Huckabee comments on “odd dish”

New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny wrote a story today headlined "Odd Dish for a Diet" — referring to a recipe Governor Huckabee and his wife included on their "Farewell Arkansas" card. 

Huckabee stopped by the Radio Iowa office a few moments ago and I mentioned the Times story. 

"I haven’t seen the story. It’s my wife’s recipe. Did he mention that? It’s one of the old family recipes that we have at Christmas, so every year on our Christmas card we add a recipe and it’s usually one of those things that has been one of her family traditions and this one — it has butter and brown sugar and all of this stuff and bacon wrapped up in it.  Everybody said ‘Huckabee, you’re on this health kick and now you send this recipe for this Death by Green Beans?’ But I haven’t seen the story. I’ll have to Google it later on."

Now, on to our conversation about the presidential race:

"You are here in Iowa," I said. "Are you ‘in it to win’ as somebody else who lived in Arkansas put it?"

Huckagee laughed, then answered: "I can’t imagine anybody getting into the race for president just because they need something to do. The only reason a person would do this would be to win and the only reason a person would do it is because they think the country needs a direction that perhaps they could help provide and certainly, I’ve been to Iowa — I think this is the ninth time — but all the other times were to talk about other candidates or to promote the party.  This is the first time I’ve been to Iowa for the sole purpose of actively looking people in the eye and telling them ‘I’d like to be your president. Would you help me get there?’"

"So, how do you get there?" I asked.  "What are the points that you’re stressing with Republicans?

"I’m trying to remind people that the Republican Party is a party that still can appeal to ordinary Americans but it’s going to have to change the way that it articulates the message," Huckabee said.  " We clearly got fired last November and deserved to.  We had ignored the things that people had elected us to do and when you don’t do the job that you’re hired to do, you get fired and people hire someone else.  That’s what happened.  Now, if we learn from that, we have a wonderful time to rebound.  If we don’t learn from that, and ignore the people of this country, we won’t deserve to win in ’08."

"A lot of voters in 2006 expressed concern about Iraq.  What is your path forward?" I asked.

"We’ve got to give the president the opportunity to put his plan place," Huckabee replied.  "He’s sitting there with military analysts and advisors and the generals themselves on the ground, giving him information that none of us have and while it’s easy for me to be an armchair quarterback from a great distance and act like I could direct the war from my limited knowledge, the fact is only the commander-in-chief has the access to the information necessary to take action.  That doesn’t mean his actions are perfect.  I do think the American people are going to give him this ‘one more chance’ and it really has to work.  General Petraeus has expressed his confidence in the plan and teh United States Senate has unanimously confirmed him.  It’s a little interesting that they would confirm him, knowing full well that he has confidence in the plan that they claim not to have confidence in so is that a political issue or is it truly an issue of conscience?  I don’t know, but what we have to do is let the commander-in-chief make these decisions.  I’m not saying I have confidence they will all work, but right now I haven’t seen the Democrats put forward an alternative plan that specifically lays out what they would do that would be different."

"If Iraq is nto resolved by 2008, are your party’s chances of winning the White House diminished?" I asked.

"I don’t think it solely rests on what President Bush does with the Iraqi war, but if it hasn’t turned the corner and started showing signs toward a decisive victory then certainly that does not put a Republican candidate in a good position in ’08 unless that candidate has a really clear, sellable plan that he can take to the America people," Huckabee said.

"You’ve written a book…How do you articulate that to Iowa audiences who may not have read it?" I asked.

"Well, the first thing they need to do is go out and get that book, don’t they?" Huckabee said, laughing, then mentioning the chapter in which he says politicians must stop thinking horizontally.  "I think that’s the crux of what has to happen in America.  We’ve got a lot of people who think everything has to be left/right, Democrat/Republican, conservative/liberal and I’m convinced that while that is the water that politicians swim in, it’s not the water that the average citizen swims in…They want leaders who will lift them up and not bring them down.  They’re willing to vote for a Republican even if they’re a Democrat.  They’re willing to vote for a Democrat even if they’re a Republican if they think that leader will lead America upward and forward rather than backwards and downward."

"Is that the message, though, that is going to endear you to conservatives in your party?" I asked.

"I think conservatives want the same thing that every American wants. They want competant government.  They want responsible government.  They want a government that’s not excessive beyond what it has to be in order to take care of basic functions of security.  I don’t know that a lot of issues can be defined by ideology. For example, clean water, clean air, afordable housing, good highways, alternative energy sources so we’re not dependent on foreign oil from countries who hate us, a health system that really puts a focus on being well as opposed to being sick — I don’t know that those are ideological issues.  People want an education system for their children that’s functional so their kids aren’t going to waste 12 years and get out and be illiterate. Those are issues that transcend the traditional horizontal continum of left and right and I really do believe they’re the issues that are going to drive us, ultimately, in the ’08 campaign.  Who can talk to us and articulate a vision for those concerns, to make people say ‘That’ll work. That makes sense. I can follow that plan.’  And the person who ignores those issues and tries to be an ideologue or tries simply to act like they can out-president the president on any issue, whether it’s the war or whether it’s how to handle the economy I don’t think’s going to have a lot of credibility."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Huckabee seems reasonable and articulate, both excellent qualities. Unfortunately, his lack of name recognition among this field of candidates (and, unfortunately, since “reasonable” doesn’t win primaries) makes his run a 100 to 1 long shot.

  2. Todd Henderson says

    The New York Times? I can always say I knew Jeff back in the day when he was just a young reporter with the Des Moines Register….
    Way to go Jeff!