Republican sideshow

People wonder why Mike Huckabee would come out with a book that violates Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, which is not to criticize another Republican, and trashes the wholly deserving Mitt Romney.

Is it that Huckabee wants to get Romney out of the way so that he can emerge pre-emptively as the GOP alternative to Sarah Palin in 2012?

That assumes Huckabee wants to be president. He doesn’t, at least not as much as he wants to make money. He thinks the best way for him to make money is to exploit media, celebrity and the popular culture.

He cranks out chatty, pedestrian books at a rate of nearly one a year. Once there was a horrible school shooting in the state where he was governor. In a few months he was in bookstores with a cash-cow hard-cover titled “Kids Who Kill.”

But now this newest chatty, pedestrian book, “Do the Right Thing,” which also was the title of a Spike Lee movie, offers the Huckster’s best profit opportunity yet. That’s because he’s now known nationwide for having run surprisingly well this year for the Republican presidential nomination.

He shot up to second place and got out of it precisely what he had wanted all along. That was a talk show on Fox and a Paul Harvey-like gig with ABC Radio.

Political books can make money. But they tend to fall flat if they fail to arouse the gossip-addicted modern media. You need to make headlines. You need to get blogged about. You need to get on the talk shows. You do that with something personal and titillating, such as getting tacky about Romney.

As it happens, Huckabee couldn’t stand Romney anyway. The former Arkansas governor is a firefighter’s kid from Hope, Ark., a Baptist preacher and former pastor who worked his way through college and has never had anything other than what he could extract from the taxpayers or parishioners and wrangle from his communications skills. He carries a chip on his shoulder, reveling in his outsiderism, his being an underdog.

Wholly conversely, Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, comes across as what he is, a slick rich businessman from the privileged class.

It’s true that as a presidential candidate Romney made himself out to be the social and economic conservative he had not remotely been as governor. It is true that he was a hedge fund guy who threw his own millions at an unctuously pandering campaign while Huckabee was financing his on a shoestring and performing much better on simple talent.

So Huckabee gleefully wrote a few things in this new book about what a phony Romney was, thereby attending both to his financial interests and his petty instincts.

Among other things, Huckabee whines in this book that Romney never called to congratulate him the night he won the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses.

I had not known that losing candidates were obliged to do that in a presidential primary. On Super Tuesday last, for example, did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton call each other a dozen times each, whenever a state would get called for one or the other? Or did they wait for all the states to come in so that they could phone each other only once for a general congratulations?

This is an altogether unseemly sideshow. You have a historic president-elect who is trying to build a Lincolnesque administration to tackle a seemingly impossible job leading a country beset by a bad economy, two wars and general fear and agitation. And you have this pulpit refugee and Fox talking head trying to settle a score over a perceived slight from a man who spent millions from his personal fortune so he could get outdone by the pulpit refugee and Fox talking head.

No wonder people are saying the Republicans are flirting with irrelevance.

John Brummett, an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, is author of “High Wire,” a book about Bill Clinton’s first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@

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