Hal makes up his mind: It’s Huckabee

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).

34 thoughts on “Hal makes up his mind: It’s Huckabee

  1. Derek

    Welcome to the family Mr. Stevenson, I know Governor Huckabee will not let the people of South Carolina down nor will he disappoint the American people.

  2. Gary Karr

    I’d encourage those who want to get a deeper understanding of Gov. Huckabee’s foreign policy views to read his speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. You can read it here: http://www.csis.org/media/csis/events/070928_huckabee.pdf
    A great deal of the speech focuses on Pakistan, which may be of some interest to you, Brad.
    For what it’s worth, since I have been a spokesman for various causes and people in my life, in this respect I am not speaking in any way for the Huckabee campaign.

  3. Brad Warthen

    Thanks, Gary, you reminded me that I forgot in the post above to link to the piece in The Economist that said nice things about Huckabee, but questioned both his tax plan and his seeming lack of considered positions on foreign affairs. I’ve fixed that now.

    And thanks for the link about the speech. Expect to see more such speeches by Huckabee, as he works to show he can hit big-league pitching now that he’s made it to The Show. Also, I’ll bet he won’t make any more mistakes like the one on the NIE, which Fred Thompson has done his best to exploit.

  4. Karen McLeod

    No, I cannot support someone who is willing to refuse to accept a scientific theory (whether it be evolution or gravity), when we’re talking about the best, consistent evidence we have. Nor am I interested in someone who has a history of accepting any ‘legal’ gift he’s given (there’s a large difference between ‘legal’ and ‘ethical’), or a person who want’s to arrest and isolate people who have a disease, before even finding out the mode of transmission and the level of infectioness. I am looking for someone who will try something else, since so far what we have done has been ineffective. Right now we are in tremendous debt to China? Given our relationship to China, I don’t think we want to add more to that. Our army is currently very close to ‘busted’. We have spread them too thin. We need a president who will go after Al-Quaida at its source, Afganistan; we haven’t got the forces to go haring all over the place over what may be, rather than what is. And No More Pre-emptive Strikes. That is far more immoral and unethical than who’s bedding whom. When you try that with somebody more powerful than you, it’s stupid; when you try it with someone who’s clearly weaker, it’s bullying, and real scary to the rest of the ‘schoolyard’.

  5. I Like Mike

    American voters are beginning to realize why Arkansans (Republicans and Democrats alike) elected Mike Huckabee to be their Governor.
    If you believe in Mike Huckabee’s message, I urge you to take my challenge by visiting: http://www.abuckforhuck.com.
    With your help, he will make a difference!

  6. Brett

    Look, Huckabee and all the GOP nominees need to be vetted, but this process only works if we try to be honest on our side of the fence and don’t engage in the type of character assassinations that the Libs love.
    Huckabee hasn’t negated Darwin’s contribution to science, he has made it clear that he does not believe that Darwin’s theory has “killed God.” God may have used evolution to accomplish creation. The issue comes when evolutionary theory becomes a religion that demands that people acknowledge that there is no creator nor any supernatural force behind man’s existence. Most Americans don’t believe this and Huckabee doesn’t either.
    Huckabee never suggested that anyone be arrested nor did he put forward a plan for isolating those with AIDS. Huckabee always seems to be a compassionate man and any such plan would not have sought to be bring shame or any additional pain to those who were/are infected. Perhaps there wasn’t a humane and healthy way to accomplish such an isolation, but there is no doubt that 10,000s of additional people have died because we didn’t find a way to keep those who were infected from infecting others earlier.

  7. Gordon Hirsch

    Let’s not forget Chuck Norris’s two-fisted endorsement of Huckabee, aka Chuckabee. They’re the dynamic duo of Baptistland, where evangelical fervor still can KO evolutionary theory with a single discerning thought, Texas Ranger style. Witness!
    Norris on evolution:
    “The life you see on this planet is really just a list of creatures God has allowed to live.”
    Huckabee on evolution:
    “If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, that’s fine. I’ll accept that. I just don’t happen to think that I did.” (Pat Robertson told him that in a dream.)
    Wanna see Chuckabee go brainiac on our national problems? Watch this:

    So there you have it. Two mental giants at their cognitive best, each with kick-ass qualifications for the Oval Office.
    No doubt about it, these guys epitomize the kind of thoughtful, chin-scatching, rational, moral, open-minded, and intellectual leadership we all crave after the genius of Bush.
    As for the prayerful discernment of evangelical christians in politics, I’d sooner trust a mullah on crack.

  8. Huckabee's Spiritual Wizard

    Let’s not forget Chuck Norris’s two-fisted endorsement of Huckabee,
    Right! But let’s not forget Huckabee speech before the CFR last month where he claim that the CFR was the only globalist Orwellian group who had the New World Order Right for America future….
    Go Ron Paul and beat Jesus before he returns to kick Governor Huckabee rear for screwing up his spiritual misson to the masses.

  9. Karen McLeod

    Brett, I heard, on television, Mr. Huckabee (or his evil twin) state that he did not believe in evolution.
    And how do you isolate people who don’t want to be isolated unless you arrest them? How do you find out who is HIV+ unless you test them, forcibly if necessary? As for saving others–well that’s true of any infectious disease. You can isolate those who have it (are you planning on arresting everyone who sneezes in public?), and if it’s true isolation, and if you have correctly determined the means of transmission, then you should stop it. Of course, you’d have had to isolate all those patients who contracted the disease through receiving blood, rather than homosexual behavior, thereby isolating them more. And of course, how about mothers whose babies are infected: it also spreads through heterosexual contact you know. And the only republican for sure that I’ve heard say ‘no’ to torture, without equivocation, is Mr. McCain. No, Thanks, Brett. If a person will deny rights to one set of people, I can only wonder when he’s likely to deny me my rights. And this smear of Romney’s faith,–ie. Mormon’s say Jesus and Satan are brothers–It comes out of Mr. Huckabee’s campaign apparently–and as an ad hominem attack, its despicable.

  10. Brad Warthen

    And so the Kulturkampf continues.

    I don’t suppose I could get any of y’all interested in a constitutional amendment that would ban anyone from becoming president if he shares his views on either evolution or same sex unions, could I?

    Yes, I’m being facetious, but think how it might elevate the debate.

    While we’re at it, do any of y’all like Andrew Jackson? Personally, I think he personified the ruination of the republic. I remember reading in my college days that he once confided that he wasn’t convinced the world was round.

    Of course, neither is Tom Friedman, and he’s a smart guy, right?

  11. Karen McLeod

    Brad, I’ll buy it if we can add that, unless said person has a second job as a sex worker, what goes on in his/her bed is his/her business. I’m getting so tired of who’s done what to whom, when.

  12. Karen McLeod

    I’ve got to revise, Brad, Sorry. But to reject simple, scientific theory, is not acceptable. Yes, I see where Brett says that it’s ok to believe in Evolution, as long as you believe that it’s how God bought things into being. That, as a matter of fact, is what I think. But then, its ri-i-te nice of Huckabe to say that it’s ok for me to believe that. My problem is that I heard him say that he does not believe in evolution. It’s ok for him to believe that, but (BUT) it’s clear that he does not believe what evidence presents him with. All the best evidence we have–not that plucked and re-arranged leads to evolution as the primary mechanism of carbon based, animate creation. This is when I have a problem. We have had 7.75 years (app.) of a president who believed what he wanted to believe, and warped the evidence, and/or simply denied it, of anything that contradicted him. This stand sounds like more of the same.

  13. Brad Warthen

    Karen, here’s what he said. Does that sound unreasonable? Sounds like what you said you believe. It’s what I believe, anyway — I think God used the majestic process of evolution to bring about the world as it now is.

    But why do I bother with this? Huckabee’s not my guy. I do think he’s a pretty good guy, though and I hate to see him get a bad rap for the wrong reasons.

