Yesterday, Governor Mike Huckabee announced his plans to run for President of the United States. He made the announcement in an interview with Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Governor Huckabee is a former Baptist pastor and is widely regarded as an evangelical-friendly candidate. He supports all the right views on the issues that evangelicals care about: abortion, family, homosexual “marriage,” etc. Yet in his interview with Russert, I was not satisfied with all of his answers. I wish the substance of his answers would have matched the smoothness of his presentation.
So below, I have copied a portion of the transcript from Russert’s interview with Huckabee. But I have added what I would have said in red.
MR. RUSSERT: I want to ask you a couple things that you said earlier in your political career. “Huckabee … explained why he left pastoring for politics. ‘I didn’t get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn’t have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives.'” And then this: “I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ.” Would you, as president, consider America a Christian nation and try to lead it asâ€”into a situation as being a more Christian nation?
GOV. HUCKABEE: I think it’s dangerous to say that we are a nation that ought to be pushed into a Christian faith by its leaders. However, I make no apology for my faith. My faith explains me. It means that I believe that we’re all frail, it means that we’re all fragile, that all of us have faults, none of us are perfect, that all of us need redemption. We are a nation of faith. It doesn’t necessarily have to be mine. But we are a nation that believes that faith is an important part of describing who we are, and our generosity, and our sense of optimism and hope. That does describe me.
DENNY: No, America is not a Christian nation, but it is a nation in which a majority of its citizens identify themselves as Christians. It is not the President’s job to “Christianize” Americans as a matter of public policy. To do such a thing would be to misunderstand the duties of the President and the separation of church and state. More importantly, such a course would reveal a severe misunderstanding of Christianity.
MR. RUSSERT: But when you say “take this nation back for Christ,” what does that say to Jews, Muslims, agnostics, atheists? What…
GOV. HUCKABEE: Well, I think Iâ€”I’d probably phrase it a little differently today. But I don’t want to make people think that I’m going to replace the Capitol dome with a steeple or change the legislative sessions for prayer meetings. What it does mean is that people of faith do need to exercise their sense of responsibility toward education, toward health, toward the environment. All of those issues, for me, are driven by my sense that this is a wonderful world that God’s made, we’re responsible for taking care of it. We’re responsible for being responsible managers and stewards of it. I think that’s what faith ought to do in our lives if we’re in public service.
DENNY: It is not the responsibility of a President to compel conversions to religious faith. That is not to say that as a Christian I disagree with Christ’s command to his church to make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:19-20). But it is to say that world evangelization is not the state’s duty. The President’s duty is to enforce and protect the Constitution of the United States, a charter which includes the freedom of religion. Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics, and atheists are free under our Constitution to practice or not practice whatever faith they please. As President, I would see to it that that freedom remains protected.
MR. RUSSERT: South Dakota had some proposed legislation to outlaw all abortion except saving the life of a mother, no exceptions for rape or incest. You said you’d sign that. Why?
GOV. HUCKABEE: Well, I always am going to err on the side of life, Tim. I believe life is precious. But I think the issue for many of us who are in the pro-life campâ€”and I have been since, you know, I was a teenager. This is not something that I’ve been all over the board on, it’s consistent. It’s because of my view that God is the creator and instigator of life. But I think those of us in the pro-life movement, we have to do also some growing and expanding. We have to remind people that life, that we belive it begins at conception. It doesn’t end at birth. And if we’re really pro-life we have to be concerned about more than just the gestation period. As a pro-life person, as a governor, look at my record. Yes, did we pass pro-life legislation? We did. But we also did things that improved the environmental quality and the conservation issues that would affect a child’s air and water. We also made sure that he had a better education, that access to affordable health care would be better. So I think that real pro-life people need to be concerned about affordable housing, we need to be concerned about safe neighborhoods, access to a college education. That, for me, is what pro-life has to mean.
DENNY: The Fifth Amendment says that “no person” shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” I think that guarantee should extend to unborn persons. Rape and incest are heinous crimes that cannot be made right by the legal killing of unborn persons. It is the duty of the government to enact and enforce just laws that protect the lives of innocent persons. That includes the lives of unborn persons.
MR. RUSSERT: But if you outlawed abortion, what would happen to the doctor who performed an abortion? What, what would happen to the woman who had an abortion?
GOV. HUCKABEE: Well, I think the question is, would I sign the bill in South Dakota? Do I think it’s the best only bill that ever could be signed? The question still comes back to this is a debate that’s been so divisive, and what we really need to be doing is having the discussion center around how can we create a culture where people value and celebrate life. The fundamental difference between the United States and our enemies in terror is that, regardless of whether one is considered pro-life or pro-choice, the one thing thatâ€”that is unique to America, or certainly characteristic of America, is that we celebrate life. We believe in it; we cherish it. We may have different definitions of it, what it means and how extensive we want to protect it. But the enemy on the other hand celebrates death. That’s where we need to bring this debate, is to remind ourselves that we still are a nation that elevates the concept that life is precious and important. And I hope that we can center on those topics rather than on the, the fine points that sometimes separate and divide.
DENNY: The Supreme Court has decided that abortion should be legal from conception up until the time of birth. At any stage of pregnancy, it is legal in the U.S. for a woman to abort her unborn child. So as President, I would not have the power to “outlaw” abortion. I would, however, have the duty to appoint judges to the federal bench, including the Supreme Court. As President, I would appoint judges whose judicial philosophy is to interpret the constitution according to the framers’ original intent.
MR. RUSSERT: But, as president, you would seek to ban abortion.
GOV. HUCKABEE: I would seek always to promote the view that life is precious and should be protected. Would I be able to singularly do that? Of course not. But I think it has to be won on, on a battlefield of one heart at a time rather than pieces of legislation at a time.
DENNY: Once again, as President, it would not be in my power to “ban” abortion. But it would be in my power to use the Presidential megaphone to speak out in favor of life and in defense of the unborn. Those of us who are pro-life realize that we have to win the hearts and minds of Americans in order for the cause of life to prevail. As President I would seek to persuade citizens of the need to support laws that protect life from conception to natural death.
MR. RUSSERT: You said this to the Des Moines Register: “Let’s face it. In our lifetimes, we’ve seen our country go from ‘Leave it to Beaver’ to ‘Beavis and Butt-head,’ from Barney Fife to Barney Frank.” Why, why include Barney Frank, a gay congressman, in that reference?
GOV. HUCKABEE: I think it was a matter of a rhetorical device to talk about the different cultural shift that we have, and it wasn’t any particular attempt to be derisive of him. But, but there has been a huge cultural shift in this country, Tim. And I think that’s why many Americans are seeking leadership that has a positive and optimistic spirit, that wants to take this nationâ€”what I call vertical politics rather than horizontal.
I just completed a book in which I talk about the difference between horizontal politics, where everything is left or right, everything is liberal or conservative, everything is Democrat or Republican. I think the American people are hungry for vertical politics, where we have leaders who lift us up rather than those who tear us down.
DENNY: Barney Frank is an outspoken advocate for gay rights. I agree with Barney Frank that homosexual citizens have rights protected under the constitution just as every other citizen. As President, however, I would oppose some of the more radical elements of the gay rights agenda that Barney Frank is in favor of.
MR. RUSSERT: But some would suggest by including Barny Frank in that reference you are tearing a gay man down. You’re against gay marriage, you’re against gay civil unions. Isâ€”do you have a problem with gay people?
GOV. HUCKABEE: No. I have a problem with changing institutions that have served us. And I, I think I would rather characterize not what I’m against, but what I’m for. Before we change the definition of marriage to mean something different, I think our real focus ought to be on trying to strengthen heterosexual marriages because half of them are ending in divorce. That’s a real problem in this country. There are a lot of kids who are growing up in a very, very confused and conflicted world becauseâ€”not because we have same-sex marriage, but because we’re seeing a real failure in the tradition heterosexual marriage. That’s where our focus needs to be. Because if we want to end poverty, get a kid through high school, let him grow up in a stable, two-parent home and make sure that that child doesn’t have a child before he’s 21 and has a full-time job. That’s a 93 percent chance that child will never grow up in a single day of poverty if those are the criteria. So we ought to be working more to build strong families rather than just to create new versions of them.
DENNY: I have a problem with any attempt to change the definition of marriage. That is why as President I would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. A just government will protect and nurture the traditional family. I think such an amendment would do just that.
MR. RUSSERT: Should gay couples be allowed to adopt children?
GOV. HUCKABEE: That’s a question that, that I think, again, goes back to the heart of what’s best for the child. Unfortunately, so much of this argument has been framed about what, what the same-sex couple wants. But the real question needs to be child-focused, not couple-focused. And, Tim, that’s true for whether the couple is same-sex or whether they’re heterosexual. In our state, as in most, the criteria for adoption is always what’s in the best interest of the child. That ought to be what’s front and center.
DENNY: No. It is in the best interests of children to be raised by both a mother and a father who love each other. Furthermore, to allow children to be adopted by homosexual couples would erode the privileged status that our laws have always given to marriage. Allowing homosexual couples to adopt would be a step toward the normalization of homosexual unions and the marginalization of traditional marriage and the nuclear family.
MR. RUSSERT: So is it in the interestâ€”best interest of the child to have a gay, gay parents?
GOV. HUCKABEE: That’s a question I’m not sure that, that we have a positive answer to. And until we absolutely could say it, then, then Iâ€”I’m always hesitant to change those institutions.
DENNY: Our children’s interests are best served by putting them in homes with a father and a mother. Children are also best served by affirming marriage as the union of a man and a woman, not by adoption laws that suggest otherwise.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that you’re born gay or you choose to be gay?
GOV. HUCKABEE: I don’t honestly know. I really don’t. I think there areâ€”there are people who would argue vociferously on both sides of that. But I think that the point is, people are, are who they want to be, and we should respect them for that. But when they want to change the institutions that’ve governed our society for all the years of recorded human history, then that’s a serious change of, of culture that we, we don’t just make readily or, or hurriedly. It has to be done with some, some deep thought.
DENNY: Probably both. Homosexuality is likely a phenomenon occasioned by both nature and nurture.