Charles Krauthammer thinks that the candidates don’t know the difference between free exercise and establishment. I’m not sure that’s the problem. And if it’s O.K. for people to be motivated by religion in their support of public policies, why isn’t it O.K. for candidates to indicate that they too are moved by faith?
Michael Gerson worries that Mike Huckabee is acting too much like an ordinary politician, especially on immigration. While I might hesitate about Huckabee’s choice of bedfellows here, and I might quibble with his plan, I’m also not about to drink Gerson’s kool-aid, which would seem to require that we don’t care for the rule of law or control of our borders.
Eugene Robinson doesn’t like Mike, though his invocation of Jefferson indicates that he hasn’t read a word that the Sage of Monticello has written on the subject on which he cites him.
Paul Greenberg thinks we shouldn’t pay much attention to what the Club for Growth says about Mike Huckabee’s Arkansas record, which he thinks was, on the whole, good for the state. Greenberg, in case you don’t know, writes editorials for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Update: Stuart Rothenberg thinks that Mike Huckabee is filling the space in the Republican field that might have been filled by Fred Thompson, though I’m betting he thinks that Thompson would do better in a general election than would MH. Here’s the conclusion:
[I]f electability truly is an important issue for the GOP, Huckabee could be a disaster. While some have argued that he could hold conservatives on abortion and civil unions and appeal to swing voters and even Democrats on immigration, spending and domestic priorities, it is more likely that he would lose conservatives on taxes, spending and immigration and alienate moderates and Democrats on social issues.
I don’t think fiscal conservatives would sit out a race where the opposition was provided by any of the leading Democrats, and I think Rothenberg doesn’t understand (or take seriously) the "evolution" (if I might use that term) of evangelical political opinion.
Peggy Noonan’s miscellaneous reflections include remarks on the unworthiness of Mike Huckabee’s attempts to play the religion card, and the willingness of some voters to play with him. I too can’t help feeling that there’s something a little smarmy about Huckabee’s behavior. He ought to be able to talk about his experience and his faith without so transparently calling our attention to the contrast with others. But I don’t agree with PN when she says this:
[T]there is a sense in Iowa now that faith has been heightened as a determining factor in how to vote, that such things as executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands are secondary, tertiary.
O.K., I’m not in Iowa and I’m not in the heads of Iowa voters, but surely all those considerations matter. Or is Noonan simply arguing that on every other level--"executive ability, professional history, temperament, character, political philosophy and professed stands"--Huckabee is so unimpressive that it could only be his faith that explains his meteoric rise? Surely his opinions matter; surely ten years as governor stand for something; surely on matters of temperament and character he seems to be an engaging fellow.
I’m somewhat with Rothenberg on this: social conservatives were looking for a challenger to Mitt Romney (who seemed to be a recent convert to their causes and who didn’t electrify on the stump). Fred Thompson had his chance and didn’t seize it. Huckabee was poised to move up to the first tier and didn’t play Hamlet the way Thompson did. Romney’s inadequacies gave Huckabee his opening. MH has his own problems. Can Romney now make people forget why they hesitated about him?