Governor Huckabee’s New Book: “Do the Right Thing”

by John Mark Reynolds [author, academic]

Governor Mike Huckabee ran an impressive campaign for President of the United States. He did more with less and showed good humor doing it. He was often the most effective communicator in the Republican field and he has an impressive record with over a decade as a conservative Republican governor in a Democratic leaning state.

Governor Huckabee is a stalwart champion of the culture of life and of the family. He also correctly breaks out of the box of “typical Republican” candidates. He did more than any other candidate to reach out to minority groups and “Wal-Mart” voters during the campaign. He suffered foolish attacks on his record and offensive attacks on his faith and cultural background from some Republicans.

On the other hand, his campaign was marred by hints of dirty politics toward an important Republican constituency, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He also veered at times perilously close to class warfare in some of his statements and displayed a wobbly grasp on some of the issues.

Except the first, none of these faults, in this cycle, were unpardonable sins or worse than the foibles of other candidates. If populism is dangerous, it is the ugly relative of speaking the truth to the powerful, which is an important job for a politician. Populism glorifies the poor and does not grant them the dignity of having caused any of their own problems, while the brave prophetic voice knows both the poor and rich are culpable, but that the rich often have better public relations. Many fine politicians in addition to Governor Huckabee have gotten this balance wrong on the campaign trail.

Nobody knows everything needed for the job of president and Mr. Huckabee’s gaffes seemed no greater than those of Senator Obama or Senator McCain.

The perception that Governor Huckabee was unfair to a group to whom friends of the traditional family owe so much right now is more serious.

Taken as a whole Governor Huckabee should be a serious candidate for the top job in 2012. Sadly, this book diminishes his chances at a second shot by being badly edited, poorly argued, and overly negative towards Governor Mitt Romney.

On the Book

Overall the book has the feel of a hastily thrown together mash up of web documents, stump speeches, and letters from contributors. It is scarcely a book at all . . . as each chapter could stand by itself as a blog post or a web article. There is nothing in the book revealing unplumbed depths of thought or self-reflection on the part of the candidate. The book contains multiple typographical errors, excusable (I hope) in a blog post like this, but not in an edited book.

Four years from the next election there is surely time for some reflection . . . but the book is part of a campaign for office that apparently did not even slow down for stock taking.

At the end of a failed campaign, it might be better for a candidate to do some soul searching. Don’t read this book for any of that. Instead there is much about the Iowa win and very little about the losses. What went wrong Governor Huckabee? Did you make mistakes? What were they? This book will not tell us. Instead of self-reflection the book veers into triumphalism . . . though the final triumph is apparently delayed.

The Mike Huckabee of this book lacks the self-deprecation that was one of his most charming features on the campaign trail. The book is best when it is giving an inside perspective on the Huckabee campaign. It is marvelous in its charity and praise for the volunteers of the campaign, but nobody does anything wrong.

How could such a wonderful campaign lose? Huckabee never tells us, except to hint darkly at Romney money and false conservatives. This is unseemly and lowered my opinion of the Governor.

I wanted to like Mike in this book (and I still like what I know about the man), but he is not likable in this book. Instead, he gives basis for the worst stereotypes about him . . . charges I think are not fundamentally true, but which this book supports through its careless arguments and hasty construction. He does not seem curious or to have even a modicum of self-doubt.

The worst chapter in the book is Faux-Cons. It is nearly unreadable and is intellectually embarrassing from a smart guy like Governor Huckabee.

He can do better than this.

If Governor Huckabee understands libertarian philosophy, he shows no evidence of it. At the very least conservatism (in its modern form) owes a great deal to some forms of libertarianism, but it is unclear from the chapter that Huckabee has a good working definition of libertarianism.

If his target is Rand, surely a rich target, he should say so and make some arguments against her more extreme positions.

The chapter is marred by a conflation of libertarianism with secularism and complaints about social conservatism. This shows the same lack of care in describing opponents as Huckabee rightly complains about when it comes to the treatment of Evangelicals in America.

In a chapter already too short by far for his topic, Huckabee wastes pages with a weird chart on Ivy League schools. Is there something wrong with an Ivy League education? Why is the chart there? This can only feed bad (and I think) wrong ideas about the Governor. He is making the point that the schools started (for the most part) as religious institutions, but it is an odd point to make where he makes it.

He also fails to explain why these excellent schools secularized. Huckabee is right to defend other schools as also providing fine educations, without some of the incestuous bias of the Ivy League, but fails to make his case with any care.

As a result Huckabee undercuts his own case.

There is a good case to be made about extreme libertarianism. It delivers few votes, but has a loud voice. Huckabee is right to complain about abuse of his record and the “Club for Growth” often seems inconsistent in its treatment of politicians. (Compare their reaction to the records of Romney, Palin, and Huckabee.) Social conservatives receive ugly and unfair criticism by know-nothing writers (paging Ms. Parker).

Huckabee, however, has done far more harm to his own case than good by this badly written chapter. Assertions are not arguments and Huckabee asserts without arguing. Governor Huckabee would have been well served to sit down with a good writer, friend, and thinker like Joe Carter to work through this chapter.

The best chapter is on the fair tax. Huckabee is right to complain that too little attention was paid to this idea in the campaign. His discussion of it was good and intriguing. If the other chapters had matched the style and specificity of this chapter, Huckabee would have produced a valuable book and a good platform for his next campaign.

I fear, however, the good chapters will receive less attention than they deserve due to the inexplicable continuation of the sniping at another primary candidate.

The only candidate that comes in for routine criticism is Governor Mitt Romney. Huckabee really does not like Romney. He has nothing negative to say about other candidates, but nothing good to say about Mitt Romney. I left the book thinking Huckabee probably supports and likes Senator Clinton and President-Elect Obama more than he likes his fellow Republican governor.

