Huck Run Amok: The Hysterical Harangues of a Hapless Huckabee
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:33:32 AM EST
Mike Huckabee, searching for solid ground amongst evangelical conservatives in his possible battle for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, claims that President Obama was raised in Kenya, where there are madrassas, not Rotary Clubs, and he slams actress Natalie Portman for the upcoming birth of her out of wedlock baby.

Over the past few years, America has gotten to know former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee pretty well. During that time, despite his penchant for the Religious Right's social agenda and a series of mean-spirited anti-gay statements, he's seemed like a personable guy: he's affable, somewhat sensitive and has a self-deprecatory sense of humor. He plays the guitar and most of the time plays fair with guests of a different political bent on his Fox News Channel program.

He has even occasionally been willing to butt heads with prominent conservatives, like when he recently refused to get on board the Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann bandwagon bashing Michelle Obama for waging a battle against obesity. Huckabee would like to be seen as a man of principle; saying what he means and meaning what he says.

Over the past week or so, however, Huckabee appears to have turned his good-natured Dr. Jekyll into a snarky Mr. Hyde.

Is Mike Huckabee out of his league, his mind, or merely desperate for a leg up on the GOP presidential field?

He seemingly purposefully misstated known facts about President Barack Obama's upbringing, and then for no apparent reason, unleashed a nasty attack on actress Natalie Portman. In the former case, Huckabee was being either disingenuous or just plain ignorant, while in the latter, he was following a bash Hollywood script that had been laid out for him years ago by Dan Quayle and Bob Dole.

The Quayle/Dole Hollywood-bashing playbook

In the late spring of 1992, then vice president Dan Quayle, whose name has become synonymous with the word potato (imagine the hits a You Tube video of Quayle in front of a classroom of elementary school students -- dead certain that the word potato ended with an e -- would have received at the time*), was in the middle of a presidential campaign. He clearly had broad cultural issues on his mind when he told a San Francisco audience that the riots in Los Angeles, after a jury acquitted four white Los Angeles police officers charged with the beating of Rodney King, was a result of a "poverty of values."

Quayle maintained that the riots were caused in part by Hollywood's glorification, and acceptance, of unwed motherhood as portrayed on the CBS comedy series "Murphy Brown."

"It doesn't help matters," Quayle said, when Brown, "a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid professional woman" is seen as "mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another 'life-style choice.'"

Murphy Brown, as played by Candice Bergen on the highly rated CBS series, was "a divorced news anchorwoman, [who] got pregnant and chose to have the baby, a boy, who was delivered on ... [an] episode, watched by 38 million Americans," aired just prior to Quayle's speech, according to Time magazine.

Quayle's remarks would become known as the "Murphy Brown speech."

According to one of Quayle's aides, the vice president was trying to "stir a debate" over "family values" and how Hollywood was complicit in lowering America's values. He stirred up a debate all right, but it didn't play out as Quayle had hoped; he was roundly criticized for slamming single mothers and he later was forced to acknowledge that he had "the greatest respect" for them.

Three years later, as Senator Bob Dole (R-KAN) was getting ready for a run at the presidency, he went to Los Angeles and delivered a stinging attack on Hollywood. At the time, Dole likely thought he had found the Holy Grail; attacking Hollywood would ingratiate him with leaders of the Religious Right - who had been historically skeptical about Dole's fealty to their issues -- and get them motivated to actively support about his candidacy.

"A line has been crossed -- not just of taste, but of human dignity and decency," Dole said.  

"About a culture business that makes money from 'music' extolling the pleasures of raping, torturing and mutilating women; from 'songs' about killing policemen."

"We will name their names and shame them as they deserve to be shamed. And I would ask the executives of Time Warner a question: Is this what you intended to accomplish with your careers? Must you debase our nation and threaten our children for the sake of corporate profits?"

Huckabee disparages Natalie Portman

Now, nearly sixteen years later, with the former Arkansas Governor on the cusp of declaring that he is a candidate for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, he has decided to stroll down the Quayle/Dole Hollywood-bashing path. Huckabee's target is not a sitcom-created character, but rather the very real and very live actress, Natalie Portman.

During a recent interview with conservative radio talk show host Michael Medved, Huckabee complained that Portman's acceptance speech at the Oscars glorified single motherhood. (Upon receiving the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in "Black Swan," Portman thanked, among many others, fiancé Benjamin Millepied for "the most wonderful gift," their baby, due later this year.

"You know Michael," Huckabee explained, "one of the things that's troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, 'Hey look, you know, we're having children, we're not married, but we're having these children, and they're doing just fine.' But there aren't really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie. And I think it gives a distorted image that yes, not everybody hires nannies, and caretakers, and nurses. Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that's the story that we're not seeing, and it's unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock.

"You know, right now, 75 percent of black kids in this country are born out of wedlock. 61 percent of Hispanic kids -- across the board, 41 percent of all live births in America are out of wedlock births. And the cost of that is simply staggering."

"Huckabee's argument isn't an unfamiliar one for conservatives, but the example is somewhat odd," the Washington Post's Rachel Weiner pointed out. "Portman is, after all, marrying the father of her child. She didn't practice abstinence, as Huckabee advocates, but neither do scores of other celebrities. By embracing motherhood and marriage, she's taking a more conservative position than many of her peers."

Weiner wondered why Huckabee singled out Portman. "He may have been taking a veiled shot at Sarah Palin, whose daughter had a child out-of-wedlock who has participated in a glitzy Harper's Bazaar photo shoot and the television show 'Dancing with the Stars.' He might be trying to reassert himself as the true social conservative in the Republican Party, holding a hard line on abstinence. ... Or perhaps he simply wants to sell books and wasn't thinking about the possible political ramifications."

Huckabee: Obama is "not a traditional guy"

Huckabee, who is out promoting his new book, "A Simple Government," made his snarky comments about Portman, just days after he had his own Quayle I-don't-know-what-I'm-talking-about "potato" moment.

During a radio interview he told the audience that "one thing" he was sure of was that President Barack Obama grew up in Kenya "with a Kenyan father and grandfather." If Americans know anything about Kenya it would likely be that it was home of the Mau Mau, a secret society and fighting force that faced off against the British in the 1950s. Associating Obama with the Mau Mau was shameful.

According to a statement issued after the program, Huckabee said that he had misspoken, and that Obama had actually grown up in Indonesia.

In a later interview with the Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, Huckabee pointed out that unlike regular Americans, Obama did not grow up "going to Boy Scout meetings and playing Little League baseball in a small town." According to Lawrence O'Donnell, the host of MSNBC's "The Last Word," O'Reilly concurred, saying that Obama is "not a traditional guy," and that he's had a "different experience" from the "mom and apple pie" upbringing of most Americans.

There apparently was yet another radio interview in which Huckabee said that, "our communities were filled with Rotary clubs, not madrassas."
After pointing out that Obama was born in Hawaii and never lived in Kenya as a child, an angry O'Donnell said: "If Huckabee and O'Reilly can stop lying about Barack Obama long enough to actually do some research ... what they will soon discover to their utter astonishment, is that Barack Obama grew up in Hawaii, where there are Rotary clubs everywhere, but where I, for one, have never seen a madrassa."

Perhaps instead of "A Simple Government," the title of Huckabee's book should have been -- to paraphrase the title of a recent Hollywood movie -- "A Simple Man, A Simple Government."

I'd be willing to bet that there are as many Rotary Clubs per capita in Kenya as there are in the United States. Service clubs like Rotary, Kiwanis, etc. are a mainstay of social life in English-speaking Africa.

by protectdemocracy on Wed Mar 09, 2011 at 07:41:18 PM EST

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