Typically, ahead of campaigns, presidential hopefuls will release books filled with reassuring stories about their humble roots and anodyne policy prescriptions. That's not what Mike Huckabee is doing.
The former Arkansas governor recently quit his job as a Fox News host to explore a run and is set to release a new tome "God, Guns, Grits and Gravy" on January 20. Based on early excerpts obtained by US.. News and World Report, it looks like he’s breaking hard from the usual, safe formula.
One chapter titled “Bend Over And Take It Like A Prisoner!” likens Transportation Security Administration (TSA) pat-downs and metal detectors to sexual assault. "After years of his indignity, much of the flying public thinks little of it, and they usually don't complain,” Huckabee writes. “They just dutifully stand there, bend over, and take it like a prisoner." Airport security is apparently a serious pet peeve for Huckabee, who said at a New Hampshire event last year that he was “beginning to think that there’s more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States” after dealing with the TSA.
Another excerpt attacks hip-hop’s first couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for lascivious dance moves during a performance of their duet “Drunk in Love” at the 2013 Grammy Awards. "My reaction: Why?” he writes. “Beyoncé is incredibly talented – gifted, in fact. She has an exceptional set of pipes and can actually sing. She is a terrific dancer – without the explicit moves best left for the privacy of her bedroom. Jay-Z is a very shrewd businessman, but I wonder: Does it occur to him that he is arguably crossing the line from husband to pimp by exploiting his wife as a sex object?"
A publicist for Jay-Z did not reply to an emailed request for comment.
The harshest language is reserved for his critics on the right, however, namely anti-tax group Club For Growth. The conservative group tangled with Huckabee over tax increases he signed as governor and they’ve already pledged to continue the fight should he run for president. Per U.S. News and World Report, Huckabee compares them to the perpetrator of the deadly, 2009 Fort Hood mass shooting, writing, "I really don't think Nidal Hasan is the role model the GOP wants to emulate.”
Club For Growth spokesman Barney Keller was not amused by the comparison. “Mike Huckabee should attend an anger management seminar,” Keller told msnbc in an e-mail. ”He’s still upset that the Club for Growth PAC reported the facts about his tax-and-spend record when he ran for President. He should spend less time whining about valid and factual criticism of his support for liberal policies in Arkansas and more time growing a thicker skin.”
For a party working overtime to win back women, minorities, and young voters, the combination of rape jokes and Beyoncé-bashing isn’t exactly intuitive. But Huckabee has always distinguished himself within the GOP for his willingness to stand up for social conservatives who worry Republicans are leaving them behind on pop culture, gay marriage, and abortion.
Despite the harsher quotes above, Huckabee’s book seems interested in finding at least a somewhat more nuanced middle-ground on gay rights. Huckabee is dead set against gay marriage, but he concedes that there’s no evidence “at this point” that same-sex unions hurt anyone else and suggests religious conservatives should focus on the broader state of marriage instead. "Marriage as an institution is not so much threatened by same-sex couples as it is by heterosexuals' increasing indifference to it,” he writes.
Huckabee isn’t the only 2016er trying to retool their approach to gay marriage in an era where public opinion is rapidly heading towards a pro-equality consensus. Jeb Bush, who once asked “[S]hould sodomy be elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion?” in a 1994 op-ed opposing new legal protections for gays, renounced his old rhetoric and called for a culture war truce this week after a recent federal court ruling legalized same-sex marriage in Florida.
“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Bush said in a statement. “I hope that we can also show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue – including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”
Fellow Floridian and possible 2016 rival Senator Marco Rubio also addressed the court ruling in a series of media appearances. While he told CNN the court’s word was “the law of the land,” he said he supported efforts to appeal the most recent decision. “If they wanted to change that law, they should have gone to the legislature or back to the Constitution and try to change it,” Rubio told Politico. “I don’t agree we should be trying to make those changes through the courts.”