Assuming every charge he makes about Romney is true, there is too little new to merit inclusion. We know Huckabee thinks Romney a changeling with money. Many American conservatives agree, but Romney is working hard to build a conservative record as we speak. In four years such charges will be useless. Some charges are petty (Romney staffers using too many parking spaces) and diminish Huckabee and not Romney.

What is the point?

Negative attacks on fellow Republicans, especially ones presently working hard in the Georgia Senate election, do damage to Huckabee and not to Romney. They are ill considered. They are especially ill considered given the politics of the moment.

Governor Romney is the most prominent Latter Day Saint politician in the United States and his church is under fierce attack for supporting the traditional family. (Most Americans do not know Harry Reid is a Latter Day Saint.) Fair or not, there is a problem of perception in attacking Romney at this time.

When it comes to the African-American community, Huckabee rightly (and eloquently) argues for the importance of perception and reaching out in this book. This is one of the books strong points, but he seems tone deaf to insensitivities toward a loyal Republican constituency . . . a group that once again delivered for pro-family values: the Mormon community. Our Latter Day Saint allies deserve our support, but this book will feel (I fear) like a backhand.

Given the timing of book publication, Huckabee may not have known how the reaction to Proposition Eight would play out, but this only demonstrates one the many the severe dangers of such negative attacks on allies to the person making the charge.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their Party, but Huckabee mostly engages in attacks on a prominent and popular leader of that Party.

Huckabee does not mention the painful interjection of religion into the campaign except to justly complain about his own treatment. To be fair he should have mentioned the poor (or worse) treatment of Governor Romney and his faith . . .especially to disclaim any intent to use religion in against the governor.

Fundamentally, this is the very book that Governor Huckabee should not have written. With the rise of Governor Palin, it is difficult to see what constituency that Governor Huckabee will have in up coming primaries. Still, he is a masterful speaker and a smart guy . . . here is hoping future offerings are better argued and more charitable.

Finally, Governor Palin should learn from this book and take her time writing. She should demonstrate her intellectual curiosity and allow room for self-doubt. She should avoid repeating tropes that we have already heard.

I am sorry to have so disliked this book, I and hope Governor Huckabee brings his “A game” the next time.

On Bias

I supported Governor Mitt Romney in the primaries. However, I often “liked Mike” (as a search of this blog would demonstrate) and defended him against the outrageous charge that he was not a conservative. ExileStreet

copyright 2008 John Mark Reynolds

John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Biola University.His personal website can be found at and his blog can be found at

7 Responses to “Governor Huckabee’s New Book: “Do the Right Thing””

  1. Flemming Aarenstrup Says:

    Great article! Thank you very much for your insightful analysis.

  2. Jed Says:

    I appreciated your detailed review. I personally am disappointed with Huckabee’s treatment of Romney, particularly now that the Primaries are over. Romney has shown himself a forgiving person who is helping rebuild the Party. Huckabee seems hell bent on dividing it.

    Like it or not, Romney was several points more popular with the conservative base than Huckabee. Even among Evangelicals, Romney won out in many states.

    As a preacher of Christianity, I would expect Mike to be a practitioner of forgiveness, even toward a man who defeated him (and still came in second place.)

  3. Shelby Says:

    This is an EXCELLENT review of Huckabee’s book! Huck’s frothing-at-the mouth jealousy of Romney shows Huck to be the absurd and petty man that he is.

    It is humorous to me, that in Huck’s haste to get his trash-Romney book released, it is so poorly written that it contains multiple typographical errors.

    Huck has neither the class nor restraint to be president of this great nation.

  4. TAL Says:

    I too was thinking Mike Huckabee was a good guy. But when he kept saying unkind things about Governor Romney without saying much negative against anyone else, I finally figured out he was an evangelical who did not approve of Mitt Romney’s religion. However, I do applaud many evangelicals who do respect the Latter-day Saint and other religions.

    I feel that when we try to be kind to any group, we are being the type of Americans that make this country so strong and free. I agree also that when Governor Huckabee seemed so against Mitt Romney, who was actually trying to help this country, Mike Huckabee actually hurt himself the most.

  5. Larry Perrault Says:

    I supported Huckabee from his entry until his exit in the primaries. I have not read this book and have more urgent offerings in the queue.

    But, reading your review and guaging the reception of others, I wish he’d been more assertive in positively engaging his doubters. I shared a considerable uncertainty about Romney. But untempered negativity is unconstructive, particularly to Romney’s backers and LDS fellows.

    I think Palin was recklessly attacked, and injudiciously by conservatives. But particularly in person, Huckabee demonstrates a more artful personal and policy engagement facility. I hope he has something else to come as well, and that it will be more solicitous of his doubters.

  6. joey Says:

    I think Mike Huckabee would be a good president because of of his conservativeness and the way he ran his campaign….but I do not like the way this book is written…if it was really written by him. The repetitive statements made toward Gov. Romney get old, and make Mike sound too focused on what Romney is doing, and not on important issues. Mike please review this book again and rewrite it, without so many unecessary takes.

  7. Rob Says:

    When Huckabee says he cut taxes 96 times in Arkansas he should be ashamed of omitting the details of which the truth is composed. Sure he raised taxes less than 96 times but he increased the net tax burden in Arkansas over $500 million annually and swelled Arkansas state government. He did this while dealing with a much more conservative legislative body than either Romney or Giuliani.

    In Arkansas, Democrats are now know as tax cutters having cut the sales tax on food. Huckabee successfully defeated the referendum, sponsored by libertarians, to cut this sales tax with one of the most dishonest campaigns in Arkansas history.

    The Club for Growth took it easy on Huckabee’s fiscal record.

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