Meet the Press featured an interview with Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. As a southern governor, Huckabee deserves special attention. Though not terribly well known at this point, Huckabee scored a prime spot: leading off Meet the Press and getting a half hour of face time with the public.
Though he has no foreign policy experience, Huckabee said that he would oppose any nonbinding resolution that would condemn the president's new Iraq strategy, telling Tim Russert "I think that's a dangerous position to take, to oppose a sitting commander in chief while we've got people being shot at on the ground. I think it's one thing to have a debate and a discussion about this strategy, but to openly oppose, in essence, the strategy, I think that can be a very risky thing for our troops." On taxes he took a fairly conservative stance, saying that he would like to lower taxes, but won't necessarily rule out raising them in some form should the need arise. "I was the first governor in the history of my state to ever lower taxes, the first one in 160 years. We lowered a total of 94 different taxes and fees. . . . I think you got to be very careful. I wouldn't propose any new taxes. I wouldn't support any. But if we're in a situation where we are in a different level of war, where there is no other option, I think that it's a very dangerous position to make pledges that are outside the most important pledge you make, and that is the oath you take to uphold the Constitution and protect the people of the United States."
On gay marriage, Huckabee did not come out and directly state his support of an outright ban on the practice. Instead, he focused on the problems facing straight couples. "I have a problem with changing institutions that have served us. And I think I would rather characterize not what I'm against, but what I'm for. Before we change the definition of marriage to mean something different, I think our real focus ought to be on trying to strengthen heterosexual marriages because half of them are ending in divorce. That's a real problem in this country." Two things might hurt the governor with Republicans: He's the second man from Hope to hold serious aspirations for the presidency (the first was, of course, Bill Clinton). The other? He's the official Republican pick of the Daily Kos.
Fox News Sunday was the latest stop for the Sam Brownback presidential campaign. The senator from Kansas made his first appearance on the show since announcing his candidacy for the nation's highest office, and spent part of the show defending his credentials as a social conservative. "I've been standing for life all along, and I'll continue to," Brownback told Chris Wallace. "And I think other people in this race have not stood for life all along. I've been standing and fighting for marriage as a union of a man and a woman bonded together for life. I've fought for those in the Senate, and others have voted differently on those. . . . At times, [Romney]'s stated that he's pro life, and at times he's stated differently." Wallace confronted Brownback on claims that his own views on abortion and other issues have been evolving, and the Kansan replied that the record is clear: "My position has become more clear, but it's not evolved. Look at the record. Look at how I've voted. Those votes are clear. I have a 100 percent pro life record."
Joe Lieberman was also a guest, and said that he was saddened by his party's reluctance to deal with the president. "I was really disappointed with the reaction of Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to the president's offer, or invitation, to have essentially a bipartisan war council." He also explained what it meant to be an "Independent Democrat," as Lieberman now refers to himself. "I consider myself today an Independent Democrat, and I'm staying in the Democratic party because I believe in the historic principles and commitments of the party, to be both progressive here at home and muscular, strong, and principled in the world. I'm a Harry Truman, JFK, Scoop Jackson, and Bill Clinton Democrat."
On the roundtable, Brit Hume made a point that is worth quoting at length; when asked about his view of Congress's recent actions in relation to Iraq, Hume pulled no punches. "It's Congress at its least inspiring I think. You have a combination of Democrats who oppose the war looking for a way to say so, and you have Republicans terrified by what happened in the last election looking for a place to hide, and some cover. So you see this combination of voting for a resolution to disapprove it, and then whooping through unanimously the person who helped draft it, and whose theory about the war is the one being put into effect. It's obviously a contradiction. I would say there's one exception to that, and that's poor Chuck Hagel, who is getting grandiloquent about voting for a legislative meaningless sense of the Senate resolution, and calling it courage. That makes you kind of sad."
Bill Kristol seconded the point, adding this point on the Senate's drive to score political points off of the Iraq war: "This is the Congress at its worst. John Warner, there's a great puff piece about my senator from Virginia on the front page of the Washington Post, saying 'what do they want us to do in the senate, do nothing?' Absolutely right. Absolutely right. Support the troops, appropriate the funds, encourage them, let Dave Petraeus have a chance to win this war. Don't pass a meaningless resolution." Juan Williams defended Senator John Kerry who, at the Davos conference in Switzerland, referred to the United States as an international "pariah." "The esteem that we are held in overseas has gone down markedly. I don't think there's any question about that: It's a fact," Williams said.
On This Week, two members of the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations appeared. Republican Richard Lugar said "I've indicated in my testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee that I have doubts about the surge situation. . . . On the other hand, Gen. Petraeus, if anyone can pull it off, he's the man. . . . I would like not to get bogged down into the referendum on where we all stand." Sunday regular, Joe Biden, was asked by George Stephanopoulos to say, in 25 words or less, why he would make a good president. "Because I think the president's dug us in a deep hole, the president's foreign policy has made us more vulnerable. His economic policy has made the middle class more vulnerable. My life story, my record best prepares me to deal with those issues," responded Biden. (For those of you keeping score at home, that's 43 words, not bad for Biden.)
Duncan Hunter, the California congressman who is also running for president, was given some air time by This Week as well. He pointed to the rising threat of China and this country's porous borders. "China is now acquiring the capability . . . and they're going at our strengths, in terms of stealth, and intelligence, and our ability to penetrate enemy airspace. So China is building a war machine, we see that with our intelligence. They're building it with American trade dollars. That doesn't make sense." On immigration: "We have to have enforceable borders. . . . Since 9/11, border security is not just an immigration issue now, it's primarily a security issue. . . . We built that double fence [in San Diego], and that meant a smuggler had to cross that first fence, cross a high speed border patrol road, then he had to sit down with his welding gear and cut a hole through that second fence. . . . We have reduced smuggling of people and narcotics by 90 percent."
The roundtable featured an interesting discussion of President Bush's healthcare proposal first announced in his State of the Union address. George Will (who the other panelists admitted was the first, and probably only, of the group to really understand what the president was getting at) passed his knowledge on to the group. "The conservative view is that the way you reduce the supply of government is to reduce the demand for it. The way you reduce the demand for government is to empower people to make them feel socially competent," said Will. "This would be a step in that direction. Look at the two reasons, aside from the fact that Bush favors it, that Democrats oppose it. . . . By empowering people through the tax code, to buy their own health insurance, you are reducing the number of people dependent on government, and modern liberalism exists to promote equality understood as the equal dependence on government for more things."
The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne laid out the opposition to the plan, saying "People who disagree with this approach, or this approach all by itself, are saying that the health market is broken. Lots and lots of individuals simply can't go out there and buy an affordable policy because the market is so disaggregated and because costs are so high." Former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke explained Democratic alternatives to the plan. "The president is trying to inject some market forces into health care which is a good thing, I don't think he's going to be too successful, and the Democrats, my God, listen to Obama, are trying to promise every American superior health care all at the same cost. We are creeping towards socialized medicine."
Sonny Bunch is assistant editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.