It wasn’t widely reported—but maybe it should have been.
It wasn’t widely noted—but maybe that will change.
The words came from one of the lower-ranked candidates—but maybe that, too, will change.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s vision of a “Cure Strategy” was the most hopeful and persuasive policy platform put forth at Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate.
Yet for the most part, the MSM coverage ignored Huckabee. Instead, the coverage was the usual collection of cliches and superficialities. As far as the MSM was concerned, the big news was whether or not Carly Fiorina successfully punctured Donald Trump’s ego-balloon.
But while the human drama of the debate was certainly interesting—conflict sells newspapers, or, to use the new parlance, gets clicks—the policy substance is ultimately more important.
That is, one individual is going to be elected to the White House in November 2016, and that victor will have either good policies or bad policies to put forth.
As Ronald Reagan liked to remind us, “Ideas have consequences.”
And so it was fitting that the Republican hopefuls gathered to debate at the Reagan Library. For the most part, the GOPers rose to the occasion, raising important issues, even if the MSM was still enamored of its simplistic Donald-Trump-vs.-the-World storyline.
Yet Huckabee offered the most interesting idea of the evening, declaring, “I really believe that the next president ought to declare a war on cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, because those are the four things that are causing the greatest level of cost.”
Huckabee is exactly right. We should declare war on devastating and costly diseases; after all, they have declared war on us. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) alone is destroying the lives of millions, and AD care is costing the US well over $200 billion a year, headed toward a cumulative $20 trillion by mid-century.
In the past, as Huckabee said, the United States has mobilized huge resources, public and private, to cure or eliminate such terrible diseases as polio, scarlet fever, smallpox, and AIDS. The result, in each case, was spectacular success—millions of lives saved, as well as trillions of dollars saved. How does that work? Easy: Health is a lot less expensive than illness. It’s cheaper to beat than to treat.
So what’s the hang-up now? Why is it news that Huckabee wants to carry on a successful policy? The problem is that for the last quarter century, the country has been totally focused on health insurance, pro and con. That is, on the finance of healthcare, as opposed to the science. And while health insurance—getting the economic, legal, and constitutional elements right—is important, a moment’s reflection tells us that health itself is more important. Ask yourself: If you had to choose one of the two, good health or health insurance, which would you rather have?
At the Reagan Library, Huckabee put the issue in useful context, reminding us of the power of the presidential bully pulpit: “John Kennedy said, ‘We’ll go to the moon in a decade and bring a man back,’ and we did it.” Huckabee continued, “Why doesn’t this country focus on cures rather than treatment? Why don’t we put a definitive focus scientifically on finding the cure for cancer, for heart disease, for diabetes and for Alzheimer’s, a disease alone that will cost us… $1.1 trillion by the year 2050.”
If we were to do that, Huckabee added, “We change the economy and the country.”
And while his wisdom has been obscured by the Summer of Trump, Huckabee has been making this argument for a good long while. As I noted back in May, the Cure Strategy is central to his idea of the presidency.
Yet interestingly, Huckabee is not alone; the elements of the Cure Strategy are bubbling up among Republicans. As I have noted, too, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) has been leading a “quiet revolution” on healthcare policy, shifting the focus from redistributive finance to curative science. And he has been joined by many in the House, including Rep. John Katko (R-NY), who supports Upton and who declares boldly, we must invest more in cures. Not raise taxes, just get the money.
And Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), is soon to announce the EUREKA (Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s) Act, aimed at jump-starting our anti-AD efforts. Wicker is hardly a household name, but he has served in the Senate since 2007; indeed, he is so respected by his Republican senatorial colleagues that he was named as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate GOP. So we can expect that Senate Republicans overall will be mobilizing on behalf of the EUREKA Act and the basic idea of cures.
So the wind is at Huckabee’s back. Indeed, it’s likely that others in the presidential field, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), will be coming forth with their own ideas on cures. And that’s what we, as Americans, should want: politicians competing with each other to put forth good ideas about making diseases go away. May the best man—or woman—win.
Yet for the time being, among the presidential pack, Huckabee has this space to himself. And that makes Huckabee pretty special.