Category Archives: Mike Huckabee

What happened to Mike Huckabee when I wasn’t looking?

Huckabee in 2007.

Huckabee in 2007.

When I interviewed Mike Huckabee in 2007, I was fairly impressed. He stood out among self-styled conservatives of the day by speaking of the obligation to govern when in office, rather than merely rip and tear at the very idea of government:

    Mike Huckabee, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, made reference to this principle when he met with our editorial board Thursday:
One of the tough jobs of governing is, you actually have to do it.” That may sound so obvious that it’s foolish, like “One thing about water is, it’s wet.” But it can come as a cold shock.
Think of the congressional class of 1994. Newt Gingrich’s bomb-throwers were full of radical notions when they gained power. But once they had it, and used it, however briefly, to shut down the government, they quickly realized that was not what they were elected to do.
Or some of them realized it. More about that in a moment. Back to Mr. Huckabee.
Mr. Huckabee is a conservative — the old-fashioned kind that believes in traditional values, and wants strong, effective institutions in our society to support and promote those values.
Many newfangled “conservatives” seem just as likely to want to tear down as build up.
If Mr. Huckabee was ever that way, being the governor of Arkansas made him less so. “As a governor, I’ve seen a different level of human life, maybe, than the folks who live in the protected bubble of Washington see,” he said. And as a governor who believed he must govern, he was appalled when he saw government fail to do its job. He points to the aftermath of Katrina: “It was one of the more, to me, disgusting moments of American history…. It made my blood boil….

Of course, I was comparing him to Mark Sanford. Among other things, the Club for Growth — which has always adored Mark Sanford — hated Huckabee. And he wore that as a badge of honor.

He said he was “a conservative that’s not mad at anybody over it.” (Here’s video in which he said that.) And his demeanor, and the way he spoke about issues bore that out.

So it is that I was surprised at this statement from him, which Jennifer Rubin, the duty conservative blogger at the WashPost, passed on:

On the other side of the religious debate, Mike Huckabee opined: “Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the radical Muslim community or the more moderate Muslim community.” Yikes. Not helpful and only designed to provoke Christians and Jews….

Now, the president deserves criticism for what he said, and I plan to get into that in a separate post when I get my head above water for an hour or so. But this was really over the top, and off the mark.

I was sort of vaguely aware, in the background somewhere, that Huckabee had changed somewhat. I don’t know what caused that. Maybe it happened while he had that TV show, which I never saw because I have a TV for watching movies and “West Wing” and “Better Call Saul,” and not much else (and don’t tell me what happened in last night’s episode, because I haven’t seen it!).

But this really brought it home. What happened to not being mad at anybody about it?

Be sure to register… Deadline? What deadline? DOH!!!

We all know what a huge effort Obama has put in to registering new voters — in S.C. before the primaries, and everywhere since. It’s one of the main keys to his success in securing the nomination, and will probably win him the general election. Normally, one could discount his being ahead in the polls on account of the fact that self-identified Democrats often don’t show up on Election Day. This time, they will. And they’ll be registered.

So it’s kind of pathetic to see the two e-mails I received over the last day or so from GOP sources:

  1. The first one I saw  (even though it came in second), from Mike Huckabee, just made me think "He’ll use any excuse to strike up a conversation; guess he still has a lot of campaign debt." It was headlined, "A friendly reminder; register to vote," and had a link to this site. It provided a link to this Web site. It came in today.

  2. But the true desperation was in this one that came in from McCain yesterday : "Emergency Voter Registration & Get-Out-The-Vote Effort," it was headlined.

Fellas, fellas… how can I break this to you? The deadline to register to vote in the November election was Saturday in South Carolina. And you know what? From my moving around the country over the years, I seem to recall that 30 days out is not a particularly unusual deadline, in spite of all those efforts out there to make it easier to vote on short notice (you know, the moves that you Republicans usually oppose).

This is lame, guys. Just lame.

Huck WOULD like Sarah, wouldn’t he?

Just got this in a release from Mike Huckabee (Yes, he’s still sending out e-mails, raising money for his "Huck PAC."):

I hope that you had a chance to watch the Vice-Presidential Debate tonight and that it reaffirmed all of our beliefs that Sarah Palin is the knock-out punch the McCain-Palin ticket needs to win in November.  Governor Palin is a bright, articulate, talented woman.  She has what I consider to be the most important experience – she is  a Governor and the only one in this race that has actually ever signed the front of a paycheck….

Huckabee would like Sarah Palin, wouldn’t he? Aside from the governor thing, she’s the one person still out there with his populist, common touch.

Of course, Huckabee was a much, much better speaker — probably the most articulate candidate we saw in the past year, with the possible exception of Obama. Obama doesn’t talk to Joe Sixpack quite the same way that came naturally to Huckabee, although he has his own distinctive sort of populist appeal. It was no accident that both of them won Iowa, riding much the same wave.

What’s with the tieless look?

Obamabiden_2

A
s I noted earlier, the masculine equivalent of Sarah Palin’s specs and tied-up hair is to wear a coat and tie. The effect in both cases is to project seriousness of purpose.

