Mike Huckabee is no idiot. Neither is Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, or any of the other candidates vying to be the Republican Party's 2016 presidential candidate.
It's easy to rip on them for some of their outlandish comments on air, in print, and online. And it's easy to shake our heads - individually and collectively - and wonder if this is really the best we have as options from the conservative side of the political aisle.
Today's (well, yesterday's) eyebrow-raising campaign headline comes to us from the Huckabee camp, thanks to the former Arkansas governor's postulate that President Barack Obama is marching Israel “to the door of the oven” with the United States' proposed nuclear program development deal with Iran.
Here's Huckabee's full quote, said in an interview with Breitbart News' editor-in-chief Alexander Marlow:
"This president's foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people. I read the whole deal. We gave away the whole store. It's got to be stopped."
The statement may have been nothing more than a calculated ploy to boost Huckabee's position among a large group of GOP candidates currently languishing in the polls, and at risk of not being included in the first Republican primary debate on August 6. Currently, only three of the 16 candidates (former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Trump) seem a lock to participate (only the Top 10 qualify to be on the Fox News-sponsored event). After all, Huckabee has been opposed to the deal since its inception, repeatedly slamming it as dangerous for the U.S. and Israel since even before the deal was forged.
If headlines - and a chance to thrust himself into the public eye, dispensing Trump from the honors - was what Huckabee wanted, he sure got them.
But at what cost?
The Democratic National Committee (among others, such as myself) took issue with Huckabee’s analogy to the Holocaust, saying such rhetoric “has no place in American politics.”
“Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable,” said DNC chair and Democratic Party Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. “Mike Huckabee must apologize to the Jewish community and to the American people for this grossly irresponsible statement.” And the National Jewish Democratic Council immediately called on members of the Republican Party to denounce Huckabee’s comments, saying it is “not only disgustingly offensive to the President and the White House, but shows utter, callous disregard for the millions of lives lost in the Shoah and to the pain still felt by their descendants today.”
For the record, I am not expecting such denouncement to take place, given the number of GOP candidates who disagree vehemently with the terms of the Iran proposal. Nor do I disagree with his assessment that this may very well be a horrible deal.
For a number of reasons, I don't like this agreement, even though several high-ranking former Israeli security officials seem to think it could be worse (the general consensus being that this is the best agreement out of a lot of bad possibilities). Two weeks ago, I wrote about my many concerns about this topic, which is now in the hands of the United States Congress. I don't feel it goes far enough; the agreement does not include "anytime, anywhere" inspections to verify compliance, which is something I think really needs to be part of any potential compact, and which many in Congress seemed to believe would be part of any such deal. Sans such inspections, which give instant access to all possible nuclear sites in Iran, the world can't verify whether Iran is actually complying with the deal. Right now, the terms of this proposal allow for a 24-day window for U.N. inspectors to examine sites suspected of nuclear activity.
Let me tell you, a lot of things can happen in 3 1/2 weeks. I can teach Macbeth or The Crucible to high school students in that time span. I can run through an entire order of my meal replacement shakes. Heck, just last summer, I spent that much time on a 5,000-mile-long road trip that included stays in Savannah, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Twenty-four days is plenty of time for things to "go missing" when it comes to suspected nuclear components that might not be in compliance with international mandates.
According to Think Progress,
The deal reached between world powers and Iran offers the proverbial carrot of lifted sanctions, which unfreezes $100 billion in Iranian assets. Should Iran violate the deal, however, those sanctions go right back in place. After five years of compliance, Iran could buy and sell conventional arms on the international market, and the same for ballistic missiles in eight years.
The stick has to do with Iran’s nuclear capability - it agrees to curb the amount of time it takes to produce a nuclear weapon from a few months to over 10 years. Iran agreed to sell or dilute all enriched uranium it has, and also not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years. The agreement would cut the amount of Iranian low-enriched uranium from about 7,500 kilograms to 300 kilograms - a 96 percent drop. This is well below the level of concern displayed by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the U.N. in 2012.
So yeah, there's a lot to be concerned about.
Rhetoric aside, Huckabee's position appears to differ from what he wrote seven years ago; he certainly seemed to indicate he was not opposed to using diplomacy to work things out with Iran in a January/February 2008 Foreign Affairs article entitled "America's Priorities in the War on Terror":
Another way to contain Iran is through diplomacy. We must be as aggressive diplomatically as we have been militarily since 9/11. We must intensify our diplomatic efforts with China, India, Russia, South Korea, and European states and persuade them to put more economic pressure on Iran. These countries have been far more interested in pursuing profit than preventing proliferation. They must realize that if the United States does end up taking military action, they will bear some responsibility for having failed to maximize peaceful options. …
Sun-tzu's ancient wisdom is relevant today: "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Yet we have not had diplomatic relations with Iran in almost 30 years; the U.S. government usually communicates with the Iranian government through the Swiss embassy in Tehran. When one stops talking to a parent or a friend, differences cannot be resolved and relationships cannot move forward. The same is true for countries. The reestablishment of diplomatic ties will not occur automatically or without the Iranians' making concessions that serve to create a less hostile relationship. …
Whereas there can be no rational dealings with al Qaeda, Iran is a nation-state seeking regional clout and playing the game of power politics we understand and can skillfully pursue. We cannot live with al Qaeda, but we might be able to live with a contained Iran. Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on my watch. But before I look parents in the eye to explain why I put their son's or daughter's life at risk, I want to do everything possible to avoid conflict. We have substantive issues to discuss with Tehran. Recent direct negotiations about Iraq have not been productive because they have not explored the full range of issues. We have valuable incentives to offer Iran: trade and economic assistance, full diplomatic relations, and security guarantees.
Don't get me wrong; the threat of a nuclear Iran is real, regardless of the language incorporated, according to American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise Director Mitchell Bard. In a statement to MSNBC, he noted, "[Huckabee's] remark about marching the Israelis to the door of the oven was a poor choice of words, but reflects his understanding that Iran has threatened to annihilate Israel and this deal could give them the means to carry out that threat."
A poor choice, indeed. The use of incredibly insensitive language by Huckabee crossed a line, and not in a good way. It’s one thing to oppose the deal; it’s quite another to evoke the image of Jews being incinerated to try to express what I believe to be a politically-motivated objection to that deal. And as I stated earlier in this commentary, if publicity was what he wanted (and he's been languishing around the 3 percent mark among GOP voters), boy, did it work. And there's no debate about that fact.
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Missiles. Russian missiles. Drunken Russian missiles.
MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY:
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