Thursday, November 1, 2007

Does Huckabee Hunt with Angels--Literally?

Is it time to take Mike Huckabee seriously? Recent polling in Iowa shows that the former Arkansas governor has become the first second-tier candidate of the 2008 race to elbow his way into the first tier. In the Hawkeye State, Huckabee is essentially tied with Rudy Giuliani for second place in the Republican race, with Mitt Romney still maintaining a lead over both of them. An ordained Southern Baptist minister, Huckabee has been crusading for president as the real-deal social conservative. He does have a legitimate claim to the title. Unlike Giuliani and Romney, Huckabee has always opposed abortion rights. Unlike Fred Thompson, he has never lobbied for an abortion rights group. Unlike John McCain, he has not taken potshots at the leaders of the religious right. (McCain did so during the 2000 campaign.) Huckabee is a personable and thoughtful fellow. He has seriously discussed health care matters, and he once pardoned Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards (for reckless driving in Arkansas in the 1970s). For good cause, there appears to be a Huckabee bubble--or bubblelette--in Iowa.

Which brings me to angels.

A few weeks ago, Huckabee, as did other GOP presidential wannabes, spoke at the NRA's "Celebration of American Values" conference in Washington, DC. He entertained the crowd of gun enthusiasts with stories showing his love of hunting and his appreciation of firearms. And he tossed in a theological angle:

To watch mallards come in a flock, cut their wings and land but a few feet in front of you on a cold winter day near Stuttgart, Arkansas, is just about as close to heaven as I think one can get on this Earth. And as one who believes, because of my faith, that I'm going to Heaven, I'm pretty sure there will be duck hunting in Heaven, and I can't wait.

This remark later caused Jon Stewart to quip that Huckabee was saying that our heaven must be duck hell.

Huckabee then went on to recount the time he was in antelope hunting contest in Wyoming. Under the rules of this hunt, each member of a three-person team only got one shot. The day was cold and windy, and several inches of snow fell. After several hours of stalking prey in the cold, Huckabee had his chance: an antelope was 250 yards away, just at the edge of his range as a shooter. This is what happened:

I decided that one way or the other, this hunt is about to be over, because I can't stand any more of this cold. And somehow, by the grace of God, when I squeezed the trigger, my Weatherby .300 Mag, which has got to be the greatest gun, I think, ever made in the form of a rifle -- for my sake in hunting, I've never squeezed the trigger and not gotten something -- did its work, and somehow the angels took that bullet and went right to the antelope, and my hunt was over in a wonderful way.

Angels guided his bullet into the animal.

I know that it's easy for the non-religious to sneer at that sort of explanation for a good shot. But Huckabee's account raises a question: does he truly believe that angels intervene in such matters as antelope hunts, that angels spend their (presumably precious) time helping people kill bucks?

Probing a political candidates' religious beliefs can be a dicey matter. But anyone campaigning to be president is asking to be awarded tremendous power--the power to start wars, the power to really mess things up, the power to destroy the planet. It does not seem unfair to ask him or her how he or she views the world--including its metaphysical workings. I'd like to know if a politician truly believes his everyday actions--say, his golf swing--is influenced by angels. That does tell us something about the person.

Perhaps there are voters who would be happy to have a fellow in the Oval Office who has angels helping him when he shoots at an antelope. Imagine what angels could do with an air strike against a thuggish regime developing nuclear weapons. But other voters might find such a literal belief (or dependency) on angels off-putting.

In either case, I say voters have the right to know.
Consequently, I have twice sent Huckabee's campaign an inquiry in this regard. Several days ago, I emailed this question to his media people:

Does Governor Huckabee believe that angels literally intervene in the affairs of human beings and that such intervention includes hunting events?

So response.

I'm not in Iowa these days tracking the candidates, but I encourage political reporters there who see Huckabee to ask him about angels. After all, if those angels can help him bag an antelope on a snowy ridge in Wyoming, perhaps they can help him round up caucus-goers in frosty Iowa come this January.

THE PARTY OF LARRY CRAIG. What is it with Republicans? From KIRO-TV in Seattle:

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A Republican state legislator who repeatedly voted against gay rights measures resigned his seat Wednesday amid revelations he had sex with a man he met at an erotic video store while in Spokane on a GOP retreat.

In a written statement, Rep. Richard Curtis, of La Center, said that while he believes he's done a lot of good during his time in the Legislature, "events that have recently come to light have hurt a lot of people."
"I sincerely apologize for any pain my actions may have caused," he wrote. "This has been damaging to my family, and I don't want to subject them to any additional pain that might result from carrying out this matter under the scrutiny that comes with holding public office."

Three days earlier, Curtis had insisted to his local newspaper that he was not gay and that sex was not involved in what he said was an extortion attempt by a man last week.

But in police reports, Curtis said he was being extorted by a man he had sex with in a Spokane hotel room. The other man contends Curtis reneged on a promise to pay $1,000 for sex.

That reminds me. Whatever happened to Senator David Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana and married man who acknowledged calling the escort service of the DC Madam? Nothing. Vitter, who once argued that Bill Clinton had to be impeached for his immoral actions, is still in good standing within a party that professes fidelity to family values. Maybe the Republicans are too busy defending marriage to worry about Vitter.

A BIDEN BUBBLE? During Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate, Senator Joe Biden had the best moment of the night. And, no, it was not when he slammed Rudy Giuliani for knowing nothing about foreign policy. I explain here.


capt said...

Time to Close the US Embassy

I don't try to start an internet campaign very often, because the blogosphere has its own priorities and logic that are democratic and should not be forced. But here is a plea for everyone in the blogging world to help force congress to save our diplomats.

