(Photo: The Christian Post/Scott Liu)
NASHVILLE – Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sat down in an exclusive interview with The Christian Post prior to him being honored with the NRB Board of Directors award on the final evening of the National Religious Broadcasters convention.
Huckabee, now a talk radio and television host for Fox News, has staked out a successful career as a political analyst and media personality that began in 2009. However, prior to his career in politics, he was employed in the Christian communications industry while also serving as a Baptist minister.
The Christian Post asked him about his career in communications, politics and the church, as well as his opinion on major issues facing the nation, such as immigration, the bitter political partisanship in Washington, and the relationship between morality and freedom.
Below is an edited transcript of the interview.
CP: Gov. Huckabee, some people may not know that in your life prior to politics you were a Baptist minister. Does attending NRB bring back any old memories?
Huckabee: You know I do have a lot of friends that are part of NRB and have been for many years and I used to attend NRB even before my tenure as a pastor. I was in Christian broadcasting back in the 1970s. I was director of communications for James Robinson and I really thought Christian broadcasting was going to be my career. There have been so many twist and turns in my life; of course I haven't been a pastor for almost 22 years, but it was a very important part of my life. I formed many great relationships during that time so coming to NRB makes it an easy place to land.
CP: In addition to your work on Fox News, one of your recent ventures is a prayer website called Godfruits.com. Tell me about the site and what you hope to accomplish in this endeavor?
Huckabee: It's one of the things that I'm probably as excited about as anything I'm doing. It's not widely known publicly, but several million people have gone to Godfruits.com and it's really designed as a point of encouragement. It's an online devotional, prayer primer if you will, designed for people to check in each day and get an uplifting positive message that will help point them to God's fruit for their lives. I think the potential for the site is extraordinary and it's growing by leaps and bounds.
CP: Speaking of your work on Fox News, how have you made the transition from public, political life and going on the other side of the camera and interviewing as we're doing right now?
Huckabee: I've found it is not nearly interesting as governing. In fact, I've discovered that when you're in office, all of the people that are talk show hosts, they speak as if it's so easy…"why don't they just…" When you're an office holder you know the challenges you're facing, but now that I'm a talk show host, I think it looks so easy. But I do think that people who have been in public life do understand what it is like to play the game. A lot of people are commentators and they understand how the game is portrayed. They do not understand firsthand what it is like to pick yourself up off the turf with grass in your face and dirt all over your uniform and I think there is a benefit there.
CP: Gov. Huckabee, one of the speakers at the public policy forum today spoke of the dilemma we are facing as a country, saying they feel America is in a "deep sleep" when it comes to dealing with the tough moral and religious issues that face our nation. What are your thoughts on this?
Huckabee: I think a lot of people in America do not understand that the basis of true liberty can't happen without an objective moral standard by which we live our lives. And there is an increasing push to compartmentalize faith separately from our life in the public square – and it's not possible – at least it's not possible if we continue the American tradition of true individual freedom, which also implies individual responsibility. Without an objective moral standard that's not possible.
So I'm disturbed that in the Republican Party we're having this pushback from what I would call the more elite business establishment types who want us to come vote with them but they really don't want us to come shape the policy and they're almost embarrassed we're still holding fast on things such as same-sex marriage and the sanctity of life and still believe that a biblical basis for citizenship is important. Not that we're trying to mandate a particular belief or practice, but without understanding who we are as a country, how liberty works and what the basis of what it is, we can't sustain the American way of government. It's just not possible.
CP: That take us to an interesting point because I think few will disagree that the Tea Party played a major role in 2010 of electing conservatives to Congress and even to local elected positions. Since that time, what type of influence do you think the Tea Party has had on the local political landscape, especially in the GOP where they appear to be at odds with some mainstream Republicans?
Huckabee: I think it's overall a positive movement. It has brought energy and a life into the party.
Most of the people who identify themselves with the Tea Party, these are small business owners, grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers, who are tired of having to play by different rules than they saw others play by. They saw what was happening with their taxes, their liberties, their incomes and the choices they had on how to educate their kids as they wanted to and then they would see Congress exempting themselves.
One thing that I do think has happened is that many people who started in the Tea Party three to four years ago have now been absorbed into the mainstream of the Republican Party. So when people say the Tea Party is not that active…it's not that they are inactive but they have moved more into the more institutional mold, which is typical for many things. It starts as a passion and becomes a movement of sorts and then it eventually becomes almost institutionalized. That's not all together bad, it's just the nature of the cycle and I think that's where we are.
CP: Some will say the Republicans lost in 2012 because they focused too heavily on social issues. Interestingly, social conservatives maintain that the Romney campaign did not focus on social issues such as marriage and life much at all. What do you think the major issues will be in the next election cycle?
Huckabee: Well, people who say that have to make up facts in order for that to be a narrative that is credible. And if you go back all the way to the '70s, you're going to find that every time the Republicans had clarity in their candidates they won. And every time they had a mushy message they lost. When they were willing to take a stand and even a stand that may not have been the majority view, taking the stand and being able to articulate it is the key. Candidates who do that win and candidates who don't lose within the Republican Party.
Republicans didn't lose because they got too conservative. I don't think anyone would say – and with all due respect to Mitt Romney – that Mitt Romney was too pro-life and pushed the marriage agenda. You can't blame candidates who are strongly pro-life and pro-family for the losses in many of these states where you had establishment type candidates losing races they should have won and I just find that nonsense.
CP: For the first time in several years the issue of immigration has come to the forefront. Conservatives, such as Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptists' Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, are advocating that we must find a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million or so illegal immigrants who are here while others have said no, that we must make them all go home and re-enter as legal aliens. What is the answer in the short term and do you feel something can pass in the next six months.
Huckabee: I think what could be the potential for something happening could be undermined by the President's actions such as turning detainees loose. That is the kind of action that will keep immigration reform from being enacted. I do think there should be a way that people who have been here for a while, who have lived decent clean lives like our ancestors did, can have a path to be able to work.
The problem is when it is easier to come here illegal as compared to legally…but who are coming just to feed their families will take the easiest way possible to get here. Part of our problem is not with immigrants, but with an incompetent government who is unwilling to have a clear stance on the border and creating a streamline process to allow the people in you need.
CP: Is President Obama sincere about this issue or is he simply looking at immigration as a political issue?
Huckabee: I've come to the conclusion that he is not sincere about anything other than poking Republicans in the eye. There was a time when I had great respect for President Obama and I still have respect for him being the first African-American president, but I have not seen one thing in him that indicates he wants to govern and I say that from have governed for 10 years with a legislature that was 90 percent Democratic. So I know something of what I speak of. But you don't govern and you don't get legislation passed by demonizing the other side and never spending time with them and building relationships.
CP: You are in Nashville to receive an award along with Dr. John MacArthur. Tell us what this means to you?
Huckabee: I am honored to be here especially since most of my work today is in the secular media. So recognition that I have sought to be salt and light wherever I had been. I do believe God has given me an incredible opportunity and a platform in a secular environment but still to take a stand for Christ and being a blessing to believers.