(Photo: Reuters/Daniel Acker)
Mike Huckabee is a former Arkansas governor, former Republican presidential candidate and host of a Fox News talk show. He is also a pro-life advocate and host of the new documentary, “The Gift of Life.” The film was unveiled in Iowa on Dec. 14, and has received rave reviews from social conservatives, pro-life groups and presidential candidates. Huckabee shared the message behind the film as well as his view on the Personhood Amendment and the 2012 presidential race in an interview with The Christian Post.
CP: How did you learn about this project and what led you to be a part of it?
Huckabee: Well, for me the pro-life issue has been something I’ve been very passionate about since the 70s, and I have been very involved in the pro-life community since long before politics. As I’ve often said, I didn’t become pro-life because of politics. I got into politics largely because my pro-life positions led me to believe there is not enough being said and done about it. Before I ever ran for office, I was involved in an initiative to bring a constitutional amendment in Arkansas to define life at the beginning of its conception, which was eventually passed after several attempts.
Long story short, after I got in elective office and being involved, Dave Bossie and I were having a conversation and he was mentioning how he had been a part of a number of film projects and I said there’s something I would love to do some time and that’s a film on pro-life issues, but do it a little differently. Do it from the standpoint of the power of the life. So that’s what launched the process and we went from there and found a director who’s done a number of films and took it from there. The finished product is the result.
CP: How will you use the film on the campaign trail?
Huckabee: The only place we have premiered it so far is Iowa. Now we’ll do a national premiere in Washington on the 22nd of January, the night before the March for Life there. The key thing is, by doing it in Des Moines, we had four of the presidential candidates who personally attended. Two others had personal conflicts and couldn’t come but sent personal … regrets on not being there but expressing strong support for what we were doing. We had an overflow audience that night of one hundred seats. There was a very strong reaction [and a] sustained standing ovation at the end of the film. I think it’s had an impact on a number of people who seen it.
CP: On Tuesday presidential candidate Rick Perry said that the film changed his stance on abortion from pro-life except in the cases of rape and incest to no exceptions. What is your reaction to his transformation?”
Huckabee: It shows the compelling power of the message of the film because you see some of the stories depicted and you hear firsthand the lives of these individuals whose own births could have easily been stopped had there been a decision by a mother to end the pregnancy because of rape, incest or severe disability to the child.
Again, I think a lot of people … say “I’m pro-life except” and then they add all the exception clauses. But when you meet the people who would have been those exceptions, you take a look at their lives. Well one question that one has to come to grips with is, do I believe that we would have been better had this person not lived? Would the world have been better? Would things have turned out better for all concerned had this individual been put to death in the womb prior to birth?
Now it’s hard to come to that conclusion when you see firsthand these people’s stories. I realize that you can say that, well, not every story turns out beautifully. That can’t be the case. That really does miss the basic point. [The point] is which one of us is God enough to make that decision?
CP: Explain your support for the Personhood Amendment.
Huckabee: I think at the heart of the pro-life movement is the idea that all people are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights starting with life. We’ve really lost this argument by making it about abortion, which it’s not. The method of considering someone to be of less value and less worth of another is really the secondary issue because the primary issue is whether or not we believe that all individuals have intrinsic worth and value and should be treated with dignity and respect. Once we come to that conclusion and we decide that that really is true, there’s no such thing as a person who has greater value than another. The kid who is the captain of the football team is not worth more that the kid who is not very good at sports. Or the kid that has a 150 IQ is not intrinsically more valuable than the child who has a mental disability.
You know, I never met a person who said “You know, I think we ought to go through our culture, find all the kids who aren’t quite as perfect –either physically or mentally or emotionally – and we really should rid ourselves of those kids.” I mean nobody that I know would be so crass as to say something like that and yet what we really determined is this idea that we can terminate a life because it represents a financial hardship on the biological mother or it represents a social disruption.
If applied equally and uniformly, it’d mean that when people get old in the nursing home and become a real burden on his or her family and financially is a drain on them, then we’ve really created a culture in which its perfectly acceptable to go and to say that person is going to be terminated because they represent a real imposition to their family.
