USA Today reports:
As his campaign has surged, Mike Huckabee has made a series of public foreign policy gaffes, fueling attacks by rivals that he lacks the international experience to be president.
The former governor of Arkansas has confused the status of martial law in Pakistan, raised questions about Pakistanis crossing the U.S. border and wasn't initially familiar with the latest U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear weapons program.
While the missteps are his, a tough foreign policy critique has often been lobbed against governors, or past governors, running for president — Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, among them. But what Reagan, Clinton and Bush had — and what Huckabee seems to sorely lack in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination — was a roster of respected foreign policy advisers to reassure voters on national security issues.
On Friday morning, Huckabee listed former U.N. ambassador John Bolton as someone with whom he either has "spoken or will continue to speak."
At a Thursday evening news conference, Huckabee said, "I've corresponded with John Bolton, who's agreed to work with us on developing foreign policy."
Bolton, however, has a different view. "I'd be happy to speak with Huckabee, but I haven't spoken with him yet," said Bolton, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.
"I'm not an official or unofficial adviser to anyone," said Bolton, who mentioned he'd had conversations with other Republican candidates but declined to name any names.
Asked to explain Bolton's comments, Huckabee aides said the former Arkansas governor had e-mailed with Bolton. Bolton did not immediately respond to a request to address Huckabee's e-mailing claims.
Huckabee said he had also spoken with former State Department official Richard Haass (now president of the Council on Foreign Relations); military analyst Ken Allard; former national security adviser Richard Allen; former House speaker Newt Gingrich; Frank Gaffney, founder of the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think tank; and a "number of military personnel."
A Gingrich spokesman said the two men had spoken, on an unofficial basis, on Friday.
Council on Foreign Relations spokeswoman Lisa Shields said Haass has "briefed Huckabee on foreign policy issues as well as [briefing] many other candidates" in both parties. Shields stressed that the relationship was not exclusive and that Haass was not affiliated with the campaign.
Reached via e-mail, Allen said an intermediary asked him to speak with Huckabee, but he hadn't yet agreed. "I'm gradually getting older, but am fully capable of recalling with whom I have spoken," said the former Nixon and Reagan foreign policy campaign adviser.
Allard and Gaffney could not be reached for comment.
Huckabee argues that foreign policy is less about experience and more about judgment. "The most important thing a president does is to make tough decisions when confronted with a crisis," he said Friday. As a governor, "you've dealt with the unexpected, a crisis, time and time again."
The confusion over Bolton, however, is the latest in a growing list of foreign policy hiccups by the Iowa front-runner. And to succeed nationally, Huckabee must broaden support beyond his socially conservative base by proving his competency on issues such as national security.
On Thursday, he commented on the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, saying the U.S. needs to consider "what impact does it have on whether or not there's going to be martial law continuing in Pakistan." Martial law, as it turns out, was lifted two weeks ago.
Huckabee clarified the point later that day. "What I said was, you know, it was not that I was unaware that it was suspended two weeks ago, or lifted two weeks ago. The point was continued: ... Would it be reinstated? Would it be placed back in?" he said.
Huckabee also raised eyebrows Thursday when he said that Bhutto's death should prompt "an immediate, very clear monitoring of our borders and particularly to make sure if there's any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country."
And earlier this month, Huckabee said he was unfamiliar with the National Intelligence Estimate reporting that Iran hadn't had a program to develop nuclear weapons since 2003.
Huckabee's lack of foreign policy experience has fueled a host of critics. On Thursday, rival Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Bhutto's assassination highlights Huckabee's lack of foreign policy experience.
"You know, I don't think it's appropriate to respond in a political way," Huckabee said.
Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denounced Huckabee's critique of the Bush administration as having a "bunker mentality" when it comes to foreign policy.
"The idea that somehow this is a go-it-alone policy is just simply ludicrous," she said at a State Department news conference. "One would only have to be not observing the facts, let me say that, to say that this is now a go-it-alone foreign policy."
Saturday, December 29, 2007
USA Today reports: