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Mike Huckabee

posted on April 13, 2007

Mike Huckabee on Iowa Press

posted on April 13, 2007

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Yepsen: FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE HAS HIS HAT IN THE RING, SEEKING TO BECOME THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE IN 2008. WE DISCUSS THE POLICY AND POLITICS IN THE RUN FOR THE WHITE HOUSE WITH MIKE HUCKABEE ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, APRIL 13 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DAVID YEPSEN.

Yepsen: ACTIVITY OUT ON THE CAUCUS CAMPAIGN TRAIL CONTINUES TO PICK UP DRAMATICALLY AS CANDIDATES SEEKING FAVOR WITH IOWA CAUCUS GOERS CONTINUE TO CRISSCROSS THE STATE. THIS WEEKEND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF IOWA HOLDS A BIG ANNUAL FUND-RAISING DINNER, AND THE JAM-PACKED FIELD OF GOP PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDERS WILL BE THERE. THAT FIELD INCLUDES OUR GUEST, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE, WHO IS THE SON OF A BAPTIST MINISTER AND IS A MINISTER HIMSELF. AS AN ELECTED OFFICIAL, MR. HUCKABEE SERVED AS ARKANSAS GOVERNOR FROM JULY 1996 TO JANUARY 2007. GOVERNOR, WELCOME BACK TO 'IOWA PRESS.'

Huckabee: THANK YOU VERY MUCH, DAVID. LET ME MAKE ONE CORRECTION.

Yepsen: GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.

Huckabee: MY FATHER WAS NOT A BAPTIST MINISTER. HE WAS A FIREMAN. SO HE PUT OUT DIFFERENT KINDS OF FIRES. [ LAUGHTER ]

Yepsen: WE STAND CORRECTED. THANK YOU, SIR.

Huckabee: YOU BET.

Yepsen: ALSO WITH US AT THE 'IOWA PRESS' TABLE ARE KAY HENDERSON, NEWS DIRECTOR WITH 'RADIO IOWA' AND MIKE GLOVER, SENIOR POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE REPORTER WITH THE 'ASSOCIATED PRESS.'

Glover: GOVERNOR, LET'S HANDICAP THIS FIELD IF WE COULD JUST FOR A SECOND. THERE IS A TOP TIER THAT MOST PEOPLE SEE IN THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL FIELD, AND YOU'RE NOT IN IT. THE TOP TIER THAT MOST PEOPLE TALK ABOUT IS RUDY GIULIANI, JOHN MCCAIN, AND MITT ROMNEY. HOW DO YOU BREAK INTO THAT FIELD?

Huckabee: FIRST OF ALL, I THINK THE REASON THERE'S A TOP TIER IS BECAUSE OF TWO THINGS: RIGHT NOW IT'S CELEBRITY, PEOPLE WHO HAVE NAME IDENTIFICATION WITH THE CANDIDATES IN THE TOP TIER; AND THE OTHER IS MONEY. MONEY AND CELEBRITY ARE THE TWO THINGS THAT ARE DRIVING THE SO-CALLED FRONT-RUNNER STATUS. BUT CELEBRITY AND MONEY COULD BE ATTRIBUTED TO PARIS HILTON, AND I DON'T THINK SHE'S A VIABLE CANDIDATE FOR THE PRESIDENCY. WHEN THIS BECOMES A CAMPAIGN ABOUT IDEAS AND ISSUES AND MESSAGE, THAT'S WHEN YOU'RE GOING TO SEE A LOT OF CHANGES. AND IOWA IS A VERY CRITICAL FILTER BECAUSE IOWA VOTERS ARE SOPHISTICATED. THEY CERTAINLY HAVE BEEN THROUGH THIS BEFORE. THEY'VE SEEN THE CANDIDATES WHO CAME IN WITH BOTH CELEBRITY AND MONEY AND DIDN'T NECESSARILY BUY IN. AND I THINK THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT A CANDIDATE LIKE ME HAS SUCH CONFIDENCE IN THE PROCESS STARTING IN IOWA, GOING ON THROUGH NEW HAMPSHIRE AND SOUTH CAROLINA, BECAUSE IN THESE EARLY STATES THERE'S A CHANCE TO REALLY MAKE THIS ABOUT MESSAGE AND THE CAPACITY TO CONNECT WITH VOTERS. IF YOU LOOK AT THE TOP THREE, THEY DON'T FIT THE PROFILE OF THE TYPICAL REPUBLICAN MAINSTREAM VIEWPOINT, AND THAT'S WHY I THINK THERE'S GOING TO BE A WONDERFUL OPENING FOR MIKE HUCKABEE AT THE RIGHT TIME.

Glover: AND HOW DO YOU TRANSITION FROM WHERE YOU ARE TO THAT TIER? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?

Huckabee: WELL, I THINK THERE'S SEVERAL THINGS AND IT STARTS WITH EVENTS LIKE THIS WEEKEND, WHERE ALL TEN OF THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ARE GOING TO BE ON THE SAME STAGE HERE AT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF IOWA BIG DINNER. IT'S GOING TO GIVE THE PEOPLE -- THE KEY ACTIVISTS A CHANCE TO SEE ALL OF US. THEN THE DEBATES ARE GOING TO START NEXT MONTH, FIRST IN CALIFORNIA. THEN THERE'S GOING TO BE ONE IN SOUTH CAROLINA THE FIRST OF JUNE. ONE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. ALL OF THOSE NATIONALLY TELEVISED. NOBODY IS GOING TO BE SITTING THERE SAYING, OKAY, ALL THE PEOPLE WITH A LOT OF MONEY SIT ON THIS SIDE OF THE STAGE AND THE PEOPLE WITH LESS MONEY SIT OVER HERE. THERE'S GOING TO BE A LEVEL FLOOR UPON WHICH WE ALL STAND. THOSE ARE GOING TO BE THE FIRST MOMENTS. AND THEN, FRANKLY, THE IOWA STRAW POLL I THINK IS GOING TO BE ANOTHER FILTERING POINT AT WHICH WE'LL FIND OUT WHO REALLY IS RESONATING WITH IOWA VOTERS, AND THAT'S GOING TO BE A LAUNCH PAD FOR ME.

Yepsen: IN AUGUST, YOU MEAN.

Huckabee: IN AUGUST. AUGUST 11.

Glover: DO YOU THINK THAT WILL FORCE CANDIDATES FROM THE RACE?

Huckabee: I THINK IT WILL.

Glover: THE LAST TIME -- THE LAST TIME AROUND, THREE CANDIDATES DROPPED OUT AFTER THE STRAW POLL.

Huckabee: RIGHT.

Glover: DO YOU THINK THAT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN?

Huckabee: IT HAPPENED WITH, WHAT, QUAYLE, DOLE, AND ALEXANDER, AND I THINK WE'LL PROBABLY SEE A SIMILAR FALLOUT AFTER AUGUST, IF SOME LAST UNTIL AUGUST. AND WHO KNOWS?

Glover: DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE DROPOUTS BEFORE THEN?

Huckabee: THERE COULD BE. I MEAN IF IT JUST IS NOT HAPPENING, THERE COMES A POINT AT WHICH, WHETHER IT'S ME OR SOMEBODY ELSE, IF YOU JUST AREN'T GAINING MOMENTUM AND YOU'RE STARTING TO LOSE IT AND YOU'RE NOT GETTING TRACTION, THEN YOU REALLY DO NEED TO DO YOURSELF, YOUR SUPPORTERS, AND THE OTHER CANDIDATES A FAVOR AND, YOU KNOW, PULL THE PLUG AND CALL IT A DAY. AS LONG AS I FEEL LIKE I'M GAINING MOMENTUM AND I'M SEEING MORE MONEY COMING IN THAN I DID BEFORE AND I'M SEEING MORE PEOPLE JOIN UP THAN I DID BEFORE, YOU KNOW, I FEEL LIKE THERE'S A GO. BUT IF IT COMES TO THE POINT WHERE NOBODY WANTS TO CONTRIBUTE AND PEOPLE ARE FALLING AWAY RATHER THAN COMING ON BOARD, THEN, YOU KNOW, I'VE GOT TO FACE THAT REALITY. FORTUNATELY FOR ME, I DIDN'T START BIG AND KIND OF DWINDLING FROM THE GROUNDSWELL. YOU KNOW, I STARTED ABOUT SEVEN WEEKS AGO FROM ZERO, AND WE'RE SEEING A MOMENTUM BEGIN TO BUILD. AND AS LONG AS THAT'S HAPPENING, THEN THERE'S A LOT OF OPTIMISM ABOUT WHERE THIS COULD GO.

Henderson: ONE THING I HEAR FROM IOWA REPUBLICANS IS WHERE HAS HE BEEN. THE FORMER GOVERNOR TOMMY THOMPSON HAS BEEN TO THE STATE OF IOWA EVERY WEEKEND THIS YEAR. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? WHY HAVEN'T YOU DONE THE SHOE LEATHER IN IOWA?

Huckabee: KAY, I'VE BEEN HERE REPEATEDLY. IN FACT, I WAS HERE TWO WEEKS AGO. I WAS IN THE WESTERN PART OF IOWA, SPENT SEVERAL DAYS. I'M TRYING TO REMEMBER JUST HOW MANY TRIPS I'VE BEEN TO IOWA. SO I'VE BEEN HERE QUITE A BIT, BUT I DIDN'T REALLY START COMING WHAT I WOULD CALL REAL ACTIVELY UNTIL I FINISHED THE JOB THAT I HAD. I WAS VERY ADAMANT THAT I OWED THE PEOPLE OF ARKANSAS MY FULL ATTENTION TO BE THEIR GOVERNOR UNTIL JANUARY 9, AND I GAVE THEM THAT. SOME PEOPLE SAY, WELL, I SHOWED UP A LITTLE LATE TO THE OTHER PART OF IT. I DON'T THINK SO. THIS IS A LONG PROCESS. PEOPLE TEND TO FORGET THAT BILL CLINTON DIDN'T EVEN ANNOUNCE HIS CANDIDACY UNTIL OCTOBER OF 1991 AND WHILE, YES, THE RULES HAVE CHANGED AND THE DYNAMICS ARE DIFFERENT AND YOU CAN'T MAKE THAT A COMPLETE COMPARISON, IT'S ABSURD FOR US TO THINK THAT ALL OF THE VOTERS HAVE MADE UP THEIR MINDS IN APRIL OF '07 ABOUT A CAUCUS THAT WON'T HAPPEN UNTIL JANUARY OF '08.

Henderson: YOU MENTIONED MONEY. YOU DID NOT RAISE AS MUCH AS YOUR COMPETITORS. AND YOU'VE COME OUT AND RETOOLED YOUR FUND-RAISING MACHINE. IS FUND-RAISING A VIABLE MEASURE OF A CANDIDATE?

