Was that Mike Huckabee on "Morning Joe" today -- or John Edwards? The former Arkansas governor found an odd way to refute charges he's not a true conservative, indulging in some class-warfare rhetoric that would have been the envy of the former North Carolina senator.
Mika Brzezinski hit Huckabee with an excerpt from Bob Novak's column of today. Here are the opening paragraphs from Novak's False Conservative:
Who would respond to criticism from the Club for Growth by calling the conservative, free-market campaign organization the "Club for Greed"? That sounds like Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards, all Democrats preaching the class struggle. In fact, the rejoinder comes from Mike Huckabee, who has broken out of the pack of second-tier Republican presidential candidates to become a serious contender -- definitely in Iowa and perhaps nationally.
Huckabee is campaigning as a conservative, but serious Republicans know that he is a high-tax, protectionist, big-government advocate of a strong hand in the Oval Office directing the lives of Americans. Until now, they did not bother to expose the former governor of Arkansas as a false conservative because he seemed an underfunded, unknown nuisance candidate. Now that he has pulled even with Mitt Romney for the Iowa caucuses with the possibility of more progress, the beleaguered Republican Party has a frightening problem on its hands.
Huckabee's first reaction was to laugh off the criticism, saying that it hurt him so bad "I'm going to have to take half a baby aspirin to sleep tonight." But after comparing himself to Ronald Reagan, Huckabee went on to offer this appeal to populism:
I'm not a candidate who was born on third base and thought he hit a triple, you know, I've come up the hard way. People understand that. I'm the only Republican that's saying the economy, while doing great for the people on Wall Street, is not necessarily translating down to the guys handling the bags and selling the tickets and serving you Cokes on the airplane. And there's just a whole lot of folks out there wondering if they're going to keep their jobs.
When these guys attack me and call me a protectionist. Look, I'm a free trader. But there's nothing free and there's nothing fair about the trade agreements that lend us with a $232 billion trade deficit with China because we're not enforcing on their side of the border the same kind of regulations that we're forcing on American businesses. We're losing jobs; we're losing our competitive edge. We've got a tax system that needs to be totally overhauled, replaced, get rid of the IRS, bring in a consumption tax as opposed to this tax on productivity.
And that scares the daylights out of some of these guys who just kind of like business as it is and they don't really care if it's the Democrat or the Republican: just keep everything the same so they can continue to get wealthy at the expense of people who don't know if they can get their kids through school.
Look for the MSM to continue to give Huckabee plenty of airtime. He's an MSM two-fer: his populist message appeals to the liberal media, and to the extent he sows the whirlwind in GOP circles, all the better from the MSM perspective.