In 1966, following the contentious presidential election of 1964 in which Barry Goldwater was harshly criticized by fellow Republicans, a political figure named Gaylord Parkinson proposed an eleventh commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
Ronald Reagan adopted this admonition, and repeated it frequently for the remainder of his political career. He adhered to it pretty well, too. Today, however, this proverb has been forgotten by some of the Republicans running for their party’s nomination for the presidency in 2008.
With the rapid and generally unexpected surge being enjoyed by candidate Mike Huckabee since mid October, opponents who had previously ignored Huckabee are now throwing barbs at him verbally, in print, and electronically. Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, in particular, have criticized Huckabee for a perceived weakness in his record on illegal immigration and for alleged ethical lapses during his ten and a half year governorship of Arkansas.
Romney’s bitterness stems from the fact that Huckabee supported making the children of illegal immigrants eligible for a state-funded scholarship in Arkansas, provided they were exceptional students, had spent their entire academic career in Arkansas, and were US citizens or were in the process of becoming US citizens. Huckabee’s rationale for this position has two main points. They are that (1) children do not deserve to be punished for their parents’ crimes, (2) an educated person contributes more to society and the economy than an uneducated person. Romney, whose gardener hired illegals to work on his estate, feels that society is better served by deporting 18 year old bilingual honor students who have lived in the United States since preschool age and have committed no crimes. He doesn’t want these people to contribute to our society; he wants them to depart from it.
Thompson’s criticism has been directed at Huckabee’s record on ethics. Indeed, Huckabee was investigated 14 times while governor, and although he was never convicted of any crimes (or even prosecuted), he was reprimanded by investigators five times and fined a grand total of $1000. Huckabee chalks the investigations up to the rough-and-tumble nature of Arkansas politics, pointing out that he was a popular Republican governor at odds with a largely Democrat legislature in a Southern state. Huckabee would surely be in better shape on this front if he had hired Thompson (who is a lawyer) to represent him, considering that Thompson has a long and illustrious history of seeing (and agreeing with) both sides of many issues.
Ultimately it’s unlikely that either Romney or Thompson will make any headway against Huckabee by violating the formerly sacred 11th commandment. The evanglical Christian base that has supported Huckabee so enthusiastically thus far has always been more concerned with real values than imaginary flaws, and recognizes that a man who is unwilling to lose with honor should not be allowed to win by damaging the party.
Post Script: a one-on-one debate between Huckabee and Thompson has been proposed. Sign the supporting petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/32/petition-for-a-huckabeethompson-lincolndouglas-style-debate