J Walking

J Walking

Giuliani falling, Romney stuck, Huckabee rising

I watched tonight’s debate a couple of times – once on TV and then once online. I reached the same conclusion in both places. Mike Huckabee is on a huge roll, Rudy Giuliani is sucking wind, and Mitt Romney sounds like an automaton. And one more thing – the Republican party should listen to John McCain on torture.
It has long been said that Rudy Giuliani just doesn’t wear well as a politician. He exudes a bit of that Howard Dean thing – that sense that he is creepy and potentially a bit unstable. When he was grilling Romney on the illegal immigrants he “employed” at the governor’s mansion he just seemed bratty. Romney never hired them – they were part of a company that did maintenance work on the governor’s mansion. But Giuliani kept pressing it and it made him look like an angry little man.
Giuliani and Romney couldn’t have botched their answers on whether they believed “every word” in the Bible. Romney hemmed and hawed on it. “Well, yeah, sort of, yes, but, yes, well…” It wasn’t pretty. Giuliani’s answer that the story of Jonah and the whale was just an allegory won’t go over terribly well in Christian conservative land. It is exactly the sort of thing that grassroots evangelicals associate with wishy-washy liberals.
In contrast, Hucakbee’s frank, “Sure, I believe the Bible is exactly what it is – the word of revelation from us from God himself. …you either believe it or you don’t believe it” will be making the email rounds tomorrow morning in Christian circles across the country.
More than any of those things, however, Huckabee stands out because he is affable. He is unaffected. He sounds unscripted. He sounds honest and looks honest too. And his conservatism is a conservatism that doesn’t sound draconian.
Think about this. Republicans have been decidedly unhappy about their options for more than a year now. They went with Giuliani or Romney because “they could beat Hillary.” But that is just defense. In Huckabee, Republicans are finding a candidate who they actually like.
Can he win? That is a more traditional campaign cycle question than “can he beat the opposition.” It may be the kind of question lots of Republicans find themselves asking and answering, “Well, he can if I help.”
Simply put, Mike Huckabee can turn out the base that has been sitting home for the last year.

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posted November 29, 2007 at 8:19 am

Huckabee really does come across almost perfect. Not Romney perfect, born-of-woman perfect. I was proud of McCain who finally seemed ready to do without the Bush base. I thought both Giuliani and Romney seemed childish in that teapot tempest over immigration. Tancredo should really change his meds.

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posted November 29, 2007 at 8:37 am

You’re absolutely right about all of it. But especially how Rudy and Mitt botched the Bible question. As I watched, I couldn’t stop cringing, knowing the potential votes were falling away with every word that came fumbling out of their mouths.
Huckabee, by contrast, has been coming off as very composed, very presidential, and yet very down to earth. And what I like best is that he doesn’t hem and haw on the tough issues, like his faith (tough because it makes so many people uncomfortable these days).
I used to like that about Rudy, but he just doesn’t seem to have it much anymore.

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posted November 29, 2007 at 9:24 am

Jonah and the Whale. LOL. The GOP is a laugh riot! I’ll see your Jonah, and raise you a Talking… uh…Donkey…of Baalam.
It’s really getting good now.
And poor Rudy…faced with paying the piper for his repulsive behavior:
Did Rudy Bury Cost Of Trips To Mistress?
Report: Giuliani Billed Security Expenses To Obscure NYC Agencies

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posted November 29, 2007 at 9:49 am

As a Christian, Huckabee’s “either you believe it or you don’t believe it” troubles me. Does this mean Dietrich Bonhoeffer and C.S. Lewis weren’t good Christians? (It’s clear from their writings that both men accepted scientific explanations for the formation of life on Earth.) I would expect a more thoughtful, less divisive answer from an ordained minister.
Sadly, I agree with David that any effort to provide a nuanced answer to this question will cost a candidate votes. Among conservative activists, Tim LaHaye is much more widely read than Bonhoeffer. I see this as a sign that much of the American church has fallen into heresy.
For more on the heresy of “Americanism,” check out this essay written by one of its proponents.

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posted November 29, 2007 at 10:21 am

Huckabee looks and sounds like a person that can lead America on the world stage and on domestic issues. he could answer questions on MTV or CNN just as witty. He seems almost comfortable under the pressure of the challenges coming at him. I listen, and I see Edwards, Obama and Huckabee rising and the typical politicians showing themselves for what they are, with the exception of McCain. I think Huckabee as President and McCain as Secretary of State, would be a great voice for America. Although Edwards may inject a bit of passion in the White House, I see and hear Huckabee as a guy that has the whole package. Obama is just too new to create trust in him. Illinois is anything but a great state anymore, and Obama doesn’t like to just answer the questions. Huckabee answers the questions. In today’s politics that is amazing in and of itself.

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posted November 29, 2007 at 10:54 am

On the Bible question–the substance of all three answers was precisely the same. Huckabee delivered his answer with a substance and clarity that Romney and Gulliani lacked, but they all said: Yes, I believe it, and the issue of literalism is strange and confusing and how-in-hell-do-I-address-it-in-the-next-15-seconds.
Huckabee’s real stroke of genius in this moment was to question the questioner. It was a stupid question, stupidly put. Or maybe the kid was being smartly ironic: “Everything we need to know about you” we’ll get from your answer on this question? Surely he didn’t mean (ahem) for that to be taken literally.

