The Potomac Primary - Vote for Mike Huckabee for President on February 12th

As Super Tuesday ends and the February 12th “Potomac Primary” in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. approaches, I’d like to express my support for Governor Mike Huckabee and ask Republican primary voters to cast their ballots for him to be our nominee for President. His qualifications, principles, oratorical skills and his message of optimism and hope are what this nation needs to come together as a people and face the challenges ahead. As the chief executive of the state of Arkansas, he knows the difference between legislating and governing, and a President must govern. He was only the fourth Republican to win statewide office in Arkansas since Reconstruction, and he was reelected twice in a predominantly Democratic state, demonstrating his ability to reach across party lines to win support. In fact, he was reelected with over 48 percent of the black vote in his last campaign, an unprecedented figure for a Republican candidate. How did he do it? He showed he cared by making people’s lives better. Arkansas schools, highways and health care for children all improved dramatically under his leadership, and he left the state with a surplus of over $800 million. Time Magazine named him one of the five best governors in America in 2005, Governing Magazine named him as one of its “Public Officials of the Year” for 2005 and the American Association of Retired Persons honored him with their Impact Award. Mike Huckabee knows how to lead and get things done.

Mike Huckabee doesn’t have to consult a poll or a survey to determine his beliefs. He stands firm in defense of our inalienable rights as Americans, the first of which is the right to life. At the same time, he believes we must protect and nurture our children before and after birth – he calls it “pro-life, whole life.”  As an avid outdoorsman, he is a firm advocate of gun-owners rights and a common-sense environmentalist as well.  His faith is the defining force of his life, but he respects people of all faiths or none at all. Mike Huckabee is a consistent man of principle.

Mike Huckabee understands the challenges that middle and working class families face because that’s where he comes from. He grew up in a very modest home and faced his own challenges as a college student and newlywed whose wife was diagnosed with cancer and required expensive treatment they could barely afford in order to survive. As a pastor, he counseled families suffering from hunger, debt, unemployment, health issues, domestic crises and more. As governor, he mobilized the entire state to provide food, bedding, fresh clothing and a compassionate touch for 75,000 victims of Hurricane Katrina. He says, “Good government is not about policies, but about the people whose lives are going to be touched.” Mike Huckabee cares.

If we want a President who knows how to run a government and get results, whose beliefs are based on a strong foundation of faith in God and trust in the wisdom of our founding fathers, and who cares about us because he is just like us, then join me in helping Mike Huckabee win the Maryland primary on February 12th.

Evangelicals of Little Faith

Kathleen Parker wrote a blog article for Townhall.com entitled "Christians for Self-Defeat." I fully expected her to chide the evangelical leadership for their hand-wringing over their choices for the 2008 Presidential election, and she did that - sort of. Her opening statement, however, made me blanch:

"Evangelical Christians never had it so good, but they seem not to know it. Instead of supporting the candidate who most shares their values -- Mitt Romney -- they seem hell-bent for the proverbial cliff."

I like Kathleen Parker from her days as a local columnist with the Orlando Sentinel, but I disagree with the statement she makes about Governor Romney.

Let's set aside his Mormonism for a moment, although I'll acknowledge right up front that his religious denomination is a deal-breaker for many evangelicals. His compatibility on values is questionable to me because it appears contrived. I've no doubt that he believes in them personally because of his faith, but for me, the number and nature of the conversions Governor Romney has made in his public life are too much for me to overcome. He comes across as opportunistic and inauthentic as a result.

Further in her column, Ms. Parker writes:

"And then there's Mike Huckabee. If Dobson really meant what he said in his op-ed -- that winnability shouldn't be the deciding factor in supporting a candidate -- then Huckabee should be receiving bouquets of Ben Franklins with his morning beignets. A southern Baptist preacher, the former Arkansas governor is a human checklist of conservative values, as well as being personable, likable and funny. What Huckabee doesn't have is the golden coffer, which means that electability is, in fact, a Christian concern."

This is where Ms. Parker speaks the unvarnished truth. The evangelical leadership betrays us with their dishonesty and fear. By elevating electability over principle, they put their trust in the world and not in the Lord. If they lined up as one behind Governor Huckabee, who is making a slow and steady rise in the polls even without their help, his fortunes would skyrocket overnight. Not only is he consistent in his values, he is eloquent and not angry or strident in communicating them, and as a person from a modest background who pastored in and eventually governed a poor state, he has genuine empathy for the working poor, and he's demonstrated it in his statements and policies.

