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Huckabee Gives His Take on Conservatism, Faith and Iraq

As part of an ongoing series of in-depth interviews with presidential candidates, former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee explains his approach to Iraq, immigration, the importance of faith in his life, his conservatism and his personal struggle with weight loss.

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    Finally tonight, the next of our conversations with Democratic and Republican presidential nomination candidates who are competing in the primary contests. Tonight, Margaret Warner talks with Republican Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas.


    Mike Huckabee, thank you for joining us.

    FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), Arkansas: It's a pleasure.


    Now, you have won all kinds of accolades as a governor, small g, as a manager. You were once named by Time magazine as one of the five top five governors in the country. Do you think that's what the American voters are looking for in a president?


    I think they want somebody who really believes in something and can stand by it and articulate it, but they do want somebody who is a competent manager, a pragmatic person who understands that you're not elected to be an ideologue and stand on the steps of the Capitol and just make speeches. They want you to be able to solve real problems that touch them every day.

    So being a governor is a great advantage. You've run a government. You've balanced a budget. You've had to do things for which there were measurable results. People could see: Were schools better? Were roads better? Was health care better? Did we bring more jobs than we lost? Those are measurable things that I think best prepare someone to be president.


    So you've described yourself as a paradoxical or the paradoxical Republican. What do you mean by that?


    I'm not an establishment Republican. There are so many people who think of Republican as people who are properly pedigreed within a political system and they can talk about, "Yes, my grandfather, he was elected to" — and then they fill in the blank, and, "My dad, he was very close to Eisenhower and to Nixon, and I've come along."

    Well, you know, my dad for a fireman for the city of Hope, Arkansas, worked as a mechanic on his days off. I was the first male in my family lineage to even graduate high school. I know what it's like to be the first sort of in the whole line to break the cycle of poverty, and go on to high school, college, and end up becoming a governor.

    But I think my experience really is far more common to the average American than those folks who have all the right things on their resume. America needs a president who understands what struggle is, because most Americans experience it.


    But why is that paradoxical for a Republican?


    The perception of many people in America is that a Republican is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street. And, in some cases, it's probably true, that the Republican tends to be more connected to people of great wealth.

    Now, I think that that's not always the case. I think rank-and-file Republicans are small-business owners. They're factory workers. They're moms and sometimes single moms and housewives. They're all kinds of people.

    But there is this perception that Republican equals privilege. And it certainly isn't the case.

    I think another thing that I would say kind of makes me the paradoxical Republican, I talk about things I don't ever hear Republicans talk about, my passion for music and art in school, which I think is critically important to the survival of our country, health care, the environment.

    I think we ought to be conservationists. This is a world in which we're not the owners. We're simply the temporary inhabitants. We're the guest. We ought to act like that. So there are some things that I believe as Republicans we ought to be leading on, and we're not. And so in some of those ways I'm somewhat paradoxical.


    Do you think that the current administration hasn't led on those?


    I think there's been some challenges, and it's not that they don't care. I think particularly the president is a man of incredible integrity. I like him personally; I think he's genuine. I think he's also a man of deep conviction, and I respect that very much.

    But there's also a difference between, let's say, the way he grew up and the way that a guy like me grew up. And it does shape us, not just in how we would govern, but it shapes us in how we understand the impact of our decisions that reach out there and touch the ordinary family, who's struggling not so much with where they're going to summer, but whether or not they're going to be able to pay the rent at the first of the month.