by Todd Beeton, Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 09:38:15 AM EST
It's been interesting to see Huckabee rise in the polls despite the utter contempt in which the corporatist Republican Party establishment holds him. Now he aims to alienate the very serious neocon wing of the party as well.
In an essay in Foreign Affairs Magazine Huckabee rails against Bush's foreign policy, saying, in its most striking passage:
The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad.
In the extensive piece he calls for modesty when dealing with international affairs, diplomacy when dealing with our enemies and frames energy independence as a national security concern. Nope not very serious at all.
The heat from the right is already coming.
Rightwingnuthouse calls the essay an "embarrassment" and Race42008 uses terms like "dangerous" and "naive" to describe Huckabee. Predictably Fox News got to the real issue behind the right-wing's pushback against this sort of rhetoric: that the attack on Bush sounds like "John Kerry said it during the 2004 campaign" and that it gives "comfort to their political enemies."
Romney repeated this line of argument in his rapid response to the essay today:
"I can't believe he'd say that. I'm afraid he's running from the wrong party," Romney said to a gathering of about 100 supporters in a restaurant here. "I had to look again -- did this come from Barack Obama or from Hillary Clinton? Did it come from John Edwards? No, it was Governor Huckabee."
Romney even went so far as to defend Bush directly.
"I'm the last person to say that this administration is subject to an arrogant, bunker mentality that is counterproductive here and abroad," he said. "The truth of the matter is this president has kept us safe these past six years and that has not been easy to do."
There is great discontent among the Republican Party towards Bush but being a foreign policy hawk isn't why; if anything they're pissed off he hasn't been tougher abroad. So I really don't see what this gets Huckabee except some new rounds of ammunition to be used against him by his rivals. But one thing he's doing here is setting himself up, credibly, as the change candidate of the Republican field. Imagine if he does win the nomination, what a rebuke to the Bush years and to the "serious" and "responsible" conventional wisdom of the Republican establishment this would be.
This is turning out to be a fairly monumental and very entertaining fight for the soul of the Republican Party. Romney is trying to position himself as the defender of the party's more traditional principles, which is appropriate I suppose since neither the party nor Romney seems to really stand for anything at all. Huckabee standing for something, anything, is clearly quite attractive to Republican voters right about now.