The Huckster

by digby

There was a time when Governor Mike Huckabee was considered one of the great white hopes for this election cycle. (Maybe he still is.) He's supposed to be the one with the softer edges who can appeal to the ladies with his good natured religious talk and the men with his congenial, good ole boy personality.

I dunno, maybe. But after his "beauty shop" one liner against Edwards and seeing him on Blitzer yesterday, I have to say I think he's got a seriously bitchy quality, along with the usual irresponsible GOP mendacity that puts him firmly in the everyday Republican asshole camp.

Here's Governor Mike being a nice, decent man who has respect for everyone:

BLITZER: So you don't accept the notion that a Ralph Nader or some others would suggest that there really is no significance difference between Democrats and Republicans?

HUCKABEE: Well, somebody would have had to have slept through both debates to think that there are no differences. There are clear differences. Now, the good news is the people of America will have a contrast. And I think the other piece of good news is that both sides, I think, are legitimately trying to talk about some issues.

I just watched my friend and former colleague, Bill Richardson, who I have a great deal of respect for, disagree on many issues. But Bill Richardson brings to the table not only a great background, but I think some keen insights.

And good politics is not about agreeing with everybody all the time. It's about having real, honest debate, putting the differences on the table and seeing if there's any common ground at all.

Isn't that terrific? A real, honest debate, putting the differences on the table and finding common ground. What a breath of fresh air.

Later in the same interview:

BLITZER: The president is determined to revive the immigration bill and they are determined to come up with a game plan in the next few days that will see it pass... Are you on board with the president of the United States?

HUCKABEE: Not at this time. But let me explain why. First of all, I think there are three basic reasons that the bill is in real trouble, particularly with Republicans.

And the first reason is is there's a general lack of credibility that the American people have with government based on their inattention to Katrina and the way it was bungled, based on the lack of attention when it came to corruption, and they saw it...The second factor, it was written in secret...

But Wolf, let me tell you the third reason that people in the Republican Party are uncomfortable with it, I can put it in this simple phrase. What part of Kennedy do you not understand?

When Ted Kennedy is involved, it immediately creates a natural, just anxiety for Republicans. Now having said that, you know, I respect and appreciate that Senator McCain has put a stake in the ground on this. And unlike so many people who just take the easy way out, you've got to give him credit for working on this problem along with other senators from both parties and attempting to put something on the table.

So rather than just throw it all away, let's be very specific in the parts of it we don't like, and let's fix it. That's the way legislation gets done.

BLITZER: Well, let me be just clear, Governor. Just because Senator Kennedy is on board with Senator Kyl and Senator McCain and the president, just because he has come to their side, does that in and of itself make it unacceptable?

HUCKABEE: No. What I'm saying is that when he is front and center, you're always going to have the first glance from Republicans sort of saying, whoa, we better really take a real close look. Because if he likes it, there may be something hidden in there that we're not going to like.

I'm just saying that's one of the issues. It does not mean that it can't happen. But he's not exactly the one that brings warm, fuzzy feelings to Republicans in America.

As you can tell by his follow up, even Blitzer was taken aback by Huckabee's statement.

But, hey, I like Huckabee's rule. My personal feeling is that any bill that has Orrin Hatch or John Cornyn attached to it is so distasteful that I can't support it. Lott and McConnell too. I just don't trust 'em. In fact, since I don't trust any of these bastards, I can't support legislation that has any Republican's name on it. What part of Republican don't you understand, Governor? (And good luck passing any legislation if by some miracle you do become president...)

I know the Republicans have defined stupidity down ever since Reagan, but this is getting ridiculous. This cretin is running for president and he should know better than to promote such nonsense with a casual one-liner. The Republicans aren't in charge of the senate and they don't get to decide who sponsors bills all by themselves. I'm sorry the neanderthal base of the GOP doesn't like it that Democrats get to be involved in the legislative process now but they are just going to have to adjust to this new reality.

But believe it or not, that wasn't the dumbest thing he said. He said a whole bunch of truly stupid things. Like this:

FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. Every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. And so essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open.


BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, you agree with Secretary Powell?

HUCKABEE: I know it's become a symbol of what's wrong. I visited Guantanamo just about a year ago. My sense was, because I visited every single prison in the Arkansas prison system, and I can tell you most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like Guantanamo and less like the state prisons that people are in in the United States.

It's more symbolic than it is a substantive issue, because people perceive of mistreatment when, in fact, there are extraordinary means being taken to make sure these detainees are being given, really, every consideration.

BLITZER: But the argument isn't so much the physical condition as to the legal system that they face. These suspected terrorists, these detainees are being held, by and large, without charges, without any evidence. They're just being kept there indefinitely. And that's causing a smear on the U.S. reputation.

HUCKABEE: I understand that. But I'll tell you, if we let somebody out and it turns out that they come and fly an airliner into one of our skyscrapers, we're going to be asking, how come we didn't stop them? We had them detained.

There's not a perfect solution. The perfect solution is to get people to quit being terrorists. And that's not something we can easily control. If we're going to make a mistake right now, let's make it on the side of protecting the American people. That's the number one role and responsibility that an American president has right now.

Well, yes. It's important to get people to quit being terrorists. And locking up a bunch of innocent Muslims and throwing away the key is an excellent way to do that.

I guess this is just another layer of the Bush preemption doctrine. We should imprison innocent people indefinitely because they might do something bad in the future. (That something, by the way, that some of them would never have even thought of doing until we locked them up.) Besides, it's like a country club down there! The prisoners are being "treated better" than those in Arkansas state prisons (which may be true) and they should be happy to be unjustly imprisoned in such a great place. (It reminds me of Barbara Bush saying that the hurricane victims were doing much better living on cots in the Astrodome than they were in their own homes.)

This thinking gives you a pretty clear look into how Huckabee and his little Republican followers view the concepts of justice and security. And the inescapable conclusion is that these primitive authoritarians may very well be only one short step from applying the laws of the "war on terror" to the American judicial system in general. You cannot make a logical distinction between believing the government should lock potential terrorists up because they might cause some harm and locking potential criminals up because they might cause some harm. It is only a matter of time before that thinking bleeds into the lizard brains of a good portion of Americans, who up to now have been more or less successfully inculcated in the great American values of "innocent until proven guilty" and "due process" and "inalienable rights" even if they didn't always practice them perfectly. We certainly didn't have politicians openly calling for keeping innocent people imprisoned forever because they might do something wrong in the future and it would make the government look bad for having let them out!

I have said this before, but this new terrorist legal regime is almost sure to infect our own judicial system sooner or later, when people start arguing that mass murderers or rapists or whatever are just as dangerous as terrorists and they don't "deserve" to have rights either. After all, if the government's primary job is to "protect" the American people from someone who might fly a plane into a building, you cannot logically apply a different standard to someone you think "might" hurt Americans in more prosaic ways.

Violence happens every day in our country and we try to prevent it wherever we can, within the law. But we don't throw out the constitution, however badly we might mangle it at times, because intelligent people know that nobody is safe when a government can preemptively throw innocent people in jail and keep them there with no due process forever. Just ask the people who lived under the Taliban. (I hear there are a few down there in Camp Gitmo living it up --- maybe they could share some experiences.)

It used to be that conservatives of all people understood this. Now they are just unctuous authoritarian con men rending their garments over their little friend Scooter while saying in the same breath that we need to keep innocent people in jail forever so the US doesn't have egg on its face. Creating a few thousand terrorists is a small price to pay to ensure that the Bush administration is never embarrassed by "making a mistake."

The nice guy Huckabee is a walking ditto-head bumper sticker, only without the nuance.