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What everybody's getting wrong about Mike Huckabee's 'libido' quip
This isn't about a GOP "War on Women" or Democratic identity politics. It's a simple matter of hypocrisy.
 
Oops.
Oops. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On Thursday, at a Republican National Committee meeting, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said some stuff about contraception and "Uncle Sugar" and how Democrats act like women "cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government." Democrats were offended, naturally, and gleefully indignant about another male Republican saying stupid things about women and sex.

On Twitter, two female reporters — CNN's Dana Bash and NBC's Kasey Hunt — sort of jumped the gun and made it sound like Huckabee himself was saying that women can't control their libidos. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the quote "sounds offensive to me and to women." Nancy Pelosi weighed in:

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast turned in a good article about "why women do not love Mike Huckabee." The former GOP presidential candidate has always been "as Old Testament fire-and-brimstone as they come — a biblical literalist," Tomasky said, but "he managed not to come across that way. He cracked jokes. He liked reporters (a media-friendly conservative!). He played rock 'n' roll bass guitar." Well, Huckabee is "just a mullah now":

He’s mad at birth control, which virtually every woman uses and which has been legal in this country for 54 years! And there was no small dose of acid in his voice as he spit out the infamous sentences, and he looked mad. Now, he’s going to be lumped in with [Todd "legitimate rape"] Akin and cited, and very rightly so, as Exhibit B (Akin is still A) in why the Republicans would just be better off not talking about women at all and living with a 12- to 14-point gender gap, because every time one of them opens his mouth it just increases. [Daily Beast]

Republicans jumped in and accused the Democrats of ripping the "Uncle Sugar" and "libido" lines out of context. Once you read the full quote, said Allahpundit at Hot Air, it is, "as anyone who reads at a third-grade level will tell you, a shot at Democrats for practicing an especially narrow form of identity politics, not at women." And "if you take a look at ObamaCare's 'brosurance' ad campaign in Colorado, Huckabee's description seems spot on," sids John McCormack at The Weekly Standard.

Well, Yahoo News' Chris Moody has the context:

Here's the key bit, as transcribed by Slate's David Weigel:

Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women. That's not a war on them; it's a war for them. And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it, let's take that discussion all across America, because women are far more than Democrats have made them to be. [via Slate]

So which is it? Republicans arguing, in the words of Talking Point Memo's Josh Marshall, that "birth control is something for women who can't keep their legs closed"? Or Democrats following what Allahpundit calls their Pavlovian formula: "Known social conservative + something about women + something about sex and birth control = outrage"?

It's probably a little bit from Column A and a little bit from Column B. But neither of those touches on the truly outrageous part of Huckabee's comments.

However you read it, Huckabee is arguing that the government shouldn't be in the business of ensuring that women get birth control. In fact, he made a similar point on his Fox News show just last Sunday: "For Democrats to reduce women to beggars for cheap government-funded birth control is demeaning to the women that I know who are far more complicated than their libido and the management of their reproductive system."

Well, "funny story," said Bill Scher at the Campaign for America's Future: "In 2005, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee signed a law mandating Arkansas insurance plans provide contraception coverage, including church-affiliated organizations such as hospitals and universities." And he wasn't the only conservative "happily embracing contraception coverage mandates in the days of Bush and Clinton," either, Scher added.

The big takeaway isn't identity politics or gender warfare — it's hypocrisy. "If Mike Huckabee ever wants to meet Uncle Sugar," Scher said, "he need only look in the mirror." Ouch.

 
Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.

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