CP: The Personhood Amendment was recently defeated in Mississippi. According to media reports, several pro-life groups had reservations about the amendment. What would you say to pro-life groups to help them to see the value and the benefit of the amendment?
Huckabee: It was very disappointing to hear people say they’re pro-life, turn around and say “but I don’t know if I support the personhood amendment.” The essence of the Personhood Amendment is simply an acknowledgement that every individual, from moment of conception, is a human being and has worth. That’s pretty simple. Biologically, that’s irrefutable and especially for people who always say we need to base decisions on sound science and not emotion and not theology. OK, great. If that’s the case, it’s irrefutably true that at the point of conception, life begins and the life that does begin is human life.
There is no other biological explanation for what is taking place when 23 chromosomes of a male and 23 of a female unite together and create a fertilized egg which at that point has the entire DNA scheduled that that child will have for as long as he or she lives. So I was disappointed that some people expressed some sense of reservation. In fact, for those that maybe some pieces of this aren’t clear, let’s fix them. It can be done but pass the amendment. Deal with the issues if they in fact come up. But if we’re going to make a mistake, it seems to me it’s far better on the side of an affirmation of life than a denial of human life.
CP: What pro-life legislation should the GOP candidates support as they seek social conservatives’ support?
Huckabee: I think Personhood would be a wonderful starting place, and I think it’s one of those areas that not only is science on their side but I think culture is. The fact is it was 40 years ago this year that in the state of Mississippi that it was finally determined that an African-American was fully a person, not three-fifths a person. It’s hard to believe that just that short time ago, there was still some questionable doubt as to whether or not a person of color was a full person and think some people are stunned. I remember quite well growing up in the 50s, 60s and 70s and remember quite vividly the Jim Crowe Laws that I saw in the Deep South. It’s unfathomable to me that anybody would want anything less than full personhood for every human being. I do believe that that’s why this issue is a strong one scientifically, a strong one culturally and politically.
I’m not one that believes that the reversal of Roe v. Wade is a significant accomplishment and the reason for that is if it were reversed all Roe would do is return the abortion question solely to the state. That could mean in some states abortion would become even more liberalized than it is currently. In some states like Arkansas it would be less available because of the constitutional amendment that is already in place. But here is my point, the idea that something can be right in one state and wrong in another, if it’s a political issue that’s fine – what should your speed limit be, what should your marginal tax rate be, those are political issues. If it’s a moral issue, as abortion is, then it shouldn’t be able to have a different understanding to something is moral in nature based on geography. That’s the object of the civil war. If one goes back to say, well slavery is OK in some states but not in others, we ultimately had to determine, no, slavery is wrong all the time because no person can own another person. And that’s why there’s got to be a broader discussion and understanding that the life question is not just a political issue that can be determined state by state. It needs to be decided and determined at the federal level so that we have a national standard that says that all people are in fact created equal.
CP: This election season there has been some concerns regarding discrepancies in some of the candidates’ abortion stances. Do you feel the GOP candidates are sincere in the pro-life stances?
Huckabee: I do and I have no reason to doubt them. I take them at their word. I think if they were to take the position as a pro-life person and then get elected and fall back, I think it would be absolutely disastrous for them. I think it is an issue that is a unifying issue in the Republican Party.
CP: In the documentary, you talked about how some people see the pro-life position as a political stance used to sling tar at other candidates. What did you mean by that?
Huckabee: There are some times where there is an attempt to say, “I’m more pro-life than somebody else,” “I’m more conservative” and I think that often misses the point. I want someone to make an affirmation that he or she is pro-life and be very clear what that means. It doesn’t just mean I support birth over abortion, but that they will actively seek and work towards not only laws but even constitutional amendments that would value all human life.
Having said that, I don’t see that there is such a huge variation within the Republican Party so that we would have to be totally uncomfortable with any of the candidates who are running. There’s not a pro-abortion Republican on the ballot this year.
CP: Polls show that Republican voters have not settled on a candidate although many espouse pro-life, pro-traditional marriage stances. What are your thoughts on social conservatives’ indecision?
