Blogging the Right Thing: Big Ideas Don't Mean Big Government

We have reached that day which Huckabee critics have dreamed about for weeks. This is the final chapter a look at the epilogue of Mike Huckabee’s “Do the Right Thing.”

Huckabee states that what’s often needed for big ideas to work is not big government but for big government to get out of the way. He writes of some friends who started a company called Safe Foods who came up with a way to treat food to eliminate “E-coli, salomonella, and other dangerous pathogens.”

While getting strong interest in the idea, government got in the way. Of the approval process, Huckabee wrote, that it was “slower and more complicated than an Oliver Stone movie.”

Huckabee makes a case for a greater role for the nation’s Governors and less for the state’s. His brief treatise on federalism is worthwile. “States are laboratories of ideas and innovation. The reason is simple–states have to make things work  and are doing things from a pragmatic perspective more than a political one…” Huckabee writes that while states, individuals, businesses, and even his own campaign work within the limits of frugality, the federal government doesn’t because it doesn’t have to, thanks to their ability to print unlimited amounts of money.

Huckabee turns to two last “vertical” issues towards the endof the book, making his case for farm subsidies based on the fact that: 1) U.S. Farmers have to compete against highly subsidized Asian farms, 2) U.S. Citizens pay for so much less for their food than other people around the world.  In Japan, 26% of income goes to buy food v. 10% in the United States.

Finally, he turns to energy where he backs an “all of the above” approach. He says that recent Congressional legislation that attempted to require 15% of energy be renewable by 2020, would have been better had it instead required “alternative energy” which would have opened the door to nuclear and clean coal as energy sources.

He also calls for general energy conservation and touts an idea by the Chairman of Duke Energy to engage to reward companies that help their customers reduce their energy usage, by reimbursing them for wattage saved.

Huckabee closes the policy portion of the book by touting Wal-mart’s committments to reducing its carbon footprint.   Writes Huckabee, “I think it’s fair to say, as Wal-mart goes, so goes the nation.” This is not the only praise of Wal-Mart in Huckabee’swriting. He also gave them a big shout out in “From Hope to Higher Ground.”

Huckabee’sepilogue is kind of like one of those movie scenes that leaves the movie open to a sequel, while not necessarily requiring a follow-up like the end to Back to the Future or Iron Man. Right before the Iowa Strawpoll, coming out of a chinese restaurant, Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah plunked a quarter into a machine that dispenses plastic toys. Out came a smiley face ring that she put on the pinky finger of Campaign Manager Chip Saltsman and said, “This is going to be our good luck charm.” Huckabee wrote, “Though I don’t think a pinkyring had anything to do with coming in second in the strawpoll, it surely didn’t hurt.”

Saltsman wore the pinky ring every election night after that until the last night after Huckabee conceded, Saltsman returned the ring to Sarah Huckabee, saying, “Hang on to this. We’re going to need it again”

Writes Huckabee, “I like that thought.”

Huckabee includes two appendices, one with his complete “Veteran’s Bill of Rights” plan as well as a complete rebuttal of the Club for Growth in 3 pages. If he’s smart, the latter will go up on any 2012 webpage if he opts to run.

There were or hardly any mentions of Mitt Romney or other candidates in the 2nd half of the book. In the acknowledgments, Huckabee did refernce Romney in regards to a purchase of their third dog. “We needed another dog like we needed Mitt Romney to spend another $100 million.”  Which to me is innocuous enough.

Overall, my thoughts on the book.

  • Huckabee crams a lot of personality and charm into the book. While the book can meander on occasion, it really comes off as conversational and like you’re an old friend that he sat down and told the story.  As I’ve always thought this book was not only for Huckabee supporters, but those who didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to last year’s primary campaign, it worked.
  • Huckabee is conservative. As conservative as I am on every issue? No. A conservative with the skills and ability to connect with people and lead? Yes. The Spanish Inquisitioners of the conservative movement will find Huckabee not pure enough on every issue, but I think that on the issues that matter most, Huckabee gets it with the concept of self-government as a top priority.
  • Huckabee is right about vertical politics. The only way conservatives will win and survive in the 21st centruy is communicate how they will move cities, counties, and districts upwards, not just to the right or left.
  • This was not a screed against Huckabee’s opponents. Any critical discussion of Romney, Thompson was limited. I’d say, all told it took 2% of the book, if that. In one way, Huckabee suggests that Thompson and Romney are almost archtypal. Thompson represents a leadership that while conservative seems capable only of communicating Horizontal movement (from left to right) rather than vertically (down to up) while Romney represents a country club establishment that is out of touch with everyday Americans. Huckabee’s criticism of Romney and Thompson are hardly shocking. You mean Mitt Romney tried to buy the election? You’re kidding me, I thought the $40 million he put into his campaign was just a thank you gift to the staff. Fred Thompson’s campaign was lackluster? Come on, you know that Thompson was as energetic as the Energizer Bunny (when the battery finally ran out.) Some people have insisted that Huckabee has only written the stuff about policy in order to get people to read his honest statements about his opponents. Assuming that his attacks are as horrendous as these folks suggest, wouldn’t that be akin to Jerry Springer telling people his show was about relationships so that he could get them to watch people hitting each other with chairs? If there’s any strategy in Huckabee’s statemnts about his opponents, the statements are the sizzle, the policy discussions (which make up about 60% of the book are the steak.)
  • As for Huckabee taking on the compromised leadership of the religious conservative movement, I say, “It’s about time!” It’s not just a Huckabee race, this is something I’ve noticed for years. Some of these folks who were once viewed as lions among social conservatives have shown themselves to be all too tame pussy cats for the GOP and it’s past time for new leadership with a greater prophetic witness.
  • I would have liked to have read Huckabee take the anti-Mormon charge head on in the book.  Though, to be fair, he’s addressed it on the record elsewhere, putting it in the book wouldn’t have helped. The book is kind of incomplete without it, but if you haven’t been following the race, you won’t even know it’s missing.