Today National Review Online presents an interview with a former Arkansas governor from a place called Hope.
Same Hope, different governor.
Republican Mike Huckabee just finished up over a decade as governor of the Natural State. And word is he may think he’s a Natural for another executive position, this one in a White House in D.C.
Before announcing anything, though, the governor has a book to sell, From Hope to Higher Ground: 12 Steps to Restoring America’s Greatness. (Coyly, he ends his book with: “Perhaps there is yet another chapter of my life yet to be lived in public service. It is one of the important, yet most difficult decisions that I face, but this much I do know — should I choose to again enter the arena and engage in a battle, I will do so because I still think that it really matters for people to go from Hope to Higher Ground!”) And with that in mind — his presidential pondering and his publisher — he took questions this week from National Review Online Editor Kathryn Lopez as part of his From Hope to Higher Ground tour.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: The title of your book worries me: From Hope to Higher Ground. No offense, Governor, but I don’t even want to be reminded of Hope, Arkansas, given our recent White House history there. What audacity to use Hope! Why would you?
Governor Michael Huckabee: My slogan will be: “GIVE US ONE MORE CHANCE!” Seriously, Hope is a good place and “hope” is what makes America the greatest nation on earth. I not only was born there, but grew up there and it serves as a perfect metaphor for what I think has to be the centerpiece of a winning GOP effort — we need to restore the hope and optimism that marked our party with visionaries like Ronald Reagan.
Lopez: Speaking of hope, give me a little: Tell me Hillary Clinton will never be president of the United States. Please.
Governor Huckabee: If I do run and get the nomination, then rest easy — she won’t be. If the party selects someone else, well….
Lopez: Would there be some tragically ironic touch in a former governor of Arkansas killing off her hopes for the White House?
Governor Huckabee: Hardly tragic!
Lopez: More directly: Are you planning on running for president? Why would you? Haven’t you lost enough (the weight, a Senate race…)?
Governor Huckabee: I’ve only lost one race — my first — and learned much from it. I’ve gone on to win repeatedly against the odds. The weight loss was so I would be a smaller target!
Lopez: You recently said that if you ran you “would be the kind of Republican who doesn’t scare the living daylights out of people who are in the center or slightly to the left.” Is anyone who takes a harder line on immigration than you do (like National Review folks, for instance) “scary”?
Governor Huckabee: Of course not. What is scary is that we might nominate someone whose words are conservative, but actions are not consistent or one whose tone and spirit causes us to lose the “Reagan Democrats” and the middle class of middle America.
Lopez: What’s the ideal federal immigration policy — that’s the right “tone and spirit,” respects the rule of law, and actually keeps us safe?
Governor Huckabee: An orderly and efficient system in the USA to process those who we need and want in our economy as well as a truly secure border.
Lopez: Everyone — including Barack Obama — seems to cite Ronald Reagan on the trail. What does it mean to be “Reaganesque”?
Governor Huckabee: To have clear convictions, articulated in an easy to understand manner, and communicated with optimism and a civil spirit toward all.
Lopez: The question that is on many a politico’s mind these days is: How will a Mormon fare running for the White House — especially with evangelicals. As a former Baptist pastor, what say you?
Governor Huckabee: The faith of each person who runs for president will be subject to scrutiny — be it mine or anyone else’s. It’s fair to ask any of us what we believe and if we are in sync with our particular faith. If not, then where and why not.
Lopez: On the weighty issues: Here where I am in New York, transfats have been banned from restaurants. Is that the kind of thing you’d like to do? Or is your health nuttery more personal-responsibility based?
Governor Huckabee: I tend to favor the emphasis on personal responsibility and believe that government’s urgent role is to help shape attitudes as to why healthy behavior is critical to our nation’s physical and economic health. We can’t force others to eat right or exercise, but we can and must create incentives so it becomes more appealing. When the issue involves the rights of others, it changes the dynamics. For example, I didn’t favor banning smoking in restaurants only because that punishes a customer, but I did support banning smoking in all workplaces (which we did in Arkansas) because that protects the workers from a toxic and harmful substance.
Lopez: “The only thing as troubling as redefining marriage is defiling it with halfhearted commitments, infidelity, and divorce,” you write. How exactly do you propose getting that message out to a culture that isn’t even united in outrage about gay marriage? What should a presidential candidate be saying?
Governor Huckabee: Marriage is the most important and primary institution in our society — created by God before the creation of the church or state and forms the essence of a civilization. Marriage means something and to change the only definition it has had for all of recorded human history to appease advocates for alternative lifestyles is inappropriate.
Lopez: In your book, you take aim at congressional “out-of-control spending habits.” What are you looking for from the Republican minority this session?
Governor Huckabee: To exercise both fiscal discipline and fiscal focus on the things that actually build up the nation’s infrastructure instead of building political clout.
Lopez: Did you read E. J. Dionne on you the other day? What did you think?
Governor Huckabee: Sure did. Nice story from someone who is self-described “left of center.”
Lopez: In your book you write: “The question for Iraq is no longer whether we should be there. We are there. Now is the time to clearly and firmly define our goals, and set a realistic timetable for accomplishing them.” Did the president do any of that in his surge speech last week?
Governor Huckabee: I think he tried, but I’m not sure he has convinced the average American as to how we will know we have won in Iraq.
Lopez: What would a President Huckabee have said?
Governor Huckabee: We cannot continue to stretch our National Guard and Reserve troops with repeated and lengthy deployments that take these supposedly part-time “citizen soldiers” from the families, jobs, and communities.
Lopez: Do you watch 24? If so: Can we learn anything from Jack Bauer to help us win this war we’re in?
Governor Huckabee: My wife is addicted to the show and I got her the last season’s boxed set for Christmas, but after dealing with a state legislature for over 10 years, I’m not as fond of watching people blow things up.
Lopez: What are you currently reading?
Governor Huckabee: National Review, of course! Other than reading my book (and urging all of America to do the same!) I’m reading The Way to Win by Mark Halperin and John Harris.
Lopez: War on Terror? War on Islamic Fascism? What would President Huckabee call it?
Governor Huckabee: It’s a War against the West — and all the above led by those who abuse their own religion to justify their bitter anger.
Lopez: You admit to using a laptop, Blackberry, iPod, and wristband GPS regularly. What’s the latter for? What’s most played on the iPod?
Governor Huckabee: The GPS is for running; keeps my distance, time, pace, and running log. My iPod has a variety, but mostly classic rock like Stones, Led Zeppelin, Mellencamp, and a good mix of modern country like Brooks and Dunn and Alabama.
Lopez: Do you read your morning papers online or on paper?
Governor Huckabee: Online when traveling; on paper when at home except for out-of-town papers which I still read online.
Lopez: Thanks, Governor Huckabee. I look forward to seeing you next week at the National Review Institute’s Conservative Summit. Care to preview your speech? Any big announcement planned?
Governor Huckabee: We’ll see!