of collisions and blessed chance and that our flora and fauna (including us) are the product of half a billion years of evolution since the Cambrian explosion, or that Huckabee does know that the creationism is spam by a tiny cult that he counts on in beauty-contest polling to attract the superstitious and the unloved.
What makes Huckabee’s useful idiocy most damaging to the GOP was contained in a remark to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in the New Hampshire debate. “If anybody wants to believe he is descendant of a primate, they are certainly welcome to it—I don’t know how far they will march that back….” This is naked Scopes Trial exploitation and a clumsy rejection of Darwin’s genius Origin of the Species. It is reckless of Huckabee to throw out on national TV a remark that is entirely mendacious; however that is his character as an itinerant hustler. The partisan problem is that Huckabee was standing on a stage with the other GOP candidates when he spoke, and nothing the party has done since has addressed Huckabee’s stupidity nor made clear to the public that a candidate who rejects 150 years of exploration, scholarship, disputation and education has no sense of decency. What does the Republican Party represent if not support for passionate scientific inquiry in physics, chemistry, biology, geology, anthropology, and genetics? The Confederates mocked Abraham Lincoln as an “ape” in order to combine their rejection of Darwin’s then-contemporary theory and the Union. Calling a brave man who believed slavery was wrong was an amusement to slave masters. Today, what health can there be for a national political party that welcomes a jackanape who repeats hooey about the origin of Homo sapiens?
Huckabee travelled to Jerusalem this past summer to secure another base for his political future; he was the guest of the Jewish Reclamation Project, which seeks to move Jews into the historical Arab quarter of the Old City. Dubbed “Huckabee the Macabee” by his hosts, Huckabee spent two days snacking on a local favorite, shawarma (turkey and honey) and offering vaguely incoherent anachronisms, “…if you’ve studied the Bible you certainly understand this conflict didn’t start in the 1940s. It started with Isaac and Ishmael.” Huckabee was introduced to the significant players and generally treated as a VIP despite the discomfort of his hosts that he lacks curiosity about the conflict with Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Al-Aqsa Brigades. “He doesn’t know anything,” was one close observer’s summary. What Huckabee does know is how to cash in on his pleasing vacuity; and he accepted what are reported to have been substantial checks. The lone partisan significance of the cop-killer episode is that Huckabee’s largest donors in Israel now regard him as extremely unlikely as a candidate who can be trusted to make choices between the Devil and common sense.
Despite his bad luck recently, Huckabee’s future in the GOP is as rosy as the rouge on a corpse. Choosing among Huckabee, Romney, Pawlenty, Palin, and even the resident Swami Gingrich, the party could save itself some humiliation and a lot of money and skip the primaries and convention in order to offer a write-in line on the November 2012 ballot. This could start to make amends for Huckabee’s intolerance and inertness and may even permit some of what is left of the decent GOP to write in a ticket of “Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.”
John Batchelor is radio host of the John Batchelor Show in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles.