Mike Huckabee

Different Reactions to Foreign, Domestic Shootings

The Paris terrorist attack has drawn calls for swift action by many political figures who were largely silent in the wake of the shootings at Umpqua Community College.

The Paris terrorist attack has drawn calls for swift action by many political figures who were largely silent in the wake of the shootings at Umpqua Community College.

The terrorist attack in Paris has prompted demands for swift action by American political figures who were largely silent after recent shootings at Umpqua Community College.

GOP presidential candidates, such as Marco Rubio, said the United States should refuse to accept any Syrian refugees because "they are too hard to vet." Several Republican governors said they wouldn't let Syrian refugees into their states. Jeb Bush advocated for only allowing in refugees who are Christians.

Others called President Obama's strategy too timid and urged stronger military measures, including in a few cases putting U.S. ground forces into the Syrian fray. Presidential hopeful Donald Trump publicly toyed with the idea of closing mosques.

Ironically, most of the Republican officials expressing outrage over the Paris incident were largely silent in the wake of the domestic attack at UCC and other shootings that involved the deaths of American citizens.

Catastrophic events generate outrage and windbaggery. Political finger-pointing follows, too. But that doesn't fully justify the sharp difference in response to foreigners killing Frenchmen as opposed to Americans killing Americans.

People who follow U.S. politics understand the reason for reticence in addressing domestic gun violence – the National Rifle Association and its major sponsors, gun manufacturers. As best we can tell, the NRA has no qualms if politicians rail against gun violence overseas.

Outrage at the indiscriminate carnage in Paris is near universal. It is hard to quarrel with French President Francois Hollande's declaration that the attacks we're an "act of war." It is also hard to dispute that tougher measures may be required to defeat ISIS, which took credit for the Paris massacre.

However, the rage aimed at Syrian refugees seems misplaced. Yes, one of the assailants in Paris apparently smuggled himself into Europe masquerading as a refugee. There well could be other ISIS operatives who have entered Europe under the same guise. But the vast majority of refugees really are refugees, trying to escape from a place where their national leader drops barrel bombs on them and insurgents who enslave and behead them.

Major events in the past, such as the 9/11 attacks in New York City, have unified political leadership. That doesn't seem to be the fashion now. Republicans have blamed Obama for the rise of ISIS. Obama has responded defensively and basically said Republicans have no workable plan to stop ISIS.

New House Speaker Paul Ryan got a taste of political venom when Mike Huckabee called him out for not being strong enough in blocking Syrian refugees, even after Ryan gave an interview saying, "What matters to me is not only do we prevent people from coming in, but we don't bring them in. We've got to make sure we're protecting ourselves."

Where was all that energy when American blood was spilled? Where was the concern about vetting bad actors with guns on our own soil?

Winnowing Presidential Wannabes

Candidates are spending more time talking about airing their dirty laundry than issues.

Candidates are spending more time talking about airing their dirty laundry than issues.

This is the time in the election cycle when presidential candidates spend less time talking to voters than to donors, as well as less time talking about issues than skeletons in their closets.

Viability is determined by how much money you can bank and whether you can withstand blowback from past indiscretions, missteps or wayward relatives.

Take Hillary Clinton, for example. She is weathering attacks about donations from foreign interests to the Clinton Foundation, her use of private email as secretary of state and influence peddling by her younger brother. Mixed in there is the weirdly timed revival of Monica Lewinsky's involvement with Bill Clinton. All this baggage has taken a toll in Hillary Clinton's confidence level, but not her electability. She still leads the field by solid margins.

Clinton isn't alone in vetting political laundry, though in some cases, the vetting doesn't appear intentional. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee flubbed Sunday news show questioning about his endorsement of a diabetes drug that health professionals claim has no proven value. Huckabee, who entered the GOP presidential race last week, also faced questions about his ethics as governor when he purportedly asked friends to shower him with gifts.

Senator Marco Rubio is under the microscope because of his relationship to a political super daddy in Florida. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has received scrutiny for some of his business associations. Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina has been criticized for her performance as the top dog at the high tech giant, for running a bungling campaign for the U.S. Senate and not ever holding elected office.

Then there is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson who has won right-wing disciples, but raised the eyebrows or just about everyone else for some of his political comments, such as one that coupled homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality. He also called Obamacare the "worst thing to happen" since slavery.

Carson's jaw-dropping comments have poached on political space normally occupied by Senator Ted Cruz, who once compared Obamacare to Nazism, but now has enrolled in the national health insurance exchange, and former Senator Rick Santorum, who proudly told the National Rifle Association he gave ammo to his wife for her birthday.

For voters straining to find out what presidential wannabes plan to do about issues such as fighting Islamic State jihadists here and abroad, negotiating international trade deals or reducing income inequality, they will have to wait. This isn't the time to promise what you will do; it is time to air out what you have done. And raise money, piles of money.

This is the American way of winnowing the field of hopefuls. Air dirty laundry early while asking big donors for millions in donations. The candidates who can land on their feet and bag the most campaign cash will be the ones we ultimately get to vote on, whether we like it or not.

Escaping Congress for Radio

Michigan GOP Congressman Mike Rogers is surrendering the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee to become a radio talk show host.

Rogers told Mark Leibovich, writing for the New York Times Magazine, that he is tired of "brand identity politicians" who want to make waves instead of solve problems. Now Rogers will be making his own waves — on radio.

His departure from Congress is part of a larger exodus of Members who say they are weary of DC gridlock, which has plunged congressional confidence ratings into single digits. So far, 40 House members signaled they are quitting after this term. There also are high-profile Senate defections. And that's before involuntary departures as a result of disgruntled constituents.

As Leibovich notes, Rogers' exit is unusual because he is hardly an obscure Member flopping about in the backwaters of Congress. Given his role overseeing U.S. spy operations, Rogers appeared 27 times on Sunday talk shows last year, more than anyone else with a congressional voting card. Rogers appears popular in his House district. He's not leaving because he is disaffected; he is leaving for a better job.

Joe Scarborough left the House in 2001, practiced law for a bit, then joined MSNBC where he now commands the microphone on "Morning Joe." Few Americans paid much attention to Scarborough as an elected official. Now millions listen to him as a talking head.

Trump Out, But Not Forgotten

Donald Trump's whirlwind presidential bid is now history, but his short-lived, volatile candidacy may be illuminating to his GOP colleagues. Even though he will be reduced in history as a footnote to this election, Trump soared in the polls with his in-your-face political style, reflecting a Republican yearning for someone to challenge President Obama toe to toe.

Washington Post political columnist Chris Cillizza described Trump's Icarus-like rise and fall as a cautionary tale for 2012 GOP contenders. He quotes senior Republican strategist Scott Reed as saying, "Donald Trump was an anti-establishment figure who demonstrated the importance of taking the debate right to Obama frontally and hard, which the eventual GOP nominee must do daily to win."

Rob Stutzman, a California GOp strategist, echoes the point. "He had the appeal of a candidate who would brawl with Obama on behalf of the rank and file and create contrast."

The lesson from Trump may be a hard pill to swallow for remaining candidates, Cillizza suggests. "Any sign of agreement — or even willingness to think about agreeing — with the President is viewed as capitulation within some non-insignificant element of the Republican party, many of whom identify closely with the tea party movement."