I worked for years with a newspaper executive who was so enamored of his own fibs, he sometimes lied even when it hurt his cause. When he was caught red-handed, he'd just give you a zoned-out stare and proceed as if nothing had happened. But unlike Mike Huckabee, he never tried to get off the hook by saying he "misspoke."
Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and a leading prospect for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, took the "misspoke defense" to a new low this week, when his spokesman -- "misspokesman?" -- used that canard to dismiss criticism of Huckabee's statements to a right-wing radio host that President Obama "grew up in Kenya," and that this upbringing provided the leader of the free world with some scary, anti-American views.
Huckabee is not the first politician to claim that his lying was merely misspeaking -- that honor belongs, I believe, to Richard Nixon's press secretary Ron Ziegler in 1973. Hillary Clinton, Richard Blumenthal, Mitt Romney and Donald Rumsfeld are among the politicians who have followed suit in recent times. Charlie Crist, trying to have it both ways in the 2010 Florida Senate race, preferred the even wormier "If I misspoke" construction to explain his diametrically opposed statements about President Obama's health care bill. (Such post-reality pols as Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and John "I never said I was a maverick" McCain seem to believe they have transcended the need for any explanation of their falsehoods.)
But Huckabee was heretofore widely seen as a genial straight-shooter whose ultra-Conservative ideas might not prevent him from playing well with those who disagree. Other endearing qualities -- he's folksy, has a sense of humor, plays bass in a band and used to be obese -- seemed to underscore his humanness, if not necessarily his humaneness. Hell, he was liked, really liked, by the crew on Morning Joe.
If Huckabee lost that good will with his comments about our president, he made things worse when he yukked it up with Fox News's Bill O'Reilly Wednesday, blaming left-wing media for making a stink about his use of the word "Kenya" when he obviously meant "Indonesia," where, he now claimed, Obama really grew up. Huck went on, in this and other interviews, to contrast Obama's misspent youth in an alien culture -- Kenya, Indonesia, Mars, who cares? -- to such normal American activities as Little League, Rotary Clubs and Boy Scouts.
The truth, of course, is that Barack Obama spent 14 of his 18 pre-college years in Hawaii, playing basketball, doing good things for his community, earning excellent grades and meeting girls. He never so much as set foot in Kenya as a kid, and spent just four years in Indonesia.
But enough about the location of Barack Obama's youth. Where, inquiring minds wonder, did Mike Huckabee spent his formative years?
There is one thing about l'affaire Huckabee that hasn't gotten any coverage at all, as far as I can tell. As Richard Nixon liked to say before he obfuscated about the matter at hand, let me make one thing perfectly clear: Contrary to popular belief, Mike Huckabee did not grow up in a town called Hope. He spent his childhood in bucolic Mayberry, North Carolina. There he learned all about the evils of evolution, climate change and abortion from his dad, Gomer Pyle -- come on, it's not hard to see the resemblance -- and Gomer's cousin Goober.
When Mike was ten, Rock Hudson famously married Gomer. The two men -- two and a half men if you count Goober, who still pitched in during those lonely months when Rock was in Hollywood with Doris Day -- raised young Mike as their son until he went off to apprentice with Floyd the barber, another Mayberry icon.
As for how Mike garnered the name "Huckabee," here's an even rarer tidbit: Rock, post-nup, assumed the name Rock Pyle, but insisted that young Mike take on the first two letters of Hudson's last name -- HU -- and the last two letters of his first -- CK, to form Huck. Then, worried that young Huck might be confused with the notorious Marxist radical Huck Finn, Gomer borrowed the "A" and the "Bee" from Aunt Bee, Mayberry's matriarch, and voila: Huck-a-bee.
What? You say Mayberry, Gomer, Goober, Floyd and Aunt Bee are all fictional? And you say Rock Hudson never even married Jim Nabors, who played the fictional Gomer? And Mike Huckabee has nothing to do with that America-hater Huck Finn?
Okay, you win. If I misspoke, I'm sorry.