An Interesting Email Exchange with Mike Huckbee Spouse: Janet Huckabee


janet mike huckabee.jpg
Janet and Mike Huckabee at the Grand Hall of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion
In 2004, an associate of a friend began a correspondence with Janet Huckabee, wife of then Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. His concern at the time was that Janet Huckabee was simply too aggressive and snarky at a polling station when challenging those who did not show identification at the polls — and in some cases, sending people away when it was, in fact, their right to vote whether or not they chose to show identification.
I wrote about the situation in October 2004 and thought that even though the Arkansas First Lady might not have known that voters were not required to show identification at the polls, her aggressive behavior seemed to some to be more hostile towards voting participation than inclusive.
The email correspondence below also refers to some “charity waitressing” that Janet Huckabee did at a Waffle House. While former First Lady Huckabee does make clear her high regard for those working at Waffle House, the citizen who was writing these emails was disturbed that there was no acknowledgment by the Huckabees or others that Waffle House staff were working for bare bottom wages and had no health care.
The next exchange deals with the Huckabee First Couple registering at a wedding registry with Target Department Stores and Dillard’s for friends attending their farewell party at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. Janet Huckabee took dramatic exception to the right of the press or of citizens to raise questions about this strange incident.
While this practice by the Huckabees may seem odd and inappropriate to many Americans, it was also something that Bill and Hillary Clinton did when leaving the Governor’s Mansion. Well, not exactly. As I understand it, the Clintons welcomed gifts — but they didn’t register at Target.
In any case, the exchanges reveal something about ‘temperament’ and seem relevant to the Huckabee bid for the White House.
The correspondence begins with Nancy Bingham, personal assistant to the then Arkansas First Lady.
Janet Huckabee then takes over the long-running correspondence herself.
I have blocked the name and email address of the person who had the exchanges with Janet Huckabee and her staff, but I am leaving the time stamps on the emails so that any interested parties can confirm their authenticity through freedom of information act inquiries.
The first email I have acquired raises questions about the appropriateness of Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee serving at a voting polling station — where she later kept challenging the identities and voting rights of many who came to the polling station — reportedly African-Americans for the most part.
From Arkansas Citizen to Nancy Bingham, Personal Assistant to Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee, 19 October 2004:

10/19/2004 09:37 AM
Dear Ms. Bingham,
As a citizen of the State of Arkansas, would you please pass on to the first lady that I believe it hugely inappropriate for her to be volunteering at a polling station. Serving at the position that she does, surely she can see the conflict of interest.
Perhaps the first lady might do better to volunteer with a local charity or some other worthy cause. If not, perhaps the Waffle House might have her back?

From Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee to Arkansas Citizen, 19 October 2004:

Subject: Re: Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2004 14:21:16 -0500
I received your e-mail concerning my working at the polls. I am sure that you understand that if I can pay taxes and serve on a jury, I certainly can work on the polls. I , by the way, volunteer at several charities and the Waffle House has already said they would give me a job.
So, I guess the question for you is what is my conflict of interest? I am not an office holder, I don’t get paid by the state and I am not a criminal. I don’t see your point, but thanks for your e-mail of concern.
Janet Huckabee
forwarded by:
– – Nancy Bingham
– – To: First Lady/Governor’s Office@Governor’s Office
– – 10/19/2004 10:06 AM

Then in November 2006, when Mike and Janet Huckabee were leaving office and the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, they hosted a party and registered under a “wedding registry” so that friends could buy them farewell gifts.
The person who had the email exchange with Janet Huckabee over the polling station had another exchange of correspondence with the then First Lady.
Note from Arkansas Citizen to Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee, 15 November 2006:

Subject: Re: Gift Giving.
11/15/2006 04:04 PM
Dear First Lady,
I find your recent foray into the world of freebies not only tacky, but very disheartening. Is this proper behavior or the sitting governor and his wife?
I think not.
Of course a small, intimate house-warming would be fine, asking for things such as the ever-handy cork-screw or the new toaster. But asking for things in this number and in this manner (for the world to see), well, I think you might have crossed a line.
If your family honestly needs these home accoutrements, perhaps a part-time, no-health insurance job might be in order. Do I smell Waffle-House?
Please reconsider, for the dignity of the state.

