One of the oddities of our primary system, in which relatively small and unrepresentative groups of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire dominate the early parts of the campaign, is that candidates who would have little chance of winning the general election can emerge suddenly as front-runners. Winners in Iowa have included Tom Harkin, Richard Gephardt, and “Uncommitted.” Winners in New Hampshire have included John McCain, Pat Buchanan, Paul Tsongas, Gary Hart, Edmund Muskie, Henry Cabot Lodge, Estes Kefauver, and Harold Stassen.
This year, Mike Huckabee has emerged from the pack on the Republican side, despite some liberal views (HT: Instapundit) on economics and foreign policy. (The Huckabee for President web page makes Huckabee sound conservative on the issues, but his record on taxes and his recent statements on immigration, crime, and Iran leads many to question that. Power Line defends his record, but worries that he’s too moralistic to lead the war on terror and compares him to Jimmy Carter.) Huckabee is socially conservative but liberal in many other respects; he’s the opposite of Rudy Giuliani, who is socially liberal but conservative in many other respects. In fact, a friend of mine, who supports Fred Thompson, has quipped that Giuliani + Huckabee = Thompson + Clinton.
The New York Times has done a long and generally favorable article on Huckabee this week. Rich Lowry criticizes Huckabee’s positions and general lack of preparation here. Meanwhile, Huckabee recently claimed to have a theology degree that he now admits he doesn’t have. He’s a former pastor, but apparently with only one year of seminary training. And questions have been raised about his accepting gifts while in the Governor’s mansion in Arkansas, appointing some of the givers to offices, and destroying records. His Fair Tax proposal, debatable but not absurd on the merits, seems quixotic.
My chief concern: He seems to share the Democratic candidates’ view that foreign policy problems can be solved with more emphasis on diplomacy. He seems to think that conflicts with Iran and other nations are based on misunderstandings, and that, if only we’d talk to one another, we could all get along. I think that’s profoundly mistaken. That’s not to say that there aren’t some problems that can be solved diplomatically. But there are some that can’t be. Huckabee thinks that, if only we’d be nice, everyone would like us, and everything would work out fine:
The United States, as the world’s only superpower, is less vulnerable to military defeat. But it is more vulnerable to the animosity of other countries. Much like a top high school student, if it is modest about its abilities and achievements, if it is generous in helping others, it is loved. But if it attempts to dominate others, it is despised.
American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out.
Gimme a break.
UPDATE: My daughter and I noticed that Huckabee misattributed a quotation; he said that the ancient Chinese theorist Sun Tzu said “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I’ve read The Art of War many times, and I knew that the word friend never appears in it. What we didn’t know is who did say it. Junkyard Blog tracked it down: It’s from Godfather II. (HT:Powerline)