Cover Story

On the road again

"On the road again" Continued...

Issue: "On the road again," May 9, 2009

Saturday is the stable part of Huckabee's weekly schedule. Huckabee spends Saturdays with his show and most other days-to quote the title of a song Nelson wrote and recorded in 1979-"On the Road Again." The week after April 18 included a day and a half back in Arkansas with his wife, Janet, followed by speeches in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and New Jersey.

Huckabee hasn't backslid all that far on his well-publicized 100-pound weight loss, but he's about 20 pounds over his marathon running weight. That's in part because his flat feet make him vulnerable to the knee problems that have reduced his exercising, but the new orthotic implants he now has for his running shoes leave him optimistic about running more. Food for Huckabee these days is often catch-as-catch-can-he was prophetic at one point when he grabbed a wrap and said, "As soon as I put this in my mouth, they'll call me to the set"-and that's not good for diets.

I asked him about some past and current governmental fat:

WORLD: Does the GOP have any credibility on bailouts, and if not, how do Republican leaders regain credibility?

HUCKABEE: Well they didn't have any last fall, since it was our administration and appointees and even Republicans in Congress going along with it. Republicans need to repent. There are some real sins of commission that were committed, and it will be hard to regain credibility if we don't stand up and tell it like it was.

WORLD: If John McCain had stood up against TARP last year, do you think he would be president?

HUCKABEE: I think he might have been. I do believe the turning point in the presidential election last fall was John McCain's suspending his campaign, going to Washington, and in essence melting into the body of the Senate. He meekly raised his hand and said, "Me too."

We also spoke of some Christian conservative political tactics:

WORLD: Where do you think some of the Christian conservative leaders went wrong in 2008?

HUCKABEE: They became more enamored with the process of politics than with principles and convictions. I saw pretty firsthand a lot of people saying, "We don't think you can win. We like everything you stand for and you are one of us, but we're not going to support you because you can't win." My assessment was when Christians decide to get involved as Christians and then abandon the issues by which they are essentially motivated, they might as well be the Republican Women of Poinsett County or something. They become ineffective as issue players.

WORLD: In your recent book Do the Right Thing, you chastise the Arlington Group in particular as a group of conservative Christians who didn't get behind you. Looking back, do you think things would have been different if they had?

HUCKABEE: The honest answer is I don't know. It might have done more harm than good. It could be that I would have been perceived as a "wholly owned" subsidiary of the Christian conservative movement.

WORLD: What do you do now regarding the Arlington Group and others? Can you gather them behind you at this point, having had this unexpected success?

HUCKABEE: The Arlington Group pretty much dissipated. I think they splintered and split and many of them took issue with each other because they felt that they had failed to do what originally they had compacted to do, which was to early on interview candidates, pick a candidate, and then coalesce behind that one candidate and try to unite the strength and force that they could. They failed to do that.

WORLD: You picked up some other support.

HUCKABEE: By the end of the campaign many people who had been stand-offish were openly supportive of me. The real strength of the campaign for me was not a group of sequestered leaders, like a robed council; it really was just ordinary people out there: homeschool moms and dads and truck drivers. That was the strength of the campaign, and I'm grateful that it was.

WORLD: How do you break out of the Christian "box"?

HUCKABEE: I don't want to break out of the box if that means people think I'm somehow abandoning my faith. If my faith is the reason people say, "I'm not going to vote for him," then good, don't vote for me, because I'm not going to abandon who I am to get your vote. . . . When I was governor people asked me, "Is it hard being a governor and a Christian?" and I said, "No, it's actually easier. I don't have to wake up every day and decide what I'm going to believe today." If I get defeated, I get defeated. That's part of the deal. I'd rather be defeated and go to my grave with some sense of consistency of conviction than that I had to win every last office in America including the presidency but had to sell my soul to do it.

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