Sunday Night Bar Fight: The Rove vs. Huckabee Test

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

76 Responses

  1. Burt Likko says:

    Not enough information. I need to know which of the two is better able to distinguish between their personal preferences and beliefs on the one hand, and the requirements of good policy conforms to the Constitution on the other. Certainly, I understand both think that those two priorities dovetail most of the time. Neither would craft a policy that permits for same-sex marriage to be recognized by the federal government. But the one who is better able to distinguish between personal preferences and Constitutional public policy, specifically the concept of equal protection of law, will at least not pass the freedom of conscience laws that create dangerous exceptions to civil rights legislation.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

      FWIW, in real life I think that Huckabee matches this description closer than Rove. Rove has very few core policy preferences and is strongly motivated by polls, particularly internal polls, and thus on catering to the base. Huckabee has some actual principles and has been known on occasion to take seriously the exercise of constitutional rights by others in ways he doesn’t like.Report

      • Barry in reply to Burt Likko says:

        No, Huckabee is just as much an amoral swine as Rove; he just profits from being ‘Reverend’ Huckabee, and from the press having formed an initial incorrect impression (based on his preacher status, and the fact that he rarely foams at the mouth in public).

        See the Politics Blog at Esquire for a start.Report

  2. Mike Schilling says:

    On balance I’d choose Huck. He’d put some awful policies in place immediately but then be satisfied. Rove would feel the need to escalate things every election cycle.Report

    • Thoreau in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      I dunno. If Rove felt that appeasing the base on this is the key to victory then he certainly would. But that requires a calculation that efforts to limit voter turnout for the Dems will remain a viable strategy as his base shrinks.

      If Rove decided that the GOP’s demographic problems doom them unless they soften their stance on gays, he might be better than Huck.

      It really comes down to how he does his calculation. There’s no line he won’t cross, whether to energize his base against a minority, or to sell out his base if it is advantageous for his paymasters.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Thoreau says:

        I’m with Thoreau. I knew a guy who knew Rove from grad school, who was really impressed with his intelligence. I think Rove would look ahead and start positioning to win the next election instead of the last election. Huckabee’s a fundamentalist populist–the only thing he’s suitable for is being a contestant on The Most Dangerous Game.Report

  3. Kolohe says:

    I think I would join the Gay Bolsheviks.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    I suspect that Karl Rove is more likely to figure out the inevitability thing… specifically, those 10% that are on the fence are pretty much destined to become 8ish percent that support SSM and if anybody is able to extrapolate what happened to Eich to the bigger picture down the road, it’ll probably be him.

    Huckabee, whatever he’d do, would do it with a 45/45/10 split, a 40/50/10 split, or a 33/66 split. (That’s principle for you.)

    Both are folks that I hate with different flavors of contempt, but the kind of contempt I have for Rove has to grudgingly acknowledge that the man knows how to read a newspaper and, from there, make an educated guess about what tomorrow’s newspaper is likely to say.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to Jaybird says:

      But he might do republican math.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to veronica dire says:

        We are lucky enough to only have to deal with external polls. The guys who deal with internal polls are the guys who, seriously, need as good feedback as they possibly can. Be self-deluded on behalf of the base in public all you want, sure. Behind closed doors, you need to have as accurate numbers as you possibly can get because, without them, you have no idea where you are.

        Now, there are guys who prefer to live with polls that have been “weighted correctly”… but why would you hire this guy? Assuming blindness, why would you hire him a second time???Report

      • veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        Well, right, in theory. But we watched Rove on election night, and I get the need to put on a brave face. But he seemed — uh — genuinely shocked.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to veronica dire says:

        Good point. So I suppose the answer hinges on whether Rove learned anything from that.

        If he learned the importance of accurate numbers, I think I’d prefer him (on this one issue, anyway) to Huckabee.

