WASHINGTON – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a down-home solution for the threat posed by the radical Islamic army ISIS.
“ISIS is a rattlesnake. If we’re serious about protecting America, we’ll kill the rattlesnake before it bites us,” the likely GOP presidential candidate recently told WND.
“I’ve killed rattlesnakes before,” he added. “You don’t try to understand why the rattlesnake wants to bite you. You don’t try to talk to a rattlesnake. You don’t pat him on the head and make friends with it. You kill him before he bites you. It’s just as simple as that.”
Huckabee emphasized, the insidiousness of radical Islam is that it is “not a traditional geopolitical entity that can be defeated by sitting down and negotiating” because, he suggested, jihadists are motivated by a virulent ideology impervious to reason.
“You can’t have some conversation; you’re not going to be able to get inside the head of the enemy and make sense of it.”
But there are some words that would make a key difference, Huckabee stressed.
“The first thing is to acknowledge what it is, something the president hasn’t done. You can’t defeat an enemy if you don’t identify it,” he said. “How can you hit a target if you don’t even put it in your sights?”
Huckabee hasn’t officially announced he is running for president, but he speaks very openly about what he would do, if elected.
One thing he would certainly change would be Obama’s apparent penchant for siding with Muslims over Christians. WND asked the governor why the president seems to do that habitually.
“It is hard for me to understand what his rationale is,” he said. “To always defend Islam and give it a sense of cover but to feel no obligation whatsoever to ever defend Christianity, and, in fact, seemingly, to make it his target. Now, he sometimes has to reach back a thousand years to find something truly objectionable about Christianity.”
Huckabee said he was perplexed by attempts by the president’s Justice Department “to shut down the Little Sisters of the Poor, Hobby Lobby, or to go after wedding caterers who don’t agree with his view of same sex marriage,” especially now that “we now know he was lying about it after 2008, after Axelrod spilled the beans.”
The latter remark was a reference to former top presidential adviser David Axelrod’s recent admission that Obama lied in his 2008 campaign about opposing same-sex marriage.
Huckabee’s latest book, “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy” outlines the cultural rift in America.
He described “Bubble-ville” as composed of the political power players in Washington, D.C.; the finance and fashion elites in New York City; and the entertainment mavens in Los Angeles.
“Bubba-ville” consists of the “flyover” states where “a lot of people are called by two names: Mary Elizabeth, Katherine Grace, Jim Bob and Darryl Wayne.”
WND asked: Do you think a presidential candidate can win with support from Bubba-ville but not Bubble-ville?
“I think it takes some of both. I mean, I have no illusions that the sole support will be from Bubba-ville. However, I think what people may guess is there are bubbas living in Bubble-ville and there are some bubbleheads living among the Bubbas. So, while the book is somewhat descriptive of the polarization geographically, the real polarization is cultural more than geographic.”
Do you think social issues are a winning strategy on a national level?
“I think the election is going to be about economics and national security, mostly. I think there are going to be a lot of voters who want to make sure a person doesn’t abandon the full spectrum of conservatism. Ronald Reagan was a full-spectrum conservative.”
Huckabee also listed Presidents George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, as “full-spectrum” conservatives, although some may take issue with the former’s violation of his “no new taxes” pledge and with the latter’s support of amnesty for illegal immigrants and hefty government spending resulting in the steady escalation of the national debt under his watch.
But conservatives likely would not disagree with Huckabee’s observation that, “When candidates run and don’t embrace the full spectrum of national security, fiscal sanity and, what I guess some people call social issues, then they lose.”
He then pointed out, “This book, let me make clear, was really not intended to be a political book. I know a lot of people get ready to run for president and they write a book and it kind of lays out all their policy (positions) issues.”
“There’s certainly some policy things in it. This book was conceived two years ago and written last year. It was fun for me to write. It’s really not intended to be as much a policy book as a message I felt I wanted to convey, something that I felt strongly about.”
Huckabee suggested that if people are looking for more of a focus on specific policy issues he’d recommend his books, “Simple Government,” “Do the Right Thing” and “From Hope to a Higher Ground.”
When WND asked what would be his message if he were to run for president, Huckabee made clear his first priority would be fixing the economy.
“Primarily, for the past four years, income for the bottom 90 percent of American workers has been stagnant. That is stunning. Ninety percent of the American wage earners have had basically a stagnant income for four years.”
“Prior to that, the 25 years before that, the average income capacity in the bottom 90 percent rose by 85 percent. That means that, if the same thing had been happening since 1971 people would be making two-and-a-half times what they are today. So, we really see the decimation of working class Americans.”
The problem lies with the president’s policies, according to Huckabee. He said the president’s recently released budget showed Obama just wants to “spend, spend spend,” when what he needs to do is “cut, cut, cut.”
Huckabee’s second priority would be national security and installing “a very sobering, realistic worldview as it relates to international and Islamic jihadism, which this administration has not had.”
“Thirdly, I think a person who is president has to effectively communicate and work with people with whom they disagree. I’ve got probably the strongest history and record of doing that.”
If you do run, what would distinguish your campaign from others in a crowded GOP field?
“I think we’ve got some great people with great qualifications. But people should look at what I was able to do with a legislature that was 90 percent Democrat in the bluest state in America at the time I was governor.”
That “surprises people,” he said, “because they assume the bluest state was Massachusetts or Vermont. It wasn’t; it was Arkansas. It had more Democrats to Republicans in the legislature, by far, than any other state.”
WND noted Huckabee’s views on illegal immigration seem to have evolved considerably over 15 years, or so. He opposes Obama’s amnesty as unconstitutional, but did he still support some path to citizenship for illegal immigrants?
“Well, I’ve never supported amnesty. I’ve always stood steadfastly against an amnesty approach,” he replied.
But conservatives may still have questions about what he did not address directly, which was whether he favored any sort of path to citizenship. Huckabee preferred to defer the issue.
“I don’t think anything should be on the table for discussion until we have truly secure borders, which we do not have, and the president seemingly has no interest in them. So, that’s the first thing. And until that happens, there should be no discussion about what we do with the people who are here. After we secure the borders, then a reasonable plan, but it can’t be a blanket amnesty. There have to be consequences for people having broken the law.”
Conservatives likely would not take issue with securing the borders first and foremost. But Huckabee had more.
“There is one place where I maybe differ from some of my fellow conservatives. I recognize that there are children who have nothing to do with coming here. They were brought by their parents. They’ve been in the public schools of our states, by law.”
“Every state has to try to deal with this differently. I wouldn’t try to presume what every state should do or that the solution should be found on the national level because it would depend on the state laws.”
He cited the example of his own state, Arkansas, in which all children must be enrolled in school, by law.
“If a child had to be in school by law, and maybe even graduated as valedictorian, he became eligible for the same scholarships as any other college school student. Not a special arrangement, just the same as any other student. My contention was that, yes, that child should qualify because his parents were the ones who broke the law.”
Children are one thing, WND observed, but then asked: If any kind of path to citizenship were to be considered, could you understand how those social conservatives who might be most inclined to support you might find that a poison pill?
“You mean the children?” asked the governor.
As part of the 11 to 20 million estimated illegal immigrants in America, clarified WND.
“I am not saying they should have a free ride. They shouldn’t. As I said, I’m totally against amnesty. I’m think I’m in total synch with all my conservative brothers on that.
“I think the real fault is the federal government has utterly failed in its duty. In no way do I say, ‘OK, you’re already here. There’s nothing we can do about it.’ No, you have to have penalties that are consonant with the fact the law has been broken.
“And you can’t just grant amnesty because we tried that before with Reagan, and it was an abysmal failure. Completely disastrous in every way. We wouldn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past.”
On the day of the interview, Huckabee was just about to depart for Israel for a 10-day visit.
Your annual pilgrimage?
“Right, although last year I went three times. I’ve been there so many times since 1973, I’ve lost count.”
Do you still find it a life-changing experience?
“You know, it truly is,” he said. “As many times as I’ve been, and I’ve lost count, I mean, I’ve been going there for 42 years, so, you know, it’s been a while, but I never get tired of it. I never go and say I think I’ve pretty much done everything I need to do here.”
“Literally on the flight back, I’m already thinking about what I need to do the next time. And I learn something new every time. I get something different each time. It’s just a remarkable place. It’s unlike any other place on earth.”
Watch Huckabee’s moving account of a visit to the Holocaust history museum in Israel, Yad Vashem: