Back in this column, and in a followup post, I’ve been following Hal Stevenson’s very careful, prayerful process of discernment as he has tried to decide whom he would support in the primaries. That’s been a matter of concern to more folks than just Hal himself, given his leadership position with the Palmetto Family Council.
Anyway, Hal’s made up his mind, and for him it’s a logical choice:
I promised to let you know when I decided to back a candidate for president.
I have indeed settled on mike huckabee. The campaign wants to prepare a news release but I told them I wanted to let you know first. I was very humbled by the respect you showed for my opinion and am grateful for the kind words. I am not asking you to write anymore about it, but wanted to make sure you knew. Without going into all my thinking on the subject, I guess the one big challenge for me with him was is he really viable- a conversation I had with a business associate in nyc (a self-described non religious person) who expressed interest in him and huckabee’s recent surge have convinced me that he can attract more than just evangelicals. Let me know if you would like to discuss further.
So you read it here first, and for that I’m grateful to Hal.
As for the "is he really viable" part. Well, he certainly is now. It’s interesting to ponder on why, at this time. I mean, I’ve always like the guy, although I’ve had some reservations. I don’t think his tax plan is sufficiently well-considered, and I’m very concerned about the holes in his understanding of (or at least, expressed understanding of) foreign affairs.
David Brooks has an interesting column, which will appear on our op-ed page tomorrow, as to why, all of a sudden, that doesn’t matter. He posits that recent events — the success of the "surge," the NIE on Iran, the setback Hugo Chavez suffered in the Venezuelan referendum, and even the Annapolis peace meeting, have moved foreign affairs off the front burner. He goes so far as to suggest this is now a "postwar election."
I have two reactions to that: One, he’s probably right in that at this moment in time — not last month, and not next month — candidates such as Huckabee and Obama have been given a chance they would not normally have in a wartime election. Two, I think that if people really do think the world has gone away and we don’t have to worry about it any more, they are profoundly wrong. Even given those examples:
- Iraq can collapse at any time, but even if things keep going well, we will be heavily involved there for years.
- The NIE only did one thing — made it harder to keep up diplomatic pressure on Iran. It did not change the fact that the mullahs are busily enriching uranium as fast as they can, and can have the bomb as early as 2010.
- Chavez is still in power, and the need to radically change our energy policies to reduce the power of him, the Iranians, Putin and many others is as urgent as ever.
- Annapolis has very, very far to go before we have a right to be optimistic about even getting on the road to Mideast peace.
But yeah, I get how polls could be affected at the moment. And none of that should negate Hal’s perfectly reasonable endorsement of Huckabee.
I’ll add one thought, though: Hal says it sort of came down to either Huckabee or McCain. McCain, of course, benefits if you still think the world is a dangerous place — or at least a place that requires our committed attention. But if you think the war is over, McCain has put too many eggs in that basket to remain among the four — excuse me; it’s now five — contenders for the GOP nod.
By the way, Hal didn’t cite that as his reason for endorsing Huckabee. He said that when he talked to Huckabee, the candidate said of other campaigns, "They may want you, but I need you." And Hal is, to his credit, a guy who wants to make a difference.
And note what he says about his friend in New York: Part of Huckabee’s appeal to him is that he is someone who folks who would be turned off by a Pat Robertson endorsement could go for. That speaks to the reason I talked with Hal about this subject to start with — I wanted to know the thinking of a "values voter" who wasn’t going to sellout for an illusory sense of "winnability" the sort of thing that apparently led Robertson to Giuliani (and, apparently, Bob Jones III to Romney).