Huckabee: OVER THE LONG HAUL IT IS, BUT IN THE FIRST FEW WEEKS IT ISN'T. WE MET OUR FUND-RAISING GOAL. WE NEEDED TO HIT A HALF MILLION IN THIS FIRST REPORTING PERIOD. FOR US IT WASN'T A THREE-MONTH REPORTING PERIOD; IT WAS ABOUT A SIX-WEEK OR FIVE-AND-A-HALF-WEEK PERIOD, BECAUSE UNLIKE SENATORS WHO WERE ABLE TO GO THROUGH THAT BIG LOOPHOLE BIG ENOUGH TO DRIVE A BRINKS TRUCK THROUGH THAT WAS PASSED BY THE SENATE IN THE SO-CALLED CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM, WHICH WAS ANYTHING BUT REFORM, THEY WERE ABLE TO TRANSFER MONEY FROM THEIR FEDERAL SENATE ACCOUNT OVER TO THEIR PRESIDENTIAL ACCOUNTS. WELL, I STARTED LITERALLY ON THE DAY THAT I FILED THE PAPERS WITH NOTHING BUT MY HOME TELEPHONE DIALING FOR DOLLARS FROM A FEW FRIENDS TO GET ENOUGH MONEY TO OPEN A CHECKING ACCOUNT. SO I DIDN'T GET TO START FROM SOMETHING. I STARTED FROM NOTHING AND HAD TO LITERALLY GO RENT OFFICE SPACE, GET STAFF, PRINT LETTERHEAD, YOU KNOW, GET A TELEPHONE INSTALLED. SO I THINK WE DID REALLY WELL. AND AGAIN, WE WERE ON TARGET FOR WHAT WE EXPECTED TO DO IN THE FIRST REPORTING PERIOD.

Yepsen: GOVERNOR, COULD THIS MONEY PROBLEM FORCE YOU OUT OF THE RACE? I MEAN IT DID YOUR GOOD FRIEND TOM VILSACK, FORMER GOVERNOR, HAD THE SAME -- DESCRIBED THE SAME FUND-RAISING PROBLEM WITH U.S. SENATORS. IT KNOCKED HIM OUT OF THE DEMOCRATIC CONTEST. HOW ABOUT YOU ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE?

Huckabee: YOU KNOW, TOM AND I HAD A GREAT CONVERSATION JUST A FEW HOURS AFTER HE MADE HIS ANNOUNCEMENT. AND FOR YOUR VIEWERS WHO DON'T KNOW, TOM AND I, OF COURSE, WERE COLLEAGUES AS GOVERNORS. AND DESPITE OUR PARTY AND SOMETIMES PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES, WE REMAIN VERY GOOD FRIENDS, WHICH I THINK IS THE WAY POLITICS OUGHT TO OPERATE, THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO AGREE WITH EVERYONE TO BE AGREEABLE AND TO HAVE GOOD FRIENDSHIPS. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I REALIZED WHEN I TALKED TO TOM -- AND I WAS SORT OF SEEING THIS FROM A DISTANCE -- IT'S NOT JUST HOW MUCH YOU RAISE, BUT IT'S HOW MUCH YOU'RE SPENDING AGAINST HOW MUCH YOU RAISE. ONE THING WE'RE HAVING TO BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT IS BEING VERY FRUGAL IN WHAT WE BURN. WHEN I LOOK AT SOME OF THE SO-CALLED TOP-TIER CANDIDATES, I THINK THE KEY THING IS NOT JUST TO SEE WHAT THEY RAISED, LOOK AT WHAT THEY'VE SPENT AND ASK WHAT ARE THEY GETTING FOR IT. THAT'S REALLY MAYBE THE MORE IMPORTANT PART.

Yepsen: I'D LIKE YOU TO PUT A FINER POINT ON A QUESTION THAT CAME UP EARLIER. DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF WITH THE OTHER CANDIDATES IN THE FIELD, PARTICULARLY THAT TOP-TIER: RUDY GIULIANI, MITT ROMNEY, JOHN MCCAIN.

Huckabee: REPUBLICANS SINCE 1980 HAVE NOMINATED AND ELECTED PEOPLE WHO ARE PRO-LIFE, WHO ARE PRO-FAMILY, WHO ARE CONSERVATIVES NOT JUST IN THEIR RHETORIC BUT IN THEIR RECORD, AND THAT HAVE A LONG-TERM CONSISTENCY OF THAT. WHAT I BRING TO THE TABLE I THINK WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY ARE THE QUALITIES THAT HAVE TRADITIONALLY BEEN IMPORTANT FOR A REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT. FIRST OF ALL, THE EXPERIENCE OF HAVING EXECUTIVE BACKGROUND AS A GOVERNOR FOR TEN AND A HALF YEARS, SERVING IN THE CAPACITY WHERE I DIDN'T JUST MAKE SPEECHES, I MADE DECISIONS, EVERY DAY MADE DECISIONS AND WAS HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE RESULTS OF EDUCATION, ROAD IMPROVEMENT, HEALTH CARE, THINGS THAT MATTER TO PEOPLE WHO SIT AT THEIR DINNER TABLES AT NIGHT AND REALLY DON'T CARE ABOUT PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES AS WHAT I CALL HORIZONTAL POLITICS: LEFT/RIGHT, LIBERAL/CONSERVATIVE, DEMOCRAT/REPUBLICAN. THE AVERAGE AMERICAN IS THINKING VERTICALLY, NOT HORIZONTALLY. THEY WANT TO KNOW WILL THIS PRESIDENT LEAD OUR COUNTRY TO HAVE BETTER EDUCATION, MORE SECURE BORDERS, SAFER NEIGHBORHOODS, A SAFER WORLD IN WHICH TO LIVE, BETTER HIGHWAYS, ROADS, AND AIRPORTS. THOSE ARE VERTICAL ISSUES, NOT HORIZONTAL.

Glover: GOVERNOR, I'D LIKE YOU TO ASSESS THE POLITICAL CLIMATE OF AMERICA RIGHT NOW. YOU'RE RUNNING AS A REPUBLICAN WITH GEORGE BUSH AS PRESIDENT, AND MOST POLLS I'VE SEEN HAVE SHOWN GEORGE BUSH'S APPROVAL RATINGS IN THE SEWER AND GOING DOWN. WHAT'S THE CLIMATE FOR REPUBLICANS?

Huckabee: BOY, WHEN YOU GO DOWN FROM THE SEWER, THAT'S PRETTY TOUGH, ISN'T IT. [ LAUGHTER ] IT IS A TOUGH ENVIRONMENT.

Glover: I MEAN IT'S A TOUGH ENVIRONMENT FOR REPUBLICANS. YOU HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO'S PROSECUTING A WAR THAT MOST POLLS SHOW PEOPLE DON'T FAVOR. HOW IS THE CLIMATE FOR REPUBLICANS IN THAT?

Huckabee: FIRST OF ALL, I DON'T AGREE WITH THOSE WHO SAY THERE'S NO WAY A REPUBLICAN WINS IN '08, BECAUSE I BELIEVE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL ELECT A PRESIDENT, NOT A PARTY. AND IT'S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT THAT GUYS LIKE ME STAY IN THE RACE. I CAN RELATE TO THE ORDINARY, AVERAGE AMERICAN WHO IS NOT A CHILD OF PRIVILEGE, WHO DIDN'T GROW UP WITH PRIVILEGE. I'M THE FIRST MALE IN MY ENTIRE FAMILY LINEAGE TO EVEN GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL. I EMBODY, I'VE LIVED, I'VE EXPERIENCED THE AMERICAN DREAM. AND I THINK THERE ARE A LOT OF AMERICANS OUT THERE WHO ARE LOOKING FOUR SOMEBODY WHO'S STILL OPTIMISTIC AND VISIONARY ABOUT THE RESILIENCE OF THIS COUNTRY AND WHO BELIEVE THAT IT'S STILL A GREAT, GREAT PLACE IN WHICH TO LIVE, ONE IN WHICH WE WANT TO CAPTURE THE BEST OF WHO WE ARE. SO I'M NOT GOING TO RUN FROM OR WITH GEORGE BUSH. HE HAS HIS OWN PRESIDENCY. I PLAN TO HAVE MINE.

Glover: DO YOU HAVE A NEED TO DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF FROM GEORGE BUSH, TO SAY I'M A REPUBLICAN BUT I THINK I'M A LITTLE DIFFERENT HERE, I'M A LITTLE DIFFERENT THERE?

Huckabee: I'VE BEEN DOING THAT FOR ALL THE YEARS THAT I WAS GOVERNOR AND HE WAS PRESIDENT, BECAUSE I CERTAINLY TOOK VERY STRONG POSITIONS AGAINST SOME OF HIS POLICIES ON MEDICAID, SOME OF HIS POLICIES ON REAL ID, AND ON SOME OF THE FEDERAL PREEMPTIONS ON TAXING AUTHORITY AT THE LOCAL STATE LEVEL. PROBABLY ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I'M NOT MAYBE ON TOP OF THE GUEST LIST AT ALL THE WHITE HOUSE DINNERS IS BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN A GOVERNOR OF MY STATE FIRST AND A FRIEND OF THE PRESIDENT SECOND. I'M GOING TO BE WITH HIM WHEN I'M WITH HIM, BUT I NEVER FORGOT THAT I WAS ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE OF ARKANSAS TO BE THEIR GOVERNOR. I WAS NOT ELECTED TO BE A MOUTHPIECE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.

Henderson: GOVERNOR, YOU HAVE SAID THAT CHARACTER IS AN ISSUE IN THIS RACE, AND IF IT ISN'T FOR REPUBLICANS, THEN REPUBLICANS OWE BILL CLINTON AN APOLOGY. IN WHAT -- I GUESS WHAT CONTEXT ARE YOU MAKING THAT ASSERTION?

Huckabee: WELL, I'M SPECIFICALLY, KAY, REFERENCING CHRISTIAN EVANGELICAL LEADERS WHO WERE THE MOST VOCAL IN SAYING BACK DURING THE CLINTON ERA THAT PERSONAL BEHAVIOR, PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, CHARACTER WERE THE KEY FACTORS IN A PRESIDENT'S CRITERIA. I'M NOT SPEAKING ABOUT THE CANDIDATES. THAT'S FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO MAKE THAT DECISION. BUT I DO HAVE A PROBLEM WITH -- AND AGAIN, LET ME SPEAK AS A CHRISTIAN EVANGELICAL. SO THIS IS NOT A GROUP OF PEOPLE I'M SPEAKING TO; THIS IS A GROUP OF PEOPLE I'M SPEAKING FROM. THOSE ARE MY ROOTS, SO I COME FROM THAT VERY WING OF THE PARTY, IF YOU WILL. BUT HAVING SAID THAT, I FEEL LIKE I HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO SAY, IF YOU WILL, PROPHETICALLY TO THOSE LEADERS THAT IF YOU SAID DURING BILL CLINTON'S TENURE THAT HIS PERSONAL BEHAVIOR MATTERED AND HIS CHARACTER MATTERED AND HIS ACTIVITIES IN OFFICE AND ALL OF THOSE THINGS, IF THAT MATTERED, YOU CAN'T NOW COME ALONG AND SAY BUT IT DOESN'T MATTER TO THE REPUBLICANS IN 2008. THAT'S HYPOCRISY.

Glover: SO RUDY GIULIANI BEING MARRIED THREE TIMES AND BEING ESTRANGED FROM HIS SONS WON'T BE AN ISSUE FOR EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS?