Huckabee: Well, I think in many ways none of the candidates have closed the deal yet and as candidates have surfaced, they tend to shoot up like a rock and back down like a rock. In large measure, voters just have not settled on a candidate that they are completely comfortable with and so a candidate surfaces, rises in the polls and then as maybe more information becomes available, [voters] are just disillusioned and move away and look for someone else.
CP: In the documentary you repeatedly mentioned your 2007-2008 presidential campaign for the Republican nomination and how you used that campaign to speak out on pro-life issues. Do you ever regret your decision to stay out of the 2012 race?
Huckabee: No, not at all. I think part of the reason for that is, as I watched this whole cycle unfold, sadly the focus seems to be about who can tear each other up as Republicans or how can we tear up Barack Obama, not whether we can build up the country. For me, running for office is never about trying to destroy an opponent, be it Democratic or Republican. It really ought to be about how can we solve some problems that we’re facing. That’s what I find so very frustrating is that the Republicans cannibalize each other. Some of the, I think, the reason why Republican voters are so unsettled is they’re figuring out which one can be the most vicious towards Barack Obama. I think that’s a terrible reason to support a candidate. They ought to be asking themselves who on that stage can help build America back and that’s what I’m really frustrated with. I’m not seeing that be the focus as it should be.
CP: Which of the GOP candidates would you personally support and could go far in this race?
Huckabee: I’ve not made any endorsements and don’t plan to. If I had to walk into the voting booth today, I’m not exactly sure who I would vote for. I know all of the candidates. Most of them are friends of mine. I will support the candidate that gets the nomination and do everything I can to help them get elected. But I’m like a lot of voters. I’m not convinced that one so stands out above the others that I ought to put up a yard sign yet.
CP: Christian candidates, by their admission, are being beat up in the media about their faith. Do you believe the atmosphere of presidential race is still one that welcomes Christian candidates to seek office?
Huckabee: Well, I think they can and should [seek the presidency] but they should not have some naïve view that if they run for office, it’s going to be kind and gracious. It’s not. It’s like sticking your face in the blades of a fan that’s moving, especially when you’re running for president. You just got to accept that this same bean bag. You’re running for a job and other people want it as much as you and are willing to do virtually anything to get it. I’ve always suggested if you can’t stand the sight of your own blood, don’t run for office. I’ve often been amused if not disgusted with people who claim to know so much about politics but never run for anything. If they really had understood by really going out on the ballot, it would have been a very different expression for sure. It’s tough. It’s a very difficult environment but it is worth it.
CP: Explain for people still wondering about what could have been why you decided to stay out of the race this year?
Huckabee: There’s a side of me that very much wanted to do it and I may yet in some future race take another shot at it. But it became increasingly apparent to me that some of the same forces who were determined I wouldn’t get the nomination four years ago, were equally determined this time around. I never been one that accepted the orthodoxy of the party because someone thought that I should. I would be too truthful and honest about things like Republicans having supported the TARP plan, Republicans having been a part of the spending issues that we face. Sometimes Republicans have not understood working-class Americans very well and that caused me to be on the receiving end of some serious campaign advertising negatively towards me.
But I think a bigger reason is that I really did sense that the focus on this election cycle is going to be on can we tear down Barack Obama. I don’t want Barack Obama to be elected president again. He’s been a disaster, and I disagree with virtually every policy he has. But I think the Republicans would be far better off if they focused on the specific ways in which we could make America a better country rather than focusing solely on how we perceive Barack Obama to have been a disastrous president.
CP: As for Barack Obama, what messages would you have for him about pro-life policy?
Huckabee: I wish I could get him to watch the film. I really do. I wish he could see it and look, not so much at me, but look in the eyes of the people depicted in that film and tell them that theirs is a life not worth living. I think that would be to me the most powerful question to ask President Obama whose policies have been unusually pro-abortion. And for someone who claimed in the forum with Rick Warren and John McCain four years ago that he personally didn’t like abortion and wished it wasn’t so prevalent, that’s not been his policy. His policy has been to liberalize it, to make it more available. I really would like him to watch the film and objectively evaluate whether that message is true or not.