Sunday, August 12, 2007


Am I exaggerating what the surprise second-place finisher in the Ames straw poll said just before the voting started? Er, no, I'm not:

When Mike Huckabee neared the end of his speech to the thousands of Iowans about to vote in the straw poll for Republican presidential candidates Saturday, he drew on a personal experience at a faraway place for inspiration: a family visit to Yad Vashem.

"I wanted them to see what happens when good people just sit back and do nothing, when they don't act," the former Arkansas governor said, "because what happened to the millions of Jews who were killed during the reign of terror under Adolf Hitler in World War II [happened] because a lot of decent people, calling themselves Christians, simply looked the other way."

At the end of the tour of Yad Vashem, Huckabee watched his 11-year-old daughter Sarah, who had been silent throughout the visit, sign the guest book. "She wrote words I'll never forget as long as I live. These are the words she wrote: 'Why didn't somebody do something?'"

... "Ladies and gentlemen, right here in Ames, Iowa, you're the somebody. You can do something," Huckabee said. "You can help this entire country decide that it's not going to elect a president based on the raising of money, but based on the raising of the hopes and the ideas that can make us a better, freer and safer nation." ...

I don't know what to say about Huckabee. I wrote him off a few months ago because, given the chance to feed crowds red meat, he said instead that some of his fellow Christian conservatives overemphasize proselytizing for Christ and fighting abortion ("I want to be concerned about making sure every child has music and art education. There are a lot of things that, to me, are a part of my being pro-life"). On Thursday, Tom noted Huckabee's denunciation of greedy CEOs in response to a voter's question. On the other hand, as BooMan notes, Huckabee's still passes the God, guns 'n' gays litmus tests of the GOP right with flying colors.

I've said before that GOP voters want to feel the hate, but maybe they just want a sense of moral superiority mixed with a soupcon of civility. Pro-Giuliani voters walk away from Rudy thinking he seems nice (though they sense, correctly, that he really isn't) -- maybe Huckabee gives them a slightly different mix of niceness (he's genial and funny, reportedly) and self-righteousness (on most issues).

Does that mean he'll stay in the running? I don't know. I do know that denouncing greedy CEOs is not going to help him raise funds. And I think it spoils any chance he has of being the running mate of any of the decidedly pro-plutocrat front-runners.

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