What happened
Mike Huckabee’s surging candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination has begun drawing attacks, with his past facing increasing media scrutiny as one poll this week showed him pulling into a virtual tie nationally with Rudy Giuliani. Huckabee faced some of his most heated criticism over the revelation that in 1992 he said that AIDS patients should be isolated. “In 1992 it was a different mood,” he said. “That would be a policy that I wouldn't even entertain today.” (Reuters in Yahoo! News)

What the commentators said
Huckabee can’t claim everyone was just ignorant back then, said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). It was “already widely understood” in 1992 that AIDS couldn’t be spread through casual contact, and Fidel Castro and a few people “on the fringes of the American right” were the only people favoring the shamefully coercive practice of quaranting these patients. This is just one more sign of Huckabee’s lack of “fairmindness” on issues he thinks concern only gay rights.

This revelation is certainly “bad news” for Huckabee’s soaring campaign, said Bonnie Goldstein in Slate, especially since he refused to retract his statement justifying his 15-year-old position, which he made while a candidate for the Senate. Huckabee’s position was that AIDS patients should be isolated, that federal research funding should not be increased, and that the celebrities calling for more funding should pay for research out of their own pockets. Why on Earth can’t he say he was wrong?

Three reasons, said Matt Lewis in a Townhall.com blog. For one thing, his “past stand” won’t really “hurt him” at the polls. And he’s right that Americans knew a lot less about AIDS back then—this was just one year after Magic Johnson’s “stunning” announcement that he was HIV-positive. But the main thing is that “backtracking” is never a good idea—it doesn’t satisfy your critics, and it risks angering “supporters who agreed with you from the beginning.”