Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) became known during the 2008 presidential campaign for his affability, a guy willing to leaven his conservative politics with a quality joke or two, putting him into sharp relief against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on both fronts. Huckabee parlayed that likability into a TV show on Fox News, and, more recently, into acting as a paid spokesperson.
The Times drew attention to one gig Huckabee accepted: promoting dubious informational packets on how to "reverse diabetes." You can view the spot at a Web site maintained by Barton Publishing. "I used the same techniques" as those in Barton's materials, he says, "to lose 110 pounds of fat, get my own blood sugar under control, and completely reverse my type 2 diabetes."
Huckabee is not the first former presidential candidate to shill for an iffy product; and neither is this the first iffy product for which Huckabee has shilled. (Earlier this year, his email list plugged a cure for cancer based on the Bible.) But it may be the worst combination of high-profile and low-quality that American politics has seen.
And we say that after actually having done the research to back it up. Here are other politicians' ads, ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 on two metrics: The questionability of the product and the level of recognition of the spokesman. Huckabee's diabetes system gets an 9 on questionability and a 7 on recognition, for a score of 15. As you'll see, that's the high.
Charlie Crist for personal injury attorney Charlie Crist
Former Florida governor Charlie Crist (R, D, I, etc.) left office and needed a job. So he went to the Florida law firm of Morgan & Morgan, taking up personal injury work. This is a noble vocation -- with a terrible reputation.
Sarah Palin for "Amazing America"
Here, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) is plugging a TV show on a network you've never heard of. It's a pretty classic bit of hippie-bashing, but otherwise, it's just some goofy show.
Fred Thompson for reverse mortgages
Fred Thompson (R) is probably better known for his long-time role on "Law & Order" than for his tenure as a U.S. senator or short-term presidential candidate. He's plugging reverse mortgages, which also have a dubious reputation. (Here's the National Council on Aging walking through the pros and cons.)
Rudy Giuliani for LifeLock
In the ad above, Giuliani explains that thieves are waiting to steal your tax return. Which they probably are! Thieves try to steal everything. It's what they do. Lifelock maintains a good reputation with the Better Business Bureau, though its service is not foolproof.
Bob Dole for Viagra, and for Pepsi, and for Visa check card
Former Kansas senator Bob Dole (R) pitched lots of things. He did an Air France ad shortly after the 1996 election. He did spots for Target and Dunkin Donuts. But he never did ads for Dole, which is weird. It writes itself.
Dan Quayle for Wavy Lay's
The best part of this ad is that most people watching now recognize the kid who stars in it far more easily than they recognize former vice president Dan Quayle.
Ann Richards and Mario Cuomo for Doritos
Two former Democratic governors, Ann Richards (Texas) and Mario Cuomo (N.Y.), got together to make jokes about how they got beaten in an election on behalf of a new type of Doritos. Why? Because we needed a good shorthand for "How America Works."
Geraldine Ferraro for Diet Pepsi
Might as well note here that "Recognition" is subjective. I was in elementary school when Geraldine Ferraro accepted the Democratic nomination for the vice presidency, so I may be underrating her here. But one thing I will not underrate: Diet Pepsi is better than Diet Coke.
Viewing these spots, the Fix's Aaron Blake bemoaned the fact that "commercials used to be so bad," which is very fair. And which brings us to:
Tip O'Neill for Miller Lite
Why didn't Bob Uecker ever run for office? Former House speaker Tip O'Neill only makes a brief appearance here -- or, rather, is only briefly identifiable. But Miller Lite? We had to give that one a point for questionability.