  14. Gordon Hirsch

    Brad … I object. Evolution is not a mere media issue; it’s a doorway to understanding a candidate’s belief system, which defines the person and how he might lead us, especially in crisis.
    For example, if Huckabee does not believe in evolution, where does he stand on the underlying fundamentalist beliefs that form a basis for rejecting evolution?
    First, based on his remarks and “calling” to the Baptist pulpit, we must assume that Huckabee embraces the Bible in a literal sense. He is a descendant of Adam and Eve, “not apes.” He believes that Darwin lead us astray from the Word, just as Satan tests us all. And he believes that our universe is not 13.7 billion years old; and there was no Big Bang, because Scripture tells us that Genesis dates back no more than 6,000 years.
    Ignore the geological evidence to the contrary. This all makes perfect sense to the evangelicals. God is omnicient and omnipotent, so if He wants to create a 6,000-year-old world complete with 13.7 billion years of fake history, no matter. He’s God, and he has a plan. More shall be revealed.
    In Huckabee’s evangelical world, God is everything, or he is nothing. Therefore, all things are attributable to God, not Al Gore, and global warming is just another failed attempt by mankind to understand His will.
    And how do we know God’s will? Simple, say the evangelicals, for the devout it’s just a matter of prayerful discernment. Listen with your heart, and the Spirit will point you in the right(eous) direction. In short, you will be “led.”
    The truly frightening fact in all of this is: Huckabee can NOT give serious consideration to science when it conflicts with the Word. To do so is to lose faith. And so he is committed to the Word first, and all else is temptation.
    In the history of humankind, the leaders who were most certain of God’s will brought us the most bloodshed, suffering, and pain — on a biblical scale.
    If they truly are in touch with God, then I would hope there is a higher use to that gift than a run for your party’s nomination. If they are not in touch with His will, God save us all from their political ambitions.
    To paraphrase Moliere: God is a comedian playing before an audience too afraid to laugh.
    I hope he’s getting a chuckle out Chuckabee, ’cause I’m not.

  15. Jay

    Ok, so he believes in intelligent design. Is that better? I don’t see how that video vindicates your argument. It’s just the same old tactic of making fun of evolution to deny it. “I didn’t descend from primates, and you must be a silly fool to believe that.”

  16. Brad Warthen

    Matter? Yes. Justified? No.
    Your choosing to hear something other than what he carefully chose to say is what’s wrong with politics today, and a major reason why more good, reasonable people don’t offer themselves for public office.
    If a person thinks carefully about what he wants to say about something controversial, I think the rest of us have an obligation — absent strong evidence that the speaker is lying — to take what he said as meaning what he said. And conversely, we have the right to expect others to listen to what we say in good faith as well.
    Otherwise, language has no meaning, and politics in a free society is useless, hopeless. You get what we have today, which is a partisan nightmare of people refusing to listen to each other, instead of a deliberative, representative democracy.
    This business of not listening to another person, then saying, “Here’s what he REALLY said,” and going on to misrepresent the statement, is grotesquely irresponsible and destructive. It’s the basis of the political parties as they currently manifest themselves at their most counterproductive, and even more so the basis of our stupid, pointless Culture Wars — all of which seem to exist primarily as a means of delegitimizing other people, rather than engaging what they say in a way that could lead to a productive synthesis, and pragmatic action to address real issues.
    I’ll go further in answering your question: You do NOT have a right to represent what someone else says according to the way you CHOOSE to hear it. On the contrary, you have the obligation as a citizen to use your native intelligence to the utmost in an effort to understand precisely what the other person INTENDS to say, and to go on from there to make your own contribution to a constructive dialogue.

  17. Jay

    I’ll grant that that last bit wasn’t constructive and I was trying to be a little facetious, that’s what the ‘heh’ was for. But don’t act like politicians don’t say things that mean other things to whatever set of people they’re trying to speak to. Romney has used the phrase ‘traditional marriage’ so many times, as if there are people who are against traditional marriage. Who are these people? So you can say that Romney doesn’t ever say “I am against gay marriage”, but that’s what he means. The same thing goes with Huckabee on this issue, he has a thoughtful carefully crafted response to the issue that means different things to different people. Language matters, it’s the whole deal and it’s not just whatever the guy literally says. Even if it seems thoughtful, it still might be BS.

