Why conservatives should take a closer look at Mike Huckabee

Special to WorldTribune.com

DrGraceBy Grace Vuoto

The GOP has a tested, vetted candidate who won Iowa in 2008 and finished runner-up to eventual nominee Sen. John McCain in the delegate count.

In the public arena of noisy, well-funded information campaigns, it’s easy to overlook the former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Is he the one who can win the presidency in 2016?

Despite his impressive credentials, other candidates are drawing more attention. In fact, the GOP primary resembles that of 2012: almost every other week there is a surge of interest in a new candidate. Most recently, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and businessman Donald Trump are the Shiny New Objects in the crowded Republican field.

But instead of pursuing the latest political fad, let us look more carefully at one whose substantive career is already well known and has stood the test of time.

Consider first that the root cause of all our ills as a nation is moral decay; this precedes economic stagnation and international paralysis. Huckabee is the most openly, unapologetic man of faith in the field. He is a former Baptist minister who continues to wear his Christianity on his sleeve — even throughout his political life and ascension as host of Fox News’s popular weekend political show, Huckabee. He has thrived as an avowed, unbending and brazen Christian even in our era of stifling political correctness and Christian persecution.

Former Republican Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Former Republican Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

He is staunchly pro-life and against same-sex marriage. He now vows to use his executive authority if elected president to resist judicial tyranny in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision permitting same-sex marriage across the land. Huckabee rightly insists only Congress can make laws—not unelected judges. He is calling for civil disobedience against the ruling.

Moreover, Huckabee has embodied his Christian faith as a family man. He has been married to his wife, Janet, for forty-one years, has children and grandchildren. He stood by his wife despite her cancer diagnosis early in their marriage. She was at risk of not bearing children or walking — and yet, he never once contemplated leaving her. She has borne witness to this story, touting his virtue as a husband.

Like Ronald Reagan, he is a multi-term governor with executive leadership experience. Huckabee was Arkansas’s 44th governor from 1996 to 2007. He repeatedly defeated the Clinton political machine, and is among the few Republicans ever to win in Arkansas. He then dealt skillfully with a Democratic legislature.

But is he a fiscal conservative tough enough to deal with the nation’s crippling debt and massive deficits? The Club for Growth, an advocacy group for free enterprise, has demonized Huckabee, presenting him as a tax and spender, a champion of Big Government. Huckabee has in turn denounced the Club for Growth for distorting the truth.

His policies must be assessed in context. He was constrained by a Democratic-controlled House and Senate and his state’s legal requirement to balance the budget. Unlike in other states, in Arkansas, the legislature needs a simple majority instead of a super majority to veto the governor.

He nonetheless enacted the state’s first broad-based tax cut in its history, slashed taxes approximately 90 times and left a huge $1 billion budget surplus. Taxes were indeed raised 21 times, resulting in a net tax increase. Spending also increased under his watch. Yet, he fulfilled federal mandates in education and healthcare, while balancing the budget every year — even overcoming a multi-million dollar budget shortfall. In short, he acted responsibly, given the circumstances.

His fiscal record is strong enough to withstand scrutiny. Americans for Tax Reform, a taxpayer advocacy group, awarded Huckabee the designation “Friend of the Taxpayer” in December 2004.

“State government officials across the nation should take note of Governor Huckabee’s example of how to handle a spending shortfall,” said ATR President Grover Norquist in 2004, praising Huckabee’s innovative fiscal policies, including some of his spending cuts.

If a Republican leader did today at the federal level what Huckabee did in Arkansas — consistently balance the budget and leave a surplus — we would erect a monument of him in the National Mall.

Huckabee now pledges to restore fiscal order if he becomes president and supports a balanced budget amendment. He also wants to abolish the IRS and enact a consumption tax. These are bold ideas likely to resonate with a public fed up with the IRS’s overreach.

Regarding foreign policy, there is little doubt that Huckabee will obliterate the Islamic State, get tough with Iran and restore America’s standing in the world. His devotion to Israel and deep concern for the plight of Christians persecuted in the Middle East is not just an element of policy but a Biblical mandate.

For Huckabee, a defense of America is interwoven with his Christian vocation. No other candidate in the field is a former preacher with Huckabee’s grasp of the magnitude of the current civilizational war against radical Islam—a war that defines our generation, threatens the West and Christianity itself.

Huckabee also champions economic populism. He staunchly opposed Trade Promotion Authority and is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. His consistent concern for the plight of the working-class will allow him to peel off voters from disenchanted Democrats, and much like Reagan, cobble together a new coalition.

The governor is a folksy, evocative communicator. He can distill complex policy to a wider audience with charm and clarity. And he is just as capable with the national media; he is schooled in national domestic and foreign affairs after so many years in the spotlight.

Finally, Huckabee is a patriot whose presidential campaign speech highlighted our obligation to care for our veterans. This was first on his list, rather than in the middle or end. He promises to defend the Constitution, secure the border and opposes granting amnesty to illegals. He will defend America’s sovereignty.

It is true, however, that a career as long as Huckabee’s will have blemishes. For example, Huckabee was at times weak on crime in Arkansas, supporting the release from prison of convicted rapist Wayne DuMond who then raped and killed two women. He also supported commuting the sentence of Maurice Clemmons who went on to kill four police officers.

Those are low points. While he pardoned more people than his predecessors, he also executed more criminals and the size of the prison state system increased during his time in office. Hence, the notion that he is overall “soft on crime” is inaccurate. Rather, his record was mixed.

Yet, on the major issues of our time — the ceaseless march of radical Islam, our ticking debt bomb, the assault on the family, the growing persecution of Christians here and abroad, an activist and out-of-control judiciary, our porous southern border, the destruction of our manufacturing base and loss of countless blue-collar jobs due to free trade and the murder of one million unborn babies a year — Huckabee has shown himself to be a principled conservative.

In an America marked by moral decline and cultural decay, Huckabee understands there is only one-way back: a return to our Judeo-Christian heritage.

Compared to his GOP rivals, he looks good — very good. Unlike Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Huckabee possesses vast executive experience. The lack of government experience is even more acute when we ponder Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are too moderate; Walker flounders on the national and international stage. The adulterous and three-times married Trump is not fit to lead the party devoted to traditional morality.

All that glitters is not gold. Let us, therefore, stop chasing the latest Shiny New Object and appreciate one who has everything the GOP needs, and who truly fights for and embodies our social values.

Maybe, this time, if we choose the candidate who consistently stands forthrightly with God, we have a chance to restore our republic according to its most essential founding principles.

Grace Vuoto is the Editor of Politics and Culture at World Tribune, host of American Heartland with Dr. Grace on WTSB Radio and is the founder of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal.