With Huckabee, however, who has been going to Israel for 42 years, one is compelled to start with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech. “It was a tremendous speech,” he told Right Turn. “It was more than how he said it but what he said. He called attention to the nature of the [Iranian] regime.” He recited two well-known points — Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror and a regime committed to wiping out Israel — and reiterated that Iran has cheated on every agreement it has ever entered into. “If every time I’ve bought a car from a used-car dealer — 10 out of 10 he’s sold me a lemon, do I really want to buy the 11th?” He sounds genuinely aggrieved about the president’s behavior and the conduct of Democrats who refused to go to the speech. “What I lamented is that the once bipartisan agreement on Israel and national security has been abandoned by the Democrats,” he said. “They are more interested in protecting Obama’s petulance than in protecting Israel.” He hastened to note that he was in Israel yet again last week and met with Netanyahu. He makes the keen point that this hardly was a political winner for Netanyahu back home. “It was divisive back home in Israel. What he did was brave. This was a political risk,” he noted, pointing to the controversy and criticism the trip generated among his opponents. And running through the list of other Middle East countries he has been to (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc.) he observes that this is not just about the Jewish state. “The Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Emiratis, the Saudis are absolutely with Israel on this [the Iranian threat].” He confesses that in watching the president’s conduct and the reported concessions, “I’m stunned. I can’t figure out what the president is thinking, what his advisers are telling him.”
There are few people who know the Clintons like fellow Arkansan Huckabee. He’s not surprised in the least about the recent e-mail and foundation scandals. “Again and again Democrats and especially the press are willing to let the Clintons skate by. It’s pretty bizarre.” Is he going to run for president? He sticks to his previous statements that he will decide “sometime this spring.” He cracks, “Looking at the weather it’s premature [to decide].”
Huckabee is an economic populist, to be sure, and takes pride in being attacked for it. “I talked about [this economic message] eight years ago. I was being pilloried by the Wall Street Journal and other folks in your community [the mainstream media].” He says events have proved him right, and now everyone is talking about wage stagnation. He asserted, “The bottom 90 percent in the past 40 years have had stagnant wages. In the 25 years before that, 90 percent saw an increase.”
He cites the tax code (it is “punishing people who work on their feet. If they take a second job, they are thrown into a new tax bracket); “cheap foreign labor that devalues American labor”; and “cheap products” from China. People, he said, are worried about the college grad with debt and no job and the small-business person bedeviled by taxes and regulations. Huckabee’s diagnosis of what troubles America may be sound, but many conservatives will disagree with his solutions.
Huckabee may be missing some important pieces of the picture. In the 1950s, Europe and Asia were not yet economic powerhouses, labor unions kept wages artificially high and most families had only one working adult (so labor was more scare, and hence wages were high). In a global economy, many would argue that Huckabee’s proposals don’t fit the times. In fact, we need to expand markets for our trade, enhance our technological edge and change our immigration system so that we siphon off the best and brightest to work, build businesses and invest in America. That formula — becoming a 21st-century economic giant that beats the world competition — together with tax, education and regulatory reform, is the building block of the policy agenda of two other potential 2016 contenders, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Those two make for an interesting contrast to economic populists who fear losing what they have and tend not to think about how to get more of the world economic pie.
If Huckabee would get to the White House, he lists two priorities. “At the top of the list would be reestablishing relations with our allies. I’ve challenged my Democratic friends to come up with one country, just one, that we have better relations with. They can’t because there is not one.” Second, “I’d evolve power out of Washington, D.C.,” he said. “It’s so dysfunctional, I don’t think it can be fixed.” He’d rather give the power back to the states, where “people have to balance budgets.”
It is easy to see why he was such a hit on Fox. He’s entertaining and an excellent conservative analyst. Whether he wants to and can translate that into a presidential platform and campaign remains to be seen. But the candidates who are definitely running might pick up some pointers by watching him.