        If he instead learned that he doesn’t need accurate numbers to make a lot of money, f*** both of them.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to veronica dire says:

        Rove was complaining bitterly when the Fox numbers guys called Wisconsin(?) for Obama. I can’t picture his throwing that kind of on-air tantrum if he knew they were right, or that the election was lost; all it would do is make him look stupid. (As it did.) He must have thought that Wisconsin was still undecided, and that calling it the wrong way risked influencing other states where the polls were still open,in a way that put Romney’s victory at risk.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to veronica dire says:

        Rove was just a media guy at the time; he wasn’t part of the campaign. Had he been part of the campaign, I don’t think he’d have been surprised.Report

      • zic in reply to veronica dire says:

        Had Rove been part of the campaign, I don’t think the numbers would have been massaged the way they were. Remember: the Republicans held a public self-flogging on that one.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

        @jm3z-aitch — I got the impression (from reading all my queer-leftie-commie blogs) that even the campaign was pretty far into the woods on the numbers. Perhaps not as far as those guys who were “re-weighing” the polls (or whatever they were calling it), but still pretty far. Anyway, I got the impression that Romney was completely shocked that he lost.

        Then again, maybe his people were lying to him. Dunno.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to veronica dire says:


        I believe it was Ohio. And remember that Rove was the guy who managed to pull more Republican voters out of Ohio in ’04 than anyone else thought possible (and no, not through fraud with Diebold voting machines, but the old-fashioned go door-to-door registering people to vote, then giving them a ride to the polls).

        I think it’s likely he was remembering his success there, and thinking, “But I know from personal experience there’s more Republican voters there.” Not an excuse for his idiocy on election night 8 years later, of course; just an explanation.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to veronica dire says:


        That’s what I’ve heard, too, but keep in mind the people on that campaign weren’t Rove.

        In ’04 I predicted 49 states correctly, getting only Ohio wrong. As I learned about Rove’s get out the vote efforts there, it became clear to me. I’m a reasonably bright guy, so I figured out Ohio was a tough one for Bush, but that he really needed it. And I didn’t even have much incentive to figure it out. Rove’s a reasonably bright guy who did have the incentive, so he figured it out long before I bothered to and set to work rectifying the problem.

        That’s why I don’t think he would have fallen for the BS if he’d been on the campaign. He’s demonstrated that he can take a clear-eyed look at bad numbers, take them seriously, and react effectively.

        On election night in ’12, his incentives were to act as a pundit. I half suspect he’d been busy with something or other in recent weeks and hadn’t actually bothered to put time in thinking about the polls, Nate Silver, etc., but was just going by the seat of his pants.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to veronica dire says:

        Yeah, the large, Democratic city the numbers guys were talking about was Cleveland. I don’t know why I remembered it as Milwaukee.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to veronica dire says:

        On election night in ’12, his incentives were to act as a pundit.

        And a partisan — he was very invested in Romney’s victory. And of course after the results were in, he led the ritual denying of a mandate to the other side, when I presume he was smart enough to realize that after all the results were in, Obama would get a clear majority of the popular vote (in fact it was over 51%, the most since Bush pere in 1988.)Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

      My answer is the same as Jaybird’s.Report

  5. veronica dire says:

    I might be wrong here, and obviously if this were real I’d have to do much more thinking, but I lean toward the Huckster.

    Simple reason, he probably seriously believes “Thou shalt not kill,” and I don’t want to get killed. Rove on the other hand has proven to be irrational (election night) and prone to become drunk with power.

    (That said, I really have only the most cursory knowledge of Huckabee. I know all I need to about Rove.)

    I’ll say, however, and by way of criticism, you have carefully constructed this scenario to have as little to do with reality as possible. It says nothing about how I’ll respond to Eich or the remainder of the queer-hating right.Report

    • @veronica-dire Actually, this post isn’t about Eich at all. It’s about Clinton.Report

    • Barry in reply to veronica dire says:

      “Simple reason, he probably seriously believes “Thou shalt not kill,” and I don’t want to get killed. Rove on the other hand has proven to be irrational (election night) and prone to become drunk with power.”

      Is there any evidence that he (a) believes this and (b) wouldn’t happily sh*t-can that principle for political advantage?

      Please also note that the Bible is rather clear on what to do with homosexuals.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Barry says:

        Well, look, this is a pretty broken thought experiment from the ground up, as we discuss below, so I’m not going to put much effort into defending my initial thoughts. But I can give a brief explanation: I’ve known plenty of evangelicals who, while they despise gays in principle, have not set aside their basic human decency, inasmuch as they still have empathy and a sense of justice. Of course, Fox-and-the-like twists their opinions and all of that. But whatever. My gut feeling is that Huckabee would not be the man who led the Salem Witch Trials.

