Half a century ago, after the Supreme Court desegregation decision, an Arkansas governor named Orval Faubus stood in the doorway of Central High School in Little Rock with National Guard members to keep African American teenagers out. Now Mike Huckabee is doing a Faubus impersonation in South Carolina.
“You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag,” the former Arkansas governor told a crowd in Myrtle Beach yesterday. “In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole, that’s what we’d do.”
In doing a Faubus to court what remains of the redneck vote, Huckabee might want to recall what happened to his predecessor. President Eisenhower nationalized the Arkansas Guard, ordered them to stand down and sent in troops from the 101st Airborne Division to escort the kids into the school.
As John McCain continues to lead in the polls, Huckabee protesters are dogging his appearances by waving Confederate flags. But McCain refuses to cave in as he did in 2000.
"Probably the worst piece of advice I've ever given to myself," he tells Katie Couric, "was when the Confederate flag was flying over the state capitol in South Carolina, and I decided that I would say it's not an issue I should be involved in, that it should be decided by the people of the state of South Carolina.
"I knew it was a symbol that was offensive to so many people. And afterwards, I went back and apologized. But it was, needless to say, by saying that I wouldn't have anything to do with an issue like that was an act of cowardice."
If Huckabee believes he can win in South Carolina by going back to the past, he should take a look at the later career of Orval Faubus. A decade after the Little Rock standoff, he was managing the Li'l Abner theme park in the "Ozark Mountains, Dogpatch USA."