Mike Huckabee's shocking and appalling ignorance

The possible White House candidate reveals that his critique of Obama's foreign policy is rooted in a falsehood

By Steve Kornacki
Published March 1, 2011 10:28PM (EST)
FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2010, file photo, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks in Washington. Huckabee isn’t tamping down speculation of another presidential run. He also isn’t doing much to prepare for one. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) (AP)
FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2010, file photo, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks in Washington. Huckabee isn’t tamping down speculation of another presidential run. He also isn’t doing much to prepare for one. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) (AP)

"The Steve Malzberg Show" is the type of radio program that any Republican looking to run for president or sell books (or both) pretty much has to appear on.

So it wasn't surprising that Mike Huckabee, who is peddling a new book while flirting with a White House bid, called in on Monday afternoon. Nor was it surprising that Malzberg,  who doubles as a columnist for the far-right site Newsmax, eventually brought the conversation around to his doubts over whether President Obama is, in fact, legally qualified to serve as president.  What is surprising -- maybe even shocking -- is how Huckabee handled this.

After accusing Obama of failing to produce adequate records about his own education, health and birth, Malzberg asked Huckabee, "Don't you think we deserve to know more about this man?" To which the former Arkansas governor replied:

I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, [is] very different than the average American.

The information about Obama that Huckabee finds so "troubling," of course, is totally and completely baseless. The president did not grow up in Kenya, or anywhere near it. He spent most of his youth in Hawaii, with a four-year detour in Indonesia between 1967 and 1971. There was no correction from Malzberg. Huckabee then went on to deride Obama for returning a bust of Winston Churchill to Britain -- an action, he noted, that makes perfect sense when you consider that Obama grew up in Kenya, "hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who, uh, persecuted his grandfather." Malzberg agreed with this sentiment so strongly that he interjected:

Oh, he despises the West! He despises the Brits. And I think he could take it all out on Israel. And that's why he despises Israel. He's not too thrilled with our history, either.

The host then asked Huckabee to commit to confronting Obama in a debate with this question: "'Why did you go to court and spend millions of dollars to prevent from having to show your birth certificate if you have one and it's there -- why not show it?" Huckabee replied that "the only reason" he doesn't think there's a birth certificate smoking gun is because the Clintons would have found it and used it in 2008 if there was one.

It's hard to listen to the entire exchange and not conclude that Huckabee is simply -- and appallingly -- ignorant on the basic facts of the president's life story. This doesn't sound like a cynical attempt to send signals to the Republican base from a politician who, deep inside, knows better; this is a man who matter-of-factly believes that Obama was raised in Kenya -- and who uses that belief to justify all sorts of zany theories about the president's motives and sympathies in the conduct of foreign affairs.

How does Huckabee, who has been on the national stage for four years now and who may be the front-runner for the GOP nomination if he decides to run, not know that Obama wasn't raised in Kenya? The statement that Huckabee's spokesman just gave to ABC News doesn't address this question:

"Governor Huckabee simply misspoke when he alluded to President Obama growing up in ‘Kenya.’ The Governor meant to say the President grew up in Indonesia. When the Governor mentioned he wanted to know more about the President, he wasn’t talking about the President’s place of birth -- the Governor believes the President was born in Hawaii. The Governor would however like to know more about where President Obama’s liberal policies come from and what else the President plans to do to this country -- as do most Americans."

The problem here is that Huckabee didn't just say that Obama was raised in Kenya -- he made specific reference to the Mau Mau Revolution, claiming that Obama, by virtue of his upbringing, would have a very different understanding of it than Westerners. That's much different than accidentally saying "Kenya" when you meant to say "Indonesia."

And the birther issue is a red herring. This story isn't about whether Huckabee specifically subscribes to the view that Obama wasn't born in the United States; maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. The issue here is that Huckabee has just demonstrated that his main critique of President Obama's foreign policy is rooted in a belief that is demonstrably and laughably false. What other objections to Obama's policymaking does Huckabee have that are based on beliefs like this?

Steve Kornacki

Steve Kornacki is an MSNBC host and political correspondent. Previously, he hosted “Up with Steve Kornacki” on Saturday and Sunday 8-10 a.m. ET and was a co-host on MSNBC’s ensemble show “The Cycle.” He has written for the New York Observer, covered Congress for Roll Call, and was the politics editor for Salon. His book, which focuses on the political history of the 1990s, is due out in 2017.

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