Huckabee Turning "Hard-Line" on Immigration to Appease GOP Base

Michael Cooper discovers a "hard-line" Huckabee on illegal immigration.

As he did in his front-page report on the GOP's "Hispanic debate" Sunday, the Times' Michael Cooper employed unflattering terminology (and the exact same words) to paint surprise GOP front-runner Mike Huckabee as moving toward a harsher view of immigration to appeal to the Republican party's conservative base.

Here's Cooper, writing with Paul Vitello in Wednesday's "Immigration Moves to Front and Center of G.O.P. Race."

"Michael Huckabee wrote a book this year in which he lamented the 'seething anger' surrounding the immigration debate, advocated giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship and concluded that in the debate 'some of the rage is fueled by prejudice.'

"But on Tuesday Mr. Huckabee welcomed the endorsement in Iowa of Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, who has sent volunteers to the Mexican border to report illegal immigrants and who has been quoted in news accounts as warning that Congress could set off an 'insurrection' if it offered amnesty to them.

"It was the latest example of Mr. Huckabee's shift toward a harder line on immigration, which has emerged as a hot-button issue in the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination."

The Times clearly prefers the old Huckabee. After characterizing Huckabee's liberal proposal to grant in-state college tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants as "moderate," the Times painted Huckabee's more conservative position as "hard line."

"Mr. Huckabee defended the tuition proposal at a debate two weeks ago, saying, 'We're a better country than to punish children for what their parents did.' But last week he appeared to harden his tone, unveiling a new immigration plan that would give illegal immigrants 120 days to register with the government and leave the country before they could apply to immigrate or visit; it called for deporting those who did not and barring their re-entry for a decade.

"The hard line Mr. Huckabee is now taking differs markedly from his tone in the past. In his book 'From Hope to Higher Ground,' which was published in January by Center Street, he wrote, 'It would be sheer folly to attempt to suddenly impose a strict enforcement of existing laws, round up 12 million people, march them across the border, and expect them to stay.'"