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Monday, December 17, 2007
posted by Kyle Hampton | 11:28 PM | permalink
From James Taranto at the OpinionJounal's Best of the Web:

Some of our astute readers have noticed that we do not seem terribly enamored with Mike Huckabee, who by some measures is, for the moment at least, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. A few have asked why--a question with a complicated answer. We thought we'd spend the week outlining the reasons for our aversion to Huckabee.

Our initial reason for being put off by him falls under the heading "all politics is local." One day about two years ago, we saw him speak twice in New York--first at a fund-raiser for his nascent presidential campaign, then at the Monday Meeting, a gathering sponsored by our friends James Higgins and Mallory Factor. At the fund-raiser, Huckabee said something that made us nervous (quoting from memory, not verbatim): We don't have a health-care problem in this country. We have a health problem. The Monday Meeting is off the record, but we don't think we're violating any confidences if we say that Huckabee said nothing inconsistent with this there.

What does Huckabee mean by this? Blogger Jason Steffens, describing a Huckabee appearance in July of this year, elaborates:
I told him that I agreed with his statement that we do not have a health care problem in this country, we have a health problem, and asked him what he envisioned the federal government's role to be in improving citizens' health. He initially explained the basis for his belief that there is a health problem in this country, not a health care problem. He said that we have great health care, but we are too focused on intervention rather than prevention.

He noted that much of the problem is chronic disease and that can be attributed to three things: 1) overeating; 2) under-exercising; and 3) smoking. Other politicians do not focus on prevention because it will involve a cultural attitude shift that will not happen in the span of a presidential term. Gov. Huckabee then discussed, in general terms, shifting incentives away from fixing health problems and toward preventive health care and the success he had in Arkansas doing that.

Huckabee practices what he preaches: A few years ago, he famously lost 110 pounds. And inasmuch as he's just offering commonsense health advice, we certainly don't disagree. Whether healthier lifestyles actually would lower health-care costs is a trickier question. After all, in the long run, we're all dead, and most of us are sick first.

However sensible Huckabee's admonitions to live healthy may be, though, it troubles us to hear them coming from a politician, especially one who aspires to the most powerful position in the world. Living in New York, we've had experience with nanny-state zealotry in the executive: Thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former chain smoker, there is virtually nowhere in the city we can go to enjoy a cigar. Huckabee has said he would take this policy nationwide.

We're not an absolutist about this. We do not, for instance, favor decriminalizing drugs (sorry, libertarians). We'd be happy with a return to the status quo ante, say, 1985. We admire Rudy Giuliani and Ronald Reagan even though the former gave us a ban on smoking in most New York City restaurants (but not bars) and the latter, the federal drinking age.

Our trouble with Huckabee is that he simply seems too intent on telling people how to live their lives. Hooray for him for losing all that weight. We could stand to lose a few pounds, too--but we'd rather do it without Washington's "help."


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