“Huckabee emerged happily from his hunt, three dead pheasants in tow ... Asked for a metaphor to describe the hunt, he replied, ‘Don't get in my way. This is what happens.’"
This behavior gives a glimpse of how Huckabee’s easy-going image is a façade. But this type of thinly veiled rage and hostility is, unfortunately, not limited to Mike Huckabee. It’s an important theme that runs through this year’s Republican campaign, and through much of neo-conservative rhetoric. Maybe it started when Ronald Reagan famously exclaimed, “I paid for this microphone!” or when he joked about bombing the Soviet Union.
Psychiatrist and author, Justin Frank, did a masterful job of describing similar, destructive tendencies in George W. Bush, in his book Bush on the Couch. Frank points to Bush’s traumatic childhood (e.g., the loss of his sister, with no outlet for grief), his sadistic tendencies (e.g., blowing up frogs, branding fraternity pledges), his history of drinking, and his alleged learning disability, to make a compelling explanation for Bush’s self-defeating and destructive presidency. But, again, this theme is not limited to Bush, even given all these pathologies. It is something that has grown, as traditional conservatism has given way to neo-conservatism and the Radical Right.George Lakoff’s work, of course, casts a similar light on the Right’s punitive “strict father” approach to policy positions, creating a world in which unwanted pregnancies, poverty and STD’s are just reward for immoral behavior. But even Lakoff's "strict father" strikes me as mild, compared to the increasing hostility we hear from the Right. The most recent displays of this Republican rage came from the Fox GOP debate, where Fred Thompson confused the Iranian Navy with suicide bombers, gleefully calling for them to realize their fantasy of meeting their 72 virgins - apparently enjoying his fantasy of a violent confrontation. Then, of course, there has been the steady drumbeat of Republican enthusiasm for torture and detention without charge, with Mitt Romney calling for the doubling of Guantanamo.
The most disturbing aspect of this mean streak, however, is not that Republicans and other neo-cons are not nice. It is the fact that the most satisfying policy result for this mindset, is not peace and prosperity, their espoused goals. Free-floating rage constantly searches for an excuse to be expressed. What better excuse than the perpetuation of war, chaos, and conflict? When you’re casting about for a fight - and trying to prove your manhood, to boot - escalating conflict can be so satisfying!
Progressives have long tried to explain to the electorate that the Bush policies have increased the risks of terrorism, not decreased them. Many progressives have - correctly - pointed to the “secondary gains” of increased government powers that come from keeping the American people in a constant state of fear. But perhaps there’s another semi-conscious motivation at play - keeping those juices of rage flowing.