Do the Right Thing: Ignore False Reviews

Six months ago, I wrote a scathing critique of National Review’s treatment of Mike Huckabee and warned that there is media bias from those on the right. To my surprise, I found that piece was quoted by Governor Huckabee in his latest book, “Do the Right Thing.” What I shouldn’t be surprised by is that my point in June is being illustrated by media organizations who want to paint the book as something it’s not.

The book has largely been decried as Mike Huckabee settling scores. Many wags have shook their fingers at Huckabee for dividing the party at the time it most needs to be united. Apparently, that would be a few weeks after the election. Huckabee avoided releasing the book during the Fall campaign.

Do the Right Thing has been portrayed as the political equivalent of the Baseball biography, “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton, which, while selling a lot of copies, left Bouton a pariah. Through the first nine chapters, Huckabee’s comments have been frank, honest, perhaps stinging at times, but not outrageous. If the sum of Huckabee’s books were the honest statements he made about other candidates that some people might take issue with, the book would have been boring. Most of his observations are obvious for all to see. Romney tried to buy the election? You’re kidding me. Fred Thompson’s campaign was lackluster? I hadn’t noticed. For Republicans who are whining about such mild criticism, to quote Comedian Brad Stine, “Put a helmet on.”

John Fund’s review in the Wall Street Journal is particularly telling for the way it twists words out of context. For example, Fund writes:

He bitterly recalls “getting laughed at by the Wall Street Journal and pilloried by the National Review. They were just dicin’ and slicin’ me for not following the company line.” Mr. Huckabee thinks the “company line” is a combination of rigid fiscal conservatism and a refusal to use government to help people in times of distress.

First of all, Fund is not quoting a passage from the book, but from an Interview with the New Yorker. Fund then goes on to describe thoughts of Huckabee not described in the New Yorker interview. Here’s what Huckabee told the New Yorker magazine in conext.:

“Because I would’ve campaigned that the economy was headed toward meltdown. And I was saying this back when I was getting laughed at by the Wall Street Journal and pilloried by the National Review. They were just dicin’ and slicin’ me for not following the company line.”

The company line that Huckabee was getting attacked for not following was, “the economy is doing great.” In November, 2007, he said the economy was in trouble, particularly for the working class. And guess what, Huckabee was not only right, he was prescient. We now know the economy officially entered a recession in December ‘07. His opponents including the Wall Street Journal were wrong.

Fund then goes to write, regarding Huckabee’s critique of libertarianism:

Of course, Mr. Huckabee ignores exit polls from both the 2006 and 2008 elections that show many Republicans stayed home because the party had strayed from its fiscally conservative roots.

I guess you could say Huckabee ignored that conservatives lost due to their lack of fiscal conservatism if he:

1) Didn’t identify himself as a fiscal conservative and explain his core beliefs, “Lower taxes are better than higher taxes…The purpose of government is to protect us, not to provide for us. We should provide for ourselves….”

2) Hadn’t written on page 6 of his book, “We got in trouble in the 2006 midterm elections, not because the voters rejected the platform, but because our own Republican officeholders did. Many of the party’s longtime supporters were turned off by Washington’s incompetence in handling Iraq and Katrina, its corruption, and its profligate spending.”

To conclude that Huckabee said, “We need more big spending” is simply incorrect. It’s doubly ironic for someone from the Wall Street Journal to argue against Huckabee’s fiscal conservatism given that papers’ support for a $700 billion bailout which Huckabee opposed.

Huckabee claims to be a Fiscal Conservative, but rejects unrealistic libertarianism coupled with a disdain for religious people (faux-conservatism) because he argues that it’s not only wrong, it’s a political loser that threatens to divide the GOP.

He warns Faux-Cons endanger the GOP’s ties to Values Voters in the hard working Middle Class who are economic conservatives. They believe in limited government interference, but are not going to oppose government intervention when faced with “crushing human needs” that “have gone unnoticed and untouched by family, community, or church.”

You can debate Huckabee’s differentiation between economic conservatism and libertarianism, and challenge his idea that our society’s money problems are ultimately tied to its moral problems. Fund is doing neither. What’s happening in Mr. Fund’s piece is that the argument is rebuilt into a straw man that Mr. Fund kicks over as if he’s actually accomplished something.

The more closely I read Fund’s piece, a more troubling the question occurred to me. Did Mr. Fund bother to read the book before commenting on it? Or did he decide that a little thing like not having facts wasn’t going to stop him from forming an opinion. Either Mr. Fund was incredibly dishonest in describing Huckabee’s book, or he based his comments mostly or entirely on other accounts in the press.

Either way, I think its incumbent upon informed readers to do the right thing and read Huckabee’s book for themselves rather than to let their opinion be formed by others.