Huckabee triangulates his Romney endorsement

GETTY IMAGES Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks during the third day of the Republican National Convention on Aug. 29, … Continued


Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks during the third day of the Republican National Convention on Aug. 29, 2012 in Tampa.

Unlike New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee did not use his speech at the Republican National Convention to unofficially announce his candidacy for 2020 (or even 2016). The one-time governor of Arkansas did not wait sixteen minutes to invoke Mitt Romney’s name (as did Christie) or simply mention it as a kind of afterthought (as did Santorum)

Instead, Huckabee delivered a more-or-less textbook rally-‘round-the-nominee-on-the-penultimate-night-of-the-convention address . In so doing, he cleverly and gracefully smoothed over some past turbulence.

After all, this was the same friend of Chuck Norris who just a few years ago lit Romney up as “looking like the guy who just laid you off.” More darkly, in 2008, he dabbled in a little Mormon baiting as when he asked a New York Times reporter if “Jesus and the devil were brothers” in LDS theology; Huckabee later apologized.

Now, the national Huckabee brand is predicated on two central virtues: authenticity and likeability. Speak off the record to journalists who have interviewed him, especially the liberal ones, and they swoon over the guy. Huckabee clearly understood how inauthentic it might sound for him to suddenly praise a man whom he once likened to a corporate suit slapping you with a pink slip.

To solve that problem he cleverly praised Romney via triangulation. He described the latter and himself as “mutual opponents” of the president. “To those who question how once rivals can now be united,” Huckabee explained, “it’s simple – we have Barack Obama to thank.”

With his authenticity and likeability intact, Huckabee proceeded to bang out a few classic GOP faith and values talking points. As I noted elsewhere, Republicans believe the “religious freedom” issue is a winner for them, especially with Catholics. Thus Huckabee intoned: “The attack on my Catholic brothers and sisters is an attack on me.”

No religious politicking from the Republican side would be complete without a theologically-tinged attack on the federal government. The governor promptly accused President Obama of telling “people of faith that they have to bow their knee to the god of government.” About an hour later, Paul Ryan made the same argument as he thundered: “Our rights come from nature and God, not government.”

Huckabee, incidentally, went down this path before—and with disastrous results. Back in 2008, he argued the Constitution should be amended to “God’s standards”—a bit of sermonizing that mired him in controversy and slowed down his primary push.

Perhaps the only false note in what was otherwise a breezy, workmanlike oration was Huckabee’s reference to the president as a “self-professed evangelical”:

Referring to Obama as evangelical is a very, very problematic claim. It is certainly at odds with the way Obama’s faith and modern evangelicalism are understood by most analysts (this article sheds some light on this issue).

Basically, the evangelicals who Huckabee represents are going to do one of two things on Election Day. Most will pull the lever for Romney. A very small minority will not vote at all because of their theological opposition to Mormonism (Here Huckabee was spot on when he remarked: “I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country”).What I mean to say is that there was no need for Huckabee to turn his constituents away from “fellow” evangelical Obama in the first place—they just don’t see the president as a brother in Christ.

Unless he wanted to add “puzzling misdirection” to his brand, I am at a loss to explain why Huckabee saw fit to raise this point in an effective, albeit unambitious, oration.

View Photo Gallery: Strong spiritual beliefs were on display during prayers, forums and speeches delivered by some of the nation’s top religious, political and social leaders.

Jacques Berlinerblau is associate professor and director of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University. His next book “How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom” will be released in September. Follow him on Twitter @Berlinerblau

  • pjohn3

    Huckabee, the darling of evangelicals, bears false witness for political gain. Of well, only nine more commandments to go.

  • Watcher1

    The Huckster, proud father of an animal torturer. Here’s the particulars:
    “(Miller County, Arkansas) Two boy scout counselors, 17 year old Clayton Frady and 18 year old David litickabee [sic], the son of Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, have admitted to catching a stray dog during their summer session at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, AR, and hanging the dog by his neck, slitting his throat and stoning him to death.”
    “within months, Gov. Huckabee fired the prosecutor who filed animal cruelty charges against his son.”
    There you go, another republican with a dog story.

  • lufrank1

    There’s a REAL source of the low information fundamentalists’ support of Romney/Ryan……….scientifically IGNORANT self styled Christians like Huckabee (who certainly DON”T adhere to the views and teachings attributed to Jesus).

  • phvr38

    That last night might have blown what many thought was a sure thing. Anybody remember we’ve kids out there fighting two wars (one a “war over, dude”) and Madame Secretary bloodthirstily with non-serving hawkpersons, both left and right, itching to drag us into Syria and fire one up with Iran? Bouncing that BCD (birth-certificate dude) might feel good, but “somebody else’s kid, right?” doesn’t quite do it for me.

  • phvr38

    Holy Huckabuckabibble!

  • MDT1

    It sounds like the gas bag from the pulpit has taken his marching orders from the Republican Parties new spiritual leader, Joseph Goebbels, said:

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

    I’d say based on the Republican Convention, and what Romney and Ryan keep saying on the campaign trail, they’ve learned their lesson well!

  • 2TitsUp

    Governor Huckleberry should stick to topics he is qualified to speak about. That topic would be radio carbon dating methods of fossils found in sedimentary rock.

  • philly76

    Its so christian to cut taxes for the rich to robber baron levels and cut Medicare. And it’s a proven economic disaster maker for both rich and poor unless you have faith in history never repeating itself.

  • melech18

    Huckabee likes to pose as some kind of moral authority. He gave up preaching the word of the LOrd for a job with FOX news. He swapped the house of God for a million dollar mansion in the Sunshine state. How comforting that he can preach the Gospel according to the GOP. It pays so much better

  • fuzzylogic

    The enemy (Romney) of my enemy (Obama) is my friend. In other words, even though I can’t stand Romney I hate Obama even more, so by default I have to put up with Romney.

  • Americacares

    Huckabee calling Catholics his friends is ABSURD. His entire ministry is riddled with anti-Catholic dribble. I am a Catholic. Now for all you Evangelicals who are going to vote for Mitt. Google … Christianity vs Mormanism. Eye opener for sure.

  • George-W

    Political triangulation –
    1) Social & cultural conservatives
    2) Faith based organization
    3) Believe their country is exceptional in the world.
    Just triangulating on the Taliban.

  • EthelredtheUnready

    “tells people of faith that they must bow their knees to the god of government”

    That idol up there on the altar that the GOP wants us all to bow down to is the God of Mammon. Only they call him Success and give him a tax break instead of a burnt offering.

  • mharvie

    Huckabee is as much a rogue and hypocrite as the other Republicans. Nothing new here.

  • Trudie

    I love it when these political hacks wrap themselves in Jesus and the US Flag. I bet Huckabee loves apple pie and little kittens also.

  • marshalphillips

    Obama is your “enemy”? wow, that’s revealing; extremists much?

  • Unibrow

    He looks like Hitler in that photo. Doesn’t he?

  • toom

    Huck shows that the religion business is a good business. Better income than selling GOPers used cars, anyway

  • BobLoblaws

    It was just a FOXy move… RIGHT?