Huckabee: a faux conservative?

Conservative commentators are having a dust-up over whether former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is a conservative. The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund and Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth, say no. The Washington Times’ Tony Blankley says yes.

The debate has focused largely on Huckabee’s record in Arkansas. So I thought I’d take a look at Huckabee’s Web site to try to get an idea of what a Huckabee presidency would look like. And what I saw strongly suggests that Huckabee is a faux conservative.

On health care, Huckabee says he is against universal health care and that he wants a more consumer-driven system. That sounds conservative. But he also says that we need to move from a “health care system” to a “health system.” While Huckabee doesn’t give any particulars about what this “health system” would look like, it’s not too hard to imagine, given Huckabee’s belief that “we do need to get serious about preventive health care.”

The federal government would ban unhealthy things like trans fats and second-hand cigarette smoke, while subsidizing things designed to make us healthier. For example, health insurance companies would be required to cover the cost of gym memberships.

Believing that we need to move to a “health system” from a “health care system” in order to “fix” health care assumes that health care is “broken” not because of government regulations and mandates, but because government has been imposing the wrong kinds of regulations and mandates. This is a far cry from Ronald Reagan’s diagnosis that government is typically the problem, not the solution.

On education, Huckabee says he is a strong supporter of charter schools and school choice. That sounds conservative too. But he also wants all children to get schooled in arts and music. You can’t have it both ways. The efficacy of charter schools, and to some degree, school choice depends on the absence of mandates. Huckabee argues that “art and music are as important as math and science.” I think he’s absolutely right. But federalizing all or part of the public school curriculum is not the conservative approach to getting there.

There is nothing conservative about Huckabee’s views on energy. While it is de rigueur for anyone running for president to tout energy independence, Huckabee sounds like Jimmy Carter on steroids.

The “first thing” he would do as president is send Congress his “comprehensive plan for energy independence,” which is based on increasing federal spending on the research and development of alternative energy sources. So, here too, Huckabee would follow a government-knows-best approach.

The economy is another area where Huckabee is definitely no conservative. While he wants to replace the income tax with a revenue-neutral consumption tax, he also says he is for “fair trade.” What fair trade means is that consumers pay higher prices because the government tacks a tariff on the products of foreign companies that it deems to have competed unfairly. It is a hidden tax on consumers.

Huckabee is also a strong supporter of agricultural subsidies, arguing that “we must continue subsidies because our farmers compete with highly subsidized farmers in Europe and Asia.”

This reasoning allows subsidies of virtually every type of business, which suggests more, not less, government spending. So, when it comes to economic policy, Huckabee is much closer to John Edwards than Milton Friedman.

Based on my perusal of Huckabee’s Web site, I have to say that Huckabee is no conservative. Indeed, I’d call him a faux conservative because, like George W. Bush, he would enlarge the scope and size of government.

It is true that Huckabee is unabashedly rock-solid pro-life, which I find admirable and refreshing. But there are other pro-life candidates who are not conservatives just on this one issue. In sum, one can’t make a conservative case for Huckabee at all.

Ed Mosca of Manchester is an attorney and former chairman of that city’s Republican Party.

Categories: Opinion