Huckabee: I'M ASKING THE CHRISTIAN EVANGELICAL LEADERS WILL IT BE. AND IF IT IS, OKAY. IF IT ISN'T, THEN WHY IS IT AN ISSUE FOR BILL CLINTON AND IT'S NOT FOR SOMEBODY ELSE? MY POINT IS CONSISTENCY BECAUSE I DO BELIEVE THAT IT'S AN ISSUE OF CREDIBILITY. THE CHRISTIAN LEADERS NEED TO BE CHRISTIAN LEADERS, NOT REPUBLICAN LEADERS, OR THEREFORE THEY LOSE THE SALT THAT THE SALT IS SUPPOSED TO BE. IF THE SALT DOESN'T HAVE ANY SAVOR, THEN IT'S NOT SALT, IT'S SAND. AND IF THE LIGHT IS HIDDEN UNDER A BUSHEL, THEN IT'S NOT LIGHT AT ALL. AND THAT'S MY CHALLENGE TO THE CHRISTIAN LEADERS. EITHER BE CONSISTENT, BE CHRISTIAN LEADERS, OR JUST SAY, LOOK, I'M A POLITICAL BOSS AND IT'S REALLY ABOUT THE POWER.

Yepsen: GOVERNOR, I WANT TO GO BACK TO THE QUESTION MIKE WAS ASKING EARLIER ABOUT GEORGE BUSH AND WHETHER OR NOT HE'S A LIABILITY IN THE GOP THIS CYCLE. WHAT'S THE MOOD INSIDE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY? SOME OF US WHO COVER THIS GAME HERE IN IOWA HAVE NOTICED THAT THE CROWDS AT REPUBLICAN EVENTS ARE MUCH SMALLER THAN THEY ARE AT DEMOCRATIC ONES. WHAT'S YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE MOOD OF YOUR PARTY RIGHT NOW?

Huckabee: THERE'S A LOT OF ANXIETY, AND I THINK PART OF THE ANXIETY IS PEOPLE KNOW THAT THE PRESIDENT'S POPULARITY, AS MIKE WOULD SAY, IS MAYBE NOT STELLAR, MORE LIKE CELLAR INSTEAD OF STELLAR. BUT I DON'T THINK REPUBLICANS HAVE WRITTEN 2008 OFF. I THINK RIGHT NOW WHAT THEY'RE SAYING IS, IS THERE A CANDIDATE WE CAN RALLY BEHIND WHO CAN LEAD US, WHO CAN ARTICULATE WHO WE ARE, AND WHO NOT ONLY EMBODIES OUR VISION BUT WHO CAN COMMUNICATE IT BECAUSE, FRANKLY, ONE OF THE BIG CHALLENGES THE PRESIDENT HAS HAD HAS BEEN I THINK IN THE COMMUNICATIONS AREA. HE IS NOT MAYBE THE MOST PROLIFIC AT COMMUNICATING HIS IDEAS, EVEN WHEN HE HAS GOOD ONES. THAT'S A REAL CONCERN.

Henderson: YOU HAVE SAID YOUR PARTY HAS A COMMUNICATIONS PROBLEM. YOU SAID THAT IN ADVANCE OF THE 2006 ELECTION. SO WHAT DOES IT NEED TO, AS YOU SAY, ARTICULATE?

Huckabee: IT NEEDS MIKE HUCKABEE. THAT'S WHY I'M RUNNING. [ LAUGHTER ]

Yepsen: GOVERNOR, LET'S SWITCH GEARS HERE AND TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE ISSUES. IRAQ IS AN ISSUE NOW AND IT'S LIKELY TO BE AN ISSUE FACING THE NEXT PRESIDENT. TWO-PART QUESTION. WHAT SHOULD THE NEXT PRESIDENT DO ABOUT IT? BUT SECONDLY, WHAT QUALIFIES YOU AS A FORMER GOVERNOR TO HAVE ANY REAL EXPERTISE ON QUESTIONS OF FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL DEFENSE?

Huckabee: LET'S TAKE THE SECOND PART OF THE QUESTION FIRST, BECAUSE IT IS A LEGITIMATE ISSUE TO BRING UP; YOU KNOW, CAN A GOVERNOR LEAD FOREIGN POLICY. IT WAS A QUESTION THAT PEOPLE ASKED OF RONALD REAGAN, AND HE HAD BEEN A GOVERNOR AND BEFORE THAT AN ACTOR, SO PEOPLE THOUGHT HE'S JUST NOT REALLY QUALIFIED TO MAKE THESE DECISIONS. YET WITHIN TEN YEARS OF HIS TAKING THE PRESIDENCY, THE COLD WAR IS OVER, THE SOVIET UNION HAS COLLAPSED, AND THE BERLIN WALL IS DOWN AND THE WORLD IS A SAFER PLACE AND WE HAVE A PEACE DIVIDEND. THE TRUTH IS WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS NOT WHAT YOU KNOW, IT'S WHAT YOUR JUDGMENT IS AND WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH. WHAT I THINK A GOVERNOR DOES BRING TO THE TABLE IS THE UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING. I THINK THE GREATEST QUALITY A LEADER HAS IS THAT HE KNOWS WHAT HE DOESN'T KNOW. THE BIGGEST DANGER YOU EVER HAVE IN A LEADER IS WHEN HE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT HE DOESN'T KNOW. THAT'S SCARY. IF A GUY HAS AN ANSWER FOR EVERYTHING, YOU'VE GOT TO WATCH OUT BECAUSE NOBODY KNOWS EVERYTHING.

Yepsen: HAVE YOU GOT SOME ANSWERS, ANYWAY, FOR THE QUESTION OF IRAQ?

Huckabee: WELL, FOR IRAQ I THINK FIRST OF ALL WE ENGAGE THE PEOPLE OF THE REGION. THEY'VE BEEN SPECTATORS AND THEY NEED TO BE PARTICIPANTS IN BRINGING A RESOLUTION TO THE SITUATION. BUT THE UNITED STATES CAN'T JUST WALK AWAY. WE HAVE TOO MUCH INVESTED NOW TO JUST SORT OF SAY WE'RE JUST GOING TO WALK AWAY FROM IT AND LEAVE. THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS THAT I DO THINK HAVE TO HAPPEN. GET THOSE OTHER NATIONS -- THE JORDANIANS, KUWAITIS, THE SAUDIS, EVEN THE IRANIANS -- EVERYBODY IN THAT NEIGHBORHOOD HAS GOT TO BE INVOLVED BECAUSE WHEN THEIR NEIGHBOR'S HOUSE BURNS DOWN, THEY'RE GOING TO GET SCORCHED BEFORE WE DO. BUT THE SECOND THING WE HAVE TO DO IS WE HAVE TO HAVE A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF WE'RE NOT GOING TO WALK AWAY. WE'RE GOING TO PUT WHAT RESOURCES ARE NECESSARY FOR US TO WIN AND WALK AWAY HAVING WON IT. THE PROBLEM THAT I HEAR FROM THE DEMOCRAT STRATEGY, WHICH IS TIMETABLE DEFINITE DATE, IT WOULD BE LIKE ME SAYING, LOOK, I'M GOING TO GO IN TO PLAY A FOOTBALL GAME BUT I'M ONLY GOING TO STAY ON THE FIELD UNTIL 9:00. AT 9:00 I'M LEAVING. I DON'T CARE WHAT THE SCORE IS; BY GOSH, AT 9:00 I'M OUT OF HERE. WELL, IF I'M THE OPPONENT, I DON'T HAVE TO WIN; I JUST HAVE TO STAY PAST 9:00.

Glover: GOVERNOR, LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME ISSUES THAT ARE RAGING IN CONGRESS RIGHT NOW. ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES IS IN SOME HOT WATER OVER THE FIRING OF THE U.S. ATTORNEYS. REGARDLESS OF WHAT HE DID OR DIDN'T DO, IS HIS SITUATION SO BAD THAT HE SHOULD JUST GO TO END THE STALEMATE?

Huckabee: TO SAY HE'S IN HOT WATER IS KIND OF LIKE SAYING THE RABBIT WAS BOILING IN 'FATAL INSTINCT.' YEAH, HE'S IN HOT WATER.

Glover: IS IT SO BAD THAT HE SHOULD JUST GO TO CLEAR AWAY THE CONTROVERSY AND ALLOW THE ADMINISTRATION TO MOVE FORWARD?

Huckabee: WELL, THE PRESIDENT HAS GOT TO MAKE THAT DECISION, OR MR. GONZALES NEEDS TO MAKE THAT DECISION TO WALK THE PLANK ON BEHALF OF HIS BOSS. AND AT SOME POINT -- I KNOW AS A GOVERNOR WHEN I HAD PEOPLE IN MY CABINET, I HOPED SOMETIMES THAT THEY WOULD KIND OF GET THE PICTURE AND THEY WOULD TAKE THEMSELVES OUT. YOU WOULD THINK SO. AND I THINK THE ISSUE IS NOT WHETHER THOSE ATTORNEY -- U.S. ATTORNEYS COULD BE REPLACED. THE PRESIDENT HAS THE AUTHORITY TO DO IT. HERE WAS THE DANGER AND HERE WAS THE MISTAKE. TO TRY TO JUSTIFY THE REPLACEMENT, SAYING THAT THOSE EIGHT U.S. ATTORNEYS HAD NOT DONE THEIR JOBS WELL, THAT WAS RIDICULOUS. WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE JUST COME OUT AND SAID -- LOOK, THESE ARE POLITICAL APPOINTMENTS, WE'VE GOT SOME FOLKS WE'D LIKE TO MOVE IN THESE SLOTS, AND THERE'S SOME FOLKS THAT WE WANT TO GIVE A SHOT AND WE ONLY HAVE TWO YEARS LEFT, SO HERE GOES. YOU KNOW, PEOPLE MIGHT NOT HAVE LIKED THAT, BUT THERE'S NO CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION FOR THAT. THE CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION COMES WHEN YOU DISPARAGE THE REPUTATIONS AND CHARACTER OF GOOD PEOPLE IN ARKANSAS WHERE ONE OF THE ISSUES -- I KNOW BOTH THESE GUYS. BUD CUMMINS, WHO WAS THE FIRED U.S. ATTORNEY, WAS MY CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL IN THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE BEFORE HE GOT THAT JOB. I RECOMMENDED HIM TO IT. I ALSO KNOW TIM GRIFFIN, WHO IS AN OUTSTANDING YOUNG MAN AND A GREAT GUY, AND I KNOW HIM VERY WELL. BUT I ALSO KNOW THAT BUD CUMMINS DIDN'T GET FIRED BECAUSE HE WAS DOING A POOR JOB. HE GOT FIRED BECAUSE THEY WERE GOING TO MOVE TIM IN AND GIVE HIM AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE U.S. ATTORNEY. JUST SAY IT. THAT'S OKAY.

Glover: SO IS IT TIME FOR HIM TO MOVE ON AND CLEAR THE DECK AND START ALL OVER AGAIN?

Huckabee: WELL, IF I WERE PRESIDENT IT WOULD BE, AND I WOULD HOPE THAT HE'D COME TO ME AND SAY THAT. BUT I THINK IT'S CLEAR THAT RIGHT NOW THE PRESIDENT DOESN'T NEED ANYONE AROUND HIM WHO IS A LIABILITY. AND RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY, ALBERTO GONZALES IS A LIABILITY TO THE PRESIDENT RIGHT NOW.

