Friday, March 4, 2011

Mike Huckabee Weighs In

(Sorry. I just couldn’t resist the pun in the title of this blog post. For diehard pun-haters, I encourage you to stop rolling your eyes and just try to keep reading. No more puns. I promise.)

As mentioned previously in this blog, I have tended to have more respect for Mike Huckabee than other conservative politicians and media pundits. This may surprise some of my progressive friends who may view the former Arkansas governor as just another GOP politician turned well-paid Fox News pundit. My attitude towards Governor Huckabee may even surprise my more conservative friends and family, who love me though I’m sure they perennially wonder how a nice gal like me could be a registered Democrat.

In part, my attitude towards Governor Huckabee is based on the fact that he is a committed Christian. Certainly there are plenty of other conservative celebrities who also profess to be committed Christians, for whom my enthusiasm is admittedly much more measured. And there are certainly many areas where I disagree with Governor Huckabee. But as I’ve followed his career in the media, I’ve been left with the impression of a good deal of sincerity and integrity.

It is hard for me to put my finger on exactly what has created this impression of Governor Huckabee in me. However, I can offer that it is always deeply, deeply offensive to me when politicians of any ideological persuasion exploit their religious faith for short-term political gain. By contrast, I admire politicians who seem to try to integrate their faith into their secular work in a humble and non-exploitive manner. When I listen to Governor Huckabee in interviews, my sense is that he is sincere about trying to integrate his faith and politics. (In my opinion, Senator Sam Brownback is another person who fits into that category.)

Because of my respect for Governor Huckabee, it caught my eye when I read that he had defended Michelle Obama’s efforts to combat childhood obesity. The links below provide articles on his public comments.

As a general matter, I appreciate Governor Huckabee’s defense of Ms. Obama’s efforts. But his words have particular gravitas because Governor Huckabee was himself once morbidly obese and had serious health problems as a result. He has since lost a tremendous amount of weight and has participated in several marathons. Those are amazing, laudatory accomplishments.

I also appreciate the specific words the governor chose in defending Ms. Obama:

"I still think her approach is the right one. I do not think that she is out there advocating that the government take over our dinner plates. In fact, she has not. She has been criticized unfairly by a lot of my fellow conservatives. I think it is out of a reflex rather than out of a thoughtful expression, and that is one of the things that bug me most about the political environment of the day."

Amen, governor. One thing I have admired about Mike Huckabee (along with a handful of other individuals) is that he does not always mindlessly defend his political party, and he does not demonize those on the other side of the aisle. I appreciate that he will express publicly disagreement with what fellow Republicans say in their political rhetoric.

I also agree with Governor Huckabee’s point that in the current political environment people condemn their political opponents “out of a reflex” instead of “out of a thoughtful expression.” My own observation is that conservatives do that more frequently. Indeed, that is the bread and butter of talk radio and Fox News Channel. And GOP politicians follow suit. But I certainly agree that those on the left often do the same thing. In my perspective, they do it in reaction to try to keep up with the conservatives. But that is still no excuse.

Regardless of who began it, this approach of criticizing political opponents “out of a reflex” is so deeply damaging to our nation. Reflexive criticism means you aren’t really listening to the other side, and you are not trying to find common ground. That probably works fine in a dictatorship or in a fascist state. But in a country that operates on democratic principles and that is facing huge problems in need of solutions, that dysfunctionality has no place.

Ezekiel 16:42 (Young's Literal Translation)

And I have caused My fury against thee to rest, And My jealousy hath turned aside from thee, And I have been quiet, and I am not angry any more.

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