Did Fox News Ruin Huck?

So in another item from Steve Waldman’s fine Tilting at Windmills column in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly, Steve suggested that the nice, friendly, interesting Mike Huckabee he met in the early 2000s and that the MSM celebrated in the 2008 primaries had been basically ruined by the six years he hosted a show on Fox News:

He evolved into an uninteresting, standard-issue religious-right pundit. He repeatedly said that Obama grew up in Kenya. He defended Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin. He champions David Barton, who argues that the Founding Fathers did not believe in separation of church and state. He even mocks Michelle Obama’s healthy-eating efforts, even though being the Biggest Loser (in terms of pounds, not votes) was his claim to fame once upon a time.

He’ll still do well despite his pickup-truck-full of new baggage. He might even win the nomination with the help of his Fox fans. But thanks to having spent the last few years pickling himself in the cable TV/talk radio marinade, he won’t become president.

I’ve heard any number of progressive folk who dealt with Huck as Arkansas governor in the early 2000s testify the guy was reasonable back then. I’m more skeptical about the 2008 Huck, whose very favorable MSM treatment was in part a product of superficial characteristics like the bass playing and the jokiness, and in part attributable to the very low threshold set out that year for being a “populist.” Like John McCain in 2000, Huck got enormous value from being a MSM favorite, and played it to the hilt.

Now clearly Huckabee’s done with that persona, and is doing everything within his power to become the perfect Palinesque jackass, stirring conservative cultural resentments and promising vengeance to the falsely aggrieved.

So was Huck “ruined” by Fox News, or are we just getting a less sentimental and more balanced view of the guy he’s been all along? We report; you decide.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.