Henderson: PRESIDENT BUSH HAS STAKED OUT A POSITION ON IMMIGRATION, WHICH MANY IN YOUR PARTY DISAGREE WITH. IF YOU WERE PRESIDENT, WHAT WOULD YOU DO IN REGARDS TO IMMIGRATION?

Huckabee: WELL, THE FIRST THING WE'VE GOT TO DO IS SECURE OUR BORDERS, AND THAT MEANS PHYSICALLY OR ELECTRONICALLY, AN ABSOLUTE WALL, A FENCE. PEOPLE ARE NOT GOING TO BE SATISFIED WITH ANY IMMIGRATION POLICY ON THIS SIDE OF THE BORDER UNTIL WE SEAL OUR BORDER, AND THAT'S REASONABLE. I ALWAYS LIKE TO SAY WHEN I GO TO THE AIRPORT IN LITTLE ROCK AND CHECK IN FOR A FLIGHT, THEY KNOW WHO I AM. THEY ALL CALL ME BY NAME. BUT I PULL OUT MY PHOTO I.D. TO AUTHENTICATE MY IDENTITY. I GO THROUGH SEVERAL LAYERS OF SECURITY, AND I TAKE MY SHOES OFF AND PUT THEM IN THAT LITTLE PLASTIC BUCKET AND PUT MY LAPTOP ASIDE AND I WALK THROUGH AND I HOLD MY HANDS UP. YOU KNOW, PEOPLE LOOK AT ME AND SAY, 'YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS?' I SAY, 'SURE, IT'S THE LAW. THAT'S WHAT I HAVE TO DO.' I DON'T GET WAIVED THROUGH BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, I USED TO BE A GOVERNOR. NOW, MY POINT IS IF I HAVE TO GO THROUGH THAT AS A TAX PAYING LONG-TIME PUBLIC SERVING CITIZEN AND PROVE WHO I AM EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW IT, THEN IT'S NOT UNREASONABLE TO SAY IF YOU WANT TO COME HERE TO OUR COUNTRY, YOU NEED TO TELL US WHO YOU ARE. WE NEED TO KNOW. DO YOU HAVE A COMMUNICABLE DISEASE? A CRIMINAL BACKGROUND? IF YOU DO, YOU DON'T GET IN. AND DO YOU HAVE A JOB WAITING ON YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE? IF I DON'T HAVE A SEAT WAITING ON ME ON THE OTHER SIDE WITH A BOARDING PASS, I DON'T GET IN. THE SAME THING IS TRUE. THEN YOU --

Henderson: WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HERE?

Huckabee: WELL, ONCE YOU ADDRESS THIS SIDE OF THE BORDER, THEN YOU HAVE THE CREDIBILITY TO SAY NOW LET'S TALK ABOUT THESE FOLKS WHO ARE HERE. THERE'S GOT TO BE A PENALTY. THERE CAN'T BE AMNESTY. THERE MUST BE SOME TYPE OF RESTITUTION. THE PRESIDENT'S PLAN HAS THAT WHERE YOU PAY A FINE, YOU HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU'VE DONE WRONG.

Henderson: IS $10,000 ENOUGH, WHICH IS HIS LATEST PROPOSAL?

Huckabee: YEAH, I THINK THAT THERE'S GOT TO BE -- IT'S GOT TO BE REASONABLE. IT CAN'T BE SOMETHING THAT MAKES IT SO THAT A PERSON WOULD RATHER GO INTO HIDING. THAT'S WHY WE HAVE THE PROBLEM WE HAVE IS BECAUSE TO WAIT SEVEN YEARS TO GET A PERMIT SO YOU CAN PICK TOMATOES OR PLUCK CHICKENS? NO, IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

Yepsen: HOW ABOUT SANCTIONS ON EMPLOYERS, PEOPLE WHO HIRE ILLEGALS?

Huckabee: WELL, OF COURSE WE SHOULD BE DOING THAT. HERE'S THE PROBLEM, THOUGH, DAVID, BECAUSE I KNOW THAT PEOPLE IN MY STATE ARE OFTEN ACCUSED OF OPENLY HIRING ILLEGALS. THEY REALLY DON'T WANT TO RISK EVERYTHING THAT WOULD BE AT RISK TO DO THAT. BUT IF PEOPLE PRESENT FALSE DOCUMENTS, SOMETIMES IT'S REALLY TOUGH FOR AN EMPLOYER TO BE THE IMMIGRATION SERVICE. THAT'S THE SAME REASON I DON'T THINK REAL ID IS ANYTHING OTHER THAN A STUPID IDEA FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, BECAUSE YOU'RE ASKING FRONT-LINE DMV WORKERS WHO MAKE $8 AN HOUR -- MAYBE MORE HERE IN IOWA BUT NOT MUCH MORE IN ARKANSAS. YOU'RE ASKING THEM TO ESSENTIALLY BE LAW ENFORCEMENT AND DOCUMENT CHECKERS. THEY'RE NOT.

Glover: GOVERNOR, ONE OF THE ISSUES YOU'VE FACED AS GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS AND YOU WILL FACE AS A CANDIDATE IN IOWA IS WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT RURAL AREAS OF AMERICA? HOW DO YOU DEVELOP THEM? HOW DO YOU DO RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT? HOW DO YOU MAKE RURAL AMERICA GROW? IT'S BEEN WITHERING FOR YEARS. WHAT'S YOUR ANSWER TO THAT?

Huckabee: IT'S PART OF THE CHANGE OF THE LANDSCAPE IN THAT WITH FARMS BECOMING MORE MECHANIZED, LESS LABOR IS NEEDED, SO THEREFORE PEOPLE MOVE INTO URBAN AREAS BECAUSE JOBS TEND TO CENTER THERE. SOME OF THIS IS A NATURAL PROGRESSION OF OUR CULTURE AND SOCIETY. ARKANSAS AND IOWA ARE VERY SIMILAR: ALMOST SIMILAR IN POPULATION SIZE... 2.7 MILLION, ABOUT 3 MILLION IN IOWA; LARGELY RURAL, AGRICULTURAL, WE ARE TOO; ONLY A FEW URBAN AREAS, THE REST IS RURAL. PART OF WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO, THOUGH, IS TO MAKE SURE THAT THE KIDS IN THE RURAL AREA CAN ACCESS A QUALITY EDUCATION. THIS WAS ONE OF MY PRIORITIES AS GOVERNOR. AND THE KORET FOUNDATION SAID THAT ARKANSAS HAD MADE MORE STRIDES IN FIVE YEARS THAN IN THE PREVIOUS FIFTY. WE'RE NAMED AS ONE OF THE THREE STATES BY EDUCATION WEEK MAGAZINE AS HAVING THE MOST SIGNIFICANT UPTICK IN OUR NAET SCORES AND IN OUR ADVANCED PLACEMENT EXAMS BECAUSE WE BEGIN TO PUT A HIGH PREMIUM ON RAISING THE STANDARDS OF EDUCATION, INSISTING THAT THERE WOULD BE A STRONG CORE CURRICULUM, WHICH FOR ME INCLUDES MUSIC AND ART EDUCATION. YOU CAN'T HAVE A DECENT EDUCATION IF YOU DON'T INCLUDE THAT WHICH DEVELOPS BOTH SIDES, RIGHT AND LEFT OF THE BRAIN. SO WE NOW HAVE MANDATORY ART AND MUSIC FOR EVERY STUDENT WITH A CERTIFIED TEACHER, SOMETHING I'M PASSIONATE ABOUT, SOMETHING EVERY KID IN AMERICA OUGHT TO HAVE, AS WELL AS MATH AND SCIENCE AND THOSE OTHER SUBJECTS.

Henderson: A LOT OF PEOPLE IN YOUR PARTY ARE CONCERNED ABOUT PROFLIGATE SPENDING AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO CONTROL AND ELIMINATE THE DEFICIT?

Huckabee: WELL, I WISH THE PRESIDENT HAD A LINE ITEM VETO LIKE I HAD AS A GOVERNOR. THAT WOULD BE A STEP. NOW, THAT MAY NOT HAPPEN. BUT I THINK THE PRESIDENT HAS GOT TO CALL ATTENTION TO SOME OF THE TYPE SPENDING THAT'S, YOU KNOW, OUT OF HAND. BUT THE REALITY IS MOST OF THE REAL SPENDING IN AMERICA COMES WITH ENTITLEMENTS. IT'S NOT SO MUCH THE OUTRAGEOUS PORK SPENDING THAT YOU SEE. IT'S BAD. IN FACT, IT'S HORRIBLE.

Yepsen: WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT ENTITLEMENTS?

Huckabee: WE HAVE TO CHANGE THE RULES OF THE GAME BECAUSE RIGHT NOW ENTITLEMENTS ARE BUILT ON THE IDEA THAT SOME PEOPLE GET VIRTUALLY ANY AND EVERYTHING THEY WANT WITH NO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE GAME. PART OF WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN -- FOR EXAMPLE, IN OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, IT'S TOTALLY UPSIDE DOWN, TOTALLY UPSIDE DOWN.

Glover: AND AS YOU SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM PRESIDENT BUSH, DON'T YOU HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE DEFICITS HAVE GOTTEN OUT OF CONTROL UNDER A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT, AND ISN'T IT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES TO POINT THAT OUT?

Huckabee: WELL, WHETHER THE DEFICITS ARE OUT OF CONTROL, THE ECONOMY RIGHT NOW IS PROVING THAT THE DEFICITS ARE COMING BACK UNDER CONTROL MORE RAPIDLY THAN HAD BEEN PROJECTED. SO I'M NOT SURE THAT -- IF YOU'RE LEADING ME DOWN THE ROAD OF SAYING DO WE NEED TO HAVE A TAX INCREASE, THE ANSWER IS NO, WE DON'T, BECAUSE TAX INCREASES STIFLE THE ECONOMY. IT DOES NOT STIMULATE IT, AND THE LAST THING WE NEED RIGHT NOW IS TO DO SOMETHING THAT CUTS JOB PRODUCTION, THAT CUTS OUT THE TYPE OF INVESTMENT CAPABILITIES THAT WE REALLY NEED COMPANIES TO BE MAKING.

Yepsen: GOVERNOR, I HAVE TO CONTROL THE CLOCK. I HAVE TO MAKE SOME CUTS. WE'RE OUT OF TIME. THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US.

Huckabee: MY PLEASURE. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Yepsen: NOW, ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS,' OUR SPOTLIGHT RETURNS TO THE IOWA STATEHOUSE, WHERE THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION OF 2007 IS IN ITS FINAL DAYS. THE SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, DEMOCRAT MIKE GRONSTAL OF COUNCIL BLUFFS, JOINS US TO FOCUS ON THAT SHUTDOWN. WE RETURN NEXT WEEKEND AT OUR REGULAR 'IOWA PRESS' AIRTIMES: FRIDAY AT 7:30 AND SUNDAY MORNING AT 11:30. I HOPE YOU'LL BE WITH US. I'M DAVID YEPSEN OF 'THE DES MOINES REGISTER' SITTING IN FOR DEAN BORG ON THIS WEEKEND'S EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' THANKS FOR JOINING US HERE ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA; THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.


