I wrote too soon.
On Tuesday, I posted a column declaring
that Mike Huckabee's new book, "A Simple Government," "is an assault on thinking." My point: in this tract the former Republican governor of Arkansas and failed 2008 contender strikes an anti-elite pose, demagogically bashes policy experts, and attacks the Obama administration for being inexperienced and
not sufficiently simple. But that's nothing compared to the crackpot crusade he's been on this week.
It all began when Huckabee appeared on right-wing Steve Malzberg's radio show in New York City, seconded Malzberg's demands for more information on Obama's background (Malzberg is a birther), and claimed
President Barack Obama grew up in Kenya "with a Kenyan father and grandfather," noting that Obama inherited a hatred of the British, who colonized Kenya. Huckabee, of course, was wrong: Obama did not grow up in Kenya. He grew up in Hawaii and spent several years as young child in Indonesia. And he had virtually no contact with his Kenyan father after the age of 2. He had not been indoctrinated with anti-British sentiment.
Huckabee soon after claimed that he had merely misspoke and had meant to say Obama had grown up in Indonesia. But that explanation was disingenuous, for Huckabee had repeatedly made the Kenya reference to illustrate the point that Obama was a foe of the United State's closest ally. Indonesia was ruled by the Dutch, not the British. And the folks young Obama spent time with in Indonesia probably didn't care much about the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya.
What Huckabee had been doing on that radio show was spreading Fox News-ish swill: the loony thesis, first peddled
by conservative author Dinesh D'Souza in Forbes magazine last September and then seconded
by Newt Gingrich, that because Obama's father was apparently an anti-colonialist in Kenya, the president was now acting out the anti-Western and anti-capitalism rage he had inherited from his father. This is a ludicrous. Given that Obama did not grow up with his father, how did he come by such anti-Western (and what these guys really mean is anti-American) anger? Is there a Kenyans-hate-white-capitalists gene? But on Malzberg's show, it was as if Huckabee, who hosts a show on Fox News, had somehow absorbed this stupid idea -- perhaps via Green Room osmosis. He was parroting a shorthand version of D'Souza's premise. This is how the right-wing's transmission belt of trash operates.
There's more. One portion of that radio show appearance has not received much attention. In the middle of the exchange about Obama's birth certificate and Kenya, Malzberg said of Obama, "He despises the West, he despises the Brits, and I think he could take it all out on Israel and that's why he despises Israel." How did Huckabee respond to the charge that Obama detests the West, England, and Israel? He didn't. The former preacher said nothing. And in this sort of situation, silence can be read as at least quasi-assent. I doubt Huckabee truly believes Obama hates the West and Israel. But he's playing footsie with the yahoos who do -- because he will want their votes, should he run for the GOP presidential nomination. By not challenging Malzberg on this point, Huckabee was, in a way, granting legitimacy to his view.
This is particularly troubling: a leader of the Republican Party going along with this vile criticism of the president. During the Bush years, Democrats were often harshly critical of W. But there were no major Democratic figures who contended that Bush was fundamentally anti-American or some kind of "other." Yet leading Republicans encourage such talk about Obama.
Think I'm being too hard on Huck? Two days later -- after the brouhaha over his Kenya remarks -- Huckabee went on another conservative radio show and agreed
when the host, Bryan Fischer, said that due to Obama's childhood experiences, the president holds "fundamentally anti-American ideas." That is, Huckabee was still flopping about in the mud pit of conservative craziness.
One question: What was Huckabee doing sharing a microphone with Fischer? He's a true extremist
. As Tim Murphy points out in Mother Jones:
Fischer has previously argued that gay sex is "domestic terrorism," that Native American societies were a "slop bucket" that deserved to be wiped out by Christians, that the President is a "fascist dictator," that Muslims should be banned from serving in the military, that gays literally caused the holocaust, and that grizzly bears should be slaughtered to appease an angry God.
But Fischer has an audience, and that's enough for a GOP panderer.
This past week, Huckabee blundered repeatedly. The Republican wannabe who has long cultivated the image of a friendly fellow demonstrated that he is willing to participate in the most perfidious conservative attacks on the president. It was a buffoonish but disturbing performance. Huckabee showed that he's not ready to be president of the United States, though he seems rather well-prepared to be president of Fox News.
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