He not only cares about the sanctity of life and marriage, he cares about children's health, education in the arts and families battered by the pace of change and globalization. He was one of five governors, only two of which were Republicans, to be named among the best governors in America by Time Magazine. He was the overwhelming winner of the straw poll taken at the Values Voters Debate with 64 percent of the vote.

His only liability is that he doesn't have a national network or the name recognition to raise copious amounts of cash. I admire that he is competitive in the polls in spite of that fact. His campaign is being very judicious with the money they have raised, and I believe the way he gets maximum value out of every dollar is reflective of how he'd manage the federal budget. If the evangelical community, which comprises a third of the Republican base, put their weight behind his candidacy, his money woes would disappear.

I'm reminded of the old joke about the man trapped on the roof of his flooded home who repeatedly refuses help because he declares the Lord will save him, only to drown when the waters rise too high. When he's in heaven and asks the Lord why He didn't save him, the Lord replies, "What are you talking about? I sent you two boats and a helicopter."

The evangelical community doesn't need a third-party candidate, nor do they need to compromise their beliefs for electability. They need to open their eyes and see what's right in front of them, waiting for them to agree to be rescued. They need to trust in their own beliefs and bestow electability on Mike Huckabee with their time, talent and treasure.

Wake Up, People - He's the Real Deal!

I watched my first forum/debate of the political season last night (yes, this is the first one I actually took the time to watch - I've been content to this point to read about them the next day) and Governor Huckabee delivered yet again. My reasons for watching were twofold. First, there had been a lot of press about it because of the minority audience it was designed to reach and the number of GOP no-shows, all of whom were accused of ducking the forum because they didn't think it worth their time to woo black and Hispanic voters. I'm going to address that topic in a subsequent post. The other reason I watched it was in anticipation of a reception the next day where I was to meet Governor Huckabee for the first time. Princella Smith, a dynamic young woman from Arkansas who now lives and works in Maryland, is a personal friend of the Huckabee family and she arranged to get me in the door so I could meet the Governor. As you can see from the photo below, I accomplished my mission - I also got him to sign my copy of "From Hope to Higher Ground," a book I recommend that all undecided or conflicted Republicans read before they make a decision about who to support for President in 2008. He's as friendly and approachable as others have described him and as we talked about my first run for public office last year, he encouraged me to keep striving toward my goals - he signed my book with the words, "Go the Distance!"

capitol-hill-club-fundraiser-huckabee-and-me.jpg

Given my extensive research on his background and positions on the issues and my positive perceptions after meeting him, I am compelled to deliver a two-word message to all the evangelical voters who are wringing their hands over the choices they have before them for President in 2008 - wake up! Rather than allow the press or the political pundits to dictate to you which of these men are viable candidates for President, rally around someone who shares your beliefs and can communicate then in an inclusive, respectful and effective manner. I never thought I'd see the day when an ordained Baptist minister and successful two-term governor who consistently defended the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage and family values throughout his public life would be almost completely ignored by the very voters whose views he embraces without reservation or equivocation.

Friends, we are the most influential voting bloc in the Republican Party, particularly in the key early states of Iowa and South Carolina. We can make a difference in whether or not he ascends to the top tier of candidates simply by uniting behind him and declaring to the world that he is our man. None of the top tier candidates can match him when it comes to his authenticity and eloquence on the issues that matter to us. The electability argument doesn't wash with me because he would become instantly electable if we coalesced behind him.

In spite of our flirtation with more glamorous names on the ballot, Governor Huckabee presses on with an optimism that is contagious to all who meet him, and his campaign has probably gotten more out of a dollar than any of the big-spending front-runners. He's gaining ground in spite of the fact that the voting bloc most likely to find favor with him is apparently waiting for a knight in shining armor on a white horse to ride into town and save the day. I contend, however, that the person you're looking for has been under your nose all along and could make you proud as this nation's President if you'd just get behind him. There's still time for you to set the agenda and not allow it to be set by others who don't have our interests at heart.

