Mike Huckabee's Middle East miscue

In a Sunday morning interview, the cheerful conservative muffs an easy foreign-policy exam.

By Walter Shapiro
November 26, 2007 12:13AM (UTC)
main article image

In stylistic terms, Mike Huckabee remains one of the most beguiling conservatives to brighten the national stage in this dispiriting political decade. During a Sunday morning interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the former Arkansas governor explained the devil-may-care philosophy behind his now-famous ad featuring Chuck Norris. (My Roadie companion Michael Scherer blogged about the spot.)

"I think one of the problems in American politics is that the people who run take themselves way too seriously," Huckabee said at the end of the CNN interview. "We need to take the issues seriously, but we also need to realize that the greatest thing about America is we're still a nation where our freedom gives us the opportunity to wake up, even laugh at ourselves and our politicians and not be shot for it."


If only Huckabee had a grasp of foreign policy to match his monopoly on puckishness. Instead, his answers to basic questions about the latest Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were troubling in their cheerful know-nothing-ness. Huckabee displayed his roots as a Baptist minister when he said with shaky historical grasp, "This conflict isn't new. It has been going on since all the way to the time of Abraham."

What was even more startling was when Huckabee appeared to reject long-standing Clinton-Bush policy and oppose a Palestinian state that would include portions of the West Bank. "It would be very problematic for Israel to give up the West Bank, from their own standpoint of security," Huckabee said. Instead, the surging Republican long shot suggested, "there are a lot of options that involve other territory that doesn't have to include the West Bank or the Golan Heights. There is an enormous amount of land in Arab control all over the Middle East." Left unclear amid this prattle about an "enormous amount of land in Arab control" was whether Huckabee was nominating the Sunni Triangle in Iraq as the new Palestinian homeland.

Most of the major Republican presidential candidates, like waterboarding fan Rudy Giuliani, seem to be taking their foreign-policy advice from the White Queen in "Through the Looking Glass," who bragged, "Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Huckabee seemed different. But that was before the fear began to sink in that Chuck Norris might be Mike Huckabee's only foreign-policy advisor.

Walter Shapiro

Walter Shapiro, a Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, is an award-winning political columnist who has covered the last nine presidential campaigns. Along the way, he has worked as Salon's Washington bureau chief, as well as for The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, Esquire, USA Today and, most recently, Yahoo News. He is also a lecturer in political science at Yale University. He can be reached by email at waltershapiro@ymail.com and followed on Twitter @MrWalterShapiro.

MORE FROM Walter Shapiro

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2008 Elections Middle East Mike Huckabee