Timothy Egan on American politics and life, as seen from the West.
But beneath the veneer of Aw-Shucks-Huck is a public figure, and possible presidential candidate, who has shown a pattern of telling outright falsehoods about himself and the president.
This week, he backstepped from an extraordinary interview in which he had claimed, several times, that President Obama grew up in Kenya. But before that, Huckabee had created a shell of mistruths about a felon he helped to free early when he was governor of Arkansas. This man went on to murder four police officers in cold blood in my home state of Washington.
Mike Huckabee has shown a pattern of telling outright falsehoods about himself and the president.
Of course, "what he does know" is completely wrong. Obama grew up in Hawaii, spent some years in Indonesia, and then went to college in California. He visited Kenya, the home of a father he never knew, in his 20s. Mostly, he was raised by his white grandparents in Hawaii.
But an even bigger fiction is the one Huckabee tells about the violent felon Maurice Clemmons. Here was Huckabee last month, at an informal gathering of reporters in Washington, after being asked about having granted Clemmons's plea for early release:
"There was a kid who was 16 years old, he committed a burglary, he was aggravated, but not armed. And for that he got 108 years," Huckabee said. "One-hundred-and-eight years."
Sounds awful. Only in Arkansas would they put a black teenager away for 108 years for a single burglary. Except it's not true, as a routine check of the record, or a look at the Pulitzer Prize-winning stories about Clemmons in The Seattle Times would show.
Clemmons was facing eight felony charges at the peak of a crime spree, not one. He was 17. During a reign of terror, he broke into the home of a cop, stole guns, assaulted and robbed a woman, and broke into the home of state trooper.
The pattern here raises two major concerns. He constructs alternative views: a convict is saved by Jesus, instead of using Jesus to get out of jail, or, Obama is a bad president because he's not really an American.
In one of his lame attempts to explain the Obama comments, Huckabee only added to the character assassination. He said, "Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings, and you know, our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas." In other words, Obama may not be Kenyan, but he's probably Muslim! (Note to Huckabee: Hawaii has both Boy Scouts and Rotary Clubs.)
The second question is about judgment, always the most crucial thing to consider in a person who wants to be president. If Huckabee can't see past a crude convict ploy to his heart, how can he judge the North Koreans?