Huckabee’s newly announced opposition to a federal smoking ban, reported by The Hill, should not be a surprise (nor should it be taken at face value). While the Huckster has a reputation for authenticity, his policy positions have been quite malleable over the course of the campaign. In this case he’s gone from a nationalist nanny-state position — advocating a federally imposed ban on smoking in “public” places — to a weak federalist position leaving the question of smoking policy to the states. As The Hill reports,
At an August 2007 forum on cancer hosted by cyclist and activist Lance Armstrong and moderated by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Huckabee said he supported a federal smoking ban.
“If you are president in 2009 and Congress brings you a bill to outlaw smoking nationwide in public places, would you sign it?” Matthews asked.
“I would, certainly would. In fact, I would, just like I did as governor of Arkansas, I think there should be no smoking in any indoor area where people have to work,” Huckabee responded, triggering applause from the crowd. Part of the interview has been posted on Youtube.com and viewed over 2,500 times.
Calling it a “workplace safety issue,” Huckabee added that the “same reason that we regulate that you can’t pour radon gas into a workplace is the same reason that we shouldn’t allow people to pour the toxic, noxious fumes of a cigarette into a place where people have to work.”
Huckabee’s campaign, however, is backtracking. In its statement to The Hill, the campaign stated, “At a Lance Armstrong cancer forum last August, Governor Huckabee said that if Congress presented him with legislation banning smoking in public places, he would sign it, because he would not oppose the overwhelming public support that such a congressional vote would reflect. However, since such sentiment for federal legislation doesn’t exist at this time, and since he has said that the responsibility for regulating smoking initially lies with the states, the governor believes that this issue is best addressed at the local and state levels.”
Note a few things: First, Huckabee is misrepresenting his August comments. Back then, he said this was a “workplace safety” issue, where he now claims he would only sign such legislation if it had the “overwhelming public support” necessary for such a bill to make it through Congress. Second, Huckabee has not said that he opposes a national ban, just that it should be addressed by state and local governments due to the lack of public support for a national ban.
Given his difficulty acknowledging his own missteps in the past (e.g. all those clemencies, all those gifts, his AIDS remarks, etc.), I am not at all surprised by this apparent turnabout. Recall that within the last two years Huckabee said that abortion policy should be left to the sates, whereas now he proclaims abortion is a “moral” issue that must be addressed at the federal level through a constitutional amendment. I also would not be surprised by a Huckabee administration that flipped on the smoking issue again, citing either “workplace safety” concerns to justify OSHA action, or “overwhelming public support” to justify signing such legislation into law.