HUCKABEE FIBS ABOUT HAVING BEEN REASONABLE…. It’s not clear exactly who he was referring to, but former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee issued a statement yesterday, defending himself against a “recent Internet post.” Apparently, someone noted that the Fox News personality, during his presidential campaign, supported a cap-and-trade policy.

“To put it simply, that’s just not true,” Huckabee wrote yesterday.

The problem, of course, is that it is true. Dave Weigel flagged remarks Huckabee made at the Clean Air Cool Planet conference in Manchester, New Hampshire, just a few months before its presidential primary:

“I also support cap and trade of carbon emissions. And I was disappointed that the Senate rejected a carbon counting system to measure the sources of emissions, because that would have been the first and the most important step toward implementing true cap and trade.”

Part of the problem here is Huckabee’s misstatement of fact. Perhaps he forgot, but three years ago, he supported this policy. Now he denies ever having supporting this policy. Huckabee’s new line clearly isn’t true.

But what I find even more interesting is the larger significance of the party’s shift. It wasn’t too long ago — within the last decade — that there was a basic spectrum of policy positions Republicans accepted on a range of national issues. Not every candidate agreed across the board with every position, but the GOP’s general approach was fairly easy to identify.

On health care, for example, the Republican mainstream envisioned a system involving an individual mandate. On arms control, the Republican mainstream embraced policies along the lines of the original START treaty.

And on energy policy, the Republican mainstream loved cap and trade. Indeed, just two years ago, the ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin vowed to establish “a cap-and-trade system that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions” and pursue “alternatives to carbon-based fuels.”

The point, of course, isn’t just that the Republican mainstream has shifted sharply to the right, it’s that the mainstream has fallen off a right-wing cliff with surprising speed. Positions that were widely accepted by Republicans just a few years ago are now considered communist plots to destroy the American way of life.

The result is a politician like Huckabee pretending not to have taken positions we already know he took. Expect to see a lot of similar instances like these pop up as the 2012 race gets closer.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.