Midweek, I published a piece on the potential strengths and weaknesses of a second Huckabee candidacy for president. Yesterday, Gov. Huckabee responded with a vigorous emailed defense against three of the questions I raised. With the governor’s permission, his rebuttal is posted in full below.
- David Frum
* * *
Hi, David—usually I like your stuff and typically don’t respond to things written about me no matter how off the wall they are (and there are plenty of those things.) But because I respect your usual good writing and attention to facts, I must say that I was very surprised at the column this week. You raised some interesting questions, but I have to take exception to your answers, which would have been decidedly different had you obtained the answers from sources other than those which were manufactured during the campaign by political opponents and then repeated as “fact” from that point forward. On 3 questions you raise, I hope you’ll indulge me a first person response:
Is he appropriately discerning on policy? Huckabee based his presidential candidacy in large part on his advocacy of the so-called Fair Tax, a national retail sales tax that could supposedly substitute for the income tax and put the IRS out of business. This idea is not half-baked — it has not even approached the vicinity of the oven. (See here for a devastating critique by Bruce Bartlett.) Huckabee’s advocacy of such an idea warns of a lack of policy skepticism, a susceptibility to schemes that sound good on first hearing — dangerous attributes in a president.
–It’s unfortunate that you have not read the actual Fair Tax bill introduced in Congress by Congressman John Linder or the book he co-authored with Neil Boortz. The Fair Tax was the result of nearly $20 million of research from some of the top economists from Boston University, Harvard, and other credible universities. What doesn’t approach the oven is the laughable “analysis” by Bartlett, who obviously failed to understand the Fair Tax when he decided to condemn it. Most of the critics who deem it to be bad policy reflect something between total ignorance and misinformation to the point of gross distortion. I am more than willing to defend in details the tenets of why it would be better economic policy to cease penalizing productivity and burying business people in compliance law in exchange for a simple and transparent tax on consumption.
• Is his religious appeal wide enough? Faith-based politics is fine. But Huckabee’s support in 2008 often seemed sectarian. He says his words were taken out of context, but at least once in the campaign he seemed to criticize Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith. This too-narrow religious appeal offended not only many American Mormons, but also a much larger group, Catholics, who readily inferred: “Huckabee, a Baptist, seems to disapprove of Mormonism as non-Christian. What must he think of us?”
I have not been critical of Mormons nor of Mitt Romney’s religion. I’ve repeatedly stated that I did not think that Mitt Romney’s religious views or affiliation were a reason to vote for him or against him. I have spoken often of my absolute admiration of Mormons in public office such as Michael Levitt, Orrin Hatch, and Jon Huntsman. My conflicts with Romney had NOTHING to do with his religion or mine. It had to do with his inconsistency on issues ranging from guns, abortion, taxes, health care, same sex marriage, mandates of the government, etc.
• Is he socially out of touch with modern America? On gay rights the country is moving toward a new consensus. On stem-cell research, the consensus in favor seems as solid as ever. Huckabee has chastised Indiana governor Mitch Daniels for suggesting that the country needs a “truce” on divisive social issues. Does that mean Huckabee will reopen these divides — with conservatives increasingly breaking off the smaller half of the wishbone?
Actually 2 polls this year (Gallup and Pew) reveal that for the first time since 1973, the prevailing view is pro-life and most interestingly because younger women are more pro-life than their mothers or grandmothers. As for same-sex marriage, it’s been on the ballot in 31 states, including CA and Maine (hardly right wing red states) and in EVERY state where people have decided, traditional marriage is upheld. It is most noteworthy that in both African American and Hispanic populations, the support for traditional views of marriage is significantly higher than in the white population. As for stem cell research, I enthusiastically support stem cell research—just not the increasingly discredited embryonic version. It has been a common tactic of the left to confuse adult stem cell research with embryonic stem cell research, which is as honest as saying that approval of married adults having sex is the same as approval of 4 year olds having sex.
You are an influential force and worth hearing, but when the instrument is playing the song “off key,” it lessens the appeal of the musician. You normally play well. I want you to hit the right notes!