Huckabee quizzed about Craig’s bathroom arrest

Former Arkansas Senator Mike Huckabee just stopped by Radio Iowa ranch and sat down for an interview in our break room.  (Our sit-down studio was in use.)  What follows is a transcript of the first part of our conversation.

Henderson: "This episode with Senator Craig has made Evangelical Christians in your party say, ‘Why do I even bother voting Republican?’  What do you say to those folks?"

Huckabee: "Oh, it’s not about Republicans and it’s certainly not about Evangelical Christians.  It’s about an individual and he’ll have to answer for himself but we all do whether we’re Republican, Democrat or Independent so I think people, you know, are maybe going a little far when they look at, you know, one person’s actions and suddenly, you know, want to rewrite all of America’s political landscape." 

Henderson:  "But I’ve heard folks say the Foley episode to them was indicative of a party that turns a blind eye to the idea that homosexuality is a sin and lets people in rather than taking a hard line against homosexuality."

Huckabee:  "I’m not sure I understood."

Henderson:  "That people knew about Foley’s proclivities and did nothing because he was an elected Republican official and they wanted him to stay in office."

Huckabee:  "And they kind of looked the other way."

Henderson:  "And they looked the other way when the view of Evangelical Christians is that someone should be confronted when they live that lifestyle and sort of shown a different way."

Huckabee:  "I think they certainly should be very clear if they know that somebody is doing something that is as wrong as what Mark Foley was doing, dealing with underage pages, you know, that’s incredible.  But let’s not have a double-standard.  Let’s not forget Barney Frank and Gerry Studds.  Those weren’t Republicans and I don’t remember a whole lot of people, you know, demanding their ouster, so I just want to make sure that we apply the standards fairly across the board and frankly, that means if Republicans do something wrong, we ought to call it as it is.  You know, I kind of got in trouble for saying last week that, say whatever you will about Bill & Hillary Clinton, but throughout the challenges of marriage, they kept their marriage together and they should be applauded for that.  At a time when Republicans talk about the importance and value of marriage and family, give them credit for staying together, working through what had to have been the most incredibly challenging and sometimes humiliating issues that any American couple has gone through.  Again, I don’t know what Larry Craig did.  I don’t know exactly what the facts are, but if it turns out that he’s not been honest and you know really has dishonored his position, then Republicans ought to be just as adamant about consequences for him as they would have been for Bill Clinton."


Henderson:  "I wanted to ask you about a speech you gave at the Lincoln Day Dinner in April.  You enumerated problems with Katrina — this is the Katrina anniversary.  You talked about problems with mining standards — there’s been another mining accident.  You talked about problems with the Veterans Administration and I told someone that night if someone had given that speech at a Democratic convention, people would have been on their chairs cheering.  People would have been crying.  It was deathly silent because Republicans weren’t ready to hear negative things about their president or his administration.  Do you sense that Republicans are ready to hear that change message and you’ve been articulating that for the past few months — do you think they’re ready to hear that?"

Huckabee:  "I wasn’t being criticial of the president, but I was being critical of government that’s shown itself to be, in many cases, incompetent.  People expect their government to get results.  They expect their government to show some competence and they’re paying dearly for that govenrment and they have a right to expect that government will not do more than it has to do, but what is does do they do expect it to do well.  Let’s face it.  Government hasn’t performed well.  We haven’t closed the borders.  We’ve not dealt with that issue that has got a lot of Americans exercised.  We’ve not improved the health care system.  We haven’t dealt well with the aftermath of the Gulf Coast hurricanes.  We haven’t done really a superb job in terms of creating a safer work place, and yes, for miners.  What we’ve done with veterans is disgraceful and shameful, asking these guys to go and put their lvies on the line and then come back and take a number and wait like they’re at Baskin Robbins and we’ll get back to them when they, in fact, are in desperate need of care.  There’s no excuse for that.  I’ll not make excuses for any government, I don’t care if it’s Democrat or Republican.  What we need is people who will be honest and tell the American people the truth. This is incompetance and I’m less concerned about whose fault it is as is somebody willing to sit in and fix it."

Henderson:  "If it’s incompetence, doesn’t that all trickle up to the top?  Doesn’t the buck stop with (the chief executive)?" (I can’t hear the end of my question on the recording, as the mic is positioned in front of Huckabee.)

