In a critique of certain Tea Party activists, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Huckabee complained Saturday that Republicans who claim that those who disagree with their tactics are not devoted to conservative principles, are hurting the Republican Party. "Legalism — not liberalism is dividing the GOP," he said on Fox News' "Huckabee."
The strategy of some Republicans to shut down the federal government in an attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," was more akin to the battle at Little Big Horn than the battle at the Alamo, claimed Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and 2008 Republican presidential candidate.
"Did the Republicans make a heroic stand as in the Alamo, or a poorly planned and executed assault like Little Big Horn, which was led by a general who failed to calculate the risks, who ignored the scouting reports of the strength of the opposition, and who made assumptions of the battle that proved to not be true? In the Alamo, men fought to the death to protect what was theirs. In Little Big Horn, and last week in Washington, Republicans launched a fight that wasn't the plan of the battle-tested generals, but rather the plan of the newest recruits," he said in his opening monologue.
Though he never mentioned Cruz or the Tea Party by name, the "newest recruits" reference was obvious. Tea Party Republicans led the effort to attach changes to the ACA to the bill to fund the government. This, in turn, led to the government shutdown. Cruz, who is only in the first year of his first term as a U.S. senator, was the most public face of that effort. The week before the shutdown began, Cruz spoke on the floor of the Senate for 21 hours. Though it was not technically a filibuster, it was similar in style to a filibuster.
Cruz and some other Tea Party Republicans have since then claimed that those Republicans who criticized their failed tactics lacked devotion to the conservative cause. Huckabee called this attitude "arrogant and self righteous indignation" because they "elevate themselves to be superior in conservatism because they can cause a train wreck." He also drew comparisons with the Pharisees that Jesus criticized. Drawing upon biblical references and his experience as a Southern Baptist preacher (before he was a politician), Huckabee said the behavior of Cruz and other like-minded Republicans is a type of legalism.
"I've seen what legalism does to the church," he explained. "Legalism is focusing more on how one expresses belief to what one believes. The liberal might abandon the Biblical truth, but the legalist abandons Biblical love. Legalists make the method equal to the message. The facility of the church becomes a focus equal to the fellowship of the church. Legalists fight for an artificial purity that they will claim is based upon the 'truth,' but for them truth is the way they 'do church' more than the spirit with which they do it. It's an arrogant and prideful self righteousness that focuses on self instead of a humble and broken righteousness that focuses on Christ."
Some Tea Party Republicans, such as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, have suggested that Republicans who disagreed with the tactic of shutting down the government should be opposed in Republican primaries. This type of legalism in the Republican Party, Huckabee continued, is a greater to threat to the Party than liberalism.
"Political legalism in the Republican party is declaring that the purity of conservatism is based on following a particular personality or taking a very specific tactical pathway. The Republicans' greatest threat is not from liberals — it's from legalists in its ranks who would rather raise and spend vast money to defeat another Republican in a primary than to defeat a Democrat."
Watch the whole monologue below: