Will Republicans Nominate an Evangelical Minister to Be Commander in Chief?
Democracy Rising | 12/24/07
Huckabee Would Open a New Chapter in War Against “Islamic Extremism”
Governor Mike Huckabee is leading the pack in the campaign to be the standard bearer for the Republican Party. Is the Republican Party, and the United States, ready to have a commander in chief who is an evangelical Baptist Christian minister? What would be the impact of having a minister as president when the U.S. is involved in a war perceived by many as a war against Muslims – or at least “radical Islam,” as they call it?
Huckabee has consistently described himself as a “Christian leader” in television advertisements. His current Christmas season ad highlights the importance of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. His website links to 14 bloggers with the word Christ or Christian in their title. Huckabee has endorsed the Biblical statement on manhood and womanhood issued by the Southern Baptist Convention and said in a debate that he did not believe in evolution.
On his website Huckabee says that: “A significant part of his adult life was spent as a pastor and denominational leader. He became the youngest president ever of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the largest denomination in Arkansas. Huckabee led rapidly growing congregations in Pine Bluff and Texarkana.” In a Republican field filled with religionists Huckabee has captured much of the Christian right.
He is exclaiming his Christianity as if it were a job requirement for the U.S. presidency. And maybe, for winning the Republican nomination, wearing religion on your lapel is an essential requirement.
How does his Christianity affect his policy positions? Huckabee says “My faith is my life - it defines me. I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives.” When it comes to his foreign policy he sees the occupation of Iraq as central to the war against terror and says the U.S. must fight to win. He is prepared to use military force against Iran. And, he promises to provide Israel with state of the art weapons because “Israel is an important partner in the spread of freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East and the world.” I don’t think many in the Middle East would agree with any of those positions especially his description of Israel.
The combination of Huckabee’s support for the Iraq occupation, military attack on Iran and support for Israel along with his Evangelical Christian ministry is sure to further define the war on terror as a war between Christianity and Islam. It was bad enough during President Bush’s term when the U.S. had generals who defined the Iraq war as a crusade against Islam, but to have a commander in chief who says Christianity “defines him” is sure to escalate the war in the Middle East and the risk of terrorism against Americans at home and abroad.
Huckabee may not get the Republican nomination. Key parts of the Republican base are not all thrilled with Gov. Huckabee as their candidate. Rich Lowry, columnist for the National Review, wrote at townhall.com that the GOP is about to commit “Huckacide” if it continues down the path of supporting Gov. Mike Huckabee for President. Lowry wrote: “Then, there’s national security, the Republican trump card during the Cold War and after 9/11. Huckabee not only has zero national-security credentials, he basically has no foreign-policy advisers either. . . .”
Another prominent Republican blogger, Rick Moran of Redstate.com, writes the Republicans have “a walking, talking disaster-in-the-making that is Mike Huckabee - former governor of a small, impoverished state, a Baptist preacher whose conservative views on social issues make him a perfect candidate for the Leave it to Beaver wing of the GOP, and a man whose thinking is so shallow a warning sign should be plastered on his forehead reading ‘Absolutely no diving beyond this point.’”
And Sean Hanity aggressively interviewed Governor Huckabee when he appeared on Fox’s Hannity and Colmes quizzing him on his Christianity and on providing clemency to prisoners while he was governor.
It is possible that the Republicans will go with the candidate who has received the most financial support from active duty troops, Ron Paul or the resurging John McCain, or one the two former front runners Romney and Giuliani, but he is certainly getting a lot of energy from the Christian base which is very formidable in the Republican Party especially with the other candidates dividing the economic and traditional conservatives.
And, if he gets the nomination will the Republicans be committing “Huckicide” or will he be a surprisingly formidable candidate. Huckabee should not be underestimated. The Democrats are likely to miscalculate and follow their tradition of losing to candidates they should bear. This could be a Ronald Reagan repeat. In 1980 Democrats insisted that the B Actor Reagan was the weakest opponent against the incumbent president, Jimmy Carter. In the end, Carter was defeated and the U.S. took an extreme right turn.
During a General Election Huckabee will downplay his Christianity. He will emphasize other parts of his biography, e.g., Governing Magazine named him as one of its ‘Public Officials of the Year’ for 2005, Time Magazine honored him as one of the five best governors in America, and later in the same year, Huckabee received the American Association of Retired Person’s Impact Award, Huckabee served as chairman of the National Governors’ Association (NGA), president of the Council of State Governments, and chairman of the Southern Governors Association. He’s taken the lead on the very hot immigration issue and has received the endorsement of Minuteman Project founder, Jim Gilchrist. And, he’s a rock and roll playing musician with a band named Capitol Offense, who is a down home-friendly guy who was able to lose more than 100 pounds when he decided to lose weight. What’s not to like?
And, maybe in the General Election Huckabee will turn the other check and show the other side of Christianity. Yes, during its two thousand year history Christianity has been used to justify and rationalize all sorts of wars, but there is another side caught in the slogan “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” The teachings of Christ certainly can provide a rationale for a peace candidate. During his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said three things related to war:
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Turn the other cheek.
Pray for your enemies.
So far Huckabee has been singing “Onward Christian Soldier” rather than “Gonna lay down my sword and shield . . . ain’t gonna study war no more.” But he is running in a primary where 25% of Republicans oppose war while in the General Election 70 will oppose the Iraq War. If nominated Huckabee better be taken seriously because a minister as commander-in-chief at this critical moment could produce a very long-term war against Islam.
December 24, 2007 Kevin Zeese is Director of Democracy Rising (see www.DemocracyRising.US) and Voters for Peace (see www.VotersForPeace.US).