Why Is Mike Huckabee So Damn Nice to President Obama?

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Photo: David Livingston/Getty Images for NAMM

In just the past few days, Mike Huckabee, reluctant-sounding potential presidential candidate, has:

1.) Praised Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative:


"I still think her approach is the right one. I do not think that she is out there advocating that the government take over our dinner plates. In fact, she has not. She has been criticized unfairly by a lot of my fellow conservatives. I think it is out of a reflex rather than out of a thoughtful expression, and that is one of the things that bug me most about the political environment of the day ... So rather than us condemn Michelle Obama, I think we ought to be thanking her, and praising her for what she's done."


2.) Downplayed the significance of the inflammatory sermons of Reverend Jeremiah Wright:


"If people went back and heard every sermon I heard when I was a little kid and some of the more fundamentalist pastors were yelling from the pulpit at me, if they took every one of those sermons and lifted out of them certain phrases and things, it could be scandalous, but only out of the context of the bigger picture. That's why I thought that a lot of the focus on Jeremiah Wright was misplaced."


3.) Defended President Obama's Christianity and natural-born citizenship:


"Frankly, it's inappropriate , wrong-headed, and not helpful to the overall discussion when people try to say he doesn't have a birth certificate or he's a Muslim."


4.) Lauded Obama's example as a good father and husband:


"I think he has been an exemplary husband to his wife and an extraordinary father to his daughters. Frankly, America needs a good role model like that and how can I on one hand argue for the primacy of the American family and not recognize that in his own personal life style he has given us an excellent example of a person who has his priorities straight in marking out time for his wife and raising his daughters in a disciplinary environment in which he recognizes that he the parent is responsible for the atmosphere in which they are raised. And I commend him and salute him for that."


5.) And said some other nice things:


"I have sharp disagreements with President Obama on almost all of his policies .... [But] I don't dislike the man personally ... He's my president. I don't want him to fail."

What does this somewhat remarkably gracious attitude tell us about whether Huckabee is going to run? Nothing convincing either way, actually. On the one hand, it could signal that Huckabee feels no urge to humor the far-right voters who play an outsized role in the primaries, many of whom personally dislike Obama (not to mention his wife) and/or view him as an enemy of the American way of life rather than just a political opponent.

On the other hand, it could be a conscious strategy to position himself as the race's moderate without actually abandoning his conservative credentials in any way. Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich — currently Huckabee's three closest competitors, according to polls — have each shown a willingness to make personal attacks on President Obama, which is not surprising, considering the influence of the "mad as hell," conspiratorial tea party. But not all Republican voters are mad as hell, or doubt Obama on a personal level. Huckabee might be exploring whether there's an appetite for a candidate who offers an alternative to Obama without questioning his motives, intelligence, values, or patriotism.