Bush is trying to Shanghai several hundred foreign service officers and force them to go to Iraq. They are protesting.

Now is that time for all Americans to stand up for the diplomats who serve this country ably and courageously throughout the world, for decades on end. Foreign service officers risk disease and death, and many of them see their marriages destroyed when spouses decline to follow them to a series of remote places. They are the ones who represent America abroad, who know languages and cultures and do their best to convince the world that we're basically a good people.

The Jesse Helms Right always hated the State Department, because it is about compromise and finding peaceful solutions, whereas the US Right is about war, violence and imposing its will on people. But is is the State Department that, despite some lapses over the decades, generally embodies the best of what America is abroad.

The guerrillas in Iraq constantly target the Green Zone and US diplomatic personnel there with mortar and rocket fire. State Department personnel sleep in trailers that are completely unprotected from such incoming fire. At several points in the past year, they have been forbidden to go outside without protective gear (as if outside were more dangerous). The Bush administration has consistently lied about the danger they are in and tried to cover up these severe security precautions.

The US embassy in Iraq should be closed. It is not safe for the personnel there. Some sort of rump mission of hardy volunteers could be maintained. But kidnapping our most capable diplomats and putting them in front of a fire squad is morally wrong and is administratively stupid, since many of these intrepid individuals will simply resign. (You cannot easily get good life insurance that covers death from war, and most State spouses cannot have careers because of the two-year rotations to various foreign capitals, and their families are in danger of being reduced to dire poverty if they are killed).

There is, in addition to the daily danger, no good escape route for civilian personnel from Baghdad. The troop escalation will be reversed by next year this time, and as the US draws down, the Green Zone is in danger of being overwhelmed by the Mahdi Army. The State Department employees sent there for two year missions are the ones who may end up in secret JAM prisons, as happened in Tehran in 1979.

Bush should not be allowed by Congress to commit this immoral act against the civilians who serve us so faithfully.

Please write your congressional representatives and senators and demand that the US embassy be closed and the forced deportation of US diplomats to Iraq be halted.

The Democrats have been facing the dilemma that they are blocked from doing much about Iraq. This is something they can do. Cut off funding for the embassy and force most of the diplomats home. This is the way to start ending the war.



*****end of clip*****

Juan Cole making good sense with his Informed Comment.


capt said...

More on the Need to Close down the US Embassy in Baghdad

More on the need to pressure Congress to close the US embassy in Baghdad (see below). First, here is some correspondence:

'As a retired foreign service officer . . . at the State Department in Washington, I would like to add to your rationale for closing the US Embassy in Bagdad to save lives. In addition to the extreme danger involved, many of us would not go to Iraq because there is virtually nothing we can accomplish there. We could have no contact with ordinary Iraqis and would put our professional contacts or, for example, potential cultural exchange grantees, in great danger, simply by virtue of being seen with us, working with us, or participating in our programs. Unless some minimum level of security is established, we would be unable to achieve any worthwhile results, while causing great harm to cooperating Iraqis and their families--putting our own lives as risk for activities that would in the end likely prove useless and even shameful . . .'

In response to readers who said, essentially, that the State Department personnel signed a contract and should be sent same as the troops, I beg to differ. While all foreign service officers join knowing there will be risks, none is joining the army and typically embassies in war zones are shut down by the secretary of state and the president for precisely this reason. Foreign Service Officers are civilians. They are not combat personnel and cannot perform combat duties. Indeed, if they had any military aspect it would doom their entire mission and make them useless. They are supposed to be civilians representing the US to a foreign government.

Closing the embassy and ceasing to force foreign service officers to go to Baghdad against their will not prevent the US from brokering political and diplomatic deals. Most deal making is done in Amman as it is, and that has long been the case. The ambassador and a small number of volunteers could still fly out to the Green Zone and hammer out agreements. Indeed, closing the embassy would force the Bush administration to use State Department personnel for diplomatic purposes instead of as cannon fodder in a desperate offensive.

Bush is dragooning these career diplomats into dodging bombs and bullets, which is not their job. He is trying to create them as a shadow colonial administration of Iraq, which is not their job. The US embassy in Beirut was closed during the Lebanese Civil War. There is still no US embassy in Tehran. Tehran is a hell of a lot safer than Baghdad. Keeping the US embassy in Baghdad open is a political and military decision on Bush's part, which flies in the face of precedent and good sense.

Those who want to see the Iraq War ended should join this campaign. The war won't be ended as long as Bush's Baghdad embassy, a behemoth unprecedented in size and scope, bestrides Iraq like a colossal dominatrix.

And here is how closing the embassy works for the anti-war movement and for the Democratic Party (and anti-war Republicans). The public just won't mind. If you cut off money to the troops, they will mind. Only a plurality of Americans wants all troops out now, immediately. And if the Dems embargoed the military budget, the hawks would run on the their having sent our boys off to duel "al-Qaeda" with "spitballs" (a la Zell Miller). But the Republican hawks, having spent decades tearing down the State Department, will be helpless before a measure that closes down the US embassy in Baghdad. It is quite delicious.

It is politically cost free. It is the ethical thing to do. It is administratively the right and proper thing to do. It is a big step toward ending the war. Everyone wins.


David B. Benson said...

Closing the embassy means the foriegn service officers won't be in danger of drowning, either.

capt said...

All those that receive my special coupons - you will be getting them in a few days.

WOO HOO - who doesn't like to save some $$$$$

If you are not on my mailing list and might want to be added just send me an email - first come first served.