“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is the GOP Launching a Ship to Go Down In?

Huck and Barack on their new adventure.

By Rich Lowry
December 14, 2007

The ghost of Howard Dean haunts the pundit class. As soon as a candidate of either party spikes up in the polls, he is compared with Dean, who had a spectacular boomlet in the second half of 2003 only to deflate as soon as people began to vote in early 2004.

After many false prophecies, Dean circa 2008 has finally arrived. He is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Not because he will inevitably blow himself up in Iowa. But because, like Dean, his nomination would represent an act of suicide by his party.

Like Dean, Huckabee is an under-vetted former governor who is manifestly unprepared to be president of the United States. Like Dean, he is rising toward the top of polls in a crowded field based on his appeal to a particular niche of his party. As with Dean, his vulnerabilities in a general election are so screamingly obvious that it's hard to believe that primary voters, once they focus seriously on their choice, will nominate him.

The GOP's social conservatism inarguably has been an enormous benefit to the party throughout the past 30 years, winning over conservative Democrats and lower-income voters who otherwise might not find the Republican limited-government message appealing. That said, nominating a Southern Baptist pastor running on his religiosity would be rather overdoing it. Social conservatism has to be part of the Republican message, but it can't be the message in its entirety.

Someone needs to tell Huckabee. His first TV ads in Iowa touted him as a "Christian leader," and his target audience of evangelicals has responded. But according to a Pew poll released in early December, only 1 in 7 nonevangelical Republicans support him in Iowa and 1 in 20 nonevangelicals in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Huckabee has declared that he doesn't believe in evolution. Even if there are many people in America who agree with him, his position would play into the image of Republicans as the anti-science party. This would tend to push away independents and upper-income Republicans. In short, Huckabee would take a strength of the GOP and, through overplaying it, make it a weakness.

He'd do the same on taxes. In general, the public tends to support Democratic proposals for bigger government, which Republicans counter by saying that the proposals will require higher taxes. Huckabee will be equipped poorly to make this traditional Republican comeback, given his tax-raising history in Arkansas. Huckabee tries to compensate with a sales-tax scheme that allows him to say he supports eliminating the IRS, but is so wildly implausible that it would be a liability in a general election.

Then, there's national security, the Republican trump card during the Cold War and after 9/11. Huckabee not only has zero national-security credentials, he basically has no foreign-policy advisers either, as a New York Times Magazine piece this Sunday makes clear. In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in September, Huckabee struck notes seemingly borrowed from Barack Obama, hitting the Bush administration for its "bunker mentality" and strongly supporting direct talks with Iran. A foreign-policy debate with a Democratic nominee would be a competition over who can promise to be nicer to foreign countries.

None of this is a winning formula. Huckabee has been running his campaign out of his back pocket, and has done it extremely well. There's a reason, though, that serious candidates surround themselves with policy experts. It's necessary to running a campaign based on more than sound bites. Wherever you scratch Huckabee on policy, he seems an inch deep. Do Republicans really want to enter what is already a tough political year with a candidate apparently allergic to preparation, and who has shown no predilection for organizing or fundraising, when he can do cable TV appearances instead?

Democrats have to be looking at Huckabee the way Republicans once regarded Dean -- as a shiny Christmas present that is too good to be true.


  1. 'so Jim took up some of the top planks of the raft and built a snug wigwam to get under in blazing weather and rainy, and to keep the things dry. Jim made a floor for the wigwam, and raised it a foot or more above the level of the raft, so now the blankets and all the traps was out of reach of steamboat waves. Right in the middle of the wigwam we made a layer of dirt about five or six inches deep with a frame around it for to hold it to its place; this was to build a fire on in sloppy weather or chilly; the wigwam would keep it from being seen. We made an extra steering-oar, too, because one of the others might get broke on a snag or something. We fixed up a short forked stick to hang the old lantern on, because we must



    always light the lantern whenever we see a steamboat coming down-stream, to keep from getting run over; but we wouldn't have to light it for up-stream boats unless we see we was in what they call a "crossing"; for the river was pretty high yet, very low banks being still a little under water; so up-bound boats didn't always run the channel, but hunted easy water.

    This second night we run between seven and eight hours, with a current that was making over four mile an hour. We catched fish and talked, and we took a swim now and then to keep off sleepiness. It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn't ever feel like talking loud, and it warn't often that we laughed -- only a little kind of a low chuckle. We had mighty good weather as a general thing, and nothing ever happened to us at all -- that night, nor the next, nor the next.

    Every night we passed towns, some of them away up on black hillsides, nothing but just a shiny bed of lights; not a house could you see. The fifth night we passed St. Louis, and it was like the whole world lit up. In St. Petersburg they used to say there was twenty or thirty thousand people in St. Louis, but I never believed it till I see that wonderful spread of lights at two o'clock that still night. There warn't a sound there; everybody was asleep.

