Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joined me today to talk about the debate process and Defense spending.
HH: Pleased to open today’s hour with Governor Mike Huckabee, former governor of the great state of Arkansas, of Fox News Channel All-Stars and star now running for president. Governor Huckabee, good to have you back, welcome.
MH: Thank you, Hugh, great to be back on the show.
HH: You know, I didn’t even get a chance to chat with you after the debate. It was madness there. How did you think the debate went?
MH: Well, you know, honestly, I was going to come over and check with you and see if you wanted to go out with me to get a sandwich, because it seemed like that neither of us were really that busy. I mean, it took nearly 45 minutes into the debate before I got a question.
MH: And I felt like, to be very honest, and I’m not sucking up to you, although perhaps maybe I am. But I felt like that your talents and your insight into the substantive issues were completely underused. And I really thought that it was going to be a very substantive debate. We never got to talking about things like Syrian migrants. We never talked about education or health care. I think about all the things that were left on the table, and frankly, it was three hours and twenty minutes of mostly wanting to know what did each of us think about something that one of the other candidates had said.
HH: Well, I’ve got to say, I never argue with results. 24 million people watched. You did great, by the way. I just, I’m always marveling at your ability in any situation to, whether it’s the Western Conservative Summit, where I saw you this summer, or at the debate. But I think Jake ran an almost impossible situation very well, because there are too many people, right? It’s just impossible to run a 14 person show. I said I was like the wide receiver. I got my touches, but the 11, the other people were, Jake was just trying to make sure you all got relatively the same amount of time. And it’s really kind of impossible. But 24 million people watched. What’s that tell you, Governor?
MH: Well, I think people are very interested in what’s going to happen to their country. I’d like to believe that they weren’t watching strictly for the entertainment value, that they really do care about the direction of this country. And I hope they’re scared to death about it. I hope they genuinely are concerned that we have so deteriorated, militarily, economically, and morally, that the next president had better be ready to play big league ball when he steps into the Oval Office, because this is not going to be for the faint of heart.
HH: I want to talk about the military situation in a moment, but first, you’re at the border today. Last night, I saw the movie, Sicario, which is the new Emily Blunt movie, for which she will receive, probably, the Academy Award. It is one of the most chilling movies about Mexican drug cartels I’ve ever seen, and there have been a few of them, right? There have been a lot of them, and she is an incredible heroine in this, and it’s just grisly and it’s the reality of the drug wars on the border. You were at the border today. What did you see?
MH: Well, frankly, Hugh, I’m not going to be at the border until Saturday. I’ll be there then.
HH: Oh, I thought you were there today, okay.
MH: No, I’ll be there with Congressman Hunter, who really has one of the models for how to deal with the border security. He helped put together a fence at the border around the San Diego area. It’s been very effective. I’ve been there before, but we’re going to go down there Saturday, get an update on what’s happening, and I think we have to secure the border both physically, electronically. We also have to deal with the fact that 40% of the illegal immigrants came here legally. They walked right through the front door on a legal visa, and they just overstayed. They just never bothered to fulfill the law and leave when they were supposed to.
HH: But you are a supporter of the fence, aren’t you?
MH: Absolutely. And Hugh, I’m convinced that as president, I could get it built in less than a year. And if that sounds a little bit pretentious, it’s not, because 73 years ago, the U.S. built a road between British Columbia and Alaska. It was the 1,700 mile road built under Arctic conditions with the engineering capacity that existed 73 years ago. And we did it in less than a year. I’ve also flown in a helicopter the entire length of the security fence of Israel. Israel was universally condemned for building that security fence. But the year before they built it, they had 1,000 suicide bombers a year coming into Israel, and murdering civilians. The year after that fence was finished, not one suicide bomber. They went from 1,000 to zero each year. That tells you that a secure border is the way you maintain peace and security for your own citizens.
HH: And I don’t know if you’re a moviegoer, Governor. If you do have a chance to go see Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin in Sicario before you go to the border, I would recommend it highly. I think it’s something every American ought to see, because it’s the national security aspect of the border, not the immigration aspect that worries me even more than anything else.
MH: Well, I hope I do get to see it. I’ve seen the trailers. I think it’s going to be a terrific film, and based on your recommendation, I will make it so that I go, even if it’s at the Midnight showing, because it’s maybe the first time I have an opportunity to get off the campaign trail long enough to go do it.