Huckabee:  "There’s always going to a matter in which leadership has responsibility, but you can’t let congress escape from some of this responsibility, too.  We have more than one branch of government.  A lot of it is the bureaucracy, bureaucracy that is steeped in trying to be sure that we get all the paperwork done when government is about serving people, not just filling out blanks on a piece of paper.  That’s what I saw firsthand.  The real disaster of Katrina as well as Rita is you had a lot of bureaucracy that was far more interested in seeing that the paperwork was filled out than they were that you had people standing in water up to their chest for five days and nobody getting them out of it.  That should never, ever happen in this country again.  People are more important than paperwork and people have a right to be expected that their government will treat them with respect and not do everything for them, but not let them stand in filthy, muddy water for days and then when they’re finally brought out, ask them to stand and fill out a form.  That’s insulting and it should never happen."

Henderson:  "The groupies of the Capitol Offense band sort of catapulted you into second place in the Straw Poll."

Huckabee made hand signals — holding up his thumb and the index and pinkie fingers of his hands up and holding the other two fingers down.  "I just got the dirtiest look," Huckabee said, referring to one of his staff who was standing behind me.

Henderson:  "That’s a Texas Longhorn sign." 

Huckabee:  "NO IT’S NOT! Never.  Not this Arkansan.  No way." (laughter)

Henderson:  "You’ve been talking to folks on the national level about what changed that has wrong in terms of your fundraising.  I’m wondering what changes has it wrought in terms of your Iowa campaign specifically.  I haven’t seen any news releases saying we’ve hired a bunch of new people."

Huckabee:  "Yea, but the good news is we haven’t fired a bunch of people.  You know, we’re waiting ’til all the other campaigns, all of them get fired and we hire them.  We’re not letting anybody go.  I think what we’re doing is just try to catch our breath but coming back this week has been a great opportunity to see the momentum continue.  Obviously, spending almost six uninterrupted weeks in Iowa, I had to go to New Hampshire and South Carolina and I’ve been there and Missouri, Virginia, Florida, Louisiania, Mississippi, goodness, Washington, Boston and New York all since the Straw Poll.  Eventually, I’ll touch base at home, you know, for a day or so, but we’ve been going full steam since then shoring up our organizations in these other key states, then getting back here and finding there’s a lot more interest in our campaign than there was before the Straw Poll.  People now know that we’re for real today.  That we’re going to play to win in the Caucuses and you know we sense that the momentum is very much alive in Iowa."

Henderson:  "Aside from momentum, you’ve got to do something tangible to actually motivate people in the next few months."

Huckabee:  "Part of the key there, as we raise money — we’ve got 16 fundraising events in 16 states in the next couple of months.  Our on-line contributions, turned out we had more in a week than we had in the previous month after the Straw Poll.  3.2 million hits to the website.  150 Huckabee bloggers now that are blogging for our campaign.  Those are tangible things that are also giving us the chance now to decide that we’ve got to add some staff and ramp up organization and structure here and elsewhere and just begin to decide what’s phase two going to look like and that’s kind of where we are right now."

Henderson:  "So, what’s phase two look like?  Are you going to be a traditional candidate or are you going to strike out on your own.  Barack Obama on the other side has said he’s not going to run a traditional campaign, yet he’s done many of the things that conventional candidates do.  Do you have any ideas on how Mike Huckabee strikes out on a non-conventional path?"

Huckabee:  "I think we have already done that.  My message is not ‘Establishment Republican.’ That’s one of the reasons it’s resonating with so many people because people don’t want another Establishment candidate.  That’s a losing formula for us next year.  They’re looking for somebody that’s got not only fresh energy and ideas but that’s willing to be different in saying what people know is the truth.  You know, we’ve got to point out the elephant in a room full of elephants and frankly that hasn’t been done often and so it’s time that the Republican Party face up to our need to communicate directly with the American people the things that matter to them.  I think that’s why people are coming aboard our campaign and I think that’s why we did well in the Straw Poll."

Henderson:  "What is the elephant in the room?"

Huckabee:  "The fact that the Republican Party has been seen as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street, insensitive to ordinary folks and more tied to the Wall Street or the K Street Washington, D.C. lobbyist Republicans and not to the Main Street Republicans who go to Caucuses, folks that get out on January cold nights and actually vote.  You know, those aren’t people that sip champagne at a Georgetown cocktail party.  These are the people who just came in from the fields in the summer and in the winter who bundle up real tight on a Caucus Night.  Their issues and their interests are very different than the folks who can write a big check and be done with it.  These are people who are fighting for their jobs. They’re fighting for the kids’ college education. They’re fighting for dollars to put into their health care.   They need somebody who’s going to honestly address some issues that are going to touch them everyday."   

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About O.Kay Henderson

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