I Like Mike (Still)

I just finished "From Hope to Higher Ground: 12 STEPs to Restoring America's Greatness," by former Arkansas governor and current Republican candidate for President Mike Huckabee. I indicated previously that I am supporting him for President, and I've since become one of the "Bloggers for Huckabee," proudly displaying my "I Like Mike" banner on my blog page. Now that I've completed his book, I am more convinced than ever that he should become our next President. He is a different kind of Republican and he stands out from the others in the race. He's a prolific author and I've already got three more of his books on order because I think he's a man of great character and integrity, and someone I'd like to emulate in my future political pursuits. My wife teases me and says that if I were Catholic, my patron saint would be the one for lost causes (that would be St. Jude Thaddeus, by the way). She reminded me that I was for George H.W. Bush in 1980 when other Republicans were swooning over Ronald Reagan, I was a die-hard GeoWorks user when the world was going gaga over Microsoft Windows 3.0 (you're thinking, "What's GeoWorks?" Precisely!), and I was a Neil Diamond fan long after his prime. Oh, yes, I decided to run against Maryland political icons Steny Hoyer AND Mike Miller in the same election year. I tell her, "It's not my choices that were bad; it was the system!"

That gave me the idea of sharing with you my process for picking a candidate - not that you're going to rush out and apply it after I just divulged my track record for picking winners (grin)! Nonetheless, I think it will be instructive and, frankly, I wish more people gave their choices for elected office this level of thought. We'd have a better government for it, and I'm not saying that because I'm particularly smart. Every citizen, in my opinion, has an obligation to do their own research and make informed choices.

It frustrates me to no end how many people care so little about a process that will have a profound impact on their lives. They either make their selections based on emotion or image alone, or they allow themselves to be led around by the media, which handicaps the pursuit of the Presidency like a horse race and is more interested in promoting the biggest fundraisers or the annointed front-runners rather than the candidates with the best qualifications or performance. The media is supposed to be a check on "the system" but instead they perpetuate it.  Perhaps that's why most people aren't interested anymore - the influence of the press on who gets the nominations of the respective parties is too great to overcome.

In any case, I've always tried to do my own homework when it comes to picking candidates to support. I've made a few of these points in the past, but this is a methodical explanation of my thinking. Read on!

Prior executive experience, while not always a predictor of success, is a discriminator for me and helped me to narrow the field of candidates in the Republican camp to five - Governors Gilmore, Huckabee, Romney and Thompson (that's Tommy Thompson - Fred was a U.S. Senator), and the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.

Authenticity is also important to me. That's a much harder characteristic to discern, but it boils down to consistency in your behavior and expressed beliefs. That made it very difficult for me to embrace Governor Romney. He appears to be a likable man, his success as a businessman is remarkable, his plan to bring business best practices to the execution of government resonates strongly with me, and he and his family look like they could star in a modern-day version of Ozzie (the original Ozzie) and Harriet. He even looks like a President.

It's the perception that he's remade himself to run for the Republican nomination that I can't shake. It's not that I believe our politicians should be immovable and resistant to change. On the contrary, I believe when we stop learning and growing intellectually, morally and spiritually, we start dying.

I understand his conversion on the issue of abortion - after all, I was reluctant to take a political stance on the issue in college, even though I was an active Republican at the time.  The meanness I witnessed in the pro-life movement felt wrong to me, especially when it was directed at women in trouble. Like Governor Romney, there were events in my life that led me to my current pro-life stance. Becoming a father and eventually recommitting my life to Christ after more than two decades away from church contributed to my change of heart. When I realized that being pro-life and showing compassion for the child didn't exclude compassion for the mother, I became more vocal and visible in my pro-life views and they have continued to strengthen and evolve over the years.

Eventually, though, the number and nature of the conversions Governor Romney has made in his public life were too much for me to overcome. He's been recorded on video - YouTube has not been his friend - or quoted in old candidate surveys expressing positions when he was running for the U.S. Senate and the governorship of Massachusetts that bear no resemblance to his current views. The man who seemed more liberal on numerous issues during his campaigns for statewide office in Massachusetts in the 1990s is offering himself in 2007 as the heir to Ronald Reagan's conservative legacy. As a result, I can't ascertain his authenticity and I crossed him off the list.

As a committed Christian and social conservative, I am pro-life, I support the institution of marriage, and I believe in protecting our rights under the Constitution. Because of this, I can't support Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination. I don't endorse his views on abortion, same-sex marriage, or gun control. Therefore, he's not on the list.

It was really difficult to narrow down the list after that because I liked the three that remained. I am familiar with Governor Jim Gilmore's work on homeland security through the Gilmore Commission, and his term as governor of Virginia stands out to me because of his initiatives to promote uniform standards and testing in education, his appointment of the nation's first state Secretary of Technology, and his outreach to the black community through establishment of a separate holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the proposal and funding of an African-American History Trail, and his call for more diversity in Virginia social studies texts.

As governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson was a pioneer in implementing conservative solutions to our most challenging social problems. Welfare reform, school choice and greater access to health care for the working uninsured all happened in Wisconsin under his direction, and he continued to be an advocate for health care reform as the nation's Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bush.

So what sold me on Mike Huckabee over these two fine gentlemen?

First of all, he's a committed Christian and a social conservative, so we share the same worldview and values. That probably frightens many people given their perceptions of Christianity and Christians, but if people would put aside their biases and listen to him, they would find that he's not mean-spirited, judgmental, angry or even annoyed - OK, maybe he's a little annoyed, but he's just as annoyed with the hard-heartedness of some Republicans as he is about the self-righteousness of some Democrats. By most accounts, he's an approachable, genial and genuinely likable man. This brief article in a recent issue of U.S. News and World Report is illustrative of what I mean:

Politics doesn't have to be mean, says GOP prez hopeful Mike Huckabee. Take the friendly voice mail he received from Hillary Clinton about the touchy subject of religion and politics. In a recent magazine article, Huckabee had said that although he goes to a very expressive church (Baptist), it doesn't mean that those like Clinton who attend a more formal and liturgical church (United Methodist) are less genuine. One memorable thing Hillary Clinton said in the message: "I do have a soft spot for boys from Hope." Like her spouse, Huckabee was born in Hope, Ark.

I think that's what Americans want to see in the political process - respect regardless of political differences. Mike Huckabee is a Romans 12:18 Christian, and we need more people like him in public life.

Second, he stood out as a governor, even in this impressive group. He was lieutenant governor of Arkansas from 1993 to 1996 and governor from 1996 to 2007 and, although he initially ascended to the governorship after his predecessor resigned, he was elected twice in a state where Democrats traditionally dominated. In fact, he was only the fourth Republican since Reconstruction to win a statewide race in Arkansas. Time magazine named him one of the 5 best governors in America. His initiatives in health care, education, and technology were as impressive as those of his gubernatorial counterparts.

Finally, he shows genuine empathy for the working families of our country. His humble upbringing, his wife's battle with cancer when they were young newlyweds with very little money, and his counseling of struggling families as an ordained minister sensitized him to the impact of government decisions on people's lives. Unlike a lot of Republicans, he looks for conservative solutions to the "kitchen table" issues that concern most American families rather than just saying no. He comes across as a man who puts more thought and heart into his decisions than most politicians, making him a "compassionate conservative" in word and deed.

Needless to say, he passed the tests that the others failed. I have no doubt of his authenticity; he's been consistent in his words and actions throughout his public life, and he has been praised in the recent debates for his eloquence, wit and likabilty. He is unashamed of his conservative principles but doesn't let them morph into an anger or meanness of spirit that would betray his Christian beliefs.

My message to social conservatives looking for a candidate is this: you don't have to settle for someone with Hollywood "buzz" or search in vain for the next Ronald Reagan. You also don't have to accept the verdict of the media as to who will win; they don't have your best interests at heart, and you know it. Think independently; buy his book and read his optimistic prescription for America's future. Go to his Web site and read his bio. Read his inspiring story about how he took control of his own health and went from 280 to 170 pounds and now runs marathons when at one time he could barely climb a flight of stairs without breathing heavily. Don't let the press and the pundits dictate your choices to you. The person you're hoping for is the new man from Hope.

Hope for President in 2008 - Part One

I've read or I'm reading books written by the contenders for the office of  President of the United States in 2008 who most intrigue me. I completed "The Audacity of Hope," the best-seller by Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, and I'm currently immersed in "From Hope to Higher Ground" by former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. Despite the fact these men are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, I found that they share the same spirit of hope and optimism our nation so desperately needs in these angry, divisive times. I'm going to first offer my opinion of Governor Huckabee, and my next post will offer my thoughts on Senator Obama. As I listen to and read about Republicans expressing their dissatisfaction with the current crop of GOP contenders for President, I'm reminded of the words of that wise old seer, Rafiki, from the movie, "The Lion King." When Simba couldn't see his father in the pond's reflection of him, Rafiki advised him to "Look harder." If "Rudy McRomney," as GOP candidate Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia so cleverly calls the first-tier contenders, don't reflect the heart and soul of the GOP for you, and the Fred Thompson bandwagon looks like it's fueled more by dissatisfaction than conviction, then I would advise you to "look harder." I did, and I found my man for 2008 - Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. If you've followed the Republican presidential debates, I'm sure you've been impressed with his wit, eloquence and authenticity.

