The Man Behind the Myth

Now a serious Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee has had shifting stances that seem more calculated than compassionate.

BY Bernice Yeung

December 14 2007 1:00 AM ET


At a recent
Republican presidential debate, Huckabee again tried to
dodge a question about his position on "don’t
ask, don’t tell" by trying to steer the line of
questioning toward immigration issues, a topic he
feels more comfortable addressing. When pressed about
whether gays should be allowed to serve openly in the
military, Huckabee responded, “I think it's
already covered by the Uniform Code of Military
Conduct. I think that's what Congressman [Ron] Paul was
saying: It's about conduct; it's not about
attitude.... I just said I think it's a matter -- it's
not -- you don't punish people for their attitudes; you
punish them if their behavior creates a problem. And it's
already covered by the Uniform Code of Military

He added that he
would not change existing policy. “I don't think that
I would. I think it's already covered by the existing
policy that we do have, in fact,” he said.

Analysis: As with
other issues, Brantley says Huckabee tends to soften
his statements, even though, in his action, he stops short
of backing meaningful protections for the rights of
LGBT people. “Every now and again he’ll
say something conciliatory like during the overturning of
the sodomy laws, he said that what people do in the
privacy of their own homes is their business.
He’ll bow in that direction, but it’s only a


Huckabee has long
been a proponent of abstinence-only sex education, and
during his tenure as governor of Arkansas, public schools
phased out contraceptive-dispensing clinics. Though
his comments on the issue to the mainstream press are
tempered, as a guest on a Christian Broadcasting
Network program in May 2007, he told listeners:

"I am
disappointed that funding for abstinence education is not
likely to be renewed by the Democrat Congress. This reversal
only emphasizes how important it is for Republicans to
take back Congress and win the White House with an
authentic conservative in 2008. I miss the America I
grew up in where the Gideons gave Bibles to fifth-graders
instead of school nurses giving condoms to eighth-graders.
With so much at stake, it's important that we return
to the core values and guiding principles which have
made our country great.”

Though Huckabee
insists that he remains a man of conviction on the issues
(“Never let expediency or electability replace our
principles," he said in October 2007), his more
strident comments to Christian crowds illustrate his
ability to play to an audience. “Huckabee is a
performer, and as the audience changes, the
performance is tailored,” Barth says. “I
think it’s clear that what we’re seeing is
that during the Iowa caucus campaigning, there is an
audience there that wants to hear certain things, and
he is doing what he needs to win. This leaves us in a
wait-and-see mode as the audience changes through the course
of the primary, or if he were to be the Republican
nominee -- he may change either his positions or at
least the way in which he talks about the

Tags: World