So what are we to make of the fact that, all of a sudden, the male candidates for president and vice president are, quite deliberately, showing themselves in public without neckties?I don’t mean as a sort of occasional thing for a barbecue, but all the time. And don’t try to tell me this is just happening without somebody thinking about it; campaigns think about everything these days, as Peggy Noonan noted the other day (writing about Obama’s acceptance speech, the last time he was seen wearing a tie).

This has been coming for some time. As far back as 2006, Joe Biden was regularly appearing here in S.C. with a jacket, but no tie… sort of the Paul-McCartney-on-the-cover-of-Abbey-Road look. Here’s proof of that.

Then, I started noticing Obama doing the same. And McCain, too. And Huckabee and even Romney.

Here’s what worries me about this… those of you who are old enough to remember will recall how JFK killed men’s hats. There are some authorities that dispute it, but then there are many who believe Oswald didn’t act alone. Suffice it to say that before JFK, men wore hats. Afterwards, they didn’t.

Obama could do the same with the necktie. Biden and McCain aren’t so much of a threat, because when they go tieless, they just look like they’re been playing with their grandchildren and didn’t want them chewing on their ties. They don’t look natural that way.

But there’s been altogether too much loose talk about Obama’s charisma. No less an authority than Ted Sorensen has sat in my board room and pronounced Obama the rightful heir to Camelot. He’s already known as The One. How long can it be before he’s dubbed The Tieless One? (Note the picture above — while Biden just looks like he’s on his way to play golf, Obama is making that "early-60s, Best-and-Brightest" statement again with the white dress shirt, sleeves rolled up).

So, if the necktie industry, moribund as it is, wants to save itself, it had better do what it can to elect McCain. Because if Obama’s elected, every day will be casual Friday.

Or at least, he would get the "credit." The fact is that, as I have noted twice in recent columns, Gallup has found that only 6 percent of American men wear a tie to work every day. I, of course, am of the 6 percent, and am determined to wear the thing every day until I retire. I mean, I have to now — it’s a statement. Before, it was conformity. Now, it’s a statement of adherence to traditional values and seriousness of purpose. I’ll have you know that I bought on of the last bow ties at Lourie’s — in fact, it may have been the last bow tie they actually sold.

I also still have a Wilson Jack Kramer Autograph wooden tennis racket, although I don’t use it any more. I do use my old persimmon 4 wood, though. When I’m hitting it right, it’s the best club in my bag; the ball flies like a rifle shot. Which reminds me, I’m not working today…
Mccainhuck

Well, it matters to THEM

Someone in the comments back on this post asked,

Why does it matter whom Mr. Warthen and his shrinking enterprise endorse for President?

Of course, there is no modest way for me to answer such assertions. I can only say that it mattered enough to Barack Obama and John McCain to make time to come see us and seek that endorsement. Also to Joe Biden, Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback.

Hillary Clinton opted not to come see us. Whatever happened to her anyway?

Editorial to McCain: Don’t even think about it

After hearing Mark Sanford’s name mentioned first (although in a dismissive way) among possible running mates for McCain on NPR Thursday morning, I proposed to my colleagues that we should say the following in today’s paper. I had said it in passing in a column, and had elaborated on the blog, but since the newspaper backed McCain for the nomination, it seemed incumbent upon us as a board to try to warn him off a bit more formally. Here’s today’s editorial:

McCain should look elsewhere for running mate

WE TAKE GREAT satisfaction, and pride, in the knowledge that South Carolina’s choice for the Republican presidential nomination, Sen. John McCain, has now secured his place on the November ballot.

As we said in our endorsement before the Jan. 19 South Carolina primary, Sen. McCain stood out clearly among his GOP rivals. His experience, integrity, independence of mind and courage — physical, moral and political — put him in a class by himself. South Carolina did the nation a great favor when it gave Sen. McCain the momentum he needed at a critical moment. It did another one in expressing its enthusiastic preference for Sen. Barack Obama, whom this newspaper also endorsed.

Unfortunately, the momentum Sen. Obama picked up here momentarily stalled Tuesday night, leaving the Democratic contest unsettled. But as the Democrats head to Pennsylvania, the Republican nominee has the leisure to face another challenge: choosing a running mate.

South Carolina can do Sen. McCain — and, more importantly, the nation — another favor. We can point out in no uncertain terms that Gov. Mark Sanford would be a disastrous choice.

The political reasons why this is so are painfully obvious. He would bring nothing to the ticket beyond his relative youth, which is not that rare a commodity. He would not bring the disgruntled cultural conservatives who voted for Mike Huckabee in recent weeks. Mr. Sanford’s appeal is confined to the more extreme economic libertarians who despise Gov. Huckabee. Our governor is constantly at odds with the sort of Republicans who are more typical of the national base. And if the GOP ticket can’t win South Carolina without a South Carolinian on the ballot, it might as well quit now.

