In 1994, during his first term as Lt. Governor of Arkansas, I met with Mike Huckabee, his very attractive female Chief of Staff (whose name I can't recall) and Dick Morris, his campaign consultant. At the time Morris was working for both Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee. It was a most interesting get together-one that changed my whole perspective on Mike Huckabee; the man and the politician. I had known Mike since 1979, when we both attended Olivet Baptist Church in Little Rock. He was a friendly enough guy and he even counseled me regarding my family and marriage. Soon after, we both went our separate ways-I to a different church and he, on to pastor Baptist churches in Pine Bluff and Texarkana, Arkansas.
In 1992, we renewed our acquaintance. Huckabee was running for the U S Senate, seeking to unseat Democrat Dale Bumpers, former Governor and long time U S Senator. I was playing a key volunteer role in a state wide constitutional initiative to limit terms of Arkansas legislators and constitutional officers. Huckabee being the pragmatist he was, realized the term limits issue was very popular with Arkansas voters-particularly Republicans. Along with other members of Term Limits Now, I appeared with Huckabee at news conferences across the state to acknowledge our endorsement of his candidacy. Though our group was totally non partisan, Democrats who had a hundred twenty-five year lock on Arkansas state government weren't at all that keen on the issue-Huckabee had signed a pledge supporting the issue. Despite term limits passing impressively, Huckabee lost his Senate race.
Two years later, while I was working on another citizen driven initiative, I got a call from Mike. He wanted me to meet with Dick Morris, his female Chief of Staff and him. The drift of the meeting, in which Morris played the lead, centered around my continuing to run a non partisan political good government campaign, but attest that somehow the credit for the success of the issue ought to belong to Mike Huckabee. Go figure.
When I refused to play along, Morris went berserk. Understand, I am not a prude. I try to be a gentleman-particularly around ladies. In his tirade Morris used, in just three sentences, most of the vulgar words I've ever heard. Frankly, I was stunned and embarrassed for the lady present. Neither Morris nor Huckabee looked the slightest bit bothered. That bothered me. The hypocrisy was deafening.
Several days later, I met with Huckabee for breakfast in a Little Rock restaurant. I asked him, "Mike, why do you associate yourself with a thug like Dick Morris?" His answer: "He knows more about Arkansas that anyone else could possibly know". That was code for: He can tell me more subtle ways to manipulate voters than any other advisor on this earth-sort of the pariah of all focus groups.
It was a very disappointing week for me; early on I had high hopes that Huckabee would be different. Sadly I was wrong. He had, in no time, opted for the cynical packaged politician Morris was so famous for creating-most notably Bill Clinton. Huckabee has proven to be more like Bill Clinton than I could have dreamed. Huckabee is pro life of course; Bill Clinton is pro abortion. Once that difference is out of the way the similarities are endless.
Huckabee's free wheeling tax and spend ways have been chronicled over and over by The Arkansas Democrat Gazette-his abuse of the Governor's office written about exhaustively by Arkansas Times Editor Max Brantley in a Salon.com piece some weeks back. Many of the Republicans I know, who know Mike, think he is a sham-a political opportunist.
The most recent example is his ad wishing everyone, "Merry Christmas". In the background is an interior room setting with a traditional book case which comes off, not too surprisingly, resembling a cross. Many have suggested that it is a subliminal message about Huckabee's Christianity. I believe it is less a statement about his faith and more about his cunning.
Mike (or Morris his on-again handler) likely anticipated the furor over the symbolism-that it would be written about and discussed again and again in print, on television and radio. Mike is not nearly so interested in people knowing he is a Christian. More importantly, he wants them to know he is running for president.