A while back, I asked if economic conservatives would be willing to apply the same standards to Mike Huckabee — hey, forget his record, he is saying some things to the right of Hillary now — that some of them were urging social conservatives to apply to Rudy Giuliani. It appears, at least in one particular case, that the answer is no.
Nachama Soloveichik of the Club for Growth provides a textbook example. She chides Ramesh Ponnuru for allegedly believing “that economic conservatives should accept Huckabee’s Johnny-come-lately assurances, despite an appalling record on economic issues.” What if you changed Huckabee to Giuliani and economic to social?
In fact, Soloveichik even recognizes this: “By this logic, social conservatives should be appeased by Giuliani’s pledge to appoint conservative judges and the endorsement of Pat Robertson. Ponnuru is entitled to have one set of standards for judging social conservative credentials and another — much lower — set for judging economic conservative credentials. But he shouldn’t expect economic conservatives to accept his low standards, especially when he wouldn’t accept comparable assurances on the social issues that matter to him most.”
That sounds familiar. (Ponnuru, who has been one of the few conservative writers to criticize Giuliani on social issues, rejects this characterization of his economic views and political priorities.) Now, it’s true that Huckabee has kept up rhetoric offensive to economic conservatives while Giuliani backed off his unconservative social-issues talk following the reaction to his comments on taxpayer funding of abortion and the “okay” Roe decision earlier this year. Huckabee has called the Club for Growth the “Club for Greed,” while Giuliani has launched no comparable attack on any social conservatives.
But the Club for Growth was criticizing Huckabee well before he made it into the top tier. It didn’t take economic and national-security conservatives as long to go after Huckabee as it did for James Dobson to rattle his saber against Giuliani. I don’t think there is anything wrong with criticizing Huckabee — I agree with most of the criticisms — but I do think the social issues’ place on the Republican agenda has something to do with Huckabee’s rise. For those of us who are both economically and socially conservative, it is not the year’s most promising political development, to say the least.
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