But while those might be concerns for Sen. McCain, they are not ours. We are alarmed at even the suggestion that Mark Sanford might be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. This nation desperately needs effective, engaged, committed leadership on a range of critical fronts, from Baghdad to Wall Street and at many points between. Mark Sanford approaches elective office with the detachment of a dilettante, as though it simply does not matter whether anything is accomplished. His six years in Congress are remembered for a futon and a voting record replete with empty, ideological gestures. As governor, he has proven himself utterly unable — or perhaps worse, unwilling — to lead even within his own majority party. He is easily the most politically isolated governor we can recall. He is startlingly content to toss out marginal ideas and move on, unruffled by the fact that most of his seeds fall on rocky ground.

Fortunately, a universe of better options is available to Sen. McCain. If he wants a Southern governor who appeals to the missing portions of his base, Gov. Huckabee stands before him. If he wants someone to make up for his relative weakness on the economy, Mitt Romney is in the wings. If he’s mainly concerned with the political imperative to deliver a critical state, Florida’s Charlie Crist was there for him when it counted (Mark Sanford finally, on Thursday, endorsed him after the nomination was secured).

You’ve come too far to blow it now, Sen. McCain. We wouldn’t steer you wrong on this. Please, look elsewhere for your running mate.

McCain now a mathematical certainty — so tell me again why should I give?

McCain Campaign Manager Rick Davis has put out a release claiming that it is now, after Tuesday, mathematically impossible for Mike Huckabee to catch him. An excerpt from the release, which you can read in its entirety here:

    Last night, after our strong victories in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC, I put together an analysis of the state of the race for the Republican nomination.  Including the delegates won last night, John McCain is now close to securing the number of delegates needed to be the presumptive Republican nominee.  In addition, it is now mathematically impossible for Mike Huckabee to win enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination; there simply aren’t enough delegates left at stake for him to win.

That’s cool. But something struck me: Mr. Davis sent this out within the context of asking donors for more money for the campaign.

Admittedly, I’ve never fully understood the power of the "bandwagon effect," but logically speaking (and logic IS an entirely different thing) this seems like a poor strategy for fund-raising: The battle is won! Give some more so we can continue the battle!

But if you think that’s a tough sell, how much less sense does it make to keep giving to Mike Huckabee’s campaign, as this release asks? Talk about your empty gestures.

But I’ll admit I’ll never be able to get into the head of the kind of person who gives this sort of money, because I’ll never have that kind of money to spare (totally apart from the fact that I am strictly forbidden to do so by newspaper policy). The very rich are different from you and me, Scott.

Club for Growth to McCain: Do our bidding

Finally, I have a moment to blog, and so I will now share with you the WSJ opinion piece that three people have pointed out to me today.

The Club for Growth, shocked that neither of the two remaining Republican candidates is the sort who will do their bidding, completely misses the point that, contrary to its own mythology, it is badly out of step with the Republican electorate. That means its last refuge is gone, just as it was prepared to take over the world. Nasty things, reversals.

Therefor the Club’s advice to the man who is getting nominated without it is that he simply must do its bidding in the matter of choosing a running mate. To wit, as set out by Club President Pat Toomey:

    While congratulations are still premature, with Mitt
Romney dropping out of the race yesterday it is now very likely that
the Republican Party will nominate Sen. John McCain for president. If
that happens, the GOP will, for the first time since 1976, select a
candidate at odds with a large portion of its conservative members to
be the standard bearer. At the same time, the party is more estranged
from independent swing voters than it has been for decades.
    This will pose a twin challenge for Mr. McCain. To
meet it, he will have to become the champion of the brand of economic
conservatism that has won national elections for Republicans since 1980…

To which I say, how come? He got past the hurdle that theoretically requires your favor without you. Your views don’t amount to diddly among the independents he has to win now. Sure, the really emotional types who are ticked over the existence of Mexican In Our Midst might stay home and give it to Hillary out of pique. But those fellas have nothing to lose. You are men of business. You may be crazy (politically speaking), but you’re not stupid. Are you?

Anyway, here’s where it really gets wild. Here is also where we find out why the economic libertarian extremists from Wall Street and other foreign parts have devoted so much of their ready cash to South Carolina politics. Obviously, this is the basket that holds 40 percent of their eggs. They have five veep suggestions to make, and two of them are South Carolinians: Mark Sanford and Jim DeMint.

Really. John McCain just wrapped up the nomination his way, with the support of such truly conservative South Carolinians as Bobby Harrell and Henry McMaster, and the Club says he should pick either the state’s most prominent advocate of Mitt Romney, who just proved his lack of appeal; or the guy who is such a nonteam-player, such an anti-team player, that he couldn’t be bothered to back anybody for president. A guy who is so obviously for nobody can expect nobody to be grateful enough to him to ask him to come along for the ride. Why would a candidate think he’d be helped by a guy who couldn’t be bothered to pick up an oar when it counted? Principled disagreement, a la DeMint, a ticket-balancing nominee might go for. But a guy who’s for no one but himself? Fuggedaboudit.

But why go for either of them when there’s an actually attractive candidate out there with vote-getting ability? Enter Mike Huckabee. But that doesn’t suit Mr. Toomey:

    Moving forward, Mr. Huckabee on the ticket would be a disaster. The former governor has a record of raising taxes and increasing spending. Picking him would only make it more likely that conservatives will sit on their hands come November.