Before you roll your eyes at the notion of him becoming the GOP nominee, however, hear me out. Let's walk through the checklist.

Socially conservative? Check! He is an ordained Southern Baptist minister who states unequivocally, "I'm a conservative, pro-life, pro-family evangelical who believes in God."

Fiscal conservative? Check! He believes in "...lower taxes, less government, personal empowerment, personal ownership, and personal responsibility...and a government that allows the marketplace to regulate itself as much as possible to encourage and enhance free entrerprise." While Governor of Arkansas, he reduced welfare rolls by nearly half, and under his leadership the rate of economic growth in Arkansas in 2004 exceeded the national average. Over the course of his ten years as governor, he saved the taxpayers of Arkansas over $380 million through the reduction of taxes and fees. When he left office, Arkansas had over $800 million in state surplus, and he believes that surplus should be returned to the people of Arkansas.

Optimist? Check! He believes in motivating people through hope rather than fear. He says, "Despite partisan stereoypes, I'm not mad at everyone and my views are not driven by rage or even mild anger. Fact is, I'm a pretty happy guy most of the time." He believes that "Warm hearts produce better results than hot heads," and this philosophy is apparent in his positions on the issues, which are characterized by great empathy and compassion.

Executive experience? Check! There is a difference between legislating and executing, and it's instructive to note that every President elected since 1976 has either been the governor of a state (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush) or has had some kind of executive level experience (George H.W. Bush was Vice President for eight years). Mike Huckabee was governor of Arkansas for ten and a half years, and in 2005, Time Magazine honored him as one of the five best governors in America, describing him as "a mature, consensus-building conservative who earns praise from fellow Evangelicals and, occasionally, liberal Democrats."

A man of the people? Check! Mike Huckabee was raised in a modest home in Hope, Arkansas, and he worked to pay his own way through college and graduate school because his parents couldn't afford it. As a young newlywed, he was going to school and holding down two jobs and his wife, Janet, dropped out of school to take a job and help pay the bills. It was during that time that Janet was diagnosed with cancer, which not only meant lost income because she couldn't work, but medical expenses which were, in his words, "staggering for a young couple in college whose income totaled $75 a week." They struggled mightily, but Janet recovered and despite the intense radiation therapy she endured, she was able to have children; they have two sons and a daughter. As a pastor, he was "dealing every day with real people who where genuinely affected by policies created by government." His duties providing counsel and comfort to hurting people, along with his own personal experiences, led him to "to better understand that good government is not about policies, but about the people whose lives are going to be touched."

His policies as governor of Arkansas reflect his compassion for people. His ARKidsFirst program offers health insurance to more than 70,000 Arkansas children who otherwise would not have coverage. He dedicated the state's proceeds from the tobacco industry lawsuit settlement to health education, antismoking campaigns and Medicaid expansion. He endorsed ARHealthNet, a program which gives small business owners and their employees better access to health care coverage. In addition to stressing measurement, accountability and results in the public schools, he believes that music and the arts are just as essential to a child's education as the basics, and he was awarded the Music for Life Award by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) for his commitment to music education. He expanded charter schools in Arkansas to serve as laboratories for educational innovation and provide better learning options for parents and children.

You can add to these impressive credentials his inspiring personal story of how he took control of his personal health after being diagnosed with Type II diabetes. He changed his diet and lifestyle dramatically, losing 110 pounds and, barely two years after his diagnosis, completing four marathons. He's written a book about his experience, "Quit Digging Your Grave With A Knife and Fork," a 12-step approach to lifestyle change for better health. He even plays bass guitar in a rock band -- there must be something about Arkansas governors from Hope and their music, I guess!

Mike Huckabee is everything the GOP is looking for in a President, and he's authentic. What he lacks is a robust campaign organization and the cash. It's a shame that qualified candidates like Governor Huckabee are measured and reported on based primarily on how much money they are able to raise rather than their substance as candidates. He's not in the top tier today, but I ask you to take some time to get to know Mike Huckabee. His optimism will remind you of a great Republican president of the recent past, and his compassionate conservatism comes alive through his actions. His willingness to tackle the core issues that affect American families, such as health care and education, and offer innovative solutions that deliver results will rescue the Republican Party from its current funk and give us a new direction for the future. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the new man from Hope.