Freed from the constraints of a possible presidential run, Gov. Mike Huckabee made a number of candid statements – about the national debt, about the nature of politics, and about the Republican Party – during a speech at the Clinton School of Public Service Wednesday in Little Rock.
Asked how to explain to voters the seriousness of the country’s current fiscal situation, he said this:
“I’m not sure that the political election process is the environment in which it can be told because our election environment is becoming incredibly toxic to the point that I’m not sure that the country is presently governable. I know that’s a very bold statement, but I’m telling you now, that it is becoming where it is impossible to actually govern. Not just because the other side is going to take you on because of everything that you say and parse every word and bring nuances to everything that’s said, but because your own party will do that. One of the processes that I was going through in deciding whether or not to run for president this election cycle was whether or not the environment in the Republican Party was really about moving toward where we had pragmatic solutions to governing the country or whether it was all about, ‘Can we poke out the eyes of the other guy before they poke out our eyes?’ And I’ll be honest with you, I’m right now convinced that it’s all about poking out each other’s eyes. It’s not about solving real problems. And until we change that, and when I say, ‘we change,’ we as a culture, as a country, have to utterly reject the idea tht one party is always right and the other party is always wrong. That’s nonsense.”
Huckabee talked about the importance of strong families and decried the national debt, which he blamed on both Democrats and Republicans. He compared the Greatest Generation’s sacrifices so their children could live better lives to today’s electorate, which seems on the way to doing the opposite. He said that Ronald Reagan might not get nominated, much less elected, today because he worked within the political system, made deals and even raised taxes. He called for an end to corporate taxes in order to better compete with China – taxing consumption instead of productivity.
He said he wouldn’t completely rule out running for president in 2016 or even in 2012, saying, “I honestly thought I was going to run this time.” He said he didn’t run for several reasons, including spiritual ones, and the fact that, since 1868, only once – in 1980 after Jimmy Carter’s first term – has a party been turned out after only one term. Next year, he said, President Obama will have a billion dollars in the bank. By contrast, he said, “It’s not going to be an easy path for whoever the Republican is. Whoever it is is going to come out of a bloody primary, broke and battered, because I anticipate the Republicans will do what they typically do and they’ll have a demolition derby, a circular firing squad and load up with bullets and start shooting and then by the time somebody comes out of this thing in let’s say April or May, they have very little little time to recover, they’ll never be able to come up with the amount of cash that the incumbent is going to have, and plus he’s an incumbent president which means the advantages of flying in on Air Force One and being presidential is very different than being the challenger.”
He also said that “Q and A” stands for “Questions and Avoidance” and then joked that his goal was to “avoid a career-ending response.” Which led him to say this:
“Although I will say that I have a little bit of a liberation in that the decision that I’m not going to be seeking the Republican nomination gives me a freedom that maybe I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“And in part, I would say that’s the shame of our political system today. We say we want candor, but we don’t. We say we want people who run for office to be blunt, but if they are, then we crucify them for their candor. We say that we want people to give straightforward answers. But straightforward answers are usually what gets a person from being able to hold office, not what propels him into it. And so in many ways, I feel like there is a great need in our culture for us to come to the place where we actually want an honest, intellectually upright discussion of issues that we are challenged by in this country.”