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Yepsen: FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE HAS HIS HAT IN THE RING, SEEKING TO BECOME THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE IN 2008. WE DISCUSS THE POLICY AND POLITICS IN THE RUN FOR THE WHITE HOUSE WITH MIKE HUCKABEE ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, APRIL 13 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DAVID YEPSEN.

Yepsen: ACTIVITY OUT ON THE CAUCUS CAMPAIGN TRAIL CONTINUES TO PICK UP DRAMATICALLY AS CANDIDATES SEEKING FAVOR WITH IOWA CAUCUS GOERS CONTINUE TO CRISSCROSS THE STATE. THIS WEEKEND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF IOWA HOLDS A BIG ANNUAL FUND-RAISING DINNER, AND THE JAM-PACKED FIELD OF GOP PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDERS WILL BE THERE. THAT FIELD INCLUDES OUR GUEST, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE, WHO IS THE SON OF A BAPTIST MINISTER AND IS A MINISTER HIMSELF. AS AN ELECTED OFFICIAL, MR. HUCKABEE SERVED AS ARKANSAS GOVERNOR FROM JULY 1996 TO JANUARY 2007. GOVERNOR, WELCOME BACK TO 'IOWA PRESS.'

Huckabee: THANK YOU VERY MUCH, DAVID. LET ME MAKE ONE CORRECTION.

Yepsen: GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.

Huckabee: MY FATHER WAS NOT A BAPTIST MINISTER. HE WAS A FIREMAN. SO HE PUT OUT DIFFERENT KINDS OF FIRES. [ LAUGHTER ]

Yepsen: WE STAND CORRECTED. THANK YOU, SIR.

Huckabee: YOU BET.

Yepsen: ALSO WITH US AT THE 'IOWA PRESS' TABLE ARE KAY HENDERSON, NEWS DIRECTOR WITH 'RADIO IOWA' AND MIKE GLOVER, SENIOR POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE REPORTER WITH THE 'ASSOCIATED PRESS.'

Glover: GOVERNOR, LET'S HANDICAP THIS FIELD IF WE COULD JUST FOR A SECOND. THERE IS A TOP TIER THAT MOST PEOPLE SEE IN THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL FIELD, AND YOU'RE NOT IN IT. THE TOP TIER THAT MOST PEOPLE TALK ABOUT IS RUDY GIULIANI, JOHN MCCAIN, AND MITT ROMNEY. HOW DO YOU BREAK INTO THAT FIELD?

Huckabee: FIRST OF ALL, I THINK THE REASON THERE'S A TOP TIER IS BECAUSE OF TWO THINGS: RIGHT NOW IT'S CELEBRITY, PEOPLE WHO HAVE NAME IDENTIFICATION WITH THE CANDIDATES IN THE TOP TIER; AND THE OTHER IS MONEY. MONEY AND CELEBRITY ARE THE TWO THINGS THAT ARE DRIVING THE SO-CALLED FRONT-RUNNER STATUS. BUT CELEBRITY AND MONEY COULD BE ATTRIBUTED TO PARIS HILTON, AND I DON'T THINK SHE'S A VIABLE CANDIDATE FOR THE PRESIDENCY. WHEN THIS BECOMES A CAMPAIGN ABOUT IDEAS AND ISSUES AND MESSAGE, THAT'S WHEN YOU'RE GOING TO SEE A LOT OF CHANGES. AND IOWA IS A VERY CRITICAL FILTER BECAUSE IOWA VOTERS ARE SOPHISTICATED. THEY CERTAINLY HAVE BEEN THROUGH THIS BEFORE. THEY'VE SEEN THE CANDIDATES WHO CAME IN WITH BOTH CELEBRITY AND MONEY AND DIDN'T NECESSARILY BUY IN. AND I THINK THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT A CANDIDATE LIKE ME HAS SUCH CONFIDENCE IN THE PROCESS STARTING IN IOWA, GOING ON THROUGH NEW HAMPSHIRE AND SOUTH CAROLINA, BECAUSE IN THESE EARLY STATES THERE'S A CHANCE TO REALLY MAKE THIS ABOUT MESSAGE AND THE CAPACITY TO CONNECT WITH VOTERS. IF YOU LOOK AT THE TOP THREE, THEY DON'T FIT THE PROFILE OF THE TYPICAL REPUBLICAN MAINSTREAM VIEWPOINT, AND THAT'S WHY I THINK THERE'S GOING TO BE A WONDERFUL OPENING FOR MIKE HUCKABEE AT THE RIGHT TIME.

Glover: AND HOW DO YOU TRANSITION FROM WHERE YOU ARE TO THAT TIER? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?

Huckabee: WELL, I THINK THERE'S SEVERAL THINGS AND IT STARTS WITH EVENTS LIKE THIS WEEKEND, WHERE ALL TEN OF THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ARE GOING TO BE ON THE SAME STAGE HERE AT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF IOWA BIG DINNER. IT'S GOING TO GIVE THE PEOPLE -- THE KEY ACTIVISTS A CHANCE TO SEE ALL OF US. THEN THE DEBATES ARE GOING TO START NEXT MONTH, FIRST IN CALIFORNIA. THEN THERE'S GOING TO BE ONE IN SOUTH CAROLINA THE FIRST OF JUNE. ONE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. ALL OF THOSE NATIONALLY TELEVISED. NOBODY IS GOING TO BE SITTING THERE SAYING, OKAY, ALL THE PEOPLE WITH A LOT OF MONEY SIT ON THIS SIDE OF THE STAGE AND THE PEOPLE WITH LESS MONEY SIT OVER HERE. THERE'S GOING TO BE A LEVEL FLOOR UPON WHICH WE ALL STAND. THOSE ARE GOING TO BE THE FIRST MOMENTS. AND THEN, FRANKLY, THE IOWA STRAW POLL I THINK IS GOING TO BE ANOTHER FILTERING POINT AT WHICH WE'LL FIND OUT WHO REALLY IS RESONATING WITH IOWA VOTERS, AND THAT'S GOING TO BE A LAUNCH PAD FOR ME.

Yepsen: IN AUGUST, YOU MEAN.

Huckabee: IN AUGUST. AUGUST 11.

Glover: DO YOU THINK THAT WILL FORCE CANDIDATES FROM THE RACE?

Huckabee: I THINK IT WILL.

Glover: THE LAST TIME -- THE LAST TIME AROUND, THREE CANDIDATES DROPPED OUT AFTER THE STRAW POLL.

Huckabee: RIGHT.

Glover: DO YOU THINK THAT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN?

Huckabee: IT HAPPENED WITH, WHAT, QUAYLE, DOLE, AND ALEXANDER, AND I THINK WE'LL PROBABLY SEE A SIMILAR FALLOUT AFTER AUGUST, IF SOME LAST UNTIL AUGUST. AND WHO KNOWS?

Glover: DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE DROPOUTS BEFORE THEN?

Huckabee: THERE COULD BE. I MEAN IF IT JUST IS NOT HAPPENING, THERE COMES A POINT AT WHICH, WHETHER IT'S ME OR SOMEBODY ELSE, IF YOU JUST AREN'T GAINING MOMENTUM AND YOU'RE STARTING TO LOSE IT AND YOU'RE NOT GETTING TRACTION, THEN YOU REALLY DO NEED TO DO YOURSELF, YOUR SUPPORTERS, AND THE OTHER CANDIDATES A FAVOR AND, YOU KNOW, PULL THE PLUG AND CALL IT A DAY. AS LONG AS I FEEL LIKE I'M GAINING MOMENTUM AND I'M SEEING MORE MONEY COMING IN THAN I DID BEFORE AND I'M SEEING MORE PEOPLE JOIN UP THAN I DID BEFORE, YOU KNOW, I FEEL LIKE THERE'S A GO. BUT IF IT COMES TO THE POINT WHERE NOBODY WANTS TO CONTRIBUTE AND PEOPLE ARE FALLING AWAY RATHER THAN COMING ON BOARD, THEN, YOU KNOW, I'VE GOT TO FACE THAT REALITY. FORTUNATELY FOR ME, I DIDN'T START BIG AND KIND OF DWINDLING FROM THE GROUNDSWELL. YOU KNOW, I STARTED ABOUT SEVEN WEEKS AGO FROM ZERO, AND WE'RE SEEING A MOMENTUM BEGIN TO BUILD. AND AS LONG AS THAT'S HAPPENING, THEN THERE'S A LOT OF OPTIMISM ABOUT WHERE THIS COULD GO.

Henderson: ONE THING I HEAR FROM IOWA REPUBLICANS IS WHERE HAS HE BEEN. THE FORMER GOVERNOR TOMMY THOMPSON HAS BEEN TO THE STATE OF IOWA EVERY WEEKEND THIS YEAR. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? WHY HAVEN'T YOU DONE THE SHOE LEATHER IN IOWA?

Huckabee: KAY, I'VE BEEN HERE REPEATEDLY. IN FACT, I WAS HERE TWO WEEKS AGO. I WAS IN THE WESTERN PART OF IOWA, SPENT SEVERAL DAYS. I'M TRYING TO REMEMBER JUST HOW MANY TRIPS I'VE BEEN TO IOWA. SO I'VE BEEN HERE QUITE A BIT, BUT I DIDN'T REALLY START COMING WHAT I WOULD CALL REAL ACTIVELY UNTIL I FINISHED THE JOB THAT I HAD. I WAS VERY ADAMANT THAT I OWED THE PEOPLE OF ARKANSAS MY FULL ATTENTION TO BE THEIR GOVERNOR UNTIL JANUARY 9, AND I GAVE THEM THAT. SOME PEOPLE SAY, WELL, I SHOWED UP A LITTLE LATE TO THE OTHER PART OF IT. I DON'T THINK SO. THIS IS A LONG PROCESS. PEOPLE TEND TO FORGET THAT BILL CLINTON DIDN'T EVEN ANNOUNCE HIS CANDIDACY UNTIL OCTOBER OF 1991 AND WHILE, YES, THE RULES HAVE CHANGED AND THE DYNAMICS ARE DIFFERENT AND YOU CAN'T MAKE THAT A COMPLETE COMPARISON, IT'S ABSURD FOR US TO THINK THAT ALL OF THE VOTERS HAVE MADE UP THEIR MINDS IN APRIL OF '07 ABOUT A CAUCUS THAT WON'T HAPPEN UNTIL JANUARY OF '08.

Henderson: YOU MENTIONED MONEY. YOU DID NOT RAISE AS MUCH AS YOUR COMPETITORS. AND YOU'VE COME OUT AND RETOOLED YOUR FUND-RAISING MACHINE. IS FUND-RAISING A VIABLE MEASURE OF A CANDIDATE?

