Huckabee more than a nice guy
Let's compare Mike Huckabee to some of the other presidential candidates. The former governor of Arkansas is not as rich or handsome as fellow Republican Mitt Romney, nor is he as heroic and tortured as John McCain. And he's certainly not as inte...
Let's compare Mike Huckabee to some of the other presidential candidates.
The former governor of Arkansas is not as rich or handsome as fellow Republican Mitt Romney, nor is he as heroic and tortured as John McCain. And he's certainly not as intense and operatic as Rudy Giuliani.
As for the top Democrats, Huckabee is not nearly as careful and calculating as Hillary Rodham Clinton. Nor is he as dashing and Bobby Kennedy-like as Barack Obama. And he's nowhere near as shiny and pretty as John Edwards. And he certainly doesn't talk as much as Joe Biden.
In an interview, Huckabee comes across as a nice guy, even after 15 years in politics, including 10 years as chief executive of the Razorback State. But don't just take my word for it: David Broder, the veteran Washington Post columnist, calls him "friendly, down-home," and Steve Kornacki, writing in The New York Observer, describes him as "warm and personable." Huckabee's warmth extends even to Bill and Hillary Clinton: "You know, I've never hated the Clintons," he told National Public Radio. Huckabee went on to say that Bill "made a lot of mistakes - a lot of personal ones," but noted that Clinton had risen up from a "dysfunctional family" to two terms in the White House.
OK, but what do they say about nice guys? That they finish last? Well, actually, in Huckabee's case, they finish second - and a strong second, at that, in the Aug. 11 straw poll in Ames, Iowa. Now the Arkansan has that precious political commodity, buzz: The Boston Globe bannered, "Huckabee sees momentum building," and nothing in the story disputed that headline.
Republicans looking for a candidate to carry on George W. Bush's "democracy building" crusade overseas will have to look elsewhere - although as a front-page article in Monday's Washington Post makes clear, if even Bush can't implement the signature Bush policy, despite years of effort, it's unlikely that the next president will gamble his or her presidency by pursuing the same grand but quixotic vision.
For his part, Huckabee is naturally focused on domestic concerns, starting with the all-important issue of homeland security. So what to do about immigration? "Seal the border," he answers. Huckabee was not the first to see the danger of unlimited immigration in the age of transnational terror, but he sees it now, bringing a common-sense approach to the challenge of border-order: "If FedEx can track a package to within an inch of where it is, at every moment, then we can figure out who's here in this country." Thinking further about the issues of security and disaster relief, Huckabee argues that it was a mistake to merge the Federal Emergency Management Agency into the larger Department of Homeland Security. FEMA and DHS are "totally different," he explains. DHS is about prevention and protection, which requires searching for clues and quarantining a crime scene, among other priorities. By contrast, FEMA is about getting immediate relief to people. Both functions are vital, but they are different.
Huckabee also praises the effectiveness of James Lee Witt, the Clinton appointee to FEMA in the '90s, back when the agency was independent and had its own Cabinet rank. "They did it right," concludes the Republican about the Democrats.
At a time when every American knows that more storms - natural and man-made - are coming our way, we can hope that a potential president is thinking about the best person for the job, not the right partisan resume.
Someone will be inaugurated early in 2009, charged with leading the U.S. through four perilous years. If we're lucky, the next commander-in-chief will be nice, as well as competent and effective.
Pinkerton is a columnist for New York Newsday.