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Mike Huckabee Backtracks On The American Dream

Since TNR seems to be the one-stop shop for Huckabee-bashing today, I'll add my bitch-slapping hand to the melee. On Wednesday, the Huck floated his immigration plan, which is designed after the plan anti-amnesty zealot and Isaac Chotiner favorite Mark Krikorian drew up for National Review a couple of years back.

Needless to say, this is a big flip-flop for Huckabee, who last year could be found endorsing Bush's comprehensive immigration reform plan and opining that those who wanted to send home the 12+ million illegal immigrants already here were "driven by racism or nativism." His new plan gives those illegal immigrants 120 days to get out of the country.

He also touts the FairTax as an enforcement mechanism (!), reduces family visas in favor of highly skilled workers, and gets behind something called the CLEAR Act, a piece of legislation that makes immigration enforcement the duty of local police. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation suggested this bill would "inappropriately burde[n] state and local enforcement and provid[e] insufficient protections for civil liberties." 

I don't want to damn the Huck for the company he keeps. But when he rhapsodizes about the American dream and insists that "Governor Huckabee has always been grateful to live in a country that people are trying to break into," he should consider that, in the plan he venerates, to justify the basic policies he himself adopts on how to reform visa distribution, Krikorian sneers thusly about those dream-seekers: "There is [currently] a bewildering array of legal-immigration categories, extending far beyond the goals of admitting world-class geniuses, nuclear families of Americans, and people certain to be persecuted if they return home." Funny, I didn't realize the American dream was only open to "world-class geniuses" and people on government hit lists. Were Krikorian's ancestors in Armenia patent holders or prominent philosophers? (Mine were, or so the legend goes, horse thieves -- but of a particularly enterprising nature.)

Huckabee talks pretty. Liberals gave him kudos last week for saying he doesn't want to punish the kids of illegal immigrants for their parents' sins. But the base was beginning to grumble about his immigration stance, and he quickly served them a delicious reversal. When winger banshees come a-wailin', will Huckabee's policies have any the courage of his compassionate rhetoric?

Last point: maybe even worse than being flip-floppy, Huckabee's new immigration plan adds fuel to Jon's point that he seems to make policy decisions in a highly alarming manner, like when he was "asked about the [FairTax] by fair-tax supporters on the campaign trail, bought the book touting it, and was persuaded." Huckabee says his immigration plan is "partially modeled" on Krikorian's proposal, but if you comb through the whole National Review piece you'll find the Huckabee plan simply IS Krikorian's proposal, with a few extra points about the border fence, the greatness of the American dream, and the FairTax (again: !) tacked on. The echo doesn't inspire a ton of confidence. Compare it to the leading Democrats' health-care plans, which oodles of policy people slaved over to get just right on the details; it kind of feels more like Huckabee's people Googled "conservative plan to fix immigration" and went about posting the most promising thing that popped up. They didn't even ask Krikorian about it. 

--Eve Fairbanks