What could these fellas have against ol’ Huck? Could it be that he goes all over the country calling them the "Club for Greed"? Could it be that folks who don’t vote for McCain keep voting for the guy who calls them the — let’s say it again — "Club for Greed" (there’s video on this link)?, who says theirs is "a sleazy way to do politics"?

"Fortunately," breathes Mr. Toomey with relief, "there is no shortage of true-blue fiscal conservatives in the GOP" — meaning "guys like us," for the Club is one of those outfits out there that defines "conservative" as "guys who are true-blue to us."

But obviously, "conservatives" by this definition are indeed quite scarce. Out of 49 states, they can only come up with three. The other two they dig up from a state in which McCain and Huckabee won 63 percent of the Republican vote, and the only guy that either of the two guys they dug up supported got 15 percent.

Oh, heck yeah — that’s a BIG help. Thanks but no thanks, Club for Gree-, I mean "Growth."

Another overused (and ill-defined) word: ‘Conservative’

Having switched to PBS, where apparently they have a larger vocabulary, I’m not hearing "presumptive" so much, so that’s good.

What I am hearing to an absurd degree is the term "conservative," and always used either with no defining context, or with a contradictory context.

For instance — one of the talking heads was going on about how McCain had not yet been declared the winner of his home state some 90 minutes after polls closed (the irony was that McCain was declared the winner while this guy was talking), and saying that exit polls indicated it was because of self-described "conservative" voters.

And what do they mean by "conservative?" Well, apparently no one thought to ask them — which I would certainly do before turning around and reporting that they were conservative, because the word seems to be so malleable and subjective these days.

Anyway, we were told that Mitt Romney was leading among people who wanted to deport all the illegal aliens. Of course, those people are not conservatives — conservatives are sensible folk who don’t entertain fantasies — so that was apparently an unrelated phenomenon.

Then they spoke of voters who were opposed to abortion. OK, I thought, now we’re getting somewhere…. except that these voters were going, NOT for the senator who’s been strongly pro-life his entire public life, but for the ex-governor of Taxachusetts whose position on abortion depends upon what office he’s running for at a given moment. What on Earth is with these people?

Basically, I think newsfolk — so many of them being self-reported "liberals," whatever they mean by that — tend to be very gullible and just take people at their word when they say they’re "conservatives," sort of the way they tend to lump people into the realm of the unintelligible if they happen to be evangelicals (hence their constant surprise whenever Mike Huckabee gets a few votes).

But can Ah-nold whup Chuck?

Ahnold

N
ow that the GOP nomination has come down to a simple, pedestrian question of whether Mitt Romney canMccain_2008_arnoldwart
spend enough on California TV ads to raise his chance of getting the nomination above snowball-in-hell status (I picture Ritchie Rich just shoveling the cash out of his swimming-pool full — or am I thinking of Scrooge McDuck?), all true, plainspoken, vicariously macho men find themselves wondering the following:

  • Maybe Mike Huckabee’s an also-ran in the pantywaist, artificial world of politics, but in nature, red in tooth and claw, couldn’t Chuck Norris whup Ah-nold without breaking much of a sweat?
  • Why has Jerry "The King" Lawler remained silent, letting Ric Flair hog all the glory?
  • If Gary Cooper were alive, and took on the whole lot of ’em, all by his lonesome (which you know he would if it came right down to it), would he prevail?
  • Is it just me or does Rudy Giuliani, who took on all Five Families and just missed getting whacked by a single vote on the Commission, actually look happier now that he’s given up? And what does that mean for America future, when a quitter is happier than a scrapper? Could Gary Cooper ever have been happy if he’d quit? I don’t reckon so.

Huckabee_2008_norris_wart

Why Andre Bauer likes Huckabee

This afternoon, Andre Bauer and I were in a tent on the State House lawn, informing the Mideast.

Alhurra TV, which is a government-funded agency that broadcasts in Arabic to the region — it’s the Mideast version of Voice of America — asked me to do a live deal from their setup at the State House. It was my first direct experience with actual, sure-enough propaganda, and I liked it fine.

It was an unusual gig. Our host, Ephraim (sp?), was sitting to my right asking questions in Arabic. This is going to shock you, but Andre (who was sitting on my left) and I don’t actually understand or speak Arabic. There was a guy in some distant place speaking through a static-y connection into my left ear with a translation, of which I could only make out every other word during the first half of the show. We were getting a remote feed from Las Vegas, and Van Hipp spoke into our ears from Washington.

Andre, who had been out jogging with Mike Huckabee earlier in the day (it was his first jog since his plane crash), talked about why he had endorsed the former Arkansas governor on Thursday.

What’s interesting about his explanation of his decision (the English version, of course). He said he liked his ability to work with a Democratic legislature as governor, and the fact that he was unapologetic about having raised taxes to improve roads and schools. In other words, he was impressed by Huckabee’s understanding that a governor has an obligation to govern. (He specifically said that Huckabee shared his concern for aging issues.)

