NYT's Martin Goes Snide Sizing Up GOP 2016: Huckabee a 'Cheerleader of Artery-Clogging Calories' for Opposing First Lady's Reforms

January 10th, 2015 8:07 AM

New York Times political reporter Jonathan Martin went snide and condescending in his "Political Memo" Thursday on Republican presidential prospects for 2016, "In G.O.P., a Divide of Ideology and Age."

Last month Martin fawned over moderate establishment candidate Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who supports amnesty for illegals and the top-down federal education "reform" known as Common Core.

In contrast, former Arkansas governor and social conservative Mike Huckabee got only snark from Martin, coupled with the hostile, simplistic, and prudish implication that because conservatives oppose Michelle Obama's "healthy eating and exercise campaign" -- including hard caloric restrictions on school lunches that leave students hungry -- they must just want everyone to get fat.

Three years before he ran for president in 2008, a newly slim Mike Huckabee peddled a book with a title that doubled as a lecture: “Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork.” Now, as he considers a second White House run, he has written another book with a decidedly different but equally direct title: “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.”

Mr. Huckabee’s earlier effort delivered a “12-step program to end bad habits and begin a healthy lifestyle,” as the subtitle had it. It is almost unthinkable that an aspiring Republican presidential candidate would do the same today, given conservatives’ strenuous opposition to Michelle Obama’s healthy eating and exercise campaign.

In its own vivid way, Mr. Huckabee’s march from author of a self-help and clean-living guide to cheerleader of artery-clogging calories and conservative traditionalism highlights the Republican shift during the Obama era.

That's an awfully long stretch for Martin to make, based on two book titles from one possible GOP candidate, but it fits Martin's condescending view of conservatives.

Martin, treating the Republican Party like a dour religious sect, used all the bad buzz words ("stricter...brand of conservatism," "deviations from orthodoxy," "angry," "doctrinaire conservatives") to describe the right. He insisted the party has shifted right since Obama was elected, even though the Times has been calling the GOP too far right for at least 35 years.

The party is different in tone and substance, moving toward a stricter, limited-government brand of conservatism in response to President Obama’s liberalism, a change that has generational and ideological dimensions.

Now, deviations from orthodoxy on education, health care, immigration and the environment that some Republicans flirted with or embraced during George W. Bush’s presidency are as out of vogue on the right as flip phones.

It is fitting, then, that the first potential Republican candidates to step out prominently in the new year are Mr. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, and Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor.


The 2016 Republican primaries are shaping up as more complex than formulaic clashes between a center-right, establishment candidate and a handful of hard-line challengers. There are also likely to be fault lines of both age and political sensibility.

The extraneous hostile labels kept coming, while Martin implied that the conservative approach to amnesty for immigrants was intemperate:

“This is a cycle in which a younger generation of politicians are coming into the race with a view that small-government conservatism is the ideal and who feel no imperative to bend over backward to show that they are compassionate to people,” said Ben Domenech, a conservative who writes a daily newsletter popular on the right.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Huckabee have each taken positions that are intended to broaden the party’s appeal but that will inflame the Republicans’ more doctrinaire conservatives.

Both backed the Common Core education standards, now detested among many activists because they are seen as opening the door to more federal control. Both have taken a comparatively temperate approach on immigration. Mr. Bush has opposed offshore drilling, and Mr. Huckabee, in the 2008 primary, stated his support for a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions. Mr. Huckabee has also battled for years with the fiscally conservative Club for Growth because he increased spending and some taxes when he governed Arkansas.


Mr. Huckabee has been even more aggressive in shifting from some of his pre-Obama positions that are now seen as heresies. He calls Common Core “toxic” and says he supports only voluntary cap-and-trade compliance.