In defense of Mike Huckabee

I think it was Oscar Wilde who originated the play on words to give us \"Nothing succeeds like excess.\"
July 27, 2015

I think it was Oscar Wilde who originated the play on words to give us “Nothing succeeds like excess.” And while the jury is still out on who will succeed, the Republican candidates for their party's nomination are outdoing one another in their resort to flamboyant and over the top language. Donald Trump talks about Mexican rapists, Rick Perry likens Trump to a cancer, Lindsey Graham calls Trump a jackass, and Ted Cruz, not to be outdone, calls Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar. All legal, none edifying or helpful.

The latest foray into this war of words is Mike Huckabee, who lambasted President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran and said it would result in leading the State of Israel to the door of the ovens. If you don't understand this historical analogy, do me a favor and don't vote; there is no civic virtue in participating in elections if one lacks elementary cultural and historic literacy.

As a sometime wordsmith, I have consistently objected to Holocaust analogies for cheap political gain. I believe it is important to deal accurately with history, and to use language with precision. I go further than many: I object to the use of the term “ghetto” when applied to American inner cities. They may be slums, they may be disadvantaged communities, they may be hotbeds of crime and social dysfunction but they are not ghettoes, and it cheapens history to change the meaning of historical fact to accommodate current voting patterns.

Why then, do I defend Huckabee? Because definitions may remain static but history does not. We were right to label what happened in Rwanda genocide. To our shame, we were slow to react, and our leaders fumbled around a long time before using the word, but it did apply.

So, too, does Huckabee's analogy have legitimacy. I am not endorsing Huckabee's candidacy, and while I applaud his unwavering support for Israel, I am somewhat uncomfortable with the underlying theology which informs that support. But those are side issues. What matters is that he is doing exactly what, to their eternal shame, the vast majority of Jewish leaders failed to do as Hitler came to power. There is one clear lesson we can learn from history: when the lunatics say they are going to kill the Jews, that is no empty threat. They mean it, and they will do it.

Not every such threat amounts to a potential Holocaust, not every lunatic is a Hitler. But in the case of the leaders of Iran, what further proof is needed? Listen to what they consistently say, and see what they consistently do. 

I pose the following questions: can there really be any doubt about their intentions? And if some remote doubt exists, why would any sane person take the chance that they don't mean it?

Are we supposed to consider this, too, as a law enforcement issue? Do we wait for proof beyond a reasonable doubt? We've seen how that works with terrorists, and Iran is a terrorist state. 

Maybe the nuclear deal with Iran is a good one. Maybe it is the best deal we could get (although, as has been pointed out elsewhere, Obama is the worst negotiator, if not the worst President, in American history). But if one believes, as many do, that it leaves the door wide open for Iran to continue fostering and supporting terrorism, continue its development of ICBMs, and allows them room for nuclear weapons in the near future, then it is not a far leap to discuss Holocaust-like destruction of the State of Israel.

One final thought: I am profoundly saddened yet not the least bit surprised by the negative reaction to Huckabee's statement from “the usual suspects,” i.e. the leaders of major Jewish organizations. I don't subscribe to Huckabee's theology, but his theology is his business. I'm wondering if these so-called leaders have sneaked in something to their theology while I wasn't looking: a reflexive anti-Republican bias coupled with pandering to liberal Democrats.

Arnold Haiman is a retired Naval officer, Senior Ethics Advisor with Ethos, LLC, and teaches National Security and Police Science at George Washington University.

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