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The 9/10 Caucuses By: FrontPage Magazine
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 04, 2008

Last night, Iowa caucus-goers had the opportunity to vote for a wide variety of candidates who possessed foreign policy sagacity, an aggressive plan to fight sponsors of terrorism, and the competence and breadth of experience to lead the nation during the War on Terror – and the plurality of neither party chose to do so. Instead, they selected affable and charismatic figures who appeal to portions of the party’s base but who lack credibility on national security – an unsettling reality in a post-9/11 world.

The Democrats

The Democratic Party made its selection as the result of a self-conscious process. The party, now a wholly owned subsidiary of MoveOn.org, does not wish to fight the war; it wishes to end it, as its fruitless Congressional leadership has demonstrated in its every budget measure. The party rewards those who downplay homeland security to the benefit of "social justice," especially if doing so allows them to indulge in identity politics.

Barack Obama allowed them to do both more powerfully than Hillary Clinton.

Although not as beloved by the netroots as John Edwards, he has demonstrated a thorough naivete about foreign policy. In recent months, he’s expressed a willingness to unilaterally bomb the allied nation of Pakistan and to hold direct negotiations with rogue states like Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela.

He has boasted he was consistently against the war in Iraq, and he was; he thought the war was a conspiracy. On October 2, 2002, while still an Illinois state senator (Is anyone who was a state senator six years ago qualified to be a wartime president?), Obama told an antiwar rally he did not oppose all war:

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That's what I’m opposed to. A dumb war.

Today, he’s running to become commander-in-chief of the forces fighting that "dumb war," a description certain to erode morale. While always careful to note the troops’ courage and valor, he also talks down their grand accomplishments at defeating al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. On his website currently, Obama writes during the present surge, "our troops have helped reduce violence in some areas of Iraq, but even those reductions do not get us below the unsustainable levels of violence of mid-2006." This is both disspiriting and false. The New York Times reported late last month that "violent attacks in the country had fallen by 60 percent since June." Rather than the surge, which has driven al-Qaeda out of Anbar Province, Obama would have removed all U.S. troops by this March. The Obama Plan offers "at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries." But thanks to the Bush surge, in October alone, 110,000 refugees returned to the newly pacified Iraq.

Nor has our present military success taught him anything. He now pledges to "have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months." Who will take America’s place in newly destabilized Baghdad? Phantom troops and bearded mullahs. Four years after John Kerry made a similarly dishonest pledge, Obama parrots that he "will rally NATO members to contribute troops to collective security operations." But there is less European will to contribute to Iraq (or Afghanistan) now than in 2004 (and there was none then). Barack also announces "the most aggressive diplomatic effort in recent American history " – reaching out to all, "including Iran and Syria."

John Edwards’ second-place finish is more indicative of the party’s bent. Edwards, too, is a candidate dangerously underqualified, a one-term senator with "no international experience, no military experience" and who would need "on-the-job training in the White House on national security issues." At least, that’s how John Kerry described him. He is also a charter member of the Hate America Left. Outpacing Barack and Hillary, John Edwards believes we need to "reestablish ourselves after Iraq as a force for good in the world again. "His well-oiled machine nudged out the anointed candidate of the party elite.

Hillary Clinton also vied for the left-wing vote, pandering to the far-Left "Take Back America" conference and breaking her campaign promises, in the process hammering out a hopelessly contradictory and convoluted position on Iraq. Touting her "experience" in foreign affairs – a phrase that inspires titters when referring to the Clintons – she omits how she urged her husband to withdraw from Somalia in 1993, emboldening Osama bin Laden and leading America down the "Path to 9/11." However, in all her kowtowing to her party’s extremists, she has been careful to preserve wiggle-room to run back the center. She has refused to completely back down, instead crafting a policy that leaves all sides wondering which, if any, of her stated positions is the authentic one.

Under the present circumstances, though, this is a sign of strength. Hillary has been around power enough to know that, as president, she may need the authority and freedom of action her opponents vow to jettison. Ironically, this makes her moderately more responsible, and more conservative, than Obama or Edwards – and explains why she finished behind both.


Among Republicans, too, a segment of the party faithful selected a candidate on the basis of personality and identity politics. Mike Huckabee is an amiable evangelical. Evangelicals made up 60 percent of caucus voters, and Huckabee won 46 percent of their vote while engaging in a tremendous get-out-the-vote effort. Huckabee won this position with his glib sense of humor and on account of his opponents’ social liberalism, uncertainty, or apparent apathy. But being a nice man – and demonstrating a general understanding of the threat of Islamic fascism – does not make him qualified on foreign policy. Next to Ron Paul, he is the least qualified candidate to poll any support.

This fact was not lost on his staff. A "senior aide"confessed last Friday that Huckabee had "no foreign policy credentials." Michael Dale Huckabee proved this in his witless Foreign Affairs article, in which he denounced President Bush’s "arrogant bunker mentality" and pined for other countries to like us again. Although it won’t be toppled by terrorists, the United States is:

more vulnerable to the animosity of other countries. Much like a top high school student, if it is modest about its abilities and achievements, if it is generous in helping others, it is loved. But if it attempts to dominate others, it is despised.

