Monday, October 29, 2007

Fred, Huck and Rudy Part II

There is a sympathy developing among Evangelicals toward Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, former baptist minister, and presently just-passed-into-double-digit-support candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

But Pastor Mike is no evangelical dream. And he's no conservative fantasy either. John Fund entitled his Wall Street Journal article "Another Man From Hope," and he means that in the worst possible sense. Huckabee is "hard right on social issues but liberal-populist on some economic issues." Betsy Hagan, Arkansas director of the conservative Eagle Forum remembers that, as Governor of her state, "he was pro-life and pro-gun, but otherwise a liberal." Phyllis Schlafly, president of the national Eagle Forum, adds that, "He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas, and left the Republican Party a shambles." Blant Hurt of Arkansas Business magazine: "He's hostile to free trade, hiked sales and grocery taxes, backed sales taxes on Internet purchases, and presided over state spending going up more than twice the inflation rate." This does not look good.

Fund learned from Southern Baptist minister Rick Scarborough of Vision America, a Huckabee backer, that "When conservatives took over the Southern Baptist Convention after a bitter fight in the 1980s, Mr. Huckabee sided with the ruling moderates." He quotes Paul Pressler who led the conservative revolt within the SBC saying, "I know of no conservative he appointed while he headed the Arkansas Baptist Convention." Bill Clinton was a Southern Baptist of the "moderate" variety. Oh, and wasn't Jimmy Carter one of those too?

Fund reports a former top Huckabee aid saying, "He's just like Bill Clinton in that he practices management by news cycle. As with Clinton there was no long-term planning, just putting out fires on a daily basis. One thing I'll guarantee is that won't lead to competent conservative governance."

Perhaps these are just enemies telling tales. But those are a lot of tales. And John Fund has impressed me a reliable man. Quin Hillyer at The American Spectator, in "A Tale of Two Candidates," reports that Huckabee has a thin skin, a wicked temper, and all too many moral parallels with the other Man from Hope.

He used public money for family restaurant meals, boat expenses, and other personal uses. He tried to claim as his own some $70,000 of furniture donated to the governor's mansion. He repeatedly, and obstinately, against the pleadings even from conservative columnists and editorials, refused to divulge the names of donors to a "charitable" organization he set up while lieutenant governor -- an outfit whose main charitable purpose seemed to be to pay Huckabee to make speeches. Then, as a kicker, he misreported the income itself from the suspicious "charity."

Huckabee has been criticized, reasonably so, for misusing the state airplane for personal reasons. And he and his wife, Janet, actually set up a "wedding gift registry" (they had already been married for years) to which people could donate as the Huckabees left the governorship, in order to furnish their new $525,000 home.
It seems that former Arkansas governors have to be held to a higher standard of scrutiny. Once burned, twice cautious.

What we learned from Jimmy Carter is that there is more to good government than what seems like an Evangelical profession of faith. Some would say we learned that from George W. Bush as well (though we got two good Supreme Court justices and a few critically important vetoes out of him, all of which were closely related to that Christian faith).

In fact, an Evangelical Christian faith may not even be necessary for good government. Though there is no forgiveness of sins without saving grace in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10), the Lord also gives common grace and distributes it quite liberally. This is why there are lots of decent and kind people who are nonetheless dead in their trespasses and sins. This is why there is much wisdom to be found in works by non-Christians like Plato and Locke, and even Machiavelli and Nietzsche (in many respects more than can be found in Christian authors). We don't read them only to "know what the enemy is thinking" and to understand the pagan darkness from which Christ saved us and where Western civilization has taken its wrong turns bringing us to our present sorry state. Common grace is also what God gives to the non-Christians who, despite their ungodliness of one kind or another, are nonetheless concerned and able to govern for the common good, i.e. as statesmen, punishing evil at home and repelling it abroad. Was Ronald Reagan a Christian? Was he born again? It's debatable. It is also irrelevant.

Mike Huckabee may be a Christian, but he should not be the first choice of conservative Evangelicals for their President.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Dr. Innes,

This is a great post! Being from Arkansas I've been more then a little apprehensive about Huckabee's recent rise in the media. I appreciate your thoughts here.

I hope you are well!

Katie Lepine