April 24, 2024

Mike Huckabee for President

 Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee at the Iowa Republican Party's annual Reagan Dinner last month.

Richard Cohen wants Mike Huckabee to bare his soul and "Tell us how your religious beliefs, your rejection of accepted scientific knowledge, will not impinge on your presidency."  He makes an interesting point by contrasting Huckabee with Mitt Romney, the other "religious" candidate. 

To the many people, both domestic and foreign, who are asking Mitt Romney to do as John F. Kennedy once did and make a speech explaining why his religion is not a threat to our cherished American way of life, I suggest that Romney respond by pointing to his Republican opponents and uttering two words: "You first."

Romney, of course, is Mormon while JFK was Catholic, but if the question is whether a candidate’s religion should be of concern to the American people, the candidates who should respond are those who repeatedly assert that faith, not ideology, is what drives them and even leads them to question evolution. Such a candidate is Mike Huckabee, the affable former governor of Arkansas and, more to the point, an ordained Baptist minister. He raised his hand in the negative last May when all the GOP presidential candidates were asked whether they believed in the theory of evolution.

The comparison isn’t exactly apples-to-apples, however.  Romney is of course a Mormon and so a member of a rather small religious minority whereas Huckabee’s background is in a faith that over 75% of Americans profess to share.  Does that matter?  Yes, actually, although opinions may vary.  In many ways Huckabee’s beliefs are those common to the majority of Americans.  There’s little need for him to explain himself as a result.

Cohen certainly disagrees and does so by linking Huckabee to President Bush:

Huckabee failed a religious test for the presidency established inadvertently by George W. Bush. Back before Bush, it was considered narrow-minded and, worst of all, elitist, to judge a person by the intensity of his religious convictions. Belief was not supposed to matter, and so it was impermissible to conclude anything about a person even if he thought Darwin was wrong or, more recently, that homosexuals chose their sexual orientation, presumably just to irritate the Christian right. Religion was irrelevant. Everyone said so — and I agreed.

Bush changed that. He infused government with religion, everything from ineffective programs that promote sexual abstinence to an adamant refusal to authorize federal spending for most embryonic stem-cell research. The administration even erected barriers to the marketing of the Plan B morning-after pill. All these measures ran up against obstacles that were essentially religious, not strictly scientific, in nature.

OK, no problem.  Did the Bush administration go to far in its quest to stop products like Plan B from hitting the market?  I believe so.  Certainly such a pill is a solution that any rational person would prefer over the epidemic of abortions that take place daily in the west.

But saying Bush "infused" government with religion implies that it had to be forced into the halls of the bureaucracy when the reality is that people have been forced to check their beliefs at the door in past years.  And does it necessarily follow that Huckabee would follow in the footsteps of a uniquely unpopular president?  Maybe, maybe not.

"I don’t separate my faith from my personal and professional lives," he [Huckabee] says.

But a president should do exactly that. When Huckabee says he favors the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, he’s taking a distinctly religious position. Intelligent design has no basis in science. And when any issue, any question, becomes a matter of faith, it means it cannot be argued. That’s not what we do in a democracy. We argue about everything. (This column is my modest contribution.)

Ah, the old "ID is not science" argument.  Certainly that’s true; however, biology is hardly the only class taught in school.  All of them are less important than the question of whether Christ was who he claimed or not. 

As for taking a "distinctly religious" position, I’ll do my part to keep the national argument alive by saying that such a view is held by a significant number of Americans, perhaps even an outright majority.  That doesn’t automatically make it right or good policy, but the question of whether Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools deserves to be considered as a legitimate possibility simply because of the number of Americans who want that to be the case.

Cohen goes back to Romney, saying:

If anything, Romney is the anti-Huckabee. There is not the slightest hint that his religion has constrained his politics in any way. You name the issue and he’s been for it and against it — gun control, abortion, gay rights. Call this what you may, it is proof that Romney is not enslaved by any dogma. His religion, to which he is committed, is distinctly his business and would not, as far I can tell, have any bearing on his presidency.

Too bad.  I would have more respect for Romney if he wasn’t willing to compromise his faith.  As it is he is going nowhere but down and I’d say that part of the reason is that he’s seen as being irresolute on issues, of which faith is a relatively minor one.

Mike Huckabee has not made dramatic gestures in terms of reaching out – or, as Michael might say, pandering – to religious voters to this point in the process.  As an astute reader of the Gazette pointed out, he might further improve his standing in the polls if he did.  He might also establish himself as a man of firm convictions, something most Americans can admire, even if they disagree with some of the points in question.


For the record, I’m endorsing Mike Huckabee for president in 2008.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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