Huckabee: OVER THE LONG HAUL IT IS, BUT IN THE FIRST FEW WEEKS IT ISN'T. WE MET OUR FUND-RAISING GOAL. WE NEEDED TO HIT A HALF MILLION IN THIS FIRST REPORTING PERIOD. FOR US IT WASN'T A THREE-MONTH REPORTING PERIOD; IT WAS ABOUT A SIX-WEEK OR FIVE-AND-A-HALF-WEEK PERIOD, BECAUSE UNLIKE SENATORS WHO WERE ABLE TO GO THROUGH THAT BIG LOOPHOLE BIG ENOUGH TO DRIVE A BRINKS TRUCK THROUGH THAT WAS PASSED BY THE SENATE IN THE SO-CALLED CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM, WHICH WAS ANYTHING BUT REFORM, THEY WERE ABLE TO TRANSFER MONEY FROM THEIR FEDERAL SENATE ACCOUNT OVER TO THEIR PRESIDENTIAL ACCOUNTS. WELL, I STARTED LITERALLY ON THE DAY THAT I FILED THE PAPERS WITH NOTHING BUT MY HOME TELEPHONE DIALING FOR DOLLARS FROM A FEW FRIENDS TO GET ENOUGH MONEY TO OPEN A CHECKING ACCOUNT. SO I DIDN'T GET TO START FROM SOMETHING. I STARTED FROM NOTHING AND HAD TO LITERALLY GO RENT OFFICE SPACE, GET STAFF, PRINT LETTERHEAD, YOU KNOW, GET A TELEPHONE INSTALLED. SO I THINK WE DID REALLY WELL. AND AGAIN, WE WERE ON TARGET FOR WHAT WE EXPECTED TO DO IN THE FIRST REPORTING PERIOD.

Yepsen: GOVERNOR, COULD THIS MONEY PROBLEM FORCE YOU OUT OF THE RACE? I MEAN IT DID YOUR GOOD FRIEND TOM VILSACK, FORMER GOVERNOR, HAD THE SAME -- DESCRIBED THE SAME FUND-RAISING PROBLEM WITH U.S. SENATORS. IT KNOCKED HIM OUT OF THE DEMOCRATIC CONTEST. HOW ABOUT YOU ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE?

Huckabee: YOU KNOW, TOM AND I HAD A GREAT CONVERSATION JUST A FEW HOURS AFTER HE MADE HIS ANNOUNCEMENT. AND FOR YOUR VIEWERS WHO DON'T KNOW, TOM AND I, OF COURSE, WERE COLLEAGUES AS GOVERNORS. AND DESPITE OUR PARTY AND SOMETIMES PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES, WE REMAIN VERY GOOD FRIENDS, WHICH I THINK IS THE WAY POLITICS OUGHT TO OPERATE, THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO AGREE WITH EVERYONE TO BE AGREEABLE AND TO HAVE GOOD FRIENDSHIPS. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I REALIZED WHEN I TALKED TO TOM -- AND I WAS SORT OF SEEING THIS FROM A DISTANCE -- IT'S NOT JUST HOW MUCH YOU RAISE, BUT IT'S HOW MUCH YOU'RE SPENDING AGAINST HOW MUCH YOU RAISE. ONE THING WE'RE HAVING TO BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT IS BEING VERY FRUGAL IN WHAT WE BURN. WHEN I LOOK AT SOME OF THE SO-CALLED TOP-TIER CANDIDATES, I THINK THE KEY THING IS NOT JUST TO SEE WHAT THEY RAISED, LOOK AT WHAT THEY'VE SPENT AND ASK WHAT ARE THEY GETTING FOR IT. THAT'S REALLY MAYBE THE MORE IMPORTANT PART.

Yepsen: I'D LIKE YOU TO PUT A FINER POINT ON A QUESTION THAT CAME UP EARLIER. DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF WITH THE OTHER CANDIDATES IN THE FIELD, PARTICULARLY THAT TOP-TIER: RUDY GIULIANI, MITT ROMNEY, JOHN MCCAIN.

Huckabee: REPUBLICANS SINCE 1980 HAVE NOMINATED AND ELECTED PEOPLE WHO ARE PRO-LIFE, WHO ARE PRO-FAMILY, WHO ARE CONSERVATIVES NOT JUST IN THEIR RHETORIC BUT IN THEIR RECORD, AND THAT HAVE A LONG-TERM CONSISTENCY OF THAT. WHAT I BRING TO THE TABLE I THINK WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY ARE THE QUALITIES THAT HAVE TRADITIONALLY BEEN IMPORTANT FOR A REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT. FIRST OF ALL, THE EXPERIENCE OF HAVING EXECUTIVE BACKGROUND AS A GOVERNOR FOR TEN AND A HALF YEARS, SERVING IN THE CAPACITY WHERE I DIDN'T JUST MAKE SPEECHES, I MADE DECISIONS, EVERY DAY MADE DECISIONS AND WAS HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE RESULTS OF EDUCATION, ROAD IMPROVEMENT, HEALTH CARE, THINGS THAT MATTER TO PEOPLE WHO SIT AT THEIR DINNER TABLES AT NIGHT AND REALLY DON'T CARE ABOUT PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES AS WHAT I CALL HORIZONTAL POLITICS: LEFT/RIGHT, LIBERAL/CONSERVATIVE, DEMOCRAT/REPUBLICAN. THE AVERAGE AMERICAN IS THINKING VERTICALLY, NOT HORIZONTALLY. THEY WANT TO KNOW WILL THIS PRESIDENT LEAD OUR COUNTRY TO HAVE BETTER EDUCATION, MORE SECURE BORDERS, SAFER NEIGHBORHOODS, A SAFER WORLD IN WHICH TO LIVE, BETTER HIGHWAYS, ROADS, AND AIRPORTS. THOSE ARE VERTICAL ISSUES, NOT HORIZONTAL.

Glover: GOVERNOR, I'D LIKE YOU TO ASSESS THE POLITICAL CLIMATE OF AMERICA RIGHT NOW. YOU'RE RUNNING AS A REPUBLICAN WITH GEORGE BUSH AS PRESIDENT, AND MOST POLLS I'VE SEEN HAVE SHOWN GEORGE BUSH'S APPROVAL RATINGS IN THE SEWER AND GOING DOWN. WHAT'S THE CLIMATE FOR REPUBLICANS?

Huckabee: BOY, WHEN YOU GO DOWN FROM THE SEWER, THAT'S PRETTY TOUGH, ISN'T IT. [ LAUGHTER ] IT IS A TOUGH ENVIRONMENT.

Glover: I MEAN IT'S A TOUGH ENVIRONMENT FOR REPUBLICANS. YOU HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO'S PROSECUTING A WAR THAT MOST POLLS SHOW PEOPLE DON'T FAVOR. HOW IS THE CLIMATE FOR REPUBLICANS IN THAT?

Huckabee: FIRST OF ALL, I DON'T AGREE WITH THOSE WHO SAY THERE'S NO WAY A REPUBLICAN WINS IN '08, BECAUSE I BELIEVE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL ELECT A PRESIDENT, NOT A PARTY. AND IT'S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT THAT GUYS LIKE ME STAY IN THE RACE. I CAN RELATE TO THE ORDINARY, AVERAGE AMERICAN WHO IS NOT A CHILD OF PRIVILEGE, WHO DIDN'T GROW UP WITH PRIVILEGE. I'M THE FIRST MALE IN MY ENTIRE FAMILY LINEAGE TO EVEN GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL. I EMBODY, I'VE LIVED, I'VE EXPERIENCED THE AMERICAN DREAM. AND I THINK THERE ARE A LOT OF AMERICANS OUT THERE WHO ARE LOOKING FOUR SOMEBODY WHO'S STILL OPTIMISTIC AND VISIONARY ABOUT THE RESILIENCE OF THIS COUNTRY AND WHO BELIEVE THAT IT'S STILL A GREAT, GREAT PLACE IN WHICH TO LIVE, ONE IN WHICH WE WANT TO CAPTURE THE BEST OF WHO WE ARE. SO I'M NOT GOING TO RUN FROM OR WITH GEORGE BUSH. HE HAS HIS OWN PRESIDENCY. I PLAN TO HAVE MINE.

Glover: DO YOU HAVE A NEED TO DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF FROM GEORGE BUSH, TO SAY I'M A REPUBLICAN BUT I THINK I'M A LITTLE DIFFERENT HERE, I'M A LITTLE DIFFERENT THERE?

Huckabee: I'VE BEEN DOING THAT FOR ALL THE YEARS THAT I WAS GOVERNOR AND HE WAS PRESIDENT, BECAUSE I CERTAINLY TOOK VERY STRONG POSITIONS AGAINST SOME OF HIS POLICIES ON MEDICAID, SOME OF HIS POLICIES ON REAL ID, AND ON SOME OF THE FEDERAL PREEMPTIONS ON TAXING AUTHORITY AT THE LOCAL STATE LEVEL. PROBABLY ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I'M NOT MAYBE ON TOP OF THE GUEST LIST AT ALL THE WHITE HOUSE DINNERS IS BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN A GOVERNOR OF MY STATE FIRST AND A FRIEND OF THE PRESIDENT SECOND. I'M GOING TO BE WITH HIM WHEN I'M WITH HIM, BUT I NEVER FORGOT THAT I WAS ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE OF ARKANSAS TO BE THEIR GOVERNOR. I WAS NOT ELECTED TO BE A MOUTHPIECE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.

Henderson: GOVERNOR, YOU HAVE SAID THAT CHARACTER IS AN ISSUE IN THIS RACE, AND IF IT ISN'T FOR REPUBLICANS, THEN REPUBLICANS OWE BILL CLINTON AN APOLOGY. IN WHAT -- I GUESS WHAT CONTEXT ARE YOU MAKING THAT ASSERTION?

Huckabee: WELL, I'M SPECIFICALLY, KAY, REFERENCING CHRISTIAN EVANGELICAL LEADERS WHO WERE THE MOST VOCAL IN SAYING BACK DURING THE CLINTON ERA THAT PERSONAL BEHAVIOR, PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, CHARACTER WERE THE KEY FACTORS IN A PRESIDENT'S CRITERIA. I'M NOT SPEAKING ABOUT THE CANDIDATES. THAT'S FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO MAKE THAT DECISION. BUT I DO HAVE A PROBLEM WITH -- AND AGAIN, LET ME SPEAK AS A CHRISTIAN EVANGELICAL. SO THIS IS NOT A GROUP OF PEOPLE I'M SPEAKING TO; THIS IS A GROUP OF PEOPLE I'M SPEAKING FROM. THOSE ARE MY ROOTS, SO I COME FROM THAT VERY WING OF THE PARTY, IF YOU WILL. BUT HAVING SAID THAT, I FEEL LIKE I HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO SAY, IF YOU WILL, PROPHETICALLY TO THOSE LEADERS THAT IF YOU SAID DURING BILL CLINTON'S TENURE THAT HIS PERSONAL BEHAVIOR MATTERED AND HIS CHARACTER MATTERED AND HIS ACTIVITIES IN OFFICE AND ALL OF THOSE THINGS, IF THAT MATTERED, YOU CAN'T NOW COME ALONG AND SAY BUT IT DOESN'T MATTER TO THE REPUBLICANS IN 2008. THAT'S HYPOCRISY.

Glover: SO RUDY GIULIANI BEING MARRIED THREE TIMES AND BEING ESTRANGED FROM HIS SONS WON'T BE AN ISSUE FOR EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS?