Here is the interesting, somewhat defensive response from Janet Huckabee about the wedding registry affair. Note that she copies her husband, Governor Mike Huckabee, on her response.
Note from Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee to Arkansas Citizen, 16 November 2006:

Subject: Re: Gift Giving.
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2006 09:29:23
I am not asking for freebies and I am sure that I can buy anything that I want. You, as most of the so called journalists, have stirred up and boat load of untruths and trouble. If it were just me that these articles are attacking it would be one thing, but when my family, my children, my mother and my friends who love me see read and hear these things it hurts.
Perhaps you don’t understand invitation only. It was for a select few through an invitation, not the public. For you to call me tacky and to say I am displaying improper behavior is the true disheartening part.
You don’t even know what is going on, you merely take a blog or article and make your nasty remarks. How sad is that?
As far as the part time no health insurance job goes, why would I want that? I have been working full time, with health insurance, since July.
So again , you don’t know what you are talking about. My last thought with you on this is simple. How dare you insult some one who is working at the Waffle House? They have far more class than you and I would be honored to work with them, share a meal with them, or have them over to the Governor’s Mansion for dinner long before you would be invited. They and I have class, not you.

I should note that I respect Janet Huckabee’s proclivity to respond to constituent emails. There may be more to these stories than that which of I am aware, and I would be more than happy to run any serious response to this commentary from her — on both The Washington Note and Huffington Post.
But until then, the best registries in town are Crate & Barrell, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, and yes — Target, over at Potomac Yard.

— Steve Clemons


14 comments on “An Interesting Email Exchange with Mike Huckbee Spouse: Janet Huckabee

  1. Dee Van says:

    Keep informing people. You must have asked the good Lord for Wisdom. You seem to have a lot of it. Some people you can’t educate their minds are closed. If you get a $400. tax break this year from the stimulus package, will you end up owing that $400 at the end of the year? I am glad you brought out the stimulus package and demonstrated that it couldn’t possibly have been read. Why is Obama holding it for 4 days in secret, is he changing some things, or is he actually reading it? I do not trust him.


  2. Dee Van says:

    Keep informing people. You must have asked the good Lord for Wisdom. You seem to have a lot of it. Some people you can’t educate their minds are closed. If you get a $400. tax break this year from the stimulus package, will you end up owing that $400 at the end of the year? I am glad you brought out the stimulus package and demonstrated that it couldn’t possibly have been read. Why is Obama holding it for 4 days in secret, is he changing some things, or is he actually reading it? I do not trust him.


  3. karen marie says:

    ‘As far as the part time no health insurance job goes, why would I want that? I have been working full time, with health insurance, since July.
    So again , you don’t know what you are talking about. My last thought with you on this is simple. How dare you insult some one who is working at the Waffle House? They have far more class than you and I would be honored to work with them, share a meal with them.”
    the above quoted final two paragraphs in mrs. huckabee’s second email, in my opinion, demonstrate unequivocally (if her expression of astonishment that her acting as an election worker hasn’t already) how completely clueless she is. of COURSE she wouldn’t take a part-time job with no health insurance when she already has a full-time job WITH health insurance … and how exactly did Arkansas Citizen “insult” people working at Waffle House? it’s a truly amazing mind that can miss the point and express it in two opposing statements.
    it is true that the wife of a candidate is not running for office but her intelligence speaks volumes about his.


  4. pauline says:

    imo, what Janet Huckabee says in her e-mails to a particular e-mailer (BTW, do we know if she knows this person?), says little about her approachability, truthfulness and overall character.
    Compare this carefully discovered snippet with how foul-mouthed, lamp-throwing, national-health-care-wannabe-czar Hillary has behaved as first lady!
    Every person has flaws. I know which personality I could tolerate!


