Sunday, January 27, 2008

Voting With My Feet--Why I Quit Everything to Go Volunteer for Mike Huckabee.

(From the January 28 issue of The American Conservative .)

Warren, Michigan -- I love Ed Rollins like a brother, but it’s Mike Huckabee who inspired me to return to politics—for such a time as this.

Rollins was my boss at the Reagan White House in the early 80s, and then I followed him to the Reagan-Bush ’84 re-election campaign—and thus into morning-in-America glory. We have kept up ever since. And over the last few years, we have both returned to the church; he’s Catholic, I’m Protestant. And we both, from our different perspectives, became fans of Governor Huckabee. Ed and I both agreed that Governor Huckabee combined solid conservatism, a gentle manner, and a willingness to try new things that reminded us of, yes, Ronald Reagan.

So when the call came, I was ready to hear it. I resigned from Fox News and from Newsday, and signed on as a Senior Adviser, traveling around with the campaign. (I don’t know what my status with TAC is; if this piece runs, I’ll know I’m still a contributing editor.) But don’t let my fancy new title fool you: Among my greatest accomplishments has been figuring out how to print a document from my laptop at Kinkos. And yes, I’m re-experiencing campaign life: such as not being able to tell whether your heart is beating faster because you hear something inspiring, or because you think you might have made an error in a policy paper, or because you have drunk too much coffee and eaten too many donuts.

Actually, not donuts, because the Huckabee campaign is lean, if not mean. Without anywhere near the sorts of resources commanded by some other candidates, we bump along without the perks that many campaigns enjoy. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not The Grapes of Wrath for us out here, but it’s not the J.W. Marriott, either.

As for Governor Huckabee, he is a low-cal man. Many people know about his epic diet—the loss of more than 100 pounds—but what sets Governor Huckabee apart from most weight-losers is that he was governor of Arkansas at the time, and so he had the opportunity to convert his own experience into a teachable moment for the citizens of his state. Some will call it sappy, others will call it “Love Thy Neighbor.” Now he is a believer in prevention, including both better diet and more exercise; as he says on the stump, “We don’t have health care, we have sick care.” That is, people stop taking care of themselves, they get sick prematurely, and somebody pays the tab. There’s not enough money for that kind of health care.

But the governor is not judgmental; he knows he came from the sort of family where eating too much wasn’t such a bad idea—because you could never be too sure about that next meal. As he reminds audiences, “I know the stone from which I was hewn, I know the rock from which I was quarried.”

Like the minister he once was, he pauses to offer a word of encouragement—to an old lady in a walker, to an unemployed husband and father, or to a gymnasium full of Christian homeschoolers in St. John, Michigan; he first apologized for interrupting their basketball game. Then he said to them, “You will face giant challenges in your life, but you are never taller and stronger than when you are on your knees praying to God.” Then he wrapped up, told them to have a good game—and “remember to show sportsmanlike conduct.”

But for adults, Governor Huckabee has a more serious message. Here’s the headline of The Detroit Free Press on Tuesday, January 15: “Huckabee appeals to working class/On factory tour, he cites tax plan, family-friendly efforts.” The Governor is for free trade, but he is also for fair trade. If the Chinese are “cheating” by putting lead paint on toys and poison in dog food, well, that’s not fair. If American workers have to meet stringent labor and environmental standards, then they shouldn’t be left unprotected to compete against workers who don’t get the benefit of those social-contract basics. Makes sense to me. Is it really a good idea to export our factories overseas, so that the American middle class is hollowed out? So that others can generate CO2 without regard to emissions controls? So that China, say, can develop its arsenal of non-democracy? I don’t think so.

Mike Huckabee, mindful of the Truman precedent, wants a new Fair Deal for Americans. He cares about their jobs, but he also cares about traditional family values, including the rights of the unborn. Plus, he was a great governor, he is a great speaker, and he is a very nice guy.

So that’s why I’m here.