        Rove on the other hand, even if he knows there are no witches, would string up a few dozen women if he thought he would gain.Report

  6. zic says:

    I think I’d go with Rove.

    He is a pragmatist; and he has, at the very least, experienced creating his own demise. He’s amoral, willing to use people, and so the potential loss of people (votes) means he can be, to some degree, prodded.

    Huck? He’s probably a better human. But he’s convinced he’s right, and so it would be a holy war of sorts; I don’t think he’s got room to bend.

    So for me, it’s sort of a question of the man without a conscience who can be swayed this way or that, or the man with a conscience who’s unlikely to consider it might be in the wrong.

    Both are, on the whole, distasteful. And I’m being extremely generous in saying it that way.Report

  7. Saul DeGraw says:

    I think this is a wicked question.Report

  8. I’d go with Huckabee. I think he has the potential for a Nixon-in-China moment. I think it’s at least possible that he’d recognize Church/State separation.Report

  9. greginak says:

    Huck is a True Believer. He knows he is doing Gosh’s will. He will act as he knows Gosh will and let the tears fall where they may. The road to heck is paved by True Believers. Rove is the guy to see the writing on the wall and camping it up to win votes.Report

  10. Patrick says:

    Shoot the hostage.Report

  11. Kazzy says:

    You gave us two sentences of information about Rove and three about Huckabee. You also said that we “must be willing to assume the descriptions of real-life people below are 100% accurate.” I take this to mean that we know only what is offered and must disregard anything else we do know (especially since some of it conflicts with the hypothetical).

    I understand what you’re getting at here, but the reality is I wouldn’t choose either of these men based on just two or three sentences. I would avail myself of more information before making such a decision.Report

  12. J@m3z Aitch says:

    It’s a trick question. Since it’s Tod asking, you know the only right answer is “both of them do it.”Report

  13. Alan Scott says:

    I’d just like to communicate how uncomfortable I am to see straight bloggers whose work I generally admire construct hypothetical scenarios in which I’m stripped of my rights and potentially imprisoned just to make some abstract point about the Brendan Eich controversy.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Alan Scott says:

      If it was a hypothetical choice between two politicians who wanted to (for example) strip women of the right to vote and give their husbands legal control over them, I’d feel disturbed.

      So, yes, good point and thanks for speaking up. It’s useful to be told when we cross a line.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Alan Scott says:

      Yeah, me too. I get the point of the argument but I’m busy being “really? this is “fun” in the Thursday Night Barfight sense? To think about a hypothetical future in which I run a reasonable risk of being locked up or deported?”

      My answer to your question is, if such a scenario were actually to come to pass, I would leave your country or join the revolution.

      (Jay and I actually had this exact same conversation last week about the Handmaid’s Tale type scenarios, which I find equally uncomfortable to discuss. “We’d move to New Zealand.” “But honey, I’d have even more privilege in that scenario, we’d be fine.” “Your choices would be a) Move to New Zealand, because Canada would be at too much risk of falling the same way; or b) join the underground and die a heroic death. It’s not fun to talk about for me.”)Report

      • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

        (I should say, I don’t think either of those guys would actually lock me up or deport me or etc. But in the scenario you describe, I don’t trust that either of them wouldn’t. Please don’t say “running away was not part of the scenario” – that’s part of what makes me so uncomfortable with the scenario, that it quite comfortably assumes a level of assured protection for the ponderer that makes it a fun thing to get het up about.)Report

      • DRS in reply to Maribou says:

        Whatever else is in Canada’s future, there will never be a Republic of Gilead. The evangelical types just aren’t as populous up here – personal I think the cold repels them. I really think Americans don’t realize how much evangelism seems to have taken over down there until it’s now synonymous with Christianity itself. Biblical literalism is not a big deal and the political parties in a parliamentary system are much less likely to get swept away by a Tea Party-type wave of enthusiasm. Canadians are very suspicious of people who they see as trouble-makers who like to disrupt society for no apparent reason. Politicians who search out divisions rather than commonalities would simply not get elected once people realized what they were really about. So we’re safe, Maribou, come on up.Report

      • North in reply to Maribou says:

        I dunno DRS, Harper is burning libraries in Canada as we speak so there is a limit to Canada’s inherent civilizational foundation.Report

      • DRS in reply to Maribou says:

        “Libraries”, plural, North? I assume you’re referring to the Fisheries archive that was barbarically tossed out when an agency was shut down? The Harper government’s tendency resort to petty attacks on people who are better educated and more experienced in science is not anything new but it’s hardly a civilizational downturn. They got lots of bad publicity for it and they’re not the kind of government that stands up to bad publicity.

