Going on the attack

Mike Huckabee says John McCain is a hero. McCain says Huckabee is a good man. And they both seem to agree on this: Mitt Romney is neither.

The Republican rivals joined Sunday to criticize Romney — McCain in New Hampshire called him a waffler and Huckabee in Iowa questioned whether he can be trusted with the presidency, a sign of Romney’s strength in both states.

Romney’s camp accused the hard-charging Huckabee of “testiness and irritability,” a reflection of the brass-knuckles phase of the most open presidential race in half a century. Much is at stake: Iowa kicks off the election process Thursday with Democratic and Republican caucuses that could propel two candidates to the nomination.

“Whoever wins Iowa could be the next president of the United States,” said Democratic consultant Stephanie Cutter, adding that a compressed election schedule may put a premium on momentum this year “and Iowa can be a rocket booster.”

New Hampshire votes just five days after Iowa.

The dynamics aren’t quite the same on the Republican side, but GOP consultant Scott Reed said Iowa “is going to make or break three-quarters of all the candidates.”

Polls show Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards tied for the lead in Iowa. Clinton and Obama are closely bunched in New Hampshire, too, where voters are often influenced by the results in Iowa.

The Democratic winner here will be hard to stop, especially if it’s a well-funded Clinton or Obama.

As six candidates offered their closing messages on the morning talk shows, Obama acknowledged that the criticism about lack of experience in Washington might be taking a toll.

“That may have some effect, but ultimately I’m putting my faith in the people of Iowa and the people of America that they want something better,” Obama told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Playing the experience card, Clinton told ABC’s “This Week” that as first lady from 1993-2001 she was “intimately involved in so much that went on in the White House, here at home and around the world.”

While she was one of the most influential first ladies in history, Clinton had her limits. She did not attend National Security Council meetings, did not receive the presidential daily briefing on terrorism and other threats and did not have a top level security clearance.

She is married to one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, and his return to the White House as first spouse would break new ground.

“He will not have a formal, official role, but just as presidents rely on wives, husbands, fathers, friends of long years, he will be my close confidante and adviser as I was with him,” Sen. Clinton said, adding that attending NSC meetings “wouldn’t be appropriate” for her husband.

Edwards said he couldn’t imagine Bill Clinton staying out of the mix.

“I think it’s a complete fantasy,” he said with a laugh on CBS.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Edwards said he was trying to ease fears about his electability by arguing that his sharply populist message is not polarizing. “It’s not divisive at all,” he said, “it’s uniting.”

A former president as the White House spouse would make history, a common denominator of the 2008 contest. The last wide-open race came in 1952 after Harry Truman opted not to run for re-election and his vice president, Alben Barkley, bowed out because of doubts raised over his age.

A new poll of the Republican race in Iowa suggested that Huckabee’s surprise surge in Iowa may have stalled — his lead over Romney evaporated. A victory here for Romney would send the former Massachusetts governor to his neighboring New Hampshire with a head of steam.

That explains why Huckabee, strongest in Iowa, and McCain, winner of the 2000 GOP primary in New Hampshire, both criticized Romney.

Huckabee said he may have been hurt by Romney ads and mailings criticizing his record as governor of Arkansas. He accused Romney of running a “very desperate and, frankly, a dishonest campaign.”

Romney has been less than candid about his record and campaign plans, a fact seized upon by Huckabee.

“If you aren’t being honest in obtaining a job,” Huckabee said, “can we trust you to be honest if you get the job?”

Huckabee defended McCain against negative ads by Romney.

“I felt like that when Mitt Romney went after the integrity of John McCain, he stepped across a line,” Huckabee told NBC. “John McCain’s a hero in this country. He’s a hero to me.”

Huckabee scrapped a public appearance at an Iowa church, his only open event of the day, in favor of attending a private service and taping new ads — perhaps to counter Romney’s.

United by a common foe, McCain spoke up for Huckabee. “Look, I’m flattered that (Romney) would be attacking me. He’s attacking Huckabee in Iowa, who’s a good man. And it shows that they’re worried,” McCain said.

Airing ads that suggest Romney is a phony, McCain said that’s not a word he’d used, but “I think he’s a person who’s changed his positions on many issues.”

Romney said there’s nothing wrong or unusual about pointing out differences on issues. “In this process, people have a real battle for success,” he said during an Iowa campaign stop, “but I consider these guys friends.”

His spokesman, Kevin Madden, didn’t sound so friendly about Huckabee and his record as governor.

“It’s a record that is tough to defend, so his testiness and irritability when being questioned about it is obvious,” Madden said.

Indeed, Huckabee’s poll numbers have declined as voters learned about his record of raising taxes, ethical lapses and clemencies for convicted murderers in Arkansas.

He hasn’t helped himself with a series of foreign policy gaffes, not the least of which was expressing “our sincere concern and apologies” for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson told Fox News that Huckabee’s comments “are not consistent with someone who understands the nature of the world that we live in … .”