Huckabee: I'M ASKING THE CHRISTIAN EVANGELICAL LEADERS WILL IT BE. AND IF IT IS, OKAY. IF IT ISN'T, THEN WHY IS IT AN ISSUE FOR BILL CLINTON AND IT'S NOT FOR SOMEBODY ELSE? MY POINT IS CONSISTENCY BECAUSE I DO BELIEVE THAT IT'S AN ISSUE OF CREDIBILITY. THE CHRISTIAN LEADERS NEED TO BE CHRISTIAN LEADERS, NOT REPUBLICAN LEADERS, OR THEREFORE THEY LOSE THE SALT THAT THE SALT IS SUPPOSED TO BE. IF THE SALT DOESN'T HAVE ANY SAVOR, THEN IT'S NOT SALT, IT'S SAND. AND IF THE LIGHT IS HIDDEN UNDER A BUSHEL, THEN IT'S NOT LIGHT AT ALL. AND THAT'S MY CHALLENGE TO THE CHRISTIAN LEADERS. EITHER BE CONSISTENT, BE CHRISTIAN LEADERS, OR JUST SAY, LOOK, I'M A POLITICAL BOSS AND IT'S REALLY ABOUT THE POWER.

Yepsen: GOVERNOR, I WANT TO GO BACK TO THE QUESTION MIKE WAS ASKING EARLIER ABOUT GEORGE BUSH AND WHETHER OR NOT HE'S A LIABILITY IN THE GOP THIS CYCLE. WHAT'S THE MOOD INSIDE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY? SOME OF US WHO COVER THIS GAME HERE IN IOWA HAVE NOTICED THAT THE CROWDS AT REPUBLICAN EVENTS ARE MUCH SMALLER THAN THEY ARE AT DEMOCRATIC ONES. WHAT'S YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE MOOD OF YOUR PARTY RIGHT NOW?

Huckabee: THERE'S A LOT OF ANXIETY, AND I THINK PART OF THE ANXIETY IS PEOPLE KNOW THAT THE PRESIDENT'S POPULARITY, AS MIKE WOULD SAY, IS MAYBE NOT STELLAR, MORE LIKE CELLAR INSTEAD OF STELLAR. BUT I DON'T THINK REPUBLICANS HAVE WRITTEN 2008 OFF. I THINK RIGHT NOW WHAT THEY'RE SAYING IS, IS THERE A CANDIDATE WE CAN RALLY BEHIND WHO CAN LEAD US, WHO CAN ARTICULATE WHO WE ARE, AND WHO NOT ONLY EMBODIES OUR VISION BUT WHO CAN COMMUNICATE IT BECAUSE, FRANKLY, ONE OF THE BIG CHALLENGES THE PRESIDENT HAS HAD HAS BEEN I THINK IN THE COMMUNICATIONS AREA. HE IS NOT MAYBE THE MOST PROLIFIC AT COMMUNICATING HIS IDEAS, EVEN WHEN HE HAS GOOD ONES. THAT'S A REAL CONCERN.

Henderson: YOU HAVE SAID YOUR PARTY HAS A COMMUNICATIONS PROBLEM. YOU SAID THAT IN ADVANCE OF THE 2006 ELECTION. SO WHAT DOES IT NEED TO, AS YOU SAY, ARTICULATE?

Huckabee: IT NEEDS MIKE HUCKABEE. THAT'S WHY I'M RUNNING. [ LAUGHTER ]

Yepsen: GOVERNOR, LET'S SWITCH GEARS HERE AND TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE ISSUES. IRAQ IS AN ISSUE NOW AND IT'S LIKELY TO BE AN ISSUE FACING THE NEXT PRESIDENT. TWO-PART QUESTION. WHAT SHOULD THE NEXT PRESIDENT DO ABOUT IT? BUT SECONDLY, WHAT QUALIFIES YOU AS A FORMER GOVERNOR TO HAVE ANY REAL EXPERTISE ON QUESTIONS OF FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL DEFENSE?

Huckabee: LET'S TAKE THE SECOND PART OF THE QUESTION FIRST, BECAUSE IT IS A LEGITIMATE ISSUE TO BRING UP; YOU KNOW, CAN A GOVERNOR LEAD FOREIGN POLICY. IT WAS A QUESTION THAT PEOPLE ASKED OF RONALD REAGAN, AND HE HAD BEEN A GOVERNOR AND BEFORE THAT AN ACTOR, SO PEOPLE THOUGHT HE'S JUST NOT REALLY QUALIFIED TO MAKE THESE DECISIONS. YET WITHIN TEN YEARS OF HIS TAKING THE PRESIDENCY, THE COLD WAR IS OVER, THE SOVIET UNION HAS COLLAPSED, AND THE BERLIN WALL IS DOWN AND THE WORLD IS A SAFER PLACE AND WE HAVE A PEACE DIVIDEND. THE TRUTH IS WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS NOT WHAT YOU KNOW, IT'S WHAT YOUR JUDGMENT IS AND WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH. WHAT I THINK A GOVERNOR DOES BRING TO THE TABLE IS THE UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING. I THINK THE GREATEST QUALITY A LEADER HAS IS THAT HE KNOWS WHAT HE DOESN'T KNOW. THE BIGGEST DANGER YOU EVER HAVE IN A LEADER IS WHEN HE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT HE DOESN'T KNOW. THAT'S SCARY. IF A GUY HAS AN ANSWER FOR EVERYTHING, YOU'VE GOT TO WATCH OUT BECAUSE NOBODY KNOWS EVERYTHING.

Yepsen: HAVE YOU GOT SOME ANSWERS, ANYWAY, FOR THE QUESTION OF IRAQ?

Huckabee: WELL, FOR IRAQ I THINK FIRST OF ALL WE ENGAGE THE PEOPLE OF THE REGION. THEY'VE BEEN SPECTATORS AND THEY NEED TO BE PARTICIPANTS IN BRINGING A RESOLUTION TO THE SITUATION. BUT THE UNITED STATES CAN'T JUST WALK AWAY. WE HAVE TOO MUCH INVESTED NOW TO JUST SORT OF SAY WE'RE JUST GOING TO WALK AWAY FROM IT AND LEAVE. THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS THAT I DO THINK HAVE TO HAPPEN. GET THOSE OTHER NATIONS -- THE JORDANIANS, KUWAITIS, THE SAUDIS, EVEN THE IRANIANS -- EVERYBODY IN THAT NEIGHBORHOOD HAS GOT TO BE INVOLVED BECAUSE WHEN THEIR NEIGHBOR'S HOUSE BURNS DOWN, THEY'RE GOING TO GET SCORCHED BEFORE WE DO. BUT THE SECOND THING WE HAVE TO DO IS WE HAVE TO HAVE A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF WE'RE NOT GOING TO WALK AWAY. WE'RE GOING TO PUT WHAT RESOURCES ARE NECESSARY FOR US TO WIN AND WALK AWAY HAVING WON IT. THE PROBLEM THAT I HEAR FROM THE DEMOCRAT STRATEGY, WHICH IS TIMETABLE DEFINITE DATE, IT WOULD BE LIKE ME SAYING, LOOK, I'M GOING TO GO IN TO PLAY A FOOTBALL GAME BUT I'M ONLY GOING TO STAY ON THE FIELD UNTIL 9:00. AT 9:00 I'M LEAVING. I DON'T CARE WHAT THE SCORE IS; BY GOSH, AT 9:00 I'M OUT OF HERE. WELL, IF I'M THE OPPONENT, I DON'T HAVE TO WIN; I JUST HAVE TO STAY PAST 9:00.

Glover: GOVERNOR, LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME ISSUES THAT ARE RAGING IN CONGRESS RIGHT NOW. ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES IS IN SOME HOT WATER OVER THE FIRING OF THE U.S. ATTORNEYS. REGARDLESS OF WHAT HE DID OR DIDN'T DO, IS HIS SITUATION SO BAD THAT HE SHOULD JUST GO TO END THE STALEMATE?

Huckabee: TO SAY HE'S IN HOT WATER IS KIND OF LIKE SAYING THE RABBIT WAS BOILING IN 'FATAL INSTINCT.' YEAH, HE'S IN HOT WATER.

Glover: IS IT SO BAD THAT HE SHOULD JUST GO TO CLEAR AWAY THE CONTROVERSY AND ALLOW THE ADMINISTRATION TO MOVE FORWARD?

Huckabee: WELL, THE PRESIDENT HAS GOT TO MAKE THAT DECISION, OR MR. GONZALES NEEDS TO MAKE THAT DECISION TO WALK THE PLANK ON BEHALF OF HIS BOSS. AND AT SOME POINT -- I KNOW AS A GOVERNOR WHEN I HAD PEOPLE IN MY CABINET, I HOPED SOMETIMES THAT THEY WOULD KIND OF GET THE PICTURE AND THEY WOULD TAKE THEMSELVES OUT. YOU WOULD THINK SO. AND I THINK THE ISSUE IS NOT WHETHER THOSE ATTORNEY -- U.S. ATTORNEYS COULD BE REPLACED. THE PRESIDENT HAS THE AUTHORITY TO DO IT. HERE WAS THE DANGER AND HERE WAS THE MISTAKE. TO TRY TO JUSTIFY THE REPLACEMENT, SAYING THAT THOSE EIGHT U.S. ATTORNEYS HAD NOT DONE THEIR JOBS WELL, THAT WAS RIDICULOUS. WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE JUST COME OUT AND SAID -- LOOK, THESE ARE POLITICAL APPOINTMENTS, WE'VE GOT SOME FOLKS WE'D LIKE TO MOVE IN THESE SLOTS, AND THERE'S SOME FOLKS THAT WE WANT TO GIVE A SHOT AND WE ONLY HAVE TWO YEARS LEFT, SO HERE GOES. YOU KNOW, PEOPLE MIGHT NOT HAVE LIKED THAT, BUT THERE'S NO CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION FOR THAT. THE CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION COMES WHEN YOU DISPARAGE THE REPUTATIONS AND CHARACTER OF GOOD PEOPLE IN ARKANSAS WHERE ONE OF THE ISSUES -- I KNOW BOTH THESE GUYS. BUD CUMMINS, WHO WAS THE FIRED U.S. ATTORNEY, WAS MY CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL IN THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE BEFORE HE GOT THAT JOB. I RECOMMENDED HIM TO IT. I ALSO KNOW TIM GRIFFIN, WHO IS AN OUTSTANDING YOUNG MAN AND A GREAT GUY, AND I KNOW HIM VERY WELL. BUT I ALSO KNOW THAT BUD CUMMINS DIDN'T GET FIRED BECAUSE HE WAS DOING A POOR JOB. HE GOT FIRED BECAUSE THEY WERE GOING TO MOVE TIM IN AND GIVE HIM AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE U.S. ATTORNEY. JUST SAY IT. THAT'S OKAY.

Glover: SO IS IT TIME FOR HIM TO MOVE ON AND CLEAR THE DECK AND START ALL OVER AGAIN?

Huckabee: WELL, IF I WERE PRESIDENT IT WOULD BE, AND I WOULD HOPE THAT HE'D COME TO ME AND SAY THAT. BUT I THINK IT'S CLEAR THAT RIGHT NOW THE PRESIDENT DOESN'T NEED ANYONE AROUND HIM WHO IS A LIABILITY. AND RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY, ALBERTO GONZALES IS A LIABILITY TO THE PRESIDENT RIGHT NOW.