  5. Swanns Way says:

    I think Steve raises interesting and valid points with these emails. They point to a troubling inability on the part of the Huckabees’ to draw distinctions between personal and private life.
    This has broader implications. It is especially troubling in terms of what it says about their propensity for letting their particular brand of Christianity leak into aspects of policy. It also shows a troubling lack of concern with using a personal position to influence political outcomes (the polling booth incident). After what we have been through in the past 7 years we would be foolish not to pay attention.
    As far as WhiskeyKacks snarky and elitist comment about alternative weeklies goes. Look no further than the fabulous work that the Orange County Weekly has done in uncovering Republican corruption linked to “America’s” Sherriff Mike Carona


  6. whskyjack says:

    If I was a betting man I would bet your “concerned citizen ” emailer, works for the local Little Rock alternative weekly. Probably reads his bad poetry at the tuesday night open mike, at the ‘Java something’ coffee house. May have been going to college at the time. His snark just drips with small city, liberal sophisticate wannabe. I have to give Mrs. Huckabee credit for giving an honest response to ,IMO,a less than honest email.
    Hardheaded liberal and Dan Kervick have done a better job of saying what I have to say then I can.
    Just one thing to add. I recently visited family and friends in rural southern Missouri, Huckabee plays well there not only with the
    christian conservative but also with the liberals and moderates in my family. My impression is that it is Huckabee’s brand of populism that is as attractive as his Christianity.


  7. TokyoTom says:

    I’m with Dan. This is guaranteed to be unfruitful, if not counterproductive.
    Steve, when did you stop pulling the wings off of flies?


  8. Dan Kervick says:

    I guess the point here is that Janet Huckabee is a tacky and indiscreet bumpkin who writes poorly and lacks the social grace to be first Lady. Maybe she shops at Walmart and holds tupperware parties too. I’m sure David Broder and Sally Quinn are scandalized. But I hope people don’t pursue this snobbish tack much further, because it’s likely to backfire and only create much popular sympathy for the Huckabees. I descry a “checkers” speech on the horizon.
    I seem to recall that Arkansas governors have the second-lowest governor’s salary in the country. So I don’t begrudge them a little going away bash.
    We might also want to remember that spouses of presidential candidates are not actually running for anything.


  9. Linda says:

    It doesn’t much matter to me if a potential First Lady is naive, limited, or whatever. The important thing about both Huckabee and Romney is clear in Rutten’s analysis. This country was founded with a secular government in order to protect freedom of religion, and that has been its strength. People and candidates should not be judged on the level of their religiosity, but on their records and the quality of their deeds. I worry about the possibility of policy being faith-based rather than based on facts and scientific knowledge.


  10. Carroll says:

    My bad, I thought these e mails were from Ms. Rommey.
    Don’t know anything about Ms. Huckabee. I assume they aren’t wealthy like the Rommeys and so gifts are welcomed…but still, bad form. Althought I can see from the above post on her how she might have not realized how this looked. Her friends should have confined the gift plans to themselves and spread the word privately so it didn’t look like an invitation to the public to give them gifts. However the Clinton’s take the cake on the tacky gifting thing…considering they knew they would be rolling in their own money soon and could afford to buy what they wanted.
    I don’t really see any similar culture background though between the Huckabees and Jimmy and Roseanne Carter. I think the Carters may have been a bit more wordly about their religion than the Huckabees.
    In the South as elsewhere, there are Baptist and there are Baptist. I had an uncle who was Baptist and highly respected in his community… cocktail ritual at his house was around 6:30 every evening…his view was mostly moderation in everything and that complete avoidence of liquor was a “silly rule” he wasn’t going to observe…so he didn’t. LOL


  11. Chuck Dupree says:

    I agree with hardheaded liberal, if Huckabee can overcome the skeletons in his closet he’ll be a formidable nominee for the Republicans. He’ll bring out the folks Bush has alienated; and alienating most of Bush/Cheney’s core constituency, properly considered, won’t cost him nearly as many votes as he gains from the Southern Christians. Edwards is the only Democrat who’s likely to beat him straight up.
    Now if the scandals stick, it’s a different matter.


