August 17, 2007

The Roundup: Hucksters on Main Street

By: John Tabin

The big news out of the Ames straw poll last weekend was a surprisingly strong showing by Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who placed second. Huckabee beat out Sen. Sam Brownback, who came in third, even though Brownback spent more on the straw poll than Huckabee.

Much of Huckabee’s margin came from straw poll participants bussed to the event by, the organization that advocates a radical reform of the federal tax system that would replace the income tax with a national sales tax. There’s a certain irony to Huckabee’s dependence on tax reformers, though, as he seems eager to make the free market wing of the Republican party his enemies.

Following his win, Huckabee did a victory lap in an hour-long talk with reporters and bloggers at a Capitol Hill restaurant on Wednesday. Echoing themes he harps on regularly, Huckabee waxed populist about Republicans’ alleged fealty to “the CEO making $100 million instead of the guy who gets laid off because of that.” He declared that he’s “for Main Street, not Wall Street” — a bit of a poke in the eye to the roughly 50% of American households that own stock.

Thanks to a history of tax-hiking Huckabee has gotten poor marks from the Club for Growth. His response is to dismiss the Club — which has done more than any other organization to elect candidates committed to low taxes and low spending — as the “Club for Greed.” It’s a telling remark: Huckabee is both remarkably thin-skinned and entirely indifferent to reaching out to the economic right. His endorsement of the Fair Tax — where his economic conservatism begins and ends — is just so much smoke; no president will pass the Fair Tax without allying himself with the factions who will do the political and intellectual spadework to make such an ambitious reform possible. If Huckabee’s lip service wins over the crowd, they’re an awfully cheap date.

Barack Obama’s inept groping toward a foreign policy continues. Following up promises to do photo-ops with dictators, invade Pakistan, and take nuclear weapons off the table in Central Asian anti-terror operations, Obama declared this week that, in Afghanistan, we need more troops “so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.”

The assertion that US forces in Afghanistan are “just air-raiding villages and killing civilians” — besides creepily echoing Taliban propaganda — is easily refuted by a perusal of the numerous reports on ground operations in that country.

It’s certainly possible to imagine a politician as charismatic and talented as Obama growing into a credible candidate for the presidency. But Obama was only elected to the Senate three years ago, and he won his race thanks to the collapse of viable challengers in both the Democratic primary and the general election. His series of rookie mistakes underscore that by jumping into presidential politics so fast — and he’s only 46, so it’s not as if there was any rush — he’s bitten off more than he can chew.

Ben Stevens, son of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, was hired earlier this month by Bering Marine Corp. Roll Call reported this week that Ted Stevens has used his influence in Washington to funnel over $300 million to Bering Marine’s parent company over the past six years.

This undoubtedly could be a coincidence. But meanwhile, both Stevenses are currently embroiled in a massive federal corruption investigation. The FBI, IRS, and Departments of Commerce and the Interior are probing improper relationships between the oil company VECO Corp. and numerous Alaskan politicians. VECO executives have pled guilty to bribing or attempting to bribe five state representatives (three of whom have been indicted) and have said in court documents that they illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates. One of the unnamed candidates is believed to be the former head of the state Senate, who happens to be Ben Stevens. The VECO probe, incidentally, also involves Alaska’s buffoonish at-large Representative Don Young.

Seismologists are currently warning that Pavlof Volcano on the Alaska Peninsula could be set to erupt, and while an eruption is unlikely to threaten local towns it may disrupt air travel. It is unknown whether this will affect the delivery of the enormous sacks of federal dollars that are apparently shipped to cronies of Alaskan politicians on a regular basis.

John Tabin is a columnist for Brainwash.