    Every night now I used to slip ashore towards ten o'clock at some little village, and buy ten or fifteen cents' worth of meal or bacon or other stuff to eat; and sometimes I lifted a chicken that warn't roosting comfortable, and took him along. Pap always said, take a chicken when you get a chance,



    because if you don't want him yourself you can easy find somebody that does, and a good deed ain't ever forgot. I never see pap when he didn't want the chicken himself, but that is what he used to say, anyway.

    Mornings before daylight I slipped into cornfields and borrowed a watermelon, or a mushmelon, or a punkin, or some new corn, or things of that kind. Pap always said it warn't no harm to borrow things if you was meaning to pay them back some time; but the widow said it warn't anything but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it. Jim said he reckoned the widow was partly right and pap was partly right; so the best way would be for us to pick out two or three things from the list and say we wouldn't borrow them any more -- then he reckoned it wouldn't be no harm to borrow the others. So we talked it over all one night, drifting along down the river, trying to make up our minds whether to drop the watermelons, or the cantelopes, or the mushmelons, or what. But towards daylight we got it all settled satisfactory, and concluded to drop crabapples and p'simmons. We warn't feeling just right before that, but it was all comfortable now. I was glad the way it come out, too, because crabapples ain't ever good, and the p'simmons wouldn't be ripe for two or three months yet.

    We shot a water-fowl now and then that got up too early in the morning or didn't go to bed early enough in the evening. Take it all round, we lived pretty high.

    The fifth night below St. Louis we had a big storm after midnight, with a power of thunder and lightning,



    and the rain poured down in a solid sheet. We stayed in the wigwam and let the raft take care of itself. When the lightning glared out we could see a big straight river ahead, and high, rocky bluffs on both sides. By and by says I, "Hel-lo, Jim, looky yonder!" It was a steamboat that had killed herself on a rock. We was drifting straight down for her. The lightning showed her very distinct. She was leaning over, with part of her upper deck above water, and you could see every little chimbly-guy clean and clear, and a chair by the big bell, with an old slouch hat hanging on the back of it, when the flashes come.

    Well, it being away in the night and stormy, and all so mysterious-like, I felt just the way any other boy would a felt when I see that wreck laying there so mournful and lonesome in the middle of the river. I wanted to get aboard of her and slink around a little, and see what there was there. So I says:

    "Le's land on her, Jim." '

    from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"

  2. Magic Text!

    Check this out:
    Reverse Text

    ...then copy and paste it, and somehow it comes out readable again!

  3. The two guys that might be able to get nominated and then win would be Giuliani, and Thompson. The prayers of Iowa may be going out for Huckabee, but I'm praying Thompson wakes up, and soon.

  4. Cause if we drift on down and miss that turn at the Ohio River, so to speak, we be drifting on down into slave country, without a deus ex machina happy ending.

  5. Huck's gift-givers ended up in state posts

    Mike Huckabee accepted more than 90 gifts from Arkansans he later appointed to state commissions.

  6. That your new Keyboard, Albob?

  7. Mountains of Creation from the Spitzer Space Telescope.

    I saw that article too, Doug, though it may not be quite as bad as it sounds at first.

    yup, brand new from China.


  8. Huckabee twice sued the commission, once seeking a statute of limitations on ethics complaints and in another suit he sought to narrow the scope of prohibited gifts. Ironically, he was represented before the ethics commission by Crass and one other lawyer who donated their services — as gifts.

    Huckabee later named one of the attorneys, Tom Mars, to head the Arkansas State Police. At the time, the job paid $77,000 a year, which Mars said was a “very significant pay cut.” Mars, now general counsel for Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, is backing the presidential campaign of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for whom he worked as a law clerk during her days as an attorney in Little Rock. He’s given $2,300 to her campaign.

  9. Most prized possession?

    Yesterday the AP asked the campaigns what their candidate's most prized possession was. Most answered sentimentally — "my grandfather's pocket watch" (Rudy), a baseball (McCain), you get the idea.
    Fred Thompson's campaign responded:
    "Trophy wife."
    Looks like good ol' Fred answered sentimentally, too.

  10. The politician has repeatedly claimed that his divorce file--portions of which were sealed in 2000 and 2001--contained no embarrassing information that would harm his chances against Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

    Another unsealed document reveals that Jeri Ryan, as part of the divorce settlement, received about $20 million in Goldman Sachs stock, while Jack Ryan retained a $40 million stake in the investment giant.

  11. Doug: Fred Thompson's campaign responded: "Trophy wife."

    What did Fred's wife get?

