Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I Still Like Fred Thompson; But Just Who Is Mike Huckabee?

Fred Thompson has easily been the recipient of the most free publicity of any non-candidate in the race for the presidential nomination, not all of it necessarily favorable, yet if anything I am more interested than previously in what he will contribute when he formally declares his candidacy.

But on the fringes of the national consciousness, and steadily moving into the limelight, is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. He is doing very well in the preliminary polling on the upcoming Iowa straw poll, he has been on national television with increasing frequency, and best of all, every time he opens his mouth he makes sense!

I saw Huckabee on Fox News Sunday a few weeks back and was impressed with his responses to some pointed questions from host Mike Wallace. For instance, when asked about a tax increase he had approved in Arkansas he didn't duck the issue as many politicians would, instead he engaged it head on.

The tax increase was specifically for a much needed improvement to his state's roads and bridges, Huckabee said, and was approved by 80 percent of the voters. OK, I am no lover of taxes and especially tax increases, particularly when many states, including mine, are running billion dollar surpluses while touting even more taxes.

But when the voters are given a choice, and they say yes, then I believe it is up to the government to respond accordingly. Case closed. I am not ignoring Huckabee's critics who say there were other tax increases too, but I want to see for myself what they were all about, rather than just discounting a candidate because he doesn't meet someone else's template.

Huckabee also is the first national candidate I have seen who openly advocates the elimination of the income tax, social security tax, gas taxes, cigarette taxes, beer taxes, tax taxes, and taxes on the tax taxes, and replacing it with a one-time national sales tax, known more familiarly as the Fair Tax.

According to a book of the same name that has been circulating for a few years now, written by syndicated radio host Neil Boortz and Georgia Congressman John Linder, the cumulative effect of all the taxes we pay on income and purchases is well in excess of 50 percent on the dollar. The Fair Tax would reduce this burden to a one time 23 cent sales tax on all first-time purchases, (you would pay sales tax when buying a new car, for instance, but not a used car) which would have no negative impact whatsoever on income the government needs to run the country.

In fact the worst impact of the Fair Tax would be to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service, and layoffs of a bunch of tax lawyers and accountants on K Street in Washington, D.C., who make careers out of explaining the annual changes in the 10,000 page tax code. Sorry, but repressive taxation has resulted in the layoffs of far more skilled workers in industries across this country after their companies moved to cheaper pastures.

I'd much rather see a resurgence of productivity based on reasonable operating costs, than the continued employment of a class of people who will have no problem whatsoever selling their skills across the street, rather than on a faraway continent.

Wallace also noted that there was some question as to the accuracy of the 23 cent figure, stating that some analysts believe it is actually higher, perhaps 34 cents instead of 23.

Huckabee responded that the higher figure was touted by a panel the Bush administration appointed to study the Fair Tax. Huckabee disagreed completely with that conclusion, and noted that unfortunately, some members of the panel came from that K Street area with a vested interest in the status quo.

So I'm with Huckabee on that count too.

And, for good measure, I saw him on the news this morning doing a very good job of explaining the defects in the air traffic control system that keeps passengers waiting in misery on the tarmac all too often when they should be on the way to or already arrived at their destination.

It appears that on the national level at least, the Republican Party has a bench with some depth. If you pay any attention to the polls, as I have said before, you would just go home and wait to decide which New Yorker you like best, Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani.

But remember, most of the major media is headquartered in New York, with D.C. as a backup, so it would be much easier to report on two candidates who live within minutes of the primary cable and network news headquarters, than someone who lives out in America!

I was one of those journalists who believed in physically patrolling my beat, rather than relying on telephones and someone else's version of events, so I have no problem with requiring the news organizations to travel out to the rest of the country. I have no doubt that in many cases, not all but many, the media would love to see a subway campaign rather than one based in faraway places, like Arkansas or even Tennessee.

I think America would be better served by a race that requires journeys beyond the Hudson River.

There is a long way to go in this presidential race, and I don't see any reason to commit to any candidate yet until I have had a good chance to check out their positions and beliefs. Obviously, considering the amount of money that Republican donors are holding back until the race narrows a bit, many others out there feel the same way.

Thompson was criticized on some conservative talk shows recently for his choice of a campaign manager who has been an advocate of open borders, which I also oppose wholeheartedly. But you don't vote for candidates based on their staff selections and whatever beliefs may be held by the people who work for them, you vote for a candidate based on what the candidate believes.

I can tell you from experience in the field of political strategy that many people who are good organizers and thus good selections for campaign staff, have personal political beliefs that may be diametrically opposed to the candidate they represent. I guess the best course of action here would be to ask Thompson what he thinks of the entire open border concept and make up our minds based on his response.

(Hint: Henry Kissinger also favor open borders. If Thompson aligns himself with that charlatan, my vote is definitely going elsewhere.)

There are myriad issues swirling around the ongoing debates and campaigns. I believe most of them will be forgotten long before election day next year. I have a ton of local races to keep track of, and issues that will much more directly affect me this November and beyond, that for the moment require at least as much of my attention as next year's presidential race.

But I would bet that a year from now the voters are going to be looking most favorably at the candidate who is strong on defense, strong on national security, strong on support for the troops and the War on Terror, strong on border security, and strongly against all the giveaways that have been falsely labelled by Congress and the media as Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

I don't expect a perfect person to be my preferred candidate because I know it isn't possible. But I do expect honesty, strength, openness to the degree possible in the Oval Office, and most certainly a high level of basic common sense. Is that person out there?

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