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Romney’s Ask And The Context Of The Campaign

Tuesday, January 1, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Mitt Romney is closing with a very good ad:

Contrast this appeal with

The Des Moines Register poll shows Huck with a 6 point lead, but the agony of the last week continued with the press conference fiasco yesterday and Huckabee’s comparison of foreign affairs to Brittany Spears gossip today. The Register poll also had some good news for Romney that suggests caucus night dynamics might work well for him:

Romney shines in other poll findings. The former Massachusetts governor outpolls Huckabee and his other rivals as the candidate with the experience and competence to lead the country — the highest ranked trait in the poll. Romney also comes out on top as the Republican candidate best able to bring about needed change, and as the contender who is best able to defeat the Democratic nominee in the general election. He ties with Huckabee as the candidate who will be most successful in unifying the country if elected president.

Iowa voters know Romney very well, and these are the sorts of findings that will allow him to expand his national numbers more and more as the campaign goes on. Huckabee has hit his ceiling. Romney is standing on his floor.

The Boston Globe blasted Huck on foreign policy credentials today, which provides a summary piece of all that has ailed the former Arkansas governor for the past week. “That sound you hear rumbling out of Des Moines appears to be a monumental implosion,” wrote Time’s Joe Klein of the “Huckabust,” as he called it.

Perhaps, perhaps not. Having spent the weekend with two very alarming books, I think it is reckless beyond measure to vote for a candidate as feckless about foreign policy as Governor Huckabee. In Douglas Frantz’s and Catherine Collins’ new book, The Nuclear Jihadist, the years 1977 to 1981 mark perhaps the worst series of foreign policy disasters in the history of the Republic, with the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the decision by Pakistan to embrace the nuclear proliferation plans of A.Q. Khan. There is more than an echo of Jimmy Carter’s approach to the world in Mike Huckabee’s rhetoric, indifference to the facts and lack of a foreign policy advisor/team of any stature. We can’t afford another four years of populist foreign policy. With Pakistan with up to 90 nukes, and Iran on the brink, we can’t afford one such year.

Here are the graphs I excerpted a couple of days back from George Weigel’s stunning, relatively short meditation on the war in which we are engaged, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism:

The war in which we now find ourselves began before 9/11. We did not recognize its opening shots for what they were when fatwas authorizing the murder of all Americans were issued from caves in the Hindu Kush, or when American embassies were bombed in East Africa, or when, in the port of Aden, the USS Cole had a huge hole blown in its side by al Qaeda operatives who had rigged themselves into human torpedoes. The war is now being fought on multiple fronts, with more likely to come. Many are interconnected: There is an Afghan front, an Iraqi front, an Iranian front, a Lebanese/Syrian front, a Gaza front, a Somali front, a North Africa/Maghreb front, a Sudanese front, a Southeast Asian front, an intelligence front, a financial-flows front, an economic front, an energy front, and a homeland security front. These are all fields of fire –some kinetic, others of a different sort– in the same global war, and they must be understood as such. Al Qaeda attacks on the United States and American diplomatic and military assets were, for example, planned in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. Places unknown to the vast majority of Americans are know among the most evil places on earth, as one U.S. Special Forces officer puts it; what happens in locales previously unknown save in the most recondite geography bees –North Waziristan– has direct effects on our armed forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. What is being plotted in such places could have devastating effects on the homeland.

Bernard Lewis, the English-speaking world’s pre-eminent scholar of the history of Islam, was reflecting on all of this and noted the difference between our times and the days when he worked for British intelligence, during the darkest period of World War II. Then, he told the Wall Street Journal, “we knew who we were, we knew who the enemy was, we knew the dangers and the issues. It is different today. We don’t know who we are. We don’t know the issues, and we still do not understand the nature of the enemy. Not knowing, and worse, not wanting to know, is lethal. That was proven beyond any doubt on 9/11; any similar events in the future will provide an exclamation point to what we should have grasped by now.

Iowa voters, and those that follow in Wyoming, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina have many local concerns, but I hope they vote with this incredibly difficult situation foremost on their mind.

Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to ActionThe Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World's Most Dangerous Secrets...And How We Could Have Stopped Him

UPDATE: Just read Mike Allen’s summary of reactions to Huck’s bizarre presser yesterday. From his blog at Politico.com:

The national political press corps, which has been wishy-washy and all over the map all cycle had a harmonic convergence yesterday on a single point: Huckabee lost it at his news conference yesterday. “It” being both his stature and, perhaps, the first nominating contest. As pointed out by a colleague, as Huckabee falls back from the number above (which history suggests is more likely than not), the pundits and stories are going to blame it on what Slate’s John Dickerson immediately called “Huckabee’s Nutty Flip-Flop.”
Reporters are wondering aloud if it was “his Howard Dean moment.”
The WashPost makes it the off-lead of the paper, in heavy, hard-news type-“Huckabee Unveils Ad Only to Disavow It,” By Michael D. Shear and Perry Bacon Jr.:
“Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee took an unorthodox gamble in his bid for the presidency Monday, unveiling an attack ad against Republican rival Mitt Romney and then immediately pledging not to run it in the hopes of appealing to the better nature of Iowa voters. Flanked by posters his campaign produced to question Romney’s credibility [‘Enough is Enough’], Huckabee decried gutter politics in America but then directed the attention of scores of reporters and television cameras to a movie screen, where he played the 30-second hit piece on Romney’s honesty and record. ‘I pulled the ad. I do not want it to be run at all,’ he said. But within minutes, the ad was being played on national television and had been posted on blogs and other Web sites — without costing his campaign a penny. The campaign’s decision to not buy airtime for the ad came after an internal debate over how to arrest the damage from a week of critical Romney campaign commercials and several highly publicized flubs by Huckabee, whose sudden status as front-runner in the GOP contest here appears to be in jeopardy.”
Huckabee broke his arm patting himself on the back: “If you gain the world and lose your own soul, what does it profit you?”-a paraphrase of Mark 8:36.
Dickerson: “A transcript of the event will show this response from the press corps: ‘Bwahahahahaha!’ [sound of reporters falling out of chairs, doubled over in laughter].”
To devastasting effect, CNN’s Dana Bash instantly recognized that this was the rare case where the press conference WAS the story and immediately aired sound of the derisive laugher, with the pack of journos-including many news celebrities-clearly laughing AT him.
“HUCKABEE HECKLED” was the CNN title under Dana’s report this morning.
Drudge prominently posted the AP’s Ron Fournier’s “On Deadline” column, which called the presser “bizarre”: “Mike Huckabee may have finally gone too far. … On Monday, he made himself the butt of his own joke, urging journalists to take careful note of the negative ad that he had withdrawn because he wanted to run a positive campaign.”
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