Trailing in Iowa and New Hampshire, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani scolded GOP rivals for name-calling. “My view is we should be here not attacking each other,” he said in New Hampshire. “I don’t think you get very much out of it.”


Associated Press Writers Holly Ramer and Glen Johnson in New Hampshire and Mike Glover, Amy Lorentzen and Liz Sidoti in Iowa contributed to this report.


  1. JoyfulC

    So far, I like the way Huckabee presents himself better than any of the others. He seems like a decent person, and seems to be looking for ways to compete without sinking to the level of mudslinging that the others choose to do. That is soooo refreshing!

    But I don’t think I could ever vote for a Christian — at least not one who believes that his policy should be governed by his religious beliefs. I have no problem with freedom of religion, and no problem with any person allowing religion to govern the way that they, personally, conduct themselves. I have a big problem with them using their religion as a guide to policy.

    For one thing, I don’t think we will ever have any hope for peace in the Middle East with a Christianity governing US policy. True Christianity is based on a premise that the world is going to end, and this is going to come about because of a war in Israel. Evangelicals for more than a century have supported the return of Jews to Palestine and, later, the formation of the modern state of Israel — not because they care so much about Jews, but because they believe that this is a fulfillment of bible prophecy. No policymaker guided by Christian belief could ever do anything to effectively promote peace in the Middle East because that would be contrary to bible prophecy, and therefore to god.

    I also don’t think that we can hope for much in the way of sensible environmental policy or reduction of our reliance on foreign oil with a true Christian believer making policy. Again, Christians believe in an end-of-the world scenario, after which time there will be another life in heaven (for them, anyway). They believe that god made this world for man, who was “made in his image” — and not just any man, but for his chosen people — to consume without thought for tomorrow.

    And that brings me to another concern. How can a Christian policy be compatible with freedom, equality, justice, etc.? According to Christianity — as with Judaism and Islam — they are god’s chosen people, the people who will live on after the end of this world with him in heaven. The rest of us — including people who lived decent lives but simply failed to subscribe to the correct religion — are to be damned for all eternity. If a person believes that god has this little regard for anyone who doesn’t subscribe to his religion, then how much regard could we expect him (or her) to have for us as our leader? A Christian policy could reverse much human progress. For example, the bible has no problem with slavery and Jesus even admonished slaves to be obedient to their masters. Yet humanity has, for the most part, rejected slavery. If we allow a return to theocracy and religious fundamentalism, then aren’t we risking a return to more brutal and inhumane notions?

    I’d be much more comfortable with a leader who is guided by faith in his personal life, but is firmly committed to a secular approach to policy. That may sound tricky, but all too often, we’ve seen the reverse: notable public Christians who were better at bopping other people over the head with their religion, but weren’t very good at living by it themselves?

    I just wish religion wasn’t such a big issue in the election.

  2. SEAL

    As a member of a certain Native American tribe it was obviated to me that the supreme enity was the sun which, together with the earth provided for all life. That is not a religion, just a fact. I was also made to understand that we, the human race, have a responsibility to live in harmony with the earth and all of it’s life if we were to continue our existance on the earth. Unfortunately, we were in the minority.

    Regardless of religious belief or any other philosophy held by the various races, tribes, or what have you, the vast majority of people populating every inhabitable part of the planet viewed the earth as simply the source for their needs. That might not have been so bad had they recognized that the earth would only provide for a certain munber of their species. Instead, they endeavored to create as many of us as they could as fast as they could until we were completely out of balance with nature. They have destroyed the habitat that will support themselves simply by over populating it.

    The sun and the earth recognize the problem and they are setting about to correct it. They are going change the habitat to get rid of us. Whether by a mistake in the evolutionary process or some not so “intelligent design” interference, the human race is out of balance with the rest of the nature that had been created. So, the sun and the earth are going to create a different environment that will evolve different species. Hopefully, ones that will balance with each other.

  3. bryan mcclellan

    This is off topic SEAL but since you have mentioned native Americans I have to ask,have you heard about the Sioux nations renouncement of all treaties with the US and the establishment of the sovereignty of their lands in the four western states where their reservations are?http://www.lakotafreedom.com/

  4. SEAL

    Yeah, Bryan, I read something that came out about that. I’m not in contact with any of the Lakota people I used to know, anymore, so I don’t know anything new about this effort on their part. This has been going on for years with a variety of declarations. But from what I read this one is formal.

    However, nothing will change. It is only symbolic. There is no intent to enforce it. Like all of us, they live with the reality that they were invaded by the Europeans, slaughtered, and their way of life was taken from them. They were forced to live like the invaders and very few were able to make that transition.

    The odd side to this story is that we could never understand how the invaders could divide up the land by ownership. Each tribe populated and used certain areas of the lands for their needs but they never considered that they “owned” it.

    Now, the Sioux are playing the land ownership game with the government with this declaration defining certain areas as theirs. That is what makes this one different. They have an agenda of some sort but I have no idea what it is.