If you happen to be walking behind presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee, you might see a small trail of blood and hear a scraping sound. That’s because his knuckles are dragging.
This darling of the evangelical right has proven himself to be every bit the caveman we mainstreamers believe him to be. Of course, that’s all the more likely to increase his appeal to the zealots in his flock. But should he win the GOP presidential nomination (every Democrats’ cosmic fantasy), it would make him disastrously unelectable in the general election.
The latest Huckabee story is linked all over the Internet to its original sin (or should I say, original signpost on the Baptist Press Web site). It goes as follows. In 1998, Huckabee was one of 131 signatories to a full-page ad in USA Today extolling the virtues of the Bible’s teachings on marriage—or what some Southern Baptists call the Bible’s teachings. We all know religious extremists, as all extremists, skew their interpretations as markedly as politicians spin theirs.
The ad told Southern Baptists, “You are right” about a number of such biblical teachings:
“You are right because you called husbands to sacrificially love and lead their wives.
“You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband’s sacrificial leadership.
“You are right because you affirmed that the husband and wife are of equal worth before God.”
It should have said, “You are Right, but you are wrong” (to wit, you are on the political Right, but the moral wrong). Husbands who believe they sacrificially “love and lead” their wives clearly do not view their wives as partners in life but as servants. Wives who “graciously submit” to their husbands are most often not submitting graciously, but because they have neither the economic wherewithal nor the education to be economically self-sufficient. And even if they are “gracious” at first, they rarely stay that way for long.
It gets even worse the deeper one digs into Huckabee’s dark political past. The Associated Press re-released 229 answers Huckabee “offered as a 36-year-old Texarkana pastor during his first run for political office in 1992. In that unsuccessful race against Sen. Dale Bumpers, Huckabee offered himself as a social conservative and listed ‘moral decay’ as one of the top problems facing the country. Over the weekend, he said he wouldn’t retract answers in which he advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, opposed increased funding for finding a cure and said homosexuality could be cured though he said today he might he phrase his answers ‘a little differently.’ ”
On issues more directly affecting women, Huckabee told the Associated Press he did not believe the Constitution protects women’s abortion rights and he opposed any “law that would give workers time off to care for an ailing family member.” One year later, Congress passed and then-President Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, allowing American workers “to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a close relative with a serious health condition or if the employee could not work due to health problems.” It remains one of the United States’ most popularly supported laws.
Since 2000, Americans have lost many constitutional protections, as federal courts cut back on women’s rights, workers’ rights and even disability rights. If Huckabee won the White House and oversaw four more years of judicial appointments, these rights would be scaled back even more to become unrecognizable from what they once were.
Americans have allowed themselves to be manipulated at the voting booth by candidates who run at the margins during the primary season, only to “remake” themselves during the general election to appear more mainstream. In President Bush’s case, he did it twice, but then governed at the extreme right margin while in the White House. That’s why his popular support is so low now and has been for more than a year.
There’s an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Americans should take note if by some ungodly miracle Mike Huckabee becomes the Republican nominee.
(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and columnist. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)