Thursday, March 6, 2008

Character Makes a Difference – Mike Huckabee

I’ve purposely held this review back so that no one would start shouting about my getting into the political scene or endorsing a candidate. I got the chance to meet Mike Huckabee at the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio, Texas, where I picked up a copy of this book and he graciously signed it, smiled and joked a bit with me, and shook my hand. The process took longer at the cash register of the LifeWay booth than in the presence of the governor. He won’t remember the encounter except that he did a book signing there and met a pile of Baptists. Anyway—here’s my thoughts on this book, although they are posted several weeks after the reading of the book.

© 2007 B & H Publishing Group, Nashville

A quick glance at the copyright page of this volume reveals that it combines material previously published by the former Arkansas governor in 1997 (Character Is the Issue) and 2000 (Living Beyond Your Lifetime). Glancing further at the Introduction and the Table of Contents gives the reader a feel for the book. It is divided into three parts—part 1, background on what it is that brought Huckabee to the political place where he recently ran for the presidency; part 2, a general call to living a life of character; and part 3, a collection of selected speeches from Huckabee printed in the form of appendices rather than chapters. The book boils down to a simple primer on character and behavior.

The historical matter is presented, as one would expect, from Huckabee’s point of view. In the telling, the governor presents a case that indicates that people should do their best to rise above the goading of enemies, seen and unseen. Also in the telling, Huckabee comes across as a magnanimous person—something that is difficult to swallow when we see him for a politician.

The advice on character and the building of such, we see much more of the preacher in the background of the politician. Huckabee leaves no question as to where he stands in either the political or the religious arena. He has no qualms in quoting the Bible and bringing to his writing the assumption that the Bible is and ought to be the foundational document for life in general. In his analysis of the biblical passages he uses, he stays pretty close to his Southern Baptist roots. One flag that might be raised on this point is the secularization of the exegesis that may be a little too preach-y for the mainstream politicos and a tad over-simplified for the deep-thinking theologs out there.

The inclusion of part 3, the appendices, seems to be the examples from Huckabee’s public political persona that show how he has tried to marry his faith with his public life, living what he says. The speeches often read like the sermons of his early career, even if they are not scripturally based lessons but challenges to do the right thing in politics, education, or disaster relief.

As a reader for young politicians, I’d recommend this book. As a readable poly-sci text, I’d give it the thumbs up. As a usable offering for teaching people how to do politics in America, I’d have to say that it falls a bit short. Is it a likable book? Sure, it even makes Mike likable (at least in my opinion) to some of those who would be his detractors.

Does the book achieve its purpose? I’d say so, because the appearance when it did, gave the governor more opportunities to glad-hand potential voters just as he was starting his bid for the oval office. It certainly paints a pleasant portrait of Mike Huckabee, making him personable and wise in his daily decisions. Is it worth your time? Sure. I’d give it 4 out of 5 reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, February 5, 2008

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