Rod wrote the other day:
I don’t think Huckabee was saying here what Mark (and others — I see that Larison took the same point) interprets him to be saying.
Rod is referring to Huckabee’s “law establishes morality” remark that I found so troubling. I’m willing to entertain the possibility that Huckabee meant something other than what he said, but based on what he said I think that Shea and I drew the right conclusions. Huckabee is not normally so clumsy or inept with language as Bush that he is in the habit of saying ludicrous things that he doesn’t mean. He may well say ludicrous things, but they are usually intentional. There are three alternative interpretations: 1) he meant just what he said in just the way Shea and I interpreted him; 2) he didn’t mean what he said, and was repeating a truism about codifying norms; 3) he has no idea what the word “establish” means. Two of those don’t reflect well on him, and the one that gets him off the hook assumes that he cannot properly and clearly explain his understanding of the relationship between law and morality. That’s not exactly something that inspires confidence in him as the social conservative candidate running for President.
But suppose Rod is right. Suppose that every time Huckabee, or one of the other candidates, says something deeply, profoundly wrong that we assume that he misspoke and meant to say something with which we can agree. In short, we are admitting then that we cannot really rely on anything these people say. This highlights a bigger problem with several of the major candidates. Huckabee has recently found religion, so to speak, on immigration policy and has discovered that strongly opposing illegal immigration is a good political move in the fight for the nomination. On substance, restrictionists should be slightly pleased that the political climate forces someone like Huckabee to adopt more of their positions, but the issue here, as with Romney’s numerous changes of position, is one of credibility and confidence in a candidate’s reliable support for the policies he advocates. To some extent, it is always hard to know what you will get with a pol once he is in power, but obvious craven pandering is not a good sign. If we cannot rely simply on their records as guides (because they have run away from their past positions), if we cannot take what they say literally, but must assume that we know what they must have meant (because the literal meaning of what they said sounds crazy), and if we cannot trust their new policy positions (because they have adopted them within the last year or two), it seems that there is no good reason to vote for any one of them.