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S Lively

posted November 29, 2007 at 11:16 am

aquaman, the idea of ‘you do or you don’t may trouble you, but I wonder if you saw the debate, or if you’re just going off the blogs? Because his actual answer was far more complexed (and far better) than that soundbite. I’m going to quote it in full, because it’s worth doing (emphasis mine):
Huckabee: Sure. I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It’s the word of revelation to us from God himself.
And the fact is that when people ask do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don’t believe it. But in the greater sense, I think what the question tried to make us feel like was that, well, if you believe the part that says “Go and pluck out your eye,” well, none of us believe that we ought to go pluck out our eye. That obviously is allegorical.
But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and really not left up to interpretation. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And as much as you’ve done it to the least of these brethren, you’ve done it unto me. Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I’m not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated.
And as the only person here on the stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don’t fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small.

It’s a good answer. But then, he’s a pastor.
Overall, though, whilst I like Huckabee and think he did very well in the debate, there was no entry for him on any foreign policy questions, and he’s got to find an arena to prove himself, if only somewhat, on international issues.

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posted November 29, 2007 at 11:35 am

Did anybody else think Romney was slippery as all get out last night? I’ve been prepared to seriously consider him based on his experience in economics alone–it’s the idealist Jebb Bartlett fan in me–but listening to him deliver answers makes my stomach turn. (Although I loved his closing comments on how all good Americans love the Boston Red Sox. Tru dat.)

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posted November 29, 2007 at 11:52 am

My favorite part was Huckabee, when asked “what would Jesus do” about the death penalty, says; “Jesus was too smart to get into politics.” Love it!

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Larry Parker

posted November 29, 2007 at 12:15 pm

You were right, David — Giuliani is not wearing well on the campaign trail. (The fact that Fred Thompson had already become Wes Clark, as I was contending, has become a dog bites man story — speaking of your dog analogies!)
There’s a reason pundits are pundits :-)

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posted November 29, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Romney’s avoidance of the torture question was unexcusable. He repeated on Fox and Friends this morning, “I don’t believe a President should be making those decisions.” In the debate, I believe it was, “I don’t believe we should make those decisions known.” Good gracious. First, if the Pres. doesn’t make the decision, who does? Answer: the young military or CIA officer who will lack accountability. Second, the fact that Romney wouldn’t share the information on our interrogation techniques smacks of Cheneyism of the worst kind — namely, that executive power is absolute and need not be transparent. Deplorable.
Huck wins the night. McCain wins on strength of conviction.

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posted November 29, 2007 at 1:44 pm

I totally agree with you. My father and I watched the debate last night, and we both cringed at Romney. He seems like a bigger flip-flopper than John Kerry. What is it with Mass. politicians and making up their minds? Pick a position and go with it. I want to like Romney, but he seems like a GOP version of “slick willie”.

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Pistol Pete

posted November 29, 2007 at 2:44 pm

Huckabee shows he can take his faith seriously (affirming God’s role in Creation), yet maintain a sense of humor (claiming Jesus would never run for public office). I’m very tempted to register Republican so I can vote for this guy in the primary.

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posted November 29, 2007 at 3:29 pm

Well, America has now seen the quite unpalatable Mitt Romney us Massachusetts residents have seen for seven plus years. The chickens are also coming home to roost for Rudy Giuliani, it seems.
Mike Huckabee did not actually answer the question about Jesus and the death penalty. I think his opponents will turn that against him. The twentieth time you see that answer shown in a TV ad, the dodge will be the glaring element.
David, I thought you had decided that the fallacy of the Bush Administration was to have the Presidency construed as the office of Pastor In Chief. Isn’t Mike Huckabee running as precisely that?

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posted November 29, 2007 at 7:50 pm

What, SkipChurch? You don’t believe God can speak through a jackass? I believe six of them are presently being investigated by an initiative that Senator Grassley launched, no?

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posted November 29, 2007 at 11:14 pm

David, I think Jillian asks a good question about Huckabee as another Pastor in Chief. So far, it’s not nearly as off-putting from Huckabee, if only because his delivery is so natural. But how do you think it’d play after the primaries…or when he’s handing down policies?

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posted November 30, 2007 at 3:00 pm

What frightens me is that someone waving a Bible around demanding the equivalent of a loyalty oath to the concept of biblical literalism is seen as an attractive voting prospect by any presidential candidate.
I’m also interested to know if Huckabee’s affirmative answer to this fellow’s question means that he approves of capital punishment for blasphemy, genocide in service to “purifying” conquered land, a law requiring “innocent” rape victims to marry their attackers (unlike the “guilty” victims who just need to be executed) and other legal/legislative conclusions one might draw from a literal approach to reading some of the Bible’s “texts of terror.”

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posted December 1, 2007 at 1:43 pm

The fundamentalists in the electorate: If the man who becomes head of the GOP still panders to their attachment to Biblical literalism, the GOP will lose the center, which is where the Democrats will slide in and scoop the election.
I think, I hope, that enough people have seen what results from a theologically pandering and ideologically calcified leadership to not vote in a variant of the current administration. We will see. Also, for the record I feel for any new president who actually tries to deal with the trainwreck in continuous motion that is the legacy of George Bush and Dick Cheney. You have to ask, Is America better off today than 7 years ago when Bill Clinton finished his 8 year tenure?

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