NEW YORK—Mike Huckabee isn't qualified for public office. He may not be smart enough to hold a job. Yet he could become our next president.
Huckabee's upset victory in the Iowa caucuses is cited as evidence that American democracy still works. "At a Friday night event," right-wing columnist William Kristol opined in The New York Times, "[Huckabee] played bass with a local rock band, Mama Kicks. One secular New Hampshire Republican's reaction: 'Gee, he's not some kind of crazy Christian.'"
Huckabee is an affable, funny, ordinary Joe on a shoestring budget who trounced a slick multimillionaire. But he's also a crazy Christian. And he won because crazy Christians motivated by anti-Mormon bigotry voted for him.
In the Republican Party, hate trumps cash.
If Huckabee were Muslim, he'd be a radical Islamist. Denying separation of church and state, he said at a Baptist convention in 1998 that he got into politics because he "knew government didn't have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives."
A Muslim Huckabee would agree with the Taliban's requirement that women wear burqas. Also in 1998, he signed a newspaper ad in USA Today supporting "biblical principles of marriage and family life," including one that said that a "wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."
The ex-preacher/ex-governor is entitled to his extreme religious beliefs. His inability to reason logically is what makes his political ascendancy frightening.
"I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk," said Huckabee in 1992. (When asked about his remark in December 2007, he reaffirmed it: "Well I believe it would be—just like lying is sinful and stealing is sinful.") Whether gays sin by having sex or by merely existing, I know not and do not care. What I know for certain is the difference between the unusual and the unnatural.
Insofar as the majority of people are straight, heterosexuality is the norm of sexual orientation. Yet it hardly follows that gays, estimated to account for between 2 and 5 percent of the U.S. population, are aberrant. It may be (and probably is) that it's normal for 2 to 5 percent of people to be gay. Only 2 percent of Americans have red hair, but redheads aren't unnatural. The vast majority of the world's biomass is composed of krill and insects, but humans aren't abnormal.
During his 1992 run for Senate, Huckabee called for HIV/AIDS patients to be forcibly isolated from the general population. "If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus," he argued, "we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague. It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population ... " Even though it was common knowledge at the time, Huckabee apparently didn't know that HIV/AIDS cannot be spread by casual contact (like "a genuine plague").
Similarly, Huckabee has said that "extraordinary means [are] being taken to make sure these detainees [at Guantanamo] are being given really every consideration." Again, he's entitled to his outlandish views—in this case, supporting the kidnapping, torture, force-feeding and long-term imprisonment of children as young as 13 without charging them with a crime or allowing them to be represented by a lawyer. But when he describes this inhumane treatment as giving detainees "really every consideration," he's either dumb or lying.
Nearly 150 years after Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, the scientific debate over natural selection is as settled as the medieval controversy over heliocentrism. Evolution is a fact. But Mike Huckabee denies this fact.
As a radical Christian fundamentalist, Huckabee believes that every word of the Bible is literal truth—that Jonah actually hung out in the belly of a whale for 72 hours, that Samson really pushed down a stone building with brute force. He thinks God made the earth in six days, that the universe is 6,000 years old. Never mind carbon dating. "I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally," he said on his show on—get this!—the Arkansas Educational Television Network.
"If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, I'll accept that," Huckabee said recently. "I believe there was a creative process."
So Huckabee is an idiot. Or is he pandering to idiots?
A 2005 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans believe that "God created humans in their present form exactly the way the Bible describes it." Reported The Chicago Tribune: "The results closely paralleled those in polls taken over the last 20 years, in which nearly half of all Americans consistently agreed that 'God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.'" In light of Tocqueville's warning that democracy requires well-educated and well-informed citizens in order to function, it's alarming that many of these people vote.
There's no denying Huckabee's folksy appeal. He sounds moderate, even populist, on issues like immigration, trade and the environment. But those sugar coatings conceal the bitter pill of anti-intellectualism, a toxin that has turned the American presidency into an entropic argument against evolution—from Washington and Jefferson, to Hoover and FDR, then to Ford and the Bushes and finally ... Huckabee?
"I'm not sure what in the world [my view of evolution] has to do with being president of the United States," Huckabee says.
Those who deny scientific fact will be wrong (or lie) about anything. Misrepresenting hard and fast truth is unacceptable. Whether Huckabee is feigning idiocy to appeal to religious zealots or is honestly mentally deficient, journalists have a duty not to treat him like a serious candidate.
Ted Rall is the author of the book Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?, an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.