HH: Joined now by former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee. Follow him on Twitter, @GovMikeHuckabee. Governor, welcome back, always a pleasure to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MH: Thank you very much, Hugh, always a pleasure to be with you.
HH: Now you were the mildest of the critics of the Hindenburg debate, as I called it.
HH: And the aftermath of it has not been pretty, and I’ve been defending Reince and Sean Spicer and the RNC. They can’t get inside the heads of the moderators and make them be fair, can they?
MH: No, they can’t, and the fact is CNBC lied to Reince Priebus and the RNC as much as they lied to the candidates. And when I say lied, I know that’s a strong term, but there were two things that we were assured. Number one, that the focus of the debate was going to be on economics, business, job creation, monetary policy, the kind of things that one would expect from CNBC. After all, they’re a business channel. We all understood that this was going to be a very concentrated, focused, and it was going to be frankly a much more adult-level debate which we were all looking forward to. And the second thing we were promised is there was going to be a fair distribution of time among the candidates. And that was one of the things that had been a problem in the other two debates, and they even bragged openly and repeatedly about these algorithms that they had created that would let them in real time, throughout the debate, monitor how many minutes each candidate have, which ones still needed to get some more time to make it a little more fair. Not that everybody’s going to be given exactly the same amount of time, but it’s been so very, I think disjointed, that it’s really not fair to the Republican voters who may not have an idea of much about some of the candidates. Anyway, those two things both were utterly ignored, and so that’s the essence of the complaint. And then I think the manner in which candidates were treated, if you watched the CNN debate with the Democrats, they were treated with deference, with respect. The Republican candidates under CNBC were treated with contempt, scorn, ridicule, and it’s just not fitting. Look, Hugh, I want there to be tough questions. My gosh, we’re running for president. We expect them. I even want them, because quite frankly, a tough question gives us an opportunity to show what we’re made us, gives us an opportunity to shine and prove to the voters that we’re ready for this job. But what we don’t want to spend our time doing is answering questions about fantasy football when you’ve got Social Security on the skids, Washington stealing more money out of the Treasury, and boosting up the debt ceiling by a trillion and a half dollars. There are lots of real issues to be talking about.
HH: Now your colleague, Alice Stewart, was on CNN this weekend making many fine points, and I’ll leave it there. I think we all know that debate crashed and burned, and the best result would be just to let me handle the next nine, just me. But that’s probably not going to happen, but I’m going to do my best to at least get tax plans on the table. I asked Ted Cruz yesterday, I asked Lindsey Graham earlier, I’ll ask Carly Fiorina later today. What’s Mike Huckabee’s view of what we ought to do with the tax code? This is what CNBC was supposed to do. Tell us, we’ve got a couple of minutes here. Just lay it out, Mike Huckabee?
MH: Well, Hugh, I think we should have a consumption tax. We should rid ourselves of this 77,000 page tax code. It’s too complicated for anyone to understand, and all it is, is a playground for members of Congress to manipulate it to create winners and losers, and those always happen to work out to be the recipients of large contributions. So the donor class feeds the political class at the expense of the working class. The real problem is we’re losing manufacturing jobs in this country, we’re losing investments, because we tax capital and labor, and therefore there’s an extraordinary amount of built-in embedded tax in the products we produce. So we design an iPhone in America, but we don’t make them here, because it’s not profitable. And under the fair tax, we’d level the playing field. We simplify the tax code. Small business owners who can’t afford a whole building full of accountants will now be making business decisions and not tax decisions, and we address the issue of illegal immigration, because when you take the economic advantage not only away from the immigrants, but take the economic advantage away from the employer who doesn’t pay payroll tax under the table, but under the fair tax, everybody pays the same rate when they buy something. There are a lot of sins that can be overcome by the implementation of the fair tax.
HH: Now Governor, I’m not a fan of the fair tax, and people should, can read my book. But it’s not about me, it’s about you. And what do you think the fair tax sales tax has to be if it’s going to be revenue neutral?
MH: It has to be about 23% in order to get the same revenues. And when that sounds high on the front end, I always remind people that they’re paying a whole lot more tax if they add up what they pay in the embedded tax of the products they buy, the payroll tax, and then when they add on to that the income tax that they pay every year. Most Americans pay more close to 50% when they add all of that up. Even working-class Americans pay far more than 25 and 30. So the reason the fair tax really works is because the people it helps the most are the people at the bottom third of the economy. And that’s one of the reasons that I’m favored toward it, because while everybody benefits somewhat, the people who benefit the most are the working-class people who work by the hour and get paid by the hour.
HH: Second question on economics that did not get asked, the TPP is the biggest issue of trade in front of the country. What does Mike Huckabee think about its approval?
MH: Well, I’m opposed to it, Hugh, because this is another example of a trade agreement that only a select group of people had even bothered to go read. It affects 40% of our economy. I’m a free trade guy, but what’s happened, we have an $11 trillion dollar trade deficit since the year 1990. We’ve lost five million manufacturing jobs, because we enter into trade agreements, but we don’t enforce them. And we don’t make the other trading partners play by the same rules we play by, and the result is a lot of Americans lose their jobs, and these jobs go to Mexico, China and Indonesia. And I think until we get serious about enforcing both sides of the trade deal, we certainly shouldn’t be giving Barack Obama any more power. I don’t trust him to negotiate the sale of a couch off Craig’s List, much less 40% of the American economy.
HH: Now Governor, before we go to break and I turn to defense, I’m broadcasting today from the beautiful studios at Colorado Christian University. I know you’ve visited here and have been part of the Western Conservative Summit, friends with Bill Armstrong and John Andrews, and they always host me. I love to broadcast from here. Ben Carson had 1,500 people here last week. Do you think Dr. Carson is eating into your natural base in places like Iowa and Colorado?