  18. Brad Warthen

    I hear you, and I see the justice in what you say. But consider this: If Mr. Romney is insincere, and says different things to please different people, then you can find plenty of reason to disagree with him on the basis of what he actually says — or in what, in the example you provide, he refuses to say clearly.
    This is just a sore point for me because of what I do for a living. One of the most frustrating things that can happen to a person who tries hard to come up with the right words to set out a thought he’s devoted some time to is to be met immediately by a phalanx of people who say, without any good-faith effort to understand what he means, “Here’s what he REALLY means,” describing something very different.
    After a time, it has an erosive effect on the soul, if you truly believe in words, and in the potential for reasoning together with fellow humans.

  19. Jay

    I think that Romney is insincere, and Huckabee for that matter, but I would never profess to know what they or anybody REALLY means, because I can’t peer into their brain, nor can anybody else, so on that point I concur. It’s impossible to know what any candidate means, but their language is so filled with double-speak and semantic parsing, I find it a stretch to blame the listener for the divisiveness, when the politicians give us so much fodder. And as to the evolution point that Huckabee made, it may be well thought out, but it’s not intellectual. I get that he’s appealing to the basest part of his audience that can identify with the idea that (hypothetical quotes here), “I am not a monkey”. It only takes a couple of minutes and google to find out that evolution does not say at all that we descended from apes, only that we had a common ancestor. It’s a big difference. This is a common attack against evolution, and it’s wrong but it feels right to the people who want to hear it.

  20. Karen McLeod

    Brad, Let me try again. 1) I had heard his previous statement saying that he did not believe in evolution. 2) The basic problem here, from my point of view, is the willingness to equate faith with science. It makes a difference about whether you go with any given scientific theory or not, because science reflects the way the world really is as best we can understand it at that point. I remember NC Senator Jesse Helms sponsoring a bill to change pi from 3.1415 to 3. That works fine if you think of science as a belief system, where you can believe in one thing or another. It’s not so great if you’re messing with an actual fact. And admittedly, knowing pi doesn’t make anyone a better person. But if you put the wrong number in an equation then you come out with useless information. Likewise, if you reject the best information available because it doesn’t match what you believe, then you are very unlikely to get a workable answer. The clip you showed me does not confirm that he understands and accepts evolution, it just said that its possible that God used that as method of creation. Mr. Huckabee does not get the crucial difference between science and faith.

  21. Brad Warthen

    And how would you define that difference, Karen? I ask that because it sounds as though you define current scientific findings as Absolute Truth, which cannot be gainsaid. I don’t think that’s what you mean, but that’s the way it sounds.
    To narrowly protest what you say, natural history is hardly mathematics. Natural selection is not the same thing as pi. But I have a broader objection than that.
    I’ve noticed in recent years a tendency of people who feel culturally alienated from religious conservatives to speak of science in dogmatic, absolutist terms, casting out unbelievers with zeal and inflexibility and intolerance that rivals that of ardent religious fundamentalists. There is a narrow self-righteousness in these postures, a rigid orthodoxy, that I find most unsettling.
    To me, science is a tool, one that has helped us gain much of our wholly inadequate understanding of the totality of reality. I respect it as such, but I don’t worship it. I see science as being like reason. I find it disturbing that too few people have sufficient respect for reason. But I also worry when people have too much respect for reason narrowly understood, and therefore utter contempt for intuitive perception. Reason, or science, might be our best tool for understanding the physical world, but it’s just one tool. It’s like a really sophisticated, extremely useful hammer — it’s great to have, and we should respect it, but that doesn’t mean that everything that is True is automatically a nail.

  22. Gordon Hirsch

    “It doesn’t embarrass me one bit to let you know that I believe Adam and Eve were real people.”
    — Mike Huckabee, 1990 address to Arkansas state Baptist Convention
    Gee, Brad … I guess that’s the cornerstone of “Intelligent design.”
    It’s curious, too, that all of Huckabee’s sermons from his pulpit days have either disappeared or are no longer available for public review.
    Is Mike Huckabee the presidential candidate shunning Mike Huckabee the preacher? Before entering politics, he was a pastor at two Baptist churches. Now his campaign tells Mother Jones it won’t make his sermons available to the media and the public.

