John Fund paints a familiar picture of a charming governor from Hope, Arkansas who wants to be president:
Betsy Hagan, Arkansas director of the conservative Eagle Forum and a key backer of his early runs for office, was once “his No. 1 fan.” She was bitterly disappointed with his record. “He was pro-life and pro-gun, but otherwise a liberal,” she says. “Just like Bill Clinton he will charm you, but don’t be surprised if he takes a completely different turn in office.”
Phyllis Schlafly, president of the national Eagle Forum, is even more blunt. “He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas, and left the Republican Party a shambles,” she says. “Yet some of the same evangelicals who sold us on George W. Bush as a ‘compassionate conservative’ are now trying to sell us on Mike Huckabee.”
The business community in Arkansas is split. Some praise Mr. Huckabee’s efforts to raise taxes to repair roads and work with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. Free-market advocates are skeptical. “He has zero intellectual underpinnings in the conservative movement,” says Blant Hurt, a former part owner of, and columnist for, Arkansas Business magazine. “He’s hostile to free trade, hiked sales and grocery taxes, backed sales taxes on Internet purchases, and presided over state spending going up more than twice the inflation rate.”
Many Huckabee supporters have told me their man should be judged by what he’s saying on the campaign trail today. Fair enough. Mr. Huckabee was the only GOP candidate to refuse to endorse President Bush’s veto of the Democrats’ bill to vastly expand the Schip health-care program. Only he and John McCain have endorsed the discredited cap-and-trade system to limit global-warming emissions that has proved a fiasco in Europe.
“It goes to the moral issue,” he told an admiring group of environmentalists this month. Alan Greenspan blasts cap-and-trade in his new book as not feasible, noting that “jobs will be lost and real incomes of workers constrained.” Mr. Huckabee defends his plan as an “innovative” way to attain complete energy independence from foreign oil by 2013.
During a visit to the Journal last spring, Mr. Huckabee joked that one of his biggest challenges is that “like Bill Clinton I hail from Hope, Arkansas, and not every Republican wants to take a chance like that again.” But it’s Mr. Huckabee who is creating the doubts. “He’s just like Bill Clinton in that he practices management by news cycle,” a former top Huckabee aide told me. “As with Clinton there was no long-term planning, just putting out fires on a daily basis. One thing I’ll guarantee is that won’t lead to competent conservative governance.”
If this is accurate, Huckabee doesn’t sound like the best guy to face down the islamists, much less rein in Washington’s profligate spending. It’s not the first doubt I’ve had about Huckabee.
For an opposing view, read why former Fred Thompson backer Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost now endorses Huckabee.
I’m still a Fred Head.