The blog ate my thoughts on Mike Huckabee’s CPAC speech yesterday, so I’m going to repost it here. Huckabee gave a detailed, generally well received, conservative speech bookmarked by folksy storytelling that had you entertained when he began but bored by the time this shtick ended.
Huckabee argued that the 2008 Republican nominee should be a “fiscal conservative,” a “family conservative,” and a “freedom conservative.” The former Arkansas governor launched into a fairly lengthy defense of his economic credentials, detailing every tax cut he signed into law and every bit of waste, fraud, and abuse he excised from the state budget. He boasted that a fraud hotline he set up got enough government figures convicted that “the five most feared words became, ‘Will the jury please rise.'” Huckabee announced that at the conclusion of his speech he would sign the Americans for Tax Reform taxpayer protection pledge, allaying fears of that he’d be a tax-hiking Republican.
Even when Huckabee repeated his line about the need for conservatives to care about life after birth, he avoided calling for anything much more statist than education spending. While short on foreign-policy credentials, he contrasted the culture of life with a radical Islam that would take a child and “strap a bomb to his belly” so he could kill innocent people. He described the war against this form of Islam as an existential threat to the United States.
It was the social conservatism that got the best crowd response. He took subtle digs at Romney, mocking candidates who have had “a road to Damascus” conversion on almost every issue, and Giuliani, questioning how you could “hate” abortion yet view it is a mere choice. His remarks about the federal marriage amendment got a standing ovation.
All pretty good, until Huckabee tapered off into some long story about a teacher who removed the the desks from her classroom to remind her students that soldiers fought — for their desks. It was a pretty good example of how Huckabee’s homespun charm can quickly descend into hokiness when he’s not careful.