This news is the latest chapter of a long story. Since the Founding era, there has been a lively interplay between journalism and politics. During the 1790s, Philip Freneau edited a Democratic-Republican newspaper while working as a translator under Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Louis Howe covered politics for the Saratoga Sun, then went on to advise FDR. More recently, former Chicago Tribune reporter David Axelrod has served as chief strategist for Barack Obama.
Bloggers have noted differences between Huckabee’s policy stands and some of Jim’s past writings. There is ample precedent here as well. When Tony Snow became President George W. Bush’s press secretary, The New York Times quoted columns in which Snow had taken contrary positions or faulted Bush.
Before becoming a journalist, Jim worked in the White House under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He has been a close friend for 23 years, and I asked him why he signed on with Huckabee. “He is half Ronald Reagan and half Will Rogers,” he said, referring to Huckabee’s communication skill and popular appeal. The Reagan analogy is instructive. Said the late Lyn Nofziger, a longtime Reagan aide: “Ronald Reagan was an includer, rallying people to the left of him and to the right of him to his cause.” Though he was clear in his conservative philosophy, Reagan brought a variety of perspectives into his administration.
That is sound management practice. As Peter Drucker wrote:
Decisions of the kind the executive has to make are not made well by acclamation. They are made well only if based on the clash of conflicting views, the dialogue between different points of view, the choice between different judgments. The first rule in decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement.There are very good reasons to criticize Huckabee’s record. But this appointment is a positive sign.