Okay, Maybe He’ll Be Worse Than Bush
George W. Bush is a preppy blueblood whose candidacy had the blessing of both movement conservatives and the Republican Old Guard; Mike Huckabee is a working-class Arkansan whose primary-season insurgency has exactly zero institutional support. George W. Bush had Dick Cheney and Karl Rove whispering in his ear; Huckabee has, well … Ed Rollins and Jim Pinkerton. It’s next-to-impossible to imagine Bush saying the sort of things Huckabee has said about Wall Street Republicans and the Club for Growth; it’s next-to-impossible to imagine him delivering the speech that Huckabee delivered at the Values Voter Summit. And it’s absolutely impossible, to take a pair of issues near to Larison’s heart, to imagine Bush adopting the Krikorian Plan as his immigration policy, or delivering the following remarks on foreign policy…
I would grant the point about immigration more readily were I persuaded that Huckabee’s sudden 180-degree turn on immigration was anything other than the most cynical opportunism. The people who are going to be disappointed are the restrictionists who buy into his rhetoric on border security (even Bush found himself forced to sign a border fence bill, albeit one he had no intention of implementing) and the foreign policy realists are probably going to be disappointed by someone who thinks we should send troops into Pakistan and who thinks all Palestinians should be sent to Egypt. He eschews democracy promotion, which is all very well, but he is entirely supportive of the war in Iraq and, as I just mentioned, he is actually vastly more hard-line against the Palestinians than Bush (who once dubbed Ariel Sharon “a man of peace”) has been. Giuliani is also skeptical of democracy promotion, probably thanks in part to the influence of Martin Kramer, but with respect to everything else Bush has done abroad he is entirely in agreement.
When Bush was a candidate, you heard nary a word about democracy promotion, and foreign policy realists fell for it, because they concluded, reasonably enough, that realists were going to be in charge. If Bush were running as a candidate for the first time in 2008, you would probably see someone taking a much firmer line on border security and enforcement. Based on his record, Huckabee was every bit as liberal on immigration at the start of last year as Bush was in 1999. His foreign policy remarks are actually eerily similar to Bush’s in some ways (his attacks on the “arrogant bunker mentality” are just the flip side of Bush’s call for a “humble” foreign policy, and remember when then-Gov. Bush derided Clinton for his presumptuous forcing of a peace deal on the Israelis?). It is hard to conclude that he is not a much more glib version of the exact same kind of Republican. The thing that worries me about Huckabee is that his restrictionist pose and his nods towards foreign policy realism will dupe anti-Bush conservatives into thinking that he is the antithesis of Bush and what Bush represents, when he is, in fact, just an updated version of the same and he is someone who is running campaign similar to the one Bush did in 2000. Huckabee’s humbler origins are a much better fit for the role Bush was trying to play. The “different kind of Republican” who comes from political aristocracy and the business world never really worked, which is why Bush had to turn up the folksiness to 11 and talk about his “favourite philosopher,” who was, as you’ll recall, Jesus Christ. In 2000 conservative pundits were praising Bush’s everyman appeal and they were mocking the complaints that he was unintellectual, and now many of the same people are complaining that…Huckabee is appealing to the everyman and isn’t very intellectual. Huckabee is a higher-octane version of Bush, perhaps so much so that the people who indulged or suffered Bush despite his flaws will not stand for someone who has most of those flaws in greater abundance. Plus, the lack of institutional support seems based as much on movement institutional support for the candidates whom Huckabee has displaced or defeated (i.e., Thompson, Giuliani and Romney) as it is on substantive disagreements with Huckabee. I don’t deny that establishment elites are almost as uniformly against Huckabee as they were for Bush, but I would stress that this is evidence of the inconsistency of the former in their preferences rather than proof of great differences between Bush and Huckabee.