Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joined me on today’s show:
HH: Joined now by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Governor Huckabee, welcome. Merry Christmas. I hope you had great one and I hope you’re looking forward to a New Year.
MH: I certainly am, Hugh, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year back to you.
HH: Now I got you for a couple of segments. I want to talk about Bill and Hilary next segment, but I was thinking as I was driving in today, here’s a guy who ran in 2008 and ran in 2016 and I’m curious what you think the big difference is between the presidential races of the eight years.
MH: Hugh, the biggest difference is that the anger of the voters is just beyond anything I have ever seen or have could have imagined going into the cycle. Voters were angry in 2008. There was a lot of frustration, lot of weariness with [the] financial situation in the country, lot of weariness of how long the war in Iraq and Afghanistan had dragged on. But there’s something about this cycle in which people now after seven years of Obama are so angry and, particularly on the conservative side, it’s almost a seething rage that is beyond any ability to sit down and rationalize with it, and people just are so ready to burn the whole thing down, and that’s the big thing I see.
HH: So how do yo talk to an audience like that because you and I both know we can’t do that, we have a constitutional republic that has endured for 200-plus because it was drafted by genius. How do you get back into the lane?
MH: It’s the biggest challenge. In fact, I found, Hugh, just take a look at the field. The more qualified a person is, the more experience, the more background, preparation, judgment, moments of leadership challenges that a person has had, it’s almost as if that is the disqualifying factor rather than for somebody to say “It looks like you’ve done the kinds of things that would prepare you to be president.” This time it’s almost like “You have done nothing to prepare yourself to be president of the United States,” that’s just who we want, and I don’t really know how to resolve that.
I know in the last stage – you were one of the moderators – four of us in the undercard combined had more experience, more than twice the experience of actually governing and leading than all nine of the people on the primary stage and it just to me symptomatic of something very unusual. One of the things that I found is that I got to be able to keep talking to the people about what issues really matter to them and clearly, there are three big things: the economy, national security, and the underpinning morality of the country, that sense of just lack of character, that lack of consistency of our moral values, and then to be able to say to people, it might be good to have someone in the cockpit who’s flown the plane before because we are through thunderstorms, we’re flying against headwinds and this may not be a good time to put somebody in and give them the chance to fly for the first time.
HH: Now I know you are not the knockdown-drag-out kind of candidate, but Donald Trump has turned this race on its head. How do you talk about him on the road in your small groups in Iowa to move people form a Trump voter to a Huckabee voter, or is that possible?
MH: You know, I’ve rarely every talked about Donald Trump. IN fact, I just don’t, and to be honest with you, in town halls that I’ve done, no one asks me about Trump. They ask me about issues. I think Donald Trump has tapped into a very unique kind of mood in the voter. But interestingly, a lot of the things that Donald Trump is saying, they’re things that I was saying eight years ago. Things about the excesses of Wall Street, what I called the “Wall Street to Washington Axis of Power.” I was railing against how China had cheated on trade deals and how trade deals that we didn’t enforce on both sides have cost America its jobs. When I talk about those things eight years ago, I got pilloried by the Wall Street Journal and many of the more conventional conservative commentators and pundits. Donald Trump comes along, now he’s said a lot of things I haven’t said, let me be quick to say (laughs).
MH: . . . But he’s also said some things that I was out there saying, but when he says it, it’s getting amplified to 11 on the amplifier and it’s certainly being heard in a way that I wasn’t getting heard back when I was talking about even predicting the economy was going to collapse.
HH: Back to when it was a McCain-Huckabee-Romney race, and there was some others, but that was the “big three,” was there a greater level of civility between the candidates than there is in 2016?
MH: Absolutely, there is no doubt about it. You know, there was tension, there always is, but I felt like it was a civil kind of race and even if things got heated, they never got overheated, and there was always this concession that we recognized in ‘08, more than ‘12 by the way, that whoever ended up being the nominee, the rest of us were going to have to rally and stand up on that stage and support them, and it might not be a good idea to denigrate the candidate so much that on the one hand, we’re saying this guy’s not fit to be president, then we’re standing on the stage and saying he’s going to be the best president we’ve ever had.
HH: Right. I’ll be right back with Governor Mike Huckabee.
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HH: 44 minutes after the hour, America. It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s and the only people who are working are those who are running for president. I don’t know where I’m talking with Governor Mike Huckabee. IT’s either going to be New Hampshire or South Carolina, I’m guessing, unless he took a day with the grandkids. Where do we find you today, Governor?
MH: (Laughs) Well, today, I’m actually hosting a duck-hunt in Arkansas for some of our key donors, then I’m off to Iowa after that. So I’ll be in Iowa immediately following this duck-hunt.
HH: Are you armed as we speak? Have you got a shotgun in your shoulder there?
MH: I have a shotgun in my car, but I’m always armed.
MH: I have concealed-carry.
HH: Alright, Governor, let me play for you a bit of Donald Trump talking with Savannah Guthrie this morning and I want to get your reaction because it’s about your old adversaries from Arkansas, the Clintons. Here’s the exchange.
