A few weeks ago, right after the dark clouds gathered over Chris Christie’s presidential prospects, some friends and I were having the usual Washington conversation of discussing the rest of the field. After we agreed that it was an awfully B-list bench, someone piped up: Hey, don’t forget Mike Huckabee! He’s losing all the weight!
Clearly, some of that vaporized body mass came out of his brain matter, based on his unhinged comments Wednesday at the Republican Party’s winter meeting. Discussing the GOP’s need to get more of the women’s vote, he said the Democratic Party tells women “they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government.”
He said this, amazingly, in a speech that, in his mind anyway, was all about how the Republican Party is the true friend of women: “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.”
Here we go again. What galaxy do these right-wing men live in? So now contraception is like welfare? I’m reading him right, right? This is what he said—in essence, that birth control, provided by people who think women can’t control their libidos, makes women “helpless.” It’s the culture of dependency again, but this time transferred from the ghetto to the uterus. The Democrats, I guess, want women to go out and have unrestrained sex, so Democrats can then go out and destroy America by distributing these sinful contraceptive devices. So women, you see, are not human beings with agency and volition about their sexuality in Huckabee Land. They’re nothing more than the cat’s paws of the godless, baby-killing Democrats, who want to keep them on the Democratic plantation. The Pill, the welfare check, the Earned Income Tax Credit—all the work of Satan, propagated by the party of Satan.
As with Todd Akin and other recent Republican men who’ve been such marvelous spokesmen for the female side, it’s just hard to believe that this offensive gibberish even came out of his mouth. And not in an interview, as was the case with Akin, who was caught off-guard, but in a prepared speech! How do these men come to these views?
Just yesterday I discovered an old news clip from late 2012, in which some bozo Ohio state legislator is being interviewed on Al Jazeera. He’s throwing lightning bolts around about how evil abortion is, and he’d really prefer if we could ban it all the time. Then the reporter asks: “What do you think makes a woman want to have an abortion?” This genius hems and haws and finally says: “I don’t know. It’s a question I’ve never even thought about.”
What can one say? The man is trying to ban abortion in the state of Ohio, and he’s never thought about why a woman might want one. Certainly he’d never actually asked a woman. That, I think, is what makes these right-wing men say these deranged things. They either never discuss these matters with women, or they discuss them only with women who are as right-wing and moralistic as they are and who don’t just speak as a normal, apolitical woman with the normal level of sexual desire and activity would. So they haven’t the slightest idea what regular women think, nor the slightest interest in it. That’s just incuriosity. But it’s an incuriosity that produces ignorance and intolerance, which is what the GOP specializes in these days.
The thing about Huckabee is that he used to hide this very well. I’d imagine that deep down, he’s as Old Testament fire-and-brimstone as they come—a biblical literalist, right down to Jonah living in the whale’s stomach, the whole schmear. But he managed not to come across that way. He cracked jokes. He liked reporters (a media-friendly conservative!). He played rock ’n’roll bass guitar, for gosh sakes. If he was a mullah, he was at least a good-natured one who didn’t seem threatening.
But after this speech, forget that. He’s just a mullah now. He’s mad at birth control, which virtually every woman uses and which has been legal in this country for 54 years! And there was no small dose of acid in his voice as he spit out the infamous sentences, and he looked mad. Now, he’s going to be lumped in with Akin and cited, and very rightly so, as Exhibit B (Akin is still A) in why the Republicans would just be better off not talking about women at all and living with a 12- to 14-point gender gap, because every time one of them opens his mouth it just increases.
Incidentally, his cluelessness Wednesday wasn’t limited to women. My colleague Ben Jacobs, who was there, tells me Huck rhapsodized about The Beatles, and how he once fantasized about being the “fifth Beatle” and delivered the opinion that they healed the country after Kennedy’s assassination. He has no idea what he’s talking about. They weren’t interested in “healing” anything. Quite the contrary, they started the revolution that split the country in two, the two sides that are still doing battle, and Huckabee sure ain’t on their side. Reactionary fundamentalists of Huckabee’s ilk despised The Beatles in 1964, and The Beatles—authority-haters and atheists one and all (except for George later, but that was very different), and Lord knows great believers in the powers of contraception—would have despised him. Besides which, they already had a pretty good bassist, Bub.
His rewriting of Beatles history is a minor transgression but it’s of a piece. These people live in a morally simplistic fantasy land that’s impervious to facts and to the very real complexities of life. And he’s reportedly thinking of seeking the GOP nomination again? Come to think of it, he’d be perfect.