My Huckabee-supporting friends keep complaining about East Coast neoconservative elites who are against Huckabee. I think we should institute a rule: Any generalization about East Coast neoconservative elites that has to make exceptions for David Brooks and William Kristol is invalid. ~Ramesh Ponnuru
This is a fair point. In fact, it is neoconservatives who have generally expressed the fewest objections with Huckabee’s domestic policy views (or rather gestures, since he doesn’t have many things well-formed enough to be called views), perhaps because they have been open to meliorist and big-government policies in the past. They do not have quite the reflexive opposition to Huckabee’s fiscal record that others do, though some of them do seem to find the prominence of his religiosity irritating. He has made protectionist-sounding noises, but lauds NAFTA, so he is not nearly so “heterodox” on trade as some have feared or hoped. It is his foreign policy, or alleged lack of it, and the possibility that he could split the coalition that have caused the greatest concern for Krauthammer, Barnes, Continetti and others, but again his ideas are so unformed that he could go either towards more realism (as his essay’s Iran remarks suggest) or towards a more aggressive, activist policy (as some of his comments on Pakistan hint). In the anti-Huckabee backlash you mainly see traditional, nationalist and economic conservatives making the most disparaging remarks about him. Restrictionists in particular find him simply unacceptable–hence the otherwise very odd Tancredo-Romney embrace. Then there are paleoconservatives such as myself who see Huckabee as a natural fit for a “new fusionist” alliance between social conservatives and neocons, and therefore potentially very dangerous. Whether for substantive or tactical reasons, the preferred candidates of many neoconservatives, McCain and Giuliani, have laid off Huckabee for the most part. To the extent that Huckabee would essentially be a modified George W. Bush, another iteration of the war-supporting “compassionate conservative,” as I think he would be, I think neoconservatives might see him as the most malleable and their best fallback candidate if both McCain and Giuliani fail to advance. It is Thompson and Romney who have been going after him hammer and tong, because they see him as a more direct competitor and because they are seeking to position themselves as guardians of the old-time Reagan coalition, which Huckabee’s camaign chairman has famously declared dead. There are many East Coast conservative elites attacking Huckabee (and many conservative elites in general, wherever they may live), but they are not neoconservative ones.