Even though catch-and-release fishing has replaced a lot of
catch-and-eat fishing and camera safaris have replaced big-game hunting (except
for GoDaddy's Bob Parsons and
Spain's king Juan Carlos who recently gunned down elephants) practically every
US presidential contender still feels compelled to don blaze orange outerwear
and kill a few for the "Gipper" of public opinion.
It's almost like a candidate can't achieve sufficient "guy-dom" to be elected to high office without a hunting resume. Both former president Bill Clinton and Massachusetts senator John Kerry embarked on self-conscious duck hunting trips while running for office with "photo opportunity" written all over them. And during the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton sucked up to the gun lobby about her love of the shooting sports to the point that her then rival Barack Obama, referred to her as "Annie Oakley" Of course, she later became Secretary of State Annie Oakley.
Leading up to the 2008 campaign, former New Mexico governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson bragged about the exotic long-horned African antelope he killed on media tycoon Ted Turner's Armendaris Ranch in New Mexico. A photo shows him kneeling beside the animal, its muzzle sunk into the sand. And during the 2008 election, Mitt Romney's characterization of himself as a lifelong hunter on the basis of a few hunting trips in which he shot small animals was widely ridiculed by the gun press and black gun fans.
But former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's antics were probably the most extreme. Huckabee did everything right for his photo op cammo close-up. He scheduled a pheasant hunt the day after Christmas, a traditional no news day. He intoned the usual catechism about hunting actually being stewardship ("It's the hunters who actually keep the wildlife alive") that allows so many hunting groups to call themselves conservationists as they "protect" the animals they want to blast away. He even wore a cap that said "EAT, SLEEP, HUNT"--a good visual for TV cameras.
But even though the press dutifully trailed Huckabee into Iowa wing-shooting country--"underdressed," according to some reporters--he got no bounce out of the event. It might have even cost him approval points. Maybe it was the way Huckabee, also a Baptist preacher, joked about the bird he shot having his opponent's name written on its rear end. "See, that's what happens if you get in my way," he chortled to the press. "Each of these three birds made a sacrifice for the campaign." Ha.
But it might have also had to do with rumors swirling at the time about Huckabee's son, David, allegedly hanging a dog while a counselor at the Boy Scout's Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, Arkansas, according to Newsweek . Huckabee had made a "conscious attempt to keep the state police from investigating his son and seemed to be obstructing justice," a former FBI chief in Little Rock was quoted as saying in Newsweek.
Neither event humanized the candidate. A bird may be just a bird, but how could a pastor find the death of an animal--humorous? And why, if his son were innocent, did Huckabee allegedly obstruct the investigation? END