HH: Go tell Alice. She’s got to give you a little down time. Now Governor, I want to ask you about, I wrote a piece at CNN Opinion today about John Boehner has a chance to do a deal with President Obama to do what Jimmy Carter did in ’79, which is reverse course and rebuild the military that Carter decimated. We need a lot of money for the military. If Boehner delivered that deal with President Obama and the Speaker said see, and it had some extra domestic spending in there, sugar donuts, I call it, for the President, would you support that kind of a deal that got us to the next presidency without further hurting the Pentagon?
MH: I would want to see what we had to give up to get it. I certainly believe that we’ve got to enhance the military. And this President has cut military spending by 25% in his term of office. We have the least preparedness that we’ve had since before World War II. I also feel like the President has focused more on the social rebuilding of the military, being transgender friendly than he has on being combat ready. And that’s a disappointment. I care less about the sexual preference of somebody who’s going to be the Secretary of Army, but I don’t think that that is a qualification. And it’s not the part of being Secretary of the Army that ought to count. And I just am disappointed and frustrated that we’ve put a focus, and celebrated how many people represent diversity, and not how many people really represent the very finest military minds, the people who when they are in their positions, can help us put together the most outstanding and the fiercest military in the history of the world. So to get back to your question, I would want to see what they’re going to do. I think frankly, the Republicans need to get something for this in addition to the military spending. Maybe it’s the defunding of Planned Parenthood. The President’s going to have to negotiate, and this is something that in seven years, he’s never done. He has never acted like a president. And it’s one of the things that frustrated me so much about his administration, and it doesn’t look like that he’s ever going to learn how to be a leader, how to be an administrator, how to be the chief executive.
HH: Well, there is a negotiation ahead. There has to be by December 11th, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Let me close by asking you this, Governor. There’s another debate coming up. I will be in Las Vegas to do State of the Union this weekend with Jake Tapper, and I think Dana Bash is guest hosting, talking about the last debate, looking forward to the next CNN debate. Within the realities of the fact that Dana, Jake and I had, we had to negotiate having 11 candidates there, is it time for people to drop out who don’t have real support for them? I don’t think that’s you, but I’m wondering, do you think some people need to drop out?
MH: Well, it may seem like that, but Hugh, here’s the problem. If people dropped out at this stage of the game, based on polls that have as few as 230 people in the sample, at a time when opinion polls are less reliable than ever because of the increase of cellphones, and the lack of people who will take a call, I think that based on history, we might be missing candidates that are quite viable by the time we get around to the first votes being cast in Iowa. So I’m real hesitant.
HH: So, but tell me then, with two minutes, what’s the alternative, because I think we ran the best debate possible with 11 candidates, and a pre-debate with four, although there were longer and more substantive exchanges in the first, because there were only four candidates. What’s the alternative to what CNN and Salem did, which I think was, you know, 24 million people watched it for three hours. What’s the alternative with that many people?
MH: Well, one option might be to take all the candidates, I mean, if you’ve got a person who has been, let’s say the runner up in the Republican nomination, as Rick Santorum was, you hate to exclude him. If you have a sitting governor, Bobby Jindal, a former long term serving governor of one of the largest states, George Pataki, put all the names in a hat, including the ones who are right now in the first tier. Draw, and pick, you know, eight for one, and seven for the other. It may not be that you have the same mix that you normally would have, but at least everybody has an opportunity to make that first stage. I mean, if the rules would change…
HH: But everyone would want to be in the, everyone would want to be in the Trump debate, right, because he brings an audience of millions that otherwise wouldn’t be watching. I think that’s candid and true, isn’t it?
MH: It’s possible, but it’s just the luck of the draw. Look, if CNN had not changed the rules of the debate in participation, Carly would not have been in the last debate. But they changed them in order to make it possible for her to be in. I mean, if I were Jindal or Santorum, I might be saying hey, change the rules and make sure that I make it, too. There’s no perfect way, Hugh. I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t know, I don’t pretend to know. I’m just trying to make sure I’m on the stage, and I’d like to get a few more questions than I got the time before. And I’d like for them to be about some issues that we don’t talk about all the time – the infrastructure of the country, the health care, the military, the VA and how to fix it. But you know, that’s why we have the debate, and the more of them we have, probably you know, the better. I don’t want to have as many as we had in ’12, but 12 debates is what we’ve got scheduled, and frankly, that’s a good number.
HH: Well, hopefully, I will be across the stage from you on a future one. Bring your bass, Governor. If you’re playing, I don’t see how people can not turn to you. Bring your base. Governor Mike Huckabee, always a pleasure, thank you for starting today’s Hugh Hewitt Show.
End of interview.