That’s just what I liked about Huckabee, and a significant reason why we said in our endorsement of John McCain last week that Huckabee would have been our second choice — although a distant second.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way he ran the last few days, which I have found very disturbing. More about that shortly, if I’m able to get to it. I’m typing this from the set at S.C. ETV,  where we’re on live.

(Final note: I just realized, watching Mike Campbell doing a live feed on the monitor, that this time, he and Andre were on the same side. OK, it’s not the biggest irony in the history of the world, but I thought I’d mention it.)

Huckabee on the Confederate flag

No time to get into this right now — I’m way behind on my Sunday column — but just to let you know, Mike Huckabee is now apparently bringing up the Confederate flag at campaign events, and here’s what he’s saying:

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told South Carolina voters Thursday that the government had no business making decisions over the Confederate flag.
    "You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag," Huckabee said at a Myrtle Beach campaign event. "In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole, that’s what we’d do."
    Later, in Florence, he repeated the remarks. "I know what would happen if somebody comes to my state in Arkansas and tells us what to do, it doesn’t matter what it is, tell us how to run our schools, tell us how to raise our kids, tell us what to do with our flag — you want to come tell us what to do with the flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole."

Just one more day

By BRAD WARTHEN
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
AT TIMES this week it has seemed as though, to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the media themselves were the message.
    For me, the apex of absurdity was achieved Monday morning, when I sat in a conference room here at the paper shooting video of a guy from French television who was shooting video of me talking about Saturday’s S.C. Republican presidential primary. You remember how, in old-fashioned barbershops, you could see yourself sitting in the chair in the mirror in front of you, reflecting the mirror behind you, and on and on? It was kind of like that.
    After the interview, the Frenchman followed me to the Columbia Rotary Club, where I had been asked to speak about the newspaper and its endorsement in said primary. In case you missed it, we rather emphatically endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain in Sunday’s paper. See more about that at my blog (address below).
    As I was stepping down from the podium at Rotary, a Danish journalist gave me her card, saying she wanted to interview me later. She had followed Columbia businessman Hal Stevenson to the meeting. Poor Hal. I had been sending some of the national media who were calling me to him, as a good, thoughtful example of the “religious conservative” kind of voter they were so eager to talk to. Now here he was, dragging journalists right back at me. (Just keep looking into the mirrors. Whoa … is that what the back of my head looks like?)
    On Tuesday, Michele Norris of NPR’s “All Things Considered” called on her cell while traveling across South Carolina, and we spoke for 53 minutes. But that was just the preliminary; we’ll tape the actual interview this morning. I’m also supposed to be on local public radio with Andy Gobeil this morning — and Andy and I will be on ETV live for primary results Saturday night.
    Thursday, I spoke with Dennis Miller of SNL fame, who’s now a conservative talk show host. He wanted to know how come South Carolina was having its Republican primary Saturday, but the Democratic primary a week later. I couldn’t give him a good reason, because there isn’t one.
    All this attention can be fun, but some get tired of it. Bob McAlister, for one. Bob is a Republican media consultant who made his rep as chief of staff to the late Gov. Carroll Campbell. In 2000, he was for George W. Bush. This time, he’s for McCain. He’s feeling pretty confident that he’ll be on the winning side again.
     But he’s got a beef with all the media types. “The national press wants to know about segments” of the GOP electorate, he complained. As in, don’t you think McCain has the retired military vote sewn up, or will McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney split the evangelical vote?
    “They talk about evangelicals as though we were some sort of subset of the culture,” Bob (a Baptist) complains. “They try to put us in a little box, as though we were apart from the mainstream in the Republican Party.
    “But in South Carolina, we are the mainstream.”
    As The Wall Street Journal said Thursday, “McCain campaign aides are hoping Mr. McCain and his rivals — Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson — divide the evangelical vote, leaving the state’s sizable population of military and independent voters to Mr. McCain.”
    Mr. Huckabee’s main hope, as a Baptist preacher himself, is to attract that whole evangelical “subset” of the GOP here. But it seems pretty divided. Fred Thompson, surprisingly, has the endorsement of S.C. Right to Life. Bob’s for McCain. Hal Stevenson is for Huckabee, but he seemed worried Thursday that there aren’t quite enough like him to put the former Arkansas governor over the top. He said he’s found “a lot of support for McCain and Romney among social conservatives,” because they think they have broader appeal. He particularly notes the McCain advantage on national security.
    Sen. McCain is counting on people like Jack Van Loan, about whom I wrote in this space yesterday. Jack’s a retired Air Force pilot, now a Columbia community leader, who met Sen. McCain when they were both prisoners of the North Vietnamese.
    In the interests of full disclosure, and in order to keep with my theme of media-as-message, he’s also counting on people like my Dad — a retired Navy captain who lives in West Columbia. My father is like most career military officers — politics has been something other people did, while those in uniform did their duty.
    Not this time. Dad spent a couple of hours working the phones at McCain HQ in Columbia Thursday morning. He was given a list of names to call, which he dutifully did. Speaking of mirrors, he was amused to find his own name and number on his list. Orders are orders — he called the number, and talked to my Mom.
    I did go out and check the pulse of the real world once or twice this week. But I didn’t gain much new information.
    Take Tuesday night: I went to hear Fred Thompson speaking at the Sticky Fingers in Harbison. He did OK — the crowd was good-sized, and seemed to like him. If you were in the Fred Thompson bubble, you might think he had a chance to win.
    Then I went out toward Lexington, to Hudson’s Smokehouse, to hear Mike Huckabee. Wow. The place was packed, and the people were pumped. That, I thought, was what a contender’s rally looks like in the last week. The crowd was impressive, even though from where I sat it was hard to see past the — you guessed it — media types.
    I missed the McCain rally on Gervais Street Thursday, because it happened at the same time that I had promised to talk to Dennis Miller. Bob McAlister says it was awesome, and had all the marks of a campaign headed for victory. But he would say that, wouldn’t he, being a McCain man.
    Maybe I’ll call a reporter who was there and get an objective view. Just kidding — sort of.
    Just one more day, folks. Tomorrow, it’s what you say that counts. Then we can do it all over again with the Democrats.

