Huckabee and Gingrich: Not a great week for GOP presidential candidates

Conservative columnist George Will takes off on Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich for their comments about President Obama's upbringing, railing against "careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing" presidential candidates.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee at a luncheon hosted by The Christian Science Monitor at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington on February 23. In recent days, Huckabee has had to backtrack from comments he made about President Obama and actor Natalie Portman.

It hasn’t been a great week for Republicans yearning to be the next president.

Mike Huckabee put his foot in his mouth – twice – and had to reel in controversial (and in one case hilariously wrong) comments he’d made.

Newt Gingrich, giving all indications that he’d announce the obligatory “exploratory committee” – the first official step in running – instead merely unveiled a new web site, then was uncharacteristically indecisive in telling Fox News it might be another six or seven weeks before he made up his mind.

Former New Hampshire governor and chief of staff to President George H. W. Bush John Sununu had critical things to say about Gingrich and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Questions have been raised about Haley Barbour’s days as a lobbyist for the energy industry.

Maybe it’s the late winter season, when many street corners are still filled with piles of dirty snow, and the atmosphere is grumbly.

Could that explain conservative columnist George Will’s diatribe against the “vibrations of weirdness emanating from people associated with the party?”

In his Washington Post column to be published Sunday, Will takes after Huckabee and Gingrich, suggesting that they are “careless, delusional, egomaniacal, [and] spotlight-chasing.” (Which sounds more like comedian Mort Sahl than the sober Mr. Will in his bow tie.)

Specifically, Will is talking about comments both men have made about President Obama’s upbringing and family background.

During a radio interview Tuesday on the Steve Malzberg Show, Huckabee went on at some length about how Obama had “grown up” in Kenya. This might have influenced Obama’s view of Great Britain as a colonial power because of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, the former Arkansas governor explained at some length.

When it was pointed out that Obama was born in the United States (Huckabee is not an ardent “birther,” by the way) and never lived in Kenya, a Huckabee spokesman said that his boss “simply misspoke” and had meant to say “Indonesia.” Which doesn’t explain the bit about the Mau Maus, who never made it to Indonesia. Or the fact that most of Obama’s growing up – 13 of his first 18 years – was in Hawaii.

(George Will did not mention Huckabee’s other flap this week – the one where he took after actor Natalie Portman for having a child out of wedlock with her fiancé, from which Huckabee had to back-pedal. It was fun being reminded of Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown, however.)

Gingrich has not claimed that Obama was born anywhere but in the United States. But like Huckabee, he has tried to make a big deal out of the Kenya link.

Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior," Gingrich observes, is “the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."

“I think Obama gets up every morning with a worldview that is fundamentally wrong about reality,” Gingrich told the National Review Online. “If you look at the continuous denial of reality, there has got to be a point where someone stands up and says that this is just factually insane.”

But it’s dwelling on such things, George Will finds, which is a little nutty – not to mention harmful to the GOP’s chances to take back the White House.

“Let us not mince words,” he writes. “There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney, and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.”

“So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced,” Will writes. “But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.”


“Implausible” candidates such as Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Herman “The Herminator” Cain, and Jimmy (Rent Is Too Damn High) McMillan can only be grateful to have escaped Will’s laser.

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