DT: There was certainly a lot of abuse of women and you look at whether it’s Monica Lewinsky or or Paula Jones or many of them and that certainly will be fair game, certainly if they play the woman’s card with respect to me. That will be fair game.
SG: You mentioned Monica Lewinsky. Are you saying an alleged extramarital affair that of course he has now admitted, is that fair game in a campaign?
DT: Is that alleged? I don’t think that’s alleged.
SG: No, he’s admitted it.
DT: Well, he’s admitted it, as you know, I just used the alleged.
SG: Right, exactly, so are you saying [an] extramarital affair by Bill Clinton is fair game, it’s something you think should be in the campaign.
DT: I’m not saying [that], what I’m saying is very simple. If she is going to play the woman card because I’ll do more for women than Hillary Clinton is going to do for women, including the safety of our country which is good for everybody. But if she’s going to play what she started about a week ago talking about, “Oh, he mentioned the whole thing, playing up the woman card very strongly, and if he’s going to be out there campaigning, then he’s certainly fair game and I think just about everybody agrees with me on that.”
HH: Governor Huckabee, do you agree with him on that?
MH: There’s no doubt that Bill Clinton, if he goes out on the campaign trail with his wife, then questions are going to come to him and I think Trump has seized upon one particular aspect – if Hillary’s one basic rationale for running and her primary focus to say “Vote for me because I’m a woman, I understand women better,” then I think all of these issues get to be put on the table, and I do think Donald Trump is right on that. Look, I think women care about the same things that everybody cares about. They want safe places for their kids to go to school and play. They want a decent future for their families. They want to be able to know that if they go to work and work hard, their paycheck will actually mean something, the government won’t take it all away. They’d like to know that the government is not going to do stupid things like make deals with Iran and so is Hillary’s primary thing is to say, “Don’t worry about these issues, I’m a woman, that really matters,” then I think that’s going to be problematic for her.
HH: What’s interesting, of course, you being the age that you are, you’ve lived through the Clinton scandals as I did and the names Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Juanita Broderick, Jennifer Flowers, Catherine Willey, Sally Purdue – and there are others – they’re familiar to you and me. Do you think that makes a lick of difference to a Millenial?
MH: Probably not, for two reasons. One, they were infants when it all happened. And the second reason is is that growing up in a moral climate in which people just don’t seem to care that much about other people’s lives. They don’t make the connection between personal character and public character. They don’t seem to think that there is a correlation. I think there is. I think if a person will lie to an individual, they will lie t oa country. I think if a person is not honest with themselves, they’ll be dishonest with the voters. And so I do think character matters, I believe it always had. It doesn’t mean we elect perfect people. We don’t, we never have, we never will, but I do think that it matters that a person represents himself or herself with a level of authenticity and that doesn’t always happen, Hugh, and I do think it’s one of the pitfalls of our current political environment.
HH: I was on with Don Lemon last night and I was saying, three of these names – Paula Jones, Juanita Broderick, and Catherine Willey – have assault connected to them. They weren’t consensual extramarital affairs which however one views them, and I view them very poorly, as I’m Mrs. Huckabee does and the fetching Mrs. Hewitt, it just lowers my esteem of anyone who does that. Nevertheless, they’re not assaults, but the younger generation has grown up in this super-charged era of allegations of every campus of being the “Hunting Ground,” that’s the CNN documentary. Do you think those sorts of charges will stick to Bill Clinton with the younger generation rather than just the fact he was a randy kind of character?
MH: I think those could be the Achilles heel because there is a political correctness associated with what you described as assault and where a person goes beyond a consensual relationship and pushes himself upon a person. That’s very unacceptable. That’s not something you can say, that’s just “boys being boys,” it’s not “boys being boys,” it’s animals like animals, and nobody respects that. It’s boorish and unacceptable behavior. Frankly, it’s always been unacceptable behavior and I think that could be problematic.
HH: Well, Trump’s got [these] 4.4 million Twitter followers and so I think he can make these names common knowledge and common currency in a way that no other candidate and no other broadcaster – not even Rush can – because people retweet – so a tweet from Trump, if he starts tweeting out these names and facts from the Star Report, what kind of impact that would have on the campaign.
MH: Well, something that exists now that didn’t exist when all of this was going in the Clinton administration was Wikipedia, so there are some Millennials out there that they’ve never heard these names, all they got to do is just Google them, and they’re going to get more information than they’ve ever wanted. I don’t know if voters make the ultimate decision who they vote and who they vote against, but I do think it’s a factor, but when it gets down to it, I do think the two big driving issues are going to be “Why is this economy not working for me,” and that’s a question I hear voters say all the time. They work hard, they get nothing from it, and the second thing is, can I expect the government is going to make some sensible, rational decisions about protecting me from terrorism. And from all kinds of dangers, and if they can’t do that, whether it’s Syrian refugees, whether it’s crime on the streets and a disrespect for police officers, then why am I paying so much in taxes if the government doesn’t do the one fundamental duty it has.
HH: Very well-stated. Governor Mike Huckabee, have a great [hunt] and grab some ducks for me and I’ll talk to you in the new year before the Iowa vote. Good to talk to you, Governor, always a pleasure.
End of Interview