  12. hardheaded liberal says:

    Clio, you might want to take a look at Janet Huckabee’s bio on the campaign website,
    I am a “yellow dog Democrat,” but I am also a “recovering” Southern Baptist, son of a preacher, and I have lived more than fifty years in South Carolina. I’ve been around Southern evangelical preachers’ wives often enough to feel a lot of sympathy for Janet Huckabee. Though I would never vote for her husband, I think that his own naivete may be the main flaw that will keep him from getting the Republican nomination.
    This lady is a survivor of cancer of the spine who came back from successful treatment of that cancer to run a marathon, according to the bio. She is also a member of the Board of Habitat for Humanity International. She apparently has participated often in charitable house-building activities.
    Looking at the open and almost childlike expression on her face in her pic on the campaign website, I would expect this lady to be a bit naive. She is about 51 years old but she did not finish a college degree until about four years ago. She may very well be a “first in her family” college attendee and/or “first in family” college graduate.
    This lady is from the culture of Jimmy and Roseanne Carter, not “Isabella of Spain, Henry VII and Louis XV.” She is not a child of privilege like Mitt Romney or Chris Dodd, nor was she a bright, education-focused academic superstar like Bill Clinton who was inducted into the ruling elite through Yale Law School and a Rhodes Scholarship. Barack and Michelle Obama have had paths to politics (education) similar in some important ways to Bill and Hillary. But Janet Huckabee and her husband did not even get the introduction to national circles that Jimmy Carter got by being an engineer who worked under Admiral Hyman Rickover in the early years of the U.S. nuclear sub fleet.
    I’ll bet that Janet Huckabee was right at home working behind that Waffle House counter and that the regular staff loved working with her. I’ll bet that she was genuinely flattered to be told that she did such a good job behind the counter that Waffle House would offer her a job if she wanted it. Hillary Rodham Clinton would have a bad taste in her mouth if she got such an offer, as would the wives of all the other presidential hopefuls.
    I also think Janet Huckabee was confused and hurt by the snarky e-mails from Arkansas Citizen. Janet’s defensive responses certainly did not came from the arrogance of unquestioned privilege, as Clio thinks. The arrogance of privilege may respond to attacks with anger or condescension, but NEVER defensively.
    Defensive responses (including counterattacks) come from a person’s insecurity, and the arrogance of unquestioned royal privilege is never insecure when insulted by one of the hoi polloi. Arkansas Citizen’s e-mails to Janet H are dripping with arrogant sarcasm; I see neither arrogance or sarcasm in Janet Huckabee’s responses.
    Steve, both you and Clio have responded to Janet Huckabee’s responses through the same filter you would use to evaluate Hillary Clinton or Judy Nathan. Wrong filter, distorted results.
    I would guess that 60+% of the voting population nationally would sympathize completely with Janet Huckabee’s confusion and hurt and that fewer than 25% would sympathize with Arkansas Citizen.
    PS If Mike Huckabee overcomes his lack of money and his lack of any substantial organization to get the Republican nomination, he would clean Hillary’s clock in the Electoral College, and latent racism would give him a dangerous edge over Obama, especially in swing states like Missouri and Ohio. The truth is that John Edwards, and MAYBE Bill Richardson, are the only Democratic hopefuls who could beat Huckabee if Huckabee can keep his momentum building all the way to the Republican nomination and beyond.


  13. Carroll says:

    I find Ms. Rommey’s replies odd. Why such a pissy personal attack back on the writer? The e mailer was legitimately making two very good points, by associating them with Rommey’s own connection to the two…even if it was a bit snarky.
    It was Rommey’s obligation here to control herself since she was in the superior position.
    Be interesting to know if this is a trait of her’s or just an isolated outburst to that particular e mailer.


  14. clio says:

    The righteous need not explain or apologize. They are not, indeed cannot be, wrong.
    The subtext here is not Pat Robertson or even Torquemada. It is Isabella of Spain, Henry VII and Louis XV.


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