Liston Barfield supports Mike Huckabee

Barfield

… S
o does David Beasley. In fact, here they are together at the Mike Huckabee event at Hudson’s Smokehouse near Lexington last night.

Rep. Barfield complained to me tonight that he had been reported in the paper as being for somebody else, and he’s been for Huckabee ever since this time last year, back before it was cool. He started supporting Huckabee after it became screamingly obvious that George Allen wouldn’t become president any time this century.

He said he had notified folks in our newsroom today about the error, and he understood a correction was in the works, but since he seemed to want me to do something, I told him I’d tell everybody that he’s a Huckabee man on my blog. Which I just did.

Video: Fred and Huck in SC tonight

  

Earlier this evening I swung by campaign appearances by Fred Thompson (at Sticky Fingers in the Harbison area) and Mike Huckabee (at Hudson’s Smokehouse near Lexington).

I’m not going to go on and on about it, as I’ve overdue for some sack time. But here’s a VERY brief synopsis:

  • The Thompson event was well-attended and the crowd was supportive. Fred’s delivery was smoother, more confident than the last time I saw him in person — of course that was awhile back, at Doc’s Barbecue. I would have said it was a really successful event that showed him as a candidate with a significant following.
  • I would have said that, except that when I arrived at Hudson’s — long before the candidate showed up — it was plain that, in the last days before the primary, there’s a significant difference in energy levels between an event featuring a well-liked candidate, and a guy who actually has a chance of winning. Huckabee had a larger crowd, and it was really pumped up.
  • But Fred gets more points for punctuality. The Huckabee event was scheduled for 7:30, and he arrived after 9. Before he finally got there, I had thought about going on home to get my supper, but I had such a good spot right in front of the podium, so I hated to give it up. He was so late, he was able to congratulate Mitt Romney for his win in Michigan at the start of his appearance.

Here you have two  rough clips from the events — Huckabee above, Thompson below — just to give you the flavor. If I get time any time in the next few days, I’ll see if I can come up with something more polished. I know, for instance, that there must have been some better footage of Thompson — but I used this because he talks about immigration, and he got a cheer for that. (Note that I didn’t have such a good spot for the Thompson event.)

  

Rasmussen: McCain widens lead; Clinton gaining on Obama

Right after I posted this video of McCain talking about 2000, I ran across evidence that things are definitely looking better for him this time than last time. Rasmussen has him up nine points over Huckabee. (And for you Fred fans — Thompson’s numbers have improved, too.)

Meanwhile, the race on the Democratic side is seen as tightening up. with Hillary Clinton only five points behind Barack Obama.

So is Thompson helping McCain NOW?

Fred Thompson supporters got pretty worked up about me suggesting he should bow out and support his friend McCain, as his best chance to have an influence on the outcome. His wife also explained how wrong I was, although she was nicer about it.

But this new thought occurred to me yesterday morning, when my clock radio came on… NPR was running a bit on the Republicans in South Carolina, and there was a clip of my fellow Memphis State grad talkin’, and he was really pounding on pore ol’ Mike Huckabee from over across the Big Muddy. And in that half-asleep state, I thought: "Is he staying in to help John McCain, by using the soapbox thus obtained to tear down the only candidate with a chance (note the polls) of beating him in South Carolina?" Fred’s no dummy; he can count. He knows either McCain or Huckabee is going to win here.

But I dismissed the thought, on account of its having arisen during the aforementioned twilight state of consciousness. And on account of what’s the point in mentioning it, since it would just make all those folks mad again.

Then I watched the debate last night out of Myrtle Beach. And first thing you know, ol’ Fred comes out whaling on Huck something fierce, just pounding away, using up a good chunk of his allotted time to tear the preacher man down.

After the debate, all sorts of folks commented on Fred’s attack on Huck. In fact, it was probably the most memorable thing about the whole show, one of only three things I still recall 24 hours later. (The other two things were the setting of the new Guinness World Record for saying "Ronald Reagan" most often in a 90-minute period, and the way the group ostracized poor Ron Paul yet again. I don’t agree a whole lot with Dr. Paul, but I believe he’s sincere, and I do hate to see a guy get picked on.)

What struck me as myopic was that so many of those commenting on those attacks by Fred on Huck interpreted them as Fred really, really wanting and needing to win in South Carolina. But he was just attacking Huckabee; he offered only the mildest criticism of McCain on immigration (allegedly the big reason he’s running instead of backing McCain as he did in 2000). Surely Fred knows you don’t win by tearing down just one of the three guys who are beating you.

I’m not trying to goad Fred into attacking McCain — or Romney, either (Romney’s kind a moot point anyway, since he’s deserted S.C. for a live-or-die effort in Michigan). But the facts before me push me toward one of several conclusions:

  1. Fred and McCain are in cahoots, with Fred playing the Huckabee-bashing heavy (which certainly doesn’t help Fred, because while it might hurt Huckabee, nobody likes the guy who does the beating-up). I don’t believe this for a second, because I don’t believe either McCain or Fred would do anything that underhanded.
  2. Fred is doing it on his own figuring that if he can’t win, he’ll at least help out his old buddy by taking down the opposition before he calls it quits. Still a doubtful proposition.
  3. Fred isn’t calculating at all; he just can’t stand Huckabee. Maybe, but it still doesn’t smell right.
  4. Fred really likes Huckabee, and was trying to trump up some sympathy for him for being picked on. Nah.
  5. Fred really is, at least on a conscious level, trying to win, but just can’t quite bring himself to pound his old friend McCain — whom he respects personally in spite of their differences — as hard as he’s hitting Huckabee.

That last one sounds the closest to right, but I don’t know. All I do know is that, whatever he intends, what he was doing, to the extent that it hurt Huckabee, was helpful to McCain.

South Carolina is about Huckabee and McCain

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Politico.com called it a "knife-fight." The New York Times merely called it a "street fight," which I suppose means "knives optional." Either way, they’ve got it right: The South Carolina Republican primary is about John McCain and Mike Huckabee.

With Mitt Romney executing a disorderly retreat — he pulled his money out yesterday, and Mitt goes where his money goes — and Mr. Giuliani having been "Rudy Who?" for weeks around here, it’s all about the winners of the Iowa and New Hampshire contests in the Palmetto State. And the stakes for those two candidates are about as high as they can get.

McCain has to break the South Carolina curse — our state having the shameful distinction of having given the momentum to George W. Bush after a particularly vicious whispering campaign. He came here eight years ago after having won in New Hampshire, riding high. Now, here we go again — will this time be the charm?

Meanwhile, Huckabee has to prove that Iowa wasn’t a fluke. Sure, you could give him a free pass on his dismal showing in New Hampshire, seeing as how the conventional wisdom has it nobody goes to church up there. But he will have no excuse for a loss here.

McCain has a handicap Huckabee lacks — the stakes for the Arizonan are just about as high (again, according to conventional "wisdom") in Michigan, if only because it’s of supreme importance to Romney to beat him there. Romney loses his daddy’s state, and it’s no more Romney.

Not only does he not have to fight a two-front battle, Huckabee’s new and fresh and expected to make rookie mistakes. The handicappers have been far less forgiving to ultimate veteran McCain all year; if he strikes out anywhere, they’ll write his political obituary yet again.

Yes, yes, I know — there are some of you out there who will cry, "No, you’re forgetting Ron Paul!" Or Fred Thompson, or Duncan Hunter, or … I don’t know — who else out there is still alleging to be in this?

But while I had hoped it would be otherwise — still, if Romney or Giuliani wanted to come in for an interview as late as Friday morning, I’d try to change all our plans to accommodate them — but at this point, conventional wisdom actually seems to have it right for once. In South Carolina, and increasingly nationally, it’s about McCain and Huckabee.

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Each Republican faces a different challenge in S.C.

By BRAD WARTHEN
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
TO ALL THE candidates seeking the presidency of the United States of America: Welcome to South Carolina. Iowa is behind you; so is New Hampshire, and we understand that we are to have your undivided attention for the next couple of weeks, which is gratifying.
    So let’s take advantage of the opportunity. The South Carolina primaries have little purpose unless we learn more about you than we have thus far, so we have a few matters we’d like you to address while you’re here.
    Let’s do Republicans first, since y’all face S.C. voters first (on the 19th) and come back to the Democrats (after the cliffhanger night Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton just went through, they could probably do with a rest today).
    We’d like some specifics beyond the vehement claims that pretty much each and every one of you is “the real conservative” in the race.
    We’ll start with John McCain, the big winner in New Hampshire Tuesday.
You’re a war hero, and you’ve got the most experience in national defense and foreign affairs. You take a back seat to no one in fighting government waste. You were for a “surge” in Iraq long before the White House even considered the idea, and you weren’t afraid to say so. It’s no surprise that you lead among retired military officers, and others who have been there and done that.
    But folks who are not retired would like some reassurance that the oldest man in the race, with a spotty medical history, is up to the world’s most demanding job.
    Most of all, though, South Carolinians need to better understand your position on immigration. You’re the one who decided to try to lead on this radioactive issue in the middle of a campaign, and plenty of folks around here don’t like the direction you chose. Start explaining.
    Next, Mike Huckabee. You have qualities that Sen. McCain lacks: You’re (relatively) young, fresh, new and exciting. As a Baptist preacher, you’re definitely in sync with S.C. Republicans on cultural issues. More than that, you are on the cutting edge of a new kind of Republicanism, one that is more attuned to the concerns of ordinary working people, from health care to education.
    But let’s look at some headlines from this week: The U.S. Navy almost had to blow some Iranian gunboats out of the water. Hundreds are dead in Kenya, one of the few African countries we’d thought immune to such political violence. Pakistan, nuclear power and current address of Osama bin Laden, continues to teeter on the edge of chaos after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. I could go on.
    Every day, something that threatens the security of this country happens in yet another hot spot, calling for a depth of knowledge and experience for which on-the-job training is no substitute. Those blank looks you’ve given when asked about current events are disturbing. Reassure us. We know you don’t get daily intelligence briefings yet, but you could at least read the paper.
    Mitt Romney, you come across as Central Casting’s idea of a Republican: Perfect coif, square jaw, a private-sector portfolio that confirms your can-do credentials. Moreover, as governor of Massachusetts you presided over health care reform that many other states are looking to as a model.
    But increasingly, 21st century Republicans are less impressed by a business suit, and I think you’ll find South Carolinians a lot like Iowans in that regard. You’ve got to have more to offer.
    Also, voters here would like to hear more positive reasons to vote for you, and less about what’s wrong with everybody else. In all the years since I’ve been getting e-mails, I have never seen anything like the blizzard of releases from your folks trashing this or that rival.
    After the nasty whispering campaign that sank Sen. McCain in 2000, South Carolinians have had a bellyful of the whole “going negative” thing. Just forget the other guys, and tell us what’s good about you.
    As for Rudy Giuliani, we know you’re a tough guy, and a tough guy can be a good thing to have in the White House. You inspired the nation through some of Gotham’s darkest days, and you took on all Five Families at once as a mob-busting federal prosecutor, which is why John Gotti and some others on the Commission wanted to have you whacked. You’re definitely a man of respect.
    But if you do bother to campaign down here, South Carolina Republicans might be forgiven for wondering whether you’re one of them. You were doing OK in polls a couple of months ago, but let’s face it — that was just the early national media buzz, and we’ve gotten past that.
    You need to do some fast talking — we hear New Yorkers are good at that — about some of those “cultural issues” that, to put it mildly, distinguish you from candidates who happen to be Baptist preachers.
    Finally, Fred Thompson — you certainly have no need for a translator. As your wife, Jeri, reminded me when she dropped by our office Tuesday, you speak fluent Southern.
    But there’s a reason y’all were campaigning down here rather than up in New Hampshire: After the biggest “will he or won’t he” buildup in modern political history, your campaign failed to catch fire nationally after it finally got rolling.
    That could be because, while you can play a “conservative” well on TV, you have yet to communicate exactly what you bring to the campaign that other candidates don’t bring more of. Are you better on national security than McCain, or more in tune on abortion than Huckabee? And if what the party was crying out for was a guy who was tough enough on immigration (as your supporters keep telling me), why didn’t it go for Tom Tancredo?
    Once again, welcome one and all to the Palmetto State. Whether you go on from here may depend in large part on how you answer the above questions.
For my blog, go to http://blogs.thestate.com/bradwarthensblog/.

Huckabee gets shave and haircut, Capone-style

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W
e’ve all heard about John Edwards’ tycoon-priced haircuts. But no one would ever think Mike Huckabee would make such a big deal about getting his ears lowered. With his regular-guy persona,Shave
you sort of picture him sitting, unnoticed, reading dog-eared copies of "Field and Stream" while he humbly waits his turn to sit in Floyd’s chair.

Who’da thunk we’d ever see Huck holding court like a king as he is shorn and shaved, like Robert DeNiro in Brian DePalma’s "The Untouchables?" (These photos were taken at the Executive Forum Barbershop — how’s that for a Ritzy-sounding name — in Des Moines, Iowa, on Dec. 31.)

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You remember that scene, early in the film (sorry, I’ve tried to find a clip on the Web without success, and I don’t know how to get it off my DVD, but I did find this photo). It was meant to show Capone as the master of Chicago — the barber coming to him in his hotel room, and the Boss holding court with a fawning press that chuckles at his thuggish witticisms. It was a scene meant to show Capone as being everything Mike Huckabee is not supposed to be.

So I thought these pictures moved by The Associated Press a bit incongruous. Maybe they should just go back to moving snaps of the (New) Man from Hope grinning with his Fender bass.

But given his success in Iowa, paired with the press’ guilt over having neglected the man heretofore, I guess we’ll have to get used this this sort of wall-to-wall coverage of every instant of the candidate’s daily life. I just hope I’m looking somewhere else when they move the pictures of him holding court in the bathtub.
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