MH: Well, he very well could be, and you know, we always have candidates in every election cycle who just capture the imagination of people. They do very well early on. But if they’re doing really well right now, the one thing we can learn from history is that they probably will not be the nominee. I mean, four years ago, Herman Cain was exactly where Ben Carson is. Eight years ago, Rudy Giuliani was exactly where Ben Carson and Donald Trump are today. And neither of them got delegates and went on to the nomination. And I just think it’s important to not take too much stock in where things stand today, because it is not indicative of where they will be when we actually go and start voting.
HH: But Ben Carson is much more of an Evangelical fit than either of those two guys, isn’t he?
MH: Well, he is, and again, let’s take four years ago. Rick Santorum, even five days before the Iowa Caucuses, was double digits behind and ended up winning.
HH: Okay, good point.
MH: So I guess I’m not as worried about it as I am when, if we’re in this particular place in January, then I need to be worried.
HH: I’ll be right back with Governor Mike Huckabee talking defense. Don’t go anywhere, America, no gotchas, good, substantive questions here on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
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HH: Governor Mike Huckabee is my guest. I’ll be back asking questions of him and others both at the Venetian in December, and then in March, I assume Governor Huckabee will still be there. In fact, I think he’s going to do very well in the SEC primary, including his home state. Have you read Stuart Stevens’ book, by the way, about SEC football, Governor? Are you one of those Razorback crazy people he writes about?
MH: I’m pretty crazy about Razorbacks, although to be honest with you, Hugh, there hasn’t been much to be crazy about this year. It’s been a pretty tough season.
HH: I think you would enjoy his book on SEC football. Okay, Governor, there are four strategic defense systems out there – the Ohio Class replacement submarine, the F-35, the number of carriers, you know, the Ford carrier cost $13.5 billion, and the long-range strategic bomber that got awarded to Northrop Grumman last week. Can we afford all four? What’s your priority? How do you approach these major weapons systems which are the backbone of our defense?
MH: Well, one of the things we have to first look at is that we have seen a dramatic scaling back on our readiness, the lowest it’s been since before World War II, 25% cuts under Obama. We’ve got half the fighters, half the long-range bombers, half the ships that we had back in 1990 at the end of the Reagan era. And that’s pretty troubling, Hugh. We have some new systems, the F-35, for example. I get to watch them train, because they’re based not too very far from my house on the Gulf Coast of Florida. They’re a remarkable airplane. There’s been some challenges, as there always are, with new systems. But you know, we have to look at the fact there’s got to be some new technology put in the skies and on the seas, because we’re facing, let’s say the Chinese, who are building numerous ships for our every one these days, and I don’t think they’re doing that because they want to transport trinkets and manufactured goods to the shores of California.
HH: But can we afford the old nuclear triad, you know, strategic missiles, strategic bombers, strategic submarines? Can we actually, literally afford to pay for these new systems?
MH: I think what we need to be doing is asking ourselves what are our real threats. And in light of the Iranian deal, what we need to be doing is establishing a very serious missile base in Kuwait. And the reason for that, some of the top military experts with whom I have spoken say that if the Iranians were able to obtain even a short-range, but especially a long-range nuclear missile, you’re going to have to have something around in Kuwait in order to hit the trajectory before they get up to full altitude in space. Otherwise, they may be on their way and virtually unstoppable. So I think putting weapons system where they are strategically needed to most likely face the threat ought to be our number one priority. As to whether we can afford them, I think it’s a matter of can we afford not to protect America from the genuine existential threats that we face?
HH: Well, missile defense makes a list of five, then, crucial strategic programs. When Carly ran through her list at the second debate of her size of the military, it got priced out at $1.4 trillion. Right now, the military budget is about $616 billion, I think. How high do you think it needs to go? Do you have a number, yet, Mike Huckabee?
MH: Well, rather than look at a number specifically, I think we’ve got to look at each weapon system, what can we build it for, what can we install it for, is it going to be part of NATO, is anybody going to share the cost, or are we going to eat it all by ourselves. All of those are questions that come up. But I do know this. We’re spending half of our GDP that we were spending in the Reagan years. So where it was roughly 6% of GDP during the 1980s, it’s 3% under the current administration. So we are dramatically downsizing our sense of readiness at a time when frankly, we’ve got more global threats than we had 25 years ago.
HH: Now last question, Governor Huckabee, I’m preclearing questions so that they’re not gotcha questions. Is it fair to ask how many carrier groups we ought to have?
MH: I’m going to leave that to the Navy and the admirals. I don’t want to try to say that I know the answer of how many we should have. But we should have enough that we can handle whatever threats we might have not only in the Middle East, but also in Asia. Those are the two hot spots that I think we have to be prepared for. I have no idea what China is up to, and what their long-range thoughts are. Do they plan to continue any type of aggressive military action? I think we have to be concerned about Russia. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the reasons they took Crimea was because of the naval capacity and their naval base there. And I certainly don’t have any confidence at all that the Iranians are going to behave, and their ability to block oil routes could be devastating to the world economy. One more reason, by the way, Hugh, that one of the most important national security moves we could make is pumping every bit of oil and gas out of the ground we can in this country, and becoming the number one exporter of energy to Europe, Africa and Asia, putting the Russian, Iranians and the Saudis out of the energy business, and putting those jobs in the hands of Americans instead.
HH: Agreed on that, But Governor, I make, John Kasich said 16, so I may come back around there at the debate and ask for a number, so forewarned is forearmed.
MH: All right.
HH: Thank you, Governor, always a pleasure. Mike Huckabee can be found, @GovMikeHuckabee on Twitter.
End of interview.