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Huckabush

Not to beat the point [1] to death, but I did a little digging and found this news item [2] from last year:

During a speech delivered in the heart of the financial district, where compensation packages routinely reach into the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, Mr. Bush announced that he would ask corporations to curb excessive executive pay.

When it comes from Bush, Republicans may not be happy with it, but they aren’t exactly declaring him the second coming of Huey Long.  What shocking socialist rhetoric has been pouring forth from Huckabee’s mouth?  One news story reported [3] late last year:

He calls himself the candidate who isn’t a “wholly owned subsidiary” of investment banks, decries large executive-pay packages and says the party needs to shift its focus from Wall Street to Main Street.

The logic of the backlash against Huckabee seems to be this: if you have a net worth of $20 million-plus, you can call for curbing executive pay packages, and if you don’t have that much your similar calls to do this are proof that you are a wild-eyed left-winger.  Or something like that.  It does make sense that an establishment embarrrassed by or tired of Bush would be unwilling to rally around Huckabee, but that would confirm the point that they see the two men as being markedly similar and it would likely mean that they are quite similar.

Let us all cast our minds back to those early days of the 2000 campaign when Bush unveiled the “compassion” agenda (in 1999) and see what he said [4]:

The purpose of prosperity is to make sure the American dream touches every willing heart. The purpose of prosperity is to leave no one out–to leave no one behind.

In Michigan the other day, Huckabee said [5]:

My goal is not to make rich people poor, it’s to give poor people a shot at the American dream.

Now I don’t like Huckabee or Bush, but can someone explain to me what the substantive differences are between the two of them?

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8 Comments To "Huckabush"

#1 Comment By Koz On January 15, 2008 @ 12:08 am

“Now I don’t like Huckabee or Bush, but can someone explain to me what the substantive differences are between the two of them?”

Is this legit? Where does Bush claim that prominent Republicans are wholly-owned subsidies of investment banks. I don’t know if you’re aware of this Daniel, but on planet Earth that is substantial evidence of ignorance, paranoia or demagoguery. Take your pick.

#2 Comment By Daniel Larison On January 15, 2008 @ 12:51 am

Obviously, he engages in rhetorical overkill for effect. Yes, he’s a demagogue–obviously. I’m talking about differences in terms of substance and ideas. What does Huckabee actually propose as policy that is substantially different from Bush? I can think of very few things.

#3 Comment By Koz On January 15, 2008 @ 2:19 am

1. First of all, Huckabee has never had the responsibility that Bush has had. And when W was governor of Texas or pre-2000 candidate, I can’t recall him ever beating the class war drum.

2. Taxes, obviously. It should be worth noting that through all the drama of the Bush administration that he still has credibility on taxes.

Most importantly, I think you’re undervaluing the importance of “rhetorical overkill.” Let me quote your favorite writer, David Frum:

“And it’s also true that I am no kind of populist. My big concern at the moment is precisely that the radical rise in American economic inequality since 1980 – and the serious slowdown of midde-class income growth that has set in since 2000 – will tempt America to adopt quack economic ideas that will impoverish this country and do radical damage to the world economy.”

Now Frum is talking about his book here and not the Huckabee campaign per se, but for me (and much of the conservative establishment, I’d venture), it explains why Huckabee is uniquely unacceptable.

#4 Comment By Zarathustra On January 15, 2008 @ 7:11 am

I can’t recall him ever beating the class war drum.

“I don’t think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor.”

-The 43rd President of the United States of America, October 1, 1999.

#5 Comment By Ratufa On January 15, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

I don’t know why you think that financial district speech is worth a quote; it’s as obvious a piece of meaningless political stagecraft as you could find.

Why do business-oriented Republicans support Bush? Because he has a record of being a reliable supporter of corporate interests and because, to an extent, he is “one of them”. You can’t say the same about Huckabee. Perhaps, in practice, he’ll be another Bush with respect to supporting corporate interests, tax cuts, free trade, etc. But, there’s a chance Huckabee actually deeply believes some (obviously, not all) of his rhetoric, and nobody in the business world wants unpredictability in a President. More generally, Huckabee appears to have genuine religious beliefs that may influence his thinking on other issues besides the social ones that businesses don’t really care about, and no interest group can really support such a candidate (unless alternatives are worse), since that limits their influence.

Also, keep in mind that Huckabee will (most likely) be governing with a Democratic Congress, which will magnify any “liberal” inclinations that he might have.

#6 Comment By Daniel Larison On January 15, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

Meaningless political stagecraft is exactly what it was. Why do we assume that Bush didn’t mean what he said, but that Huckabee does? Why do we assume that Huckabee isn’t going to be/hasn’t been a reliable supporter of corporate interests? It is simply an assumption based on little more than these rhetorical ploys that we all recognise to be meaningless when they come from Bush. Which brings me back to my original point: they’re not substantially very different.

#7 Comment By Koz On January 15, 2008 @ 3:10 pm

“Why do we assume that Bush didn’t mean what he said, but that Huckabee does?”

Most importantly, let’s understand that they’re not saying the same thing. It’s one thing for Congress or the President to curb eight-figure pay packages. I don’t necessarily think that’s a good idea, but I don’t think it would do that much harm. Otoh, what Huck is saying tends to spread paranoia and conspiracy theories among Americans. In fact, there’s some chance that was his intent. And _that_ is really really bad for the reasons Frum wrote.

Besides that, as other commenters Bush is not a cipher for the business community. They don’t have to care as much what he says, they know what he’s done.

#8 Comment By Daniel Larison On January 15, 2008 @ 5:35 pm

All right, Huckabee is demagoguing more, so as a matter of style and recklessness I can see the difference.