Henderson: PRESIDENT BUSH HAS STAKED OUT A POSITION ON IMMIGRATION, WHICH MANY IN YOUR PARTY DISAGREE WITH. IF YOU WERE PRESIDENT, WHAT WOULD YOU DO IN REGARDS TO IMMIGRATION?

Huckabee: WELL, THE FIRST THING WE'VE GOT TO DO IS SECURE OUR BORDERS, AND THAT MEANS PHYSICALLY OR ELECTRONICALLY, AN ABSOLUTE WALL, A FENCE. PEOPLE ARE NOT GOING TO BE SATISFIED WITH ANY IMMIGRATION POLICY ON THIS SIDE OF THE BORDER UNTIL WE SEAL OUR BORDER, AND THAT'S REASONABLE. I ALWAYS LIKE TO SAY WHEN I GO TO THE AIRPORT IN LITTLE ROCK AND CHECK IN FOR A FLIGHT, THEY KNOW WHO I AM. THEY ALL CALL ME BY NAME. BUT I PULL OUT MY PHOTO I.D. TO AUTHENTICATE MY IDENTITY. I GO THROUGH SEVERAL LAYERS OF SECURITY, AND I TAKE MY SHOES OFF AND PUT THEM IN THAT LITTLE PLASTIC BUCKET AND PUT MY LAPTOP ASIDE AND I WALK THROUGH AND I HOLD MY HANDS UP. YOU KNOW, PEOPLE LOOK AT ME AND SAY, 'YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS?' I SAY, 'SURE, IT'S THE LAW. THAT'S WHAT I HAVE TO DO.' I DON'T GET WAIVED THROUGH BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, I USED TO BE A GOVERNOR. NOW, MY POINT IS IF I HAVE TO GO THROUGH THAT AS A TAX PAYING LONG-TIME PUBLIC SERVING CITIZEN AND PROVE WHO I AM EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW IT, THEN IT'S NOT UNREASONABLE TO SAY IF YOU WANT TO COME HERE TO OUR COUNTRY, YOU NEED TO TELL US WHO YOU ARE. WE NEED TO KNOW. DO YOU HAVE A COMMUNICABLE DISEASE? A CRIMINAL BACKGROUND? IF YOU DO, YOU DON'T GET IN. AND DO YOU HAVE A JOB WAITING ON YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE? IF I DON'T HAVE A SEAT WAITING ON ME ON THE OTHER SIDE WITH A BOARDING PASS, I DON'T GET IN. THE SAME THING IS TRUE. THEN YOU --

Henderson: WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HERE?

Huckabee: WELL, ONCE YOU ADDRESS THIS SIDE OF THE BORDER, THEN YOU HAVE THE CREDIBILITY TO SAY NOW LET'S TALK ABOUT THESE FOLKS WHO ARE HERE. THERE'S GOT TO BE A PENALTY. THERE CAN'T BE AMNESTY. THERE MUST BE SOME TYPE OF RESTITUTION. THE PRESIDENT'S PLAN HAS THAT WHERE YOU PAY A FINE, YOU HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU'VE DONE WRONG.

Henderson: IS $10,000 ENOUGH, WHICH IS HIS LATEST PROPOSAL?

Huckabee: YEAH, I THINK THAT THERE'S GOT TO BE -- IT'S GOT TO BE REASONABLE. IT CAN'T BE SOMETHING THAT MAKES IT SO THAT A PERSON WOULD RATHER GO INTO HIDING. THAT'S WHY WE HAVE THE PROBLEM WE HAVE IS BECAUSE TO WAIT SEVEN YEARS TO GET A PERMIT SO YOU CAN PICK TOMATOES OR PLUCK CHICKENS? NO, IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

Yepsen: HOW ABOUT SANCTIONS ON EMPLOYERS, PEOPLE WHO HIRE ILLEGALS?

Huckabee: WELL, OF COURSE WE SHOULD BE DOING THAT. HERE'S THE PROBLEM, THOUGH, DAVID, BECAUSE I KNOW THAT PEOPLE IN MY STATE ARE OFTEN ACCUSED OF OPENLY HIRING ILLEGALS. THEY REALLY DON'T WANT TO RISK EVERYTHING THAT WOULD BE AT RISK TO DO THAT. BUT IF PEOPLE PRESENT FALSE DOCUMENTS, SOMETIMES IT'S REALLY TOUGH FOR AN EMPLOYER TO BE THE IMMIGRATION SERVICE. THAT'S THE SAME REASON I DON'T THINK REAL ID IS ANYTHING OTHER THAN A STUPID IDEA FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, BECAUSE YOU'RE ASKING FRONT-LINE DMV WORKERS WHO MAKE $8 AN HOUR -- MAYBE MORE HERE IN IOWA BUT NOT MUCH MORE IN ARKANSAS. YOU'RE ASKING THEM TO ESSENTIALLY BE LAW ENFORCEMENT AND DOCUMENT CHECKERS. THEY'RE NOT.

Glover: GOVERNOR, ONE OF THE ISSUES YOU'VE FACED AS GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS AND YOU WILL FACE AS A CANDIDATE IN IOWA IS WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT RURAL AREAS OF AMERICA? HOW DO YOU DEVELOP THEM? HOW DO YOU DO RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT? HOW DO YOU MAKE RURAL AMERICA GROW? IT'S BEEN WITHERING FOR YEARS. WHAT'S YOUR ANSWER TO THAT?

Huckabee: IT'S PART OF THE CHANGE OF THE LANDSCAPE IN THAT WITH FARMS BECOMING MORE MECHANIZED, LESS LABOR IS NEEDED, SO THEREFORE PEOPLE MOVE INTO URBAN AREAS BECAUSE JOBS TEND TO CENTER THERE. SOME OF THIS IS A NATURAL PROGRESSION OF OUR CULTURE AND SOCIETY. ARKANSAS AND IOWA ARE VERY SIMILAR: ALMOST SIMILAR IN POPULATION SIZE... 2.7 MILLION, ABOUT 3 MILLION IN IOWA; LARGELY RURAL, AGRICULTURAL, WE ARE TOO; ONLY A FEW URBAN AREAS, THE REST IS RURAL. PART OF WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO, THOUGH, IS TO MAKE SURE THAT THE KIDS IN THE RURAL AREA CAN ACCESS A QUALITY EDUCATION. THIS WAS ONE OF MY PRIORITIES AS GOVERNOR. AND THE KORET FOUNDATION SAID THAT ARKANSAS HAD MADE MORE STRIDES IN FIVE YEARS THAN IN THE PREVIOUS FIFTY. WE'RE NAMED AS ONE OF THE THREE STATES BY EDUCATION WEEK MAGAZINE AS HAVING THE MOST SIGNIFICANT UPTICK IN OUR NAET SCORES AND IN OUR ADVANCED PLACEMENT EXAMS BECAUSE WE BEGIN TO PUT A HIGH PREMIUM ON RAISING THE STANDARDS OF EDUCATION, INSISTING THAT THERE WOULD BE A STRONG CORE CURRICULUM, WHICH FOR ME INCLUDES MUSIC AND ART EDUCATION. YOU CAN'T HAVE A DECENT EDUCATION IF YOU DON'T INCLUDE THAT WHICH DEVELOPS BOTH SIDES, RIGHT AND LEFT OF THE BRAIN. SO WE NOW HAVE MANDATORY ART AND MUSIC FOR EVERY STUDENT WITH A CERTIFIED TEACHER, SOMETHING I'M PASSIONATE ABOUT, SOMETHING EVERY KID IN AMERICA OUGHT TO HAVE, AS WELL AS MATH AND SCIENCE AND THOSE OTHER SUBJECTS.

Henderson: A LOT OF PEOPLE IN YOUR PARTY ARE CONCERNED ABOUT PROFLIGATE SPENDING AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO CONTROL AND ELIMINATE THE DEFICIT?

Huckabee: WELL, I WISH THE PRESIDENT HAD A LINE ITEM VETO LIKE I HAD AS A GOVERNOR. THAT WOULD BE A STEP. NOW, THAT MAY NOT HAPPEN. BUT I THINK THE PRESIDENT HAS GOT TO CALL ATTENTION TO SOME OF THE TYPE SPENDING THAT'S, YOU KNOW, OUT OF HAND. BUT THE REALITY IS MOST OF THE REAL SPENDING IN AMERICA COMES WITH ENTITLEMENTS. IT'S NOT SO MUCH THE OUTRAGEOUS PORK SPENDING THAT YOU SEE. IT'S BAD. IN FACT, IT'S HORRIBLE.

Yepsen: WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT ENTITLEMENTS?

Huckabee: WE HAVE TO CHANGE THE RULES OF THE GAME BECAUSE RIGHT NOW ENTITLEMENTS ARE BUILT ON THE IDEA THAT SOME PEOPLE GET VIRTUALLY ANY AND EVERYTHING THEY WANT WITH NO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE GAME. PART OF WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN -- FOR EXAMPLE, IN OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, IT'S TOTALLY UPSIDE DOWN, TOTALLY UPSIDE DOWN.

Glover: AND AS YOU SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM PRESIDENT BUSH, DON'T YOU HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE DEFICITS HAVE GOTTEN OUT OF CONTROL UNDER A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT, AND ISN'T IT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES TO POINT THAT OUT?

Huckabee: WELL, WHETHER THE DEFICITS ARE OUT OF CONTROL, THE ECONOMY RIGHT NOW IS PROVING THAT THE DEFICITS ARE COMING BACK UNDER CONTROL MORE RAPIDLY THAN HAD BEEN PROJECTED. SO I'M NOT SURE THAT -- IF YOU'RE LEADING ME DOWN THE ROAD OF SAYING DO WE NEED TO HAVE A TAX INCREASE, THE ANSWER IS NO, WE DON'T, BECAUSE TAX INCREASES STIFLE THE ECONOMY. IT DOES NOT STIMULATE IT, AND THE LAST THING WE NEED RIGHT NOW IS TO DO SOMETHING THAT CUTS JOB PRODUCTION, THAT CUTS OUT THE TYPE OF INVESTMENT CAPABILITIES THAT WE REALLY NEED COMPANIES TO BE MAKING.

Yepsen: GOVERNOR, I HAVE TO CONTROL THE CLOCK. I HAVE TO MAKE SOME CUTS. WE'RE OUT OF TIME. THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US.

Huckabee: MY PLEASURE. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Yepsen: NOW, ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS,' OUR SPOTLIGHT RETURNS TO THE IOWA STATEHOUSE, WHERE THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION OF 2007 IS IN ITS FINAL DAYS. THE SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, DEMOCRAT MIKE GRONSTAL OF COUNCIL BLUFFS, JOINS US TO FOCUS ON THAT SHUTDOWN. WE RETURN NEXT WEEKEND AT OUR REGULAR 'IOWA PRESS' AIRTIMES: FRIDAY AT 7:30 AND SUNDAY MORNING AT 11:30. I HOPE YOU'LL BE WITH US. I'M DAVID YEPSEN OF 'THE DES MOINES REGISTER' SITTING IN FOR DEAN BORG ON THIS WEEKEND'S EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' THANKS FOR JOINING US HERE ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA; THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.


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