  23. bud

    Now I understand why Brad never uses any facts when he makes an argument. He just doesn’t care where the facts lead. He’s more about intuition and faith. That kind of thinking has cost us 4,000 lives in an endless quagmire based on “faith” and “gut feeling”. This ignores the reality of 4,000 American soldiers killed, 30,000 wounded, 1 million Iraqis killed and 5 million displaced. Those are facts. But it doesn’t matter to Brad and the other neo-con believers. He has “faith” that we’re doing the right thing. His “intuition” says we’ll come out ahead in the end. Sadly many Americans share this fact-free, intuition based view of the world, which explains why the pious Mike Huckabee is doing so well.

  24. Karen McLeod

    Scientific theories are theories that are arrived at from inductive reasoning. They are tested and retested over time by observation. That’s how they become theories. I do ‘have faith’ in the scientific theory, say the theory of gravity, because it matches what I observe. People, including Mr. Huckabee, are welcome to believe wish. But their ability to ignore the best description of reality that we (the human race) can manage makes me wonder what other realities they can ignore. I trust God, because I experience Him in my life. I don’t ‘trust’ gravity or evolution; I merely accept them as realities of this time/space. For most people it makes absolutely no difference whether they believe in evolution or a literal Genesis or any other creation myth. Their decisions are not going to make any difference to the earth that we all share. But a president is different. His/her ability to recognize and differentiate reality-as-it-is, from ‘reality-as-I-want-it-to-be’ is extremely important. It is our current president’s inability to distinguish between the two, not his conservatism, that has landed us in so much trouble. None of us are able in this life to see completely clearly, but I would prefer not to start with someone who is not accepting the best reality we have.

  25. Brad Warthen

    And bud, you are predictably, and tiresomely, misunderstanding me. I will not say that you’re willfully doing so, because I believe you are sincere.
    Intuitive reasoning does not occur in a fact-free environment. It’s the process through which a thinking person makes sense of the facts. No set of facts exists that tells us, mathematically and objectively, what will happen in the future in Iraq as a result of this or that action or inaction. Both you, with your remarkable faith that the world would be OK if we abandoned Iraq today, and I, with my belief that that would be grossly irresponsible, use intuition in arriving at those conclusions.
    What does it say about your reliance on facts that the surge has reduced the level of violence in the country, yet you still use exactly the kind of rhetoric you used when it was “conventional (and intuitive) wisdom” that the surge would be a disaster? Most people who say the things you say have stopped saying them in recent weeks and moved to other topics. They have stopped seizing upon any instance of violence and trying to generalize it to total failure, because they know that the overall body of facts no longer support that position.
    So who is it who’s ignoring facts and clinging to a position in spite of them?
    Mind you, I don’t condemn that. If you are right, you’re right even if we’re going through a lull in the violence — just as if I am right, I was just as right when the daily reports looked apocalyptic and I insisted that was something we could address constructively and get through.
    Both of us are looking beyond the narrow view of what is happening in this news cycle, and trying to describe the bigger picture.
    Just don’t say your conclusions are more “fact-based” than mine, because they are not.

  26. Karen McLeod

    Brad, there’s a difference between imposing a religious test, and personally deciding that I am not going to vote for someone who does not accept current scientific theory (in an area that that person is not an expert in). Non belief in evolution is not to my knowledge part of any Baptist “creed.” Nor is it part of any general Christian “creed.” Right now, I’ll give you odds that no Muslim could have a chance of being elected our president. And there are many, many Evangelical Christians out there who have made it clear that they won’t vote for anyone who isn’t their flavor of ‘Christian’. That seems more of a “religious test” to me, than a simple determination that I do not wish to vote for anyone who does not respect simple scientific reality.

  27. Jeff Mobley

    The idea that evolution has somehow been shown to be an immutable natural law (like gravity) is laughable. Why isn’t it enough to say that it’s a useful theoretical model?
    As they say in statistics: “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”
    I would not claim that I can scientifically prove God created the world as described in Genesis, and by the same token, no one can claim to have proved that He didn’t.
    I can think of the evolutionary model as a convenient way to classify and study the similarities and differences between species without actually believing that all life evolved from some cluster of amino acids.
    I don’t doubt the faith of those Christians who believe in evolution, but if I accept that Adam and Eve were real people, I don’t think my intelligence should be doubted. After all, I believe Jesus walked on the water, healed a man born blind, and rose from the dead. Why should I find it hard to believe that Adam and Eve were real people?

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