  12. Fred, his money, and a shot at being first lady.

  13. Did you check out your Obama post in reverse at the link above?
    Strange, when you copy and paste it into notepad, it becomes readable again!

  14. A President Barack Obama would spend $150 billion over 10 years on a push to develop new renewable fuel and clean coal technology, reduce greenhouse gases that fuel global warming and requires those who pollute to pay for that right on a per-ton of carbon basis.


    bdo can be used to reverse the direction of the text, and can be used to display languages that read right to left. The value of the required attribute dir can be ltr (left to right) or rtl (right to left).

    HUH? Thanks Doug. Another thing to try and figure out.

  15. What I don't get is that you don't seem to be copying the tags when you copy the reverse text, but somehow when you paste it, it reverses itself back into English!

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Rich Lowry and the staff of the National Review reccomend Mr Romney.

    Funny stuff, the beach gets closer every day.

  18. Hang on long enough Rat, what with global warmig and all, the waves will be lapping in Phoenix.

  19. Mr Romney discovering that it takes more than a personal fortune and tv commercials to win the nomination.

    That an authentic evangelical beats a newly born-again pro-life position.

    The National Review won't swing as many votes as Oprah.
    Chuck Norris plays well to the tv culture, between being an incorruptable Texas Ranger and a fitness guru, in the living rooms of America's heartland for hours each day.
    Ranger Walker and Oprah, bringing folks to their respective messages, not being the messengers themselves, like Clinton42.

    Huckabee vs Obama in November '08, not the election anyone foresaw.

    Conventional wisdom would be they'd both lose.

    Mr Bloomberg coming out of no where, capable of securing the center?

  20. The more I look at Huck, the more I see James Earl Carter.

  21. via comments:

    Ann Coulter: Huckabee is a Republican Jimmy Carter.

    I smell peanuts.

  22. DR: Huckabee vs Obama in November '08, not the election anyone foresaw.

    Is this crew the best a nation of 300 million can put forward to lead it? Or is presidential politics just so filthy that no one with any real merit wants to wade in the pig sty?

  23. Billie Beer, one of the all time marketing failures.

    Mr Huckabee, the fruits of the GOP embracing the "Christian Right" as a distinct group.
    The MSM stories at RealClearPolitics explaining how dumping their man Romney will empower Rudy, longterm.

    Which I'd agree with, if the Florida firewall holds for Rudy.
    But that latest Rasmussen poll, if accurate, puts that strategy in doubt.

    Huckabee vs Obama ...

    Would the latent racism, that the Blacks complain of, and Christian Evangelical fervor be enough to propel the Huck to the White House?

    More than likely, from my perspective.
    But it'd take Rudy or Fred there, too.

    Then I see that FOX News has grandpa Rat's ranch on tv, the creek behind the house is up, again.
    Now it's "National News"

  24. That's just what I was thinkin'. 300 million, and that's the best we can do?
    Petraeus for President.

    Toldja water was comig your way:)

  25. Judge Bork goes for Mitt Romney!!!

    That'll off set the Ranger Walker factor? I'm not so sure.

  26. Never trust a man that won't release his sermons.

    How many precincts can Judge Bork deliver? Nada.

  27. Roosevelt Lake is rising, not the Sea of Cortez, bob.

    Won't make for much of a beach, to many cottonwoods along the bank, and the spillway of the new dam is a tad low. But the fishin' ain't bad, in the lake.

  28. Bobal: Never trust a man that won't release his sermons.

    Huckabee refused to sign legislation to assist storm victims because the measure referred to tornadoes and floods as "acts of God." Putting his name on such legislation, Huckabee explained, "would be violating my own conscience" due to the bill equating "a destructive and deadly force" as "an act of God."

    Maybe his bible doesn't have the book of Isaiah in it.

    ISA 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. Analysis:

    / Rudy Giuliani is the smartest.
    / Fred Thompson is a bit too slow on his feet.
    / Tom Tancredo is the most truthful and sincere.
    / Duncan Hunter is too invested in the old paradigm(s).
    / John McCain is cooked.
    / Mitt Romney is a salesman.
    / Ron Paul is unstable.
    / Alan Keyes is a sideshow.
    / Mike Huckabee is Carter.

  31. ISA 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

    Second Isaiah, T., the Zoroastrian influence, from the days of exile.

  32. Wiki:

    'Mazda', or rather the Avestan stem-form Mazdā-, nominative Mazdå, reflects Proto-Iranian *Mazdāh. It is generally taken to be the proper name of the deity, and like its Sanskrit cognate medhā, means "intelligence" or "wisdom".

    Madah = Science (Heb.)

  33. "Fred Thompson's campaign responded:
    "Trophy wife."
    Looks like good ol' Fred answered sentimentally, too."

    They also asked him what he did on a 'lazy day' and he wrote back: "Campaigning."