By Richard A. Viguerie
Some voters pining for a principled conservative Republican presidential candidate are pinning their hopes on former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee. But while Gov. Huckabee stands strong on some issues like abortion that are important to social conservatives, a careful examination of his record as governor reveals that he is just another wishy-washy Republican who enthusiastically promotes big government.
The Baptist preacher entered politics in an unlikely way for a Republican—as the result of a meeting with Joycelyn Elders, reports The New Republic. As director of the Arkansas department of health under Gov. Bill Clinton, Dr. Elders opined that preachers should “stop moralizing from the pulpit”. Spinning into damage-control mode, Gov. Clinton asked Mike Huckabee, head of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, to meet with Dr. Elders. Rev. Huckabee came away from that meeting uncomfortably impressed with the “lady who genuinely believes what she’s saying and is deep in her convictions”. He reasoned, “[I]f people like her are creating the public policies that will determine how our kids are going to be educated, and the atmosphere, then maybe we need to get out of the stands and get out on the field and get our jerseys dirty.”
But while Mike Huckabee praises Dr. Elders for her dedication to her own beliefs, he has disparaged principled conservatives as “blind purists”. And his record as governor certainly suggests that Mike Huckabee is not as firm in his devotion to conservative ideals as the former U.S. Surgeon General remains to liberal notions.
“A fiscal conservative is a person who truly understands that it’s not a problem in the federal government that our taxes are too low,” the former governor told the crowd at CPAC in 2007. “It’s a problem that our spending is too high and out of control.”
But by Gov. Huckabee’s own definition, there’s serious reason to doubt that he’s a truly fiscal conservative himself.
Much of conservatives’ concern about Gov. Huckabee centers on his record of raising taxes. He signed Americans for Tax Reform’s no-tax pledge, but only after dismissing such covenants as dangerous. He blasts the fiscally conservative Club for Growth as the “Club for Greed”. He publicly opposed repealing a tax on groceries and medicine, though he claims that he’s “always philosophically supported” axing the tax. According to ATR, after his 10 years in office, Gov. Huckabee had raised the state’s sales tax by 37 percent, motor fuel taxes by 16 percent, and cigarette taxes by 103 percent.
Not surprisingly, all these tax increases allowed for greater spending. According to Americans for Tax Reform, state spending under Gov. Huckabee rose by 65.3 percent during 1996 to 2004. The number of workers on the state’s payroll increased by 20 percent during his tenure, and its general debt obligation rose by nearly $1 billion. The spending increase is due largely to the creation of new government programs and the expansion of existing ones.
Though he told The Washington Times that he supports “empowering people to make their own decisions”, Gov. Huckabee has consistently initiated and supported government meddling in the market economy. Not only did he increase Arkansas’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.25 per hour, but he even encouraged the U.S. Congress to do the same thing nationally. He ordered Arkansas regulatory agencies to investigate “price-gouging” in the nursing-home industry and threatened to launch a government investigation of “gouging” on gas prices after September 11, 2001. He signed a bill forbidding private companies from increasing prices on services like roof repair and tree removal by 10 percent in advance of a natural disaster.
He is on record in support of big government programs that elbow out private-sector solutions. For instance, Gov. Huckabee drove ARKids first, a multimillion-dollar government program to provide health insurance for 70,000 children. He supported President George W. Bush’s 2003 massive expansion of Medicare by adding a prescription-drug benefit. He called the No Child Left Behind Act, which increased federal education spending by 48 percent and expanded big-government control of local schools, “the greatest education reform effort of the federal government in my lifetime”. Although Huckabee advocates a fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, as governor he proposed granting in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens.
Mike Huckabee’s wishy-washiness is perhaps best exemplified in the story of Wayne Dumond, the most bizarre and tragic episode of the governor’s entire tenure. A few weeks after taking office, Gov. Huckabee announced his intention to free Mr. Dumond, who had served seven years of a life+20 sentence for the kidnapping and rape of a 17-year-old girl. The following month, the governor met with the parole board; soon afterwards, the board voted to free Mr. Dumond on the condition that he move to another state.
Although he told National Review that he “executed more people than any governor in the history of” Arkansas, Gov. Huckabee insists that the “concept of Christian forgiveness requires that we keep open the process of parole” even for violent felons.
The parole board’s action made Mr. Dumond’s pardon application unnecessary, so Gov. Huckabee denied the pardon but sent him a letter affirming, “My desire is that you be released from prison. I feel that parole is the best way for your reintroduction to society to take place.”
Mr. Dumond’s release was delayed because no other state would take the convicted rapist. After two and one-half more years, the parole board set him free in Arkansas. The following year, he moved to Missouri, where he sexually assaulted and murdered a 39-year-old woman.
As the predictable political fireworks burst all around him, Gov. Huckabee tried to hide behind the claim that he had denied Mr. Dumond’s pardon application. “My only official action was to deny his clemency,” Gov. Huckabee insists, defensively glossing over his oft-stated earlier preference for Mr. Dumond to go free.
Gov. Huckabee’s poor judgment in the Dumond case is serious, but his failure to acknowledge responsibility publicly is truly disgraceful in a man who would be president.
But it fits the pattern of his inability to hold a principled stance with courage and conviction. Gov. Huckabee called no-tax pledges “irresponsible” but then signed one. He wants to fence illegal immigrants out, but to give them cheap tuition while they’re here. He calls conservatives “blind purists” but poses as one of us.
One who has cut through the fog of Gov. Huckabee’s wishy-washiness and found something she likes is the woman who’s indirectly responsible for his political career. Joycelyn Elders says she’s “truly impressed. I feel he really did things that I appreciated.”
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