Mike Huckabee defends compassionate conservatism against Club for Growth and Glenn Beck

Scrapping with Glenn Beck and the Club for Growth back to back isn’t the smartest way to bolster one’s conservative credentials during primary season, but that’s exactly what Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee did this week.

The FOX News host went after the anti-spending group Club for Growth on his Tuesday radio show. Huckabee said he was defending potential GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who earned the Club’s ire for supporting universal health care in the late 90s, and more recently, for bashing free trade. But moments into his radio segment, it was clear that Huckabee was out to settle a score.

“According to that group, I’m also a tax-loving socialist. During the 2008 election they cherry-picked some factoids out of context from the deals I had to make from a ninety percent Democratic Arkansas legislature,” Huckabee said on his show. “Under their criteria the things that Ronald Reagan had to do as governor and as president probably would have made him a tax-loving socialist unfit for the White House as well.”

The segment was evidence that Huckabee is still sore over an attack ad that Club for Growth ran against him right before the Ames straw poll in August 2007. “There once was a governor from Hope, Arkansas, who raised taxes like there was no tomorrow,” reads the ad copy. “Higher sales taxes, gas taxes, grocery taxes, even higher taxes on nursing home beds. Raised spending by 50 percent too. Who is that liberal tax and spend Arkansas Governor? Bill Clinton? No. It’s Mike Huckabee.”

Later in the week, Huckabee found himself on the receiving end of a Glenn Beck tirade, in which the soon-to-be-former FOX News host called Huckabee a socialist for endorsing First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. This time, Huck hit back on his PAC site.

“This week Glenn Beck has taken to his radio show to attack me as a Progressive, which he has said is the same as a ‘cancer; and a ‘Nazi.’ What did I do that apparently caused him to link me to a fatal disease and a form of government that murdered millions of innocent Jews?” reads Huckabee’s statement.

“I had the audacity—not of hope—but the audacity to give respect to the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to address childhood obesity. I’m no fan of her husband’s policies for sure, but I have appreciated her efforts that Beck misrepresented–either out of ignorance or out of a deliberate attempt to distort them to create yet another ‘boogey man’ hiding in the closet that he and only he can see.”

The statement also hits Beck for conspiracy-mongering, but (as one commenter points out) doesn’t directly rebut the claim that Huckabee is a progressive.

That’s likely because Huckabee’s idea of conservatism–the compassionate kind–shares some similarities with progressivism. Namely, an interest in improving society and culture through social engineering and more effective, but not necessarily smaller, government.

It’s not the first time Huckabee has been called a progressive. In 2007, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg called Huckabee a “right-wing progressive,” adding, “What he wants government to do certainly differs in important respects from what Hillary Clinton wants, but the limits he would place on governmental do-goodery are primarily tactical or practical, not philosophical or constitutional.”