        It’s more telling that everytime a backbencher tries to reanimate the abortion discussion that the Harper government uses every procedural tactic it can to shut things down before they get too far.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

        DRS, I grew up in the Maritimes until 18, lived in Quebec for 3 years after that. Most of my family is still in the Maritimes with one sibling in Calgary. I don’t think the US will ever turn into Gilead, but if it does, my concern that Canada would be liable to follow suit would be based on experience (of both countries), not lack of information.Report

      • North in reply to Maribou says:

        Where in the Maritimes @maribou? I was born in Newfoundland but raised in Nova Scotia myself.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

        @north PEI (my family is a little more diaspora’d than that, but PEI is where I lived).Report

      • North in reply to Maribou says:

        We have so much in common @maribou! I was raised in the maritimes on a little potatoe growing island. You were raised in the maritimes on a bigger little potatoe growing island. We both fell in love with guy yanks and moved to ‘murica.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Alan Scott says:

      Apologies, @alan-scott , if I offended — it certainly hadn’t been my intention. I Nor (to apologize as well to Maribou), had I intended this to be fun.

      FWIW, I do not think that I see the point as being so abstract as you, especially with 2016 right around the corner.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I have, however, removed the bit that most offends, as I really don’t want to make more heat than fire.Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly — I got this feeling also, and while I was able to compartmentalize enough to give an answer (about which, I have no faith in that response), yeah, this is pretty gross.

        Sometimes I’m tempted to think of examples to present to straight-cis-whatever people, a “How would you feel if X happened?” scenario that is, in my mind, likely comparable to what I experience. Like, a mind game I could present to you that would make you feel how this made me feel.

        But I always stop myself. I mean, I can think of these scenarios — right now I am thinking of a few — but I choose not to type them out.

        Just, no.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly, Then you probably shouldn’t have framed it with the Bar Fight motif? If you had said straight up “I am really worried that something like this will come to pass someday and I would like to have people’s wisdom on which would be worse,” I would probably still have avoided it, but I wouldn’t have felt set up, or whatever it was that I did feel that bothered me on top of thinking about it bothering me.

        Of course, expecting bar fights to be fun probably says more about me than anything else. 😀

        I really appreciate your apology, but “I do not think that I see the point as being so abstract as you” still makes me pretty uncomfortable, Tod. I don’t ever see the point as particularly abstract (and I doubt that Alan Scott does either), which is why I can’t hypothetical about it without getting upset. Conversations like this one make me think of, for example, being a newly-aware-that-she-is-bisexual kid in a place where someone just died of an “accidental” fire but everyone is quite convinced it was arson and he was murdered for being (loudly, unrepentantly) gay, and everyone “knows” the police aren’t doing anything about it, and of how afraid I was. (I don’t know what really happened – I was 16 and frozen in place even thinking about it – but many of the conversations that were had around me pounded home the fact that I was not living in a then-safe city.)

        Despite the many friends and family you would see suffer, and despite my conviction that if things came to a horrific juncture, you would put yourself at all kinds of risk to make them better, I think your relative remove from this conversation, as someone who wouldn’t be directly judged by this Gay Czar person, is making you callous in a way that really doesn’t jive with how incredibly empathetic you usually are. Actually it feels like you ARE being very empathetic, just missing this one piece of not-okay? I’m sure there are others with more to lose in the hypothetical than me, who aren’t bothered by it.

        If you’d broached a serious, direct conversation about whether Rove-types or Huckabee-types are more dangerous to the status quo, or whether we are in actual danger of this sort of backlash (or a less-amped-up, more insidious version) by 2016, I would have been comfortable enough to participate in the conversation instead of turning up just to complain about it. Sorry.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @maribou Yeah, the framing as a bar fight was absolutely a misstep.

