Why I don’t ♥ Huckabee

Mike Huckabee has launched a new national radio talk show that is aimed at the same conservative audience as Rush Limbaugh, except that he promises that it will be more civil. He may be sensing an opening to attract those who are getting tired of Limbaugh’s ugly bombast.

The former Baptist preacher and governor of Arkansas ran for the Republican nomination in 2008 but despite doing well in the early primaries, was not embraced by those he perceived as his natural allies (the evangelical establishment) and had to drop out. He later published a memoir lashing out at them.

My problem is that I sometimes err in my attempts to find people whom I disagree with but think are thoughtful and reasonable. As a result, I was once fooled by Huckabee, buying into his civility shtick, thinking that he seemed like a ‘reasonable conservative’. I wrote back in 2008:

He has all the right positions on social issues to appeal to the party’s religious base, showing him to be a hard-core conservative. He believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and even favors amending the US constitution if necessary to reflect his belief that the country is founded on Christian principles. Austin Cline, creator of the excellent website About Atheism/Agnosticism, analyzes Huckabee’s views on church and state relations and claims that his views make him a theocratic fascist.

At the same time he is affable, telegenic, has a sense of humor, plays bass guitar in a rock band, has an engaging personality, and can appear on programs like The Colbert Report and win over an audience that would not be at all sympathetic to his views. Even I, who disagree strongly with him on almost every position he holds and cannot imagine myself ever voting for him, find myself liking him. He seems thoughtful and intelligent and articulate, a persuasive spokesman for his positions. He looks like someone with whom you could seek common ground by having a civil and reasoned discussion, even while the two of you hold opposing views.

I have to repudiate my earlier views because having seen and heard him elsewhere since then, I now think that he is a fundamentally dishonest person. His seeming thoughtfulness and reasonableness are just a façade. His gift is his ability to gauge his audience and say things in ways that appeal to them. Whenever he appeared on programs like The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, he would ooze reasonableness but at other times and in other venues, sometimes the very next day, he could be as vicious as any religious extremist in pushing his bigoted Bible-based agenda.

So I was once fooled by Huckabee. My only excuse is that others have also recognized that he is good at fooling people. As Austin Cline says:

The next time you see Mike Huckabee on any sort of mainstream news program, pay close attention to how he behaves — his friendly, positive demeanor — but pay even more attention to how the host or interviewer behaves. You probably won’t see Huckabee challenged on anything he says or questioned about some of his statements from the past.

But Cline shows how he is “as much of an theocratic, authoritarian, extremist Christian as anyone in the Christian Right today.”

So beware of the genial, affable, smiling Huckabee.