bush the second

There’s another compassionate conservative who wants to claim the title of the new and improved version of George W. Bush — Mike Huckabee. Huckabee has those valuable social conservative credentials. He’s pro-life, pro-gun, pro-family. He’s also very personable. People like him…and why not? What’s not to like about a Southern Baptist minister with a gift for gab and enough folksy sayings to fill a daily calendar? I have no doubt that he would put a high priority on originalist SCOTUS picks and that he would push for a Federal Marriage Amendment. Unfortunately, those with the view of government’s role in our lives that Dubya and Mike Huckabee share can’t possibly commit to responsible spending or small government. The reason I don’t trust Huckabee on spending is not just because the Club for Growth and CATO panned his Arkansas record.

Jennifer Rubin(NRO)(emphasis mine):

He was not the poster child for smaller government. During his tenure, the number of state government workers in Arkansas increased over 20 percent. Under Governor Huckabee’s watch, state spending increased a whopping 65.3 percent from 1996 to 2004, three times the rate of inflation, and the state’s general obligation debt shot up by almost $1 billion. As Grover Norquist quipped, “We like chubby governors and skinny budgets. Not the other way around.” The massive increase in government spending is due in part to the number of new health programs and expansion of existing ones, including ARKids First, a state program to provide health coverage for 70,000 Arkansas children. Spending on ARKids alone increased 69 percent over a five-year period. Huckabee says it is worth it. He proudly states: “ARKids First is without a doubt, the program I am most proud of. This provides health insurance to tens of thousands of children who didn’t have access to health care before. Instead of a total government approach, this requires deductibles and copays and therefore some personal responsibility. Children can’t learn if they are sitting in class with a toothache, fever, or they can’t see the chalkboard.”

Those are some scary numbers for fiscal conservatives who have been disappointed in President Bush’s recklessness on government spending. Bush seems to be getting the message too late, but at least he’s going in the right direction now. With Huckabee, you don’t really know which Huckabee you will get as President — the one who cut taxes and who was named a “friend of the taxpayer” in his first term, or the one who massively increased government spending and the number of state workers. That’s something to think when trying to decide whether Huckabee is the right guy to put in charge of the bloated federal bureaucracy we already have in D.C.

The similarities with Bush don’t stop with spending. Huckabee is also sympathetic to illegal immigration, just like our President. He is saying all the right things about securing the borders, no amnesty, etc…but when he defends giving in-state college tuition to illegals with good grades, that’s something that might raise a few eyebrows with those opposed to any kind of benefits for non-citizens, even if it was the parent, not the student, who broke the law. He says that his proposal asked those students to apply and become citizens in order to get the tuition reduction, but it’s not clear whether this was a requirement or simply a request. I’m not saying that any of the other presidential candidates are much more solid on illegal immigration. I’m just surprised that so many social conservatives who also care about illegal immigration choose to gloss over Huck’s conflicting views on the subject.

If you liked the Bush presidency, then Huckabee’s your guy. It’s all a question of priorities, I guess, because there isn’t one candidate out there who can make us all happy.

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