        My hope had been to introduce a topic in a way that would get everyone thinking about in such a way that a). it was a surreal enough universe that it was clearly fictional, and still b). attached to a subject they really had investment in.

        As to exactly which point I first went wrong — attaching it to the bar fight, making it fictional, making it too real — I have to think about, but clearly I went wrong.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        Your idea might make a lot of us uncomfortable (which means you’d probably get some pushback, that you might not want to deal with), but if you did so it might be an insightful experience for us cis/straight/white/male types.

        If you’re not comfortable doing so, of course, that’s cool. I just want to say that if you really have an inclination to do so, I’d encourage it (even if I might not be the one who responds most well).Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @james-hanley — Well, it is not the “pushback” that bothers me so much — I mean, I get plenty of pushback now. It is something else.

        Let me see if I can explain. Go reread what @alan-scott and @maribou wrote. Now, consider this: any example I give is going to be something very traumatic, something intense. After all, that is what is needed to make the point. The example cannot be so detached from reality or outlandish that no one will feel anything. No, it has to hit home. It has to threaten the kinds of violence and hate that we face. To do this, to do it well, to have the impact, I need to reference actual real world trauma, the sorts of things that happen to real people.

        Okay, so here is the rub: some people who experience these things might be reading this. If I reference sexual assault, victims of sexual assault will see. Likewise violence. Likewise the terrors of war. To make the point I have to pull real triggers.

        My concern is not for the dude who gets snippy and pushes back. I can deal with him. No, my concern is instead for the combat veteran or the assault survivor, the grieving parent, the modern day slave. Their pain is not my political football, just as my pain is not Tod’s.

        Does that make sense?Report

      • zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @veronica-dire this is a very important and astute observation; an analogy might be that people who experience racism always have to resort to lynching to explain that they’ve experienced racism.

        I struggled with this on the contraceptive mandate threads, where to make the case of the good, it was difficult not to resort to the evil (rape).

        If we think of these types of discussions as the norm and the minority, this does a disservice to both groups; first, for the minority, simply to bring up being treated fairly, you always have to resort to the worst misdeeds — trigger warnings needed here territory.

        But constantly setting up trigger-warning scenarios also does the norm a disservice; for it makes them into aggressors and enemies; it casts blame in a way that can derail conversation pretty quickly. That happened in one of the mandate threads, in fact.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Ahh, that’s different. I wouldn’t ask you to bare your soul and reveal/relive really painful shit for my personal benefit.Report

    • DRS in reply to Alan Scott says:

      I feel the same way as Alan Scott about the many posts about birth control and other women’s issues.Report

  14. North says:

    It depends on what Rove we’re dealing with my Todd and you do not make that clear.

    The Rove of the Bush administration was a ruthless pragmatic political operator but one with a time horizon of only roughly two presidential terms or so. Thus despite the general indications of the polls that opposition to gay rights is a dying cause Rove exploited the sentiment to Bush’s political gain. Now, however, the polls are even more unambiguous about the triumph of gay rights in the hearts and minds of the young. The same pragmatic Rove would be highly likely to advise the GOP to tell their social con base to suck it up and moderate on gays.

    The Rove of the post Bush administration was a media hack idiot with partisan blinkers and appeared more focused on raking in cash for himself from right wing rubes than he did with trying to win the (or any) arguments or political contests. That Rove would probably pack gays into container crates and dump them in the Atlantic if he thought he could get a few bucks from some right wing groups (credit where it’s due: Rove would want a lot of bucks).

    Huckabee is the null position. A choice for Huckabee is a leap of faith really. He may be fundamentally a decent principled fellow and there’s a possibility of some Christian charity but no hope of a reversal or anything approaching a modern approach to gays. Huckabee would be deeply inferior to a smart Rove but highly preferable to an idiot Rove.Report

  15. Barry says:

    J@m3z Aitch
    “I believe it was Ohio. And remember that Rove was the guy who managed to pull more Republican voters out of Ohio in ’04 than anyone else thought possible (and no, not through fraud with Diebold voting machines, but the old-fashioned go door-to-door registering people to vote, then giving them a ride to the polls).”

    Didn’t this also involve an anti-gay marriage initiative?Report