One of Mike Huckabee's first acts as governor was to block Medicaid from funding an abortion for a mentally retarded teenager who had been raped by her stepfather - an act in direct violation of federal law, which requires states to pay for abortions in cases of rape. "The state didn't fund a single such abortion while Huckabee was governor," says Dr. William Harrison of the Fayetteville Women's Clinic. "Zero."
As president, Huck would support a constitutional amendment banning abortion and would give science a back seat to religion. "Science changes with every generation and with new discoveries, and God doesn't," he says. "So I'll stick with God if the two are in conflict." Huckabee's well-documented disdain for science was reflected in the performance of the Arkansas school system when he was governor; one independent survey gave the state an F for its science standards in schools, a grade that among other things reflected Huckabee's hostility toward the teaching of evolution.
Huckabee at most times is gentle and self-deprecating in his public address, but when he talks about religion, he gets weirdly combative and obnoxious, often drifting into outright offensiveness. At one appearance, Huckabee - who's been known to make fart jokes in front of the state legislature - said he would oppose gay marriage "until Moses comes down with two stone tablets from Brokeback Mountain saying he's changed the rules." And he recently scored a rare offend trifecta, simultaneously pissing off immigrants, Jews and the pro-choice crowd when he ludicrously claimed that a "holocaust" of abortions had artificially created a demand for Mexican labor.
Huckabee also has a televangelist's knack for getting caught with his fingers in various cookie jars. In his first year as governor, Huck used a $60,000 taxpayer fund for personal expenses like dog food, pantyhose and meals at Taco Bell. (One of his sons — also a very heavy man, as his father was — reportedly joked that "there's not a Huckabee alive that can eat at Taco Bell for seven dollars.") The governor also tried to keep $70,000 in furnishings for the governor's mansion supplied by a local cotton grower, and used inaugural funds to pay for clothes for his wife. "Mike is first and foremost about Mike," says Max Brantley, editor of the Arkansas Times, "He'll nickel-and-dime whoever he can to line his pockets."
Huckabee has also been accused of paying himself as a consultant to his own senatorial campaign, allowing special interests to pay for airline tickets for his daughter, receiving a canoe from a Coke bottler and - hilariously, if you're wont to laugh at the sheer small-town gauche greediness of it all - setting up a "wedding registry" at Target and Dillard's department stores so citizens could lavish the Huckabees with gifts as they renewed their marriage vows. The long list of desired goodies included twenty-four settings of Lenox "Holiday Nouveau" china, a KitchenAid mixer and a "Jack La Lanne power juicer." If you didn't want to pick out something yourself, the Huckabees were glad to take straight cash. "Message from the couple," the registry noted. "Target GiftCards are welcome."
Brantley suggests that a lot of this behavior stems from a Southern tradition of ponying up to the local preacher. "If you're the pastor of a church and you've got a guy who owns a men's clothing store, you expect the guy to give you a couple of new suits every year," says Brantley. "But Huckabee continued on like that as governor."
The Arkansans I spoke with about Huckabee invariably describe him as thin-skinned and petty. One evangelical Arkansas Republican who has worked in several GOP campaigns says a family member provided free services to Huckabee just as he had for other preachers, believing that he was helping out someone who was "doing the Lord's work." But the extent of Huckabee's gift-gouging, the man says, was unprecedented: "It's never been understood that that's what you do for politicians."
[From Issue 1040 — November 29, 2007]
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