The war in Afghanistan-Pakistan, too, fits the high school student analogy. "Ultimately it is this popularity contest," he writes. Perhaps that explains why he offered America’s "apologies" for Benazir Bhutto’s assassination – a small misstatement perhaps, or perhaps an attempt for the big man on campus to be "modest about its abilities."

The nation is not ready for four years of locker room foreign policy when jihad is on the march.

Huckabee believes Bush has been far too demanding. "Instead of asking if someone is for us, instead of demanding that every ally be at the level of Great Britain, I will ask if we should be for them, if they can be useful in any way, however limited, however temporary."But that was exactly the plea President Bush made when he uttered that phrase. Huckabee demonstrates exactly how he is willing to go slumming for support, noting in his Iraq policy, "I support a regional summit so that Iraq's neighbors become militarily and financially committed to stabilizing Iraq." Iraq’s "neighbors" include Iran and Syria.

His feckless goodwill extends to Western Hemisphere dictators, as well. In 2002, the then-Arkansas governor signed a letter asking President Bush to lift the embargo against Castro’s Cuba. After receiving Cuban-American support in Florida, presidential candidate Huckabee reversed himself. What changed? Huckabee’s reply betrayed an impolitic sense of opportunism: "Well, what changed was I’m running for president." (See the video.) Elsewhere he added, "Rather than being seen as some huge change, I would call it rather the simple reality that I’m running for president of the United States, not for re-election as governor of Arkansas." He excused himself on the grounds, "I really wasn’t that aware of a lot of the issues that exist between Cuba and the United States." If true, that betrays a grave ignorance of both foreign policy and the American history of his childhood. (Had he never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis? For that matter, had he never heard of Elian Gonzalez?) "Being in Arkansas," he claimed, did not place him in close "proximity to Cuba." (More video.)

Mike Huckabee is glib. He is likeable. And he would be out of his depth as leader of the free world.

His domestic record is not an exceptional improvement. Huckabee pardoned more criminals during his time in Little Rock than his previous three predecessors – including Bill Clinton – and more than all six of his neighboring states combined, although they have a population nearly 20 times larger than Arkansas. Democrats would relish a matchup that allows them to appear tougher-on-crime than Republicans for once.

He would also take the Republicans’ hottest wedge issue – immigration – off the table. (So, too, would McCain, and perhaps Giuliani.) Although he now proposes a version of Mark Krikorian’s excellent immigration plan, as Arkansas governor Huckabee fought to give illegal aliens state-funded scholarships and fibbed about allowing state troopers to enforce immigration policy. William Gheen, the president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, has described Huckabee’s strategy on immigration: "He knows he's wrong on immigration; he can't win if he’s wrong on immigration — therefore, lie." Feminists would love to run against a man who stated, "a wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband." And leftists in general would be happy to be represented by someone who favors voting rights for Washington, D.C.; caps on greenhouse gas emissions; and has a history of increasing taxation and social spending.

Then, too, there are the darker aspects of Huckabee’s down-home, "sit-a-spell" personality, aspects that prove he and the last president born in Arkansas have more in common than a hometown. Clinton surrogate Bob Kerrey drops Barack Obama’s middle name as an alleged compliment; Huckabee "innocently" asks a New York Times reporter, "Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"– a move as thuggish as it was bigoted. Hillary’s campaign strategist Mark Penn can say, "the issue related to cocaine use is not something that the campaign was in any way raising"; Huckabee can hold a press conference to announce he will not air a negative ad – assuring it is broadcast on every major network and earning it more visibility than his meager campaign could ever afford.

Huckabee also has notoriously thin skin – no pun intended – recently on display in his "shelved" attack ad. Opening the ad, he spat, "I’m Mike Huckabee, and I approve this message, because Iowans have a right to know the truth about Mitt Romney's dishonest attacks on me and even an American hero, John McCain." (Huckabee campaign chairman, and political powerhouse, Ed Rollins’ testiness with Chris Wallace last night also failed to win friends and influence voters.)

As likely as not, the Huck-a-boom is leading to a Huck-a-bust. The Manchester Union-Leader notes a "AP/Pew poll showed that only 18 percent of the GOP-leaning voters in New Hampshire consider themselves ‘evangelical’" – less than one-third the number of evangelicals voting last night. Among non-evangelicals, Romney won more than twice as many votes. Perhaps this explains why, for the moment, Huckabee is barely running ahead of Ron Paul in the Granite State. That may change, or Huckabee may suffer the fate of Pat Robertson in 1988 and Alan Keyes in 2000: winning a bloc vote in Iowa and losing a real vote in New Hampshire.

But if Republicans vote based on the most pressing issues facing their country, Huckabee’s support will almost certainly diminsh.

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