SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
AHMED SALEM: Good evening, everyone. My name is Ahmed Salem and I am the chairman of the Cornell College Republicans. The Cornell College Republicans are proud today to invite you all to attend Governor Mike Huckabee's lecture. Before I begin my introduction of the governor, I would like to begin by thanking those people without whom this event would not have been possible. I first begin by thanking my executive board for all their hard work, also thanking Mr. Ben Ware for being the support and help we need throughout this event, and being one of the main planners for this event.
Additionally, I would like to specifically thank the following sponsors for their generous donations. The Tribe Foundation, the Young Americas Foundation, the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the Department of Government. Finally, I would like to thank Cornell University staff, from the police, Bailey Hall staff, and all event managers, all involved for making this event possible today. Without them, we would not be having this lecture today.
I am proud to welcome to Cornell today one of the most esteemed public figures of our generation. Governor Huckabee is best known for being one of the last standing two candidates vying for the Republican nomination for the office of the President of the United States. He entered the race as a dark horse candidate, and he left the race, as he said, one of the most popular and well-liked candidates, one of the most well-known candidates.
Additionally, Governor Huckabee served, before running for the office of President, for 10 and a half years, as governor of the state of Arkansas, being one of only four Republicans to be elected to statewide office since the era of Reconstruction. Finally, he was also the President of the Governors Association from the years 2005-2006.
Governor Huckabee will be speaking to us today about the topic of religion and politics. Some have questioned whether religion has a place in our public sphere, whether religion can shape a politician's views, and Governor Huckabee is here today to share what he thinks about that. After doing so, a question and answer session will follow. Until then, please join me in welcoming to the stage the former presidential candidate and 44th governor of the state of Arkansas, Mr. Mike Huckabee.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Thank you very much. Thank you. Watch your step. Do you need some help coming off?
AHMED SALEM: No, I got it.
MIKE HUCKABEE: OK, thank you. Thanks. Thank you. Well, thank you very much. It is an honor to be here on the Cornell campus, and what a beautiful day, a magnificently beautiful campus, and I want to say thanks to everybody. And thank you for wearing the Arkansas Razorback shirt. Are you from Arkansas? You're not?
AUDIENCE: We wanted you to feel welcome.
MIKE HUCKABEE: I feel wonderfully welcome. Thanks for wearing that shirt. I mean, I've seen hospitality before, but somebody who's not even from Arkansas and they're wearing the Razorback shirt. That's pretty remarkable. So where are you from?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Missouri. That's really remarkable because you guys beat the daylights out of us in the Cotton Bowl, and that's a gracious thing for you to do. Excuse us while we have this conversation. We're having a good time. I'm looking forward to today. Someone has told me that Cornell is just a little left of center, for the most part, so I know the Q&A is going to be a whole lot of fun.
In fact, Q&A stands for questions and answers to most people. Unless you're a politician. Then it stands for questions and avoidance. You ask anything you want to ask. My job is to make sure that I don't say something so outlandish that I get YouTubed and end whatever political career I might want to have out there in the future.
When they invited me to come to the campus and speak, one of the things they wanted me to address was the issue and correlation between faith and those of us who live in the public square. Now, let me put you at ease because I know that there's always this anxiety when a person is introduced as, here's a guy who, 20 years ago, was a Baptist pastor and he's now a politician. You put those two together and there's two things you're worried about. First, that you're going to be here a really long time. And the second thing is that at some point I'm going to stop and ask for money. So will the ushers come forward and let's go ahead and have the offering now and get that out of the way.
Let me just say to you that it is not easy making the transition, in some ways, not because it was difficult for me but because it's difficult for some people to accept that if you are a person of faith that you should even think about getting into the realm of politics. Now why it is that we have such an attitude toward that one area of public life is beyond me. But quite frankly, it's there.
There is somewhat of, if you will, a soft bigotry that says that you can be a lawyer, you can be an accountant, you can be an insurance agent, you can be a business entrepreneur. But if you have had a vocation within the context of the nonprofit world, specifically in the realm of faith, that maybe we don't want you involved in making public policy. I've never understood why there was some rule, written or unwritten, that was in place like that.
Now I do understand it would be inappropriate for a person to impose his or her religious views through the context of government in a way that tried to codify into law a specific prescription for worship or belief. I found it interesting when I first ran for office in my own state of Arkansas where, by the way, it's pretty much a conservative, evangelical state, but it's also very, very Democrat. Very.
You heard Ahmed say that I was only the fourth Republican ever to serve in a statewide office for about 150 years, and there's a little more to the story. When I was first elected Lieutenant Governor in 1993, they were so excited to see me at the state capitol that my door was nailed shut from the inside. As Dave Barry would say, I'm not making this up. It literally was nailed shut, and it remained nailed for my first 59 days in office as Lieutenant Governor. So that was my welcome to the capitol. We can't keep you from getting here, but we'll make you wish you hadn't come.
When I first got into politics running for office, I had several experiences that really were, as I look back on them, amusing. One lady came up to me. She said, I want to ask you something. Is it true that you're an ordained Baptist minister? And I said, yes, ma'am, that is correct. And she said, well, let me ask you something. Are you one of those narrow-Baptists who think only Baptists go to heaven? I said, no, ma'am. Actually, I'm more narrow than that. I don't think all the Baptists are going to make it, myself.
My favorite exchange happened in the little town of Malvern, Arkansas, which is about an hour south of Little Rock on I-30. It was at one of these festivals that Arkansas has every week, and every little town has one. This was the Brick Fest. You know you're in a small town when they celebrate a brick. And they do. They celebrate bricks, because that's what they make in Malvern-- bricks. So they have a brick festival in June, and I was down there campaigning on the courthouse square during the brick festival.
And a lady said to me, she said, I just want you to know that I didn't vote for you and I'm not going to vote for you, and I would never vote for you because I don't think people like you ought to get involved in politics. And I want you to know that I wouldn't vote for you if you were St. Peter. And I said, lady, that's fine, because if I were St. Peter, you wouldn't be in my district. OK, so it was a little crude, but you know what? I had already marked her down as an undecided voter so I didn't really care whether she liked it or not.
Most people have some conviction about their faith. Their conviction may be that they don't have any, and that's a legitimate position for people to take. I was being interviewed on the Bill Maher show, his HBO show called Real Time, and I think he was surprised by an answer to a question he posed to me because it was regarding Pete Stark, the congressman from California, who publicly professed that he's an atheist. And Bill Maher posed the question, he says, do you think Pete Stark ought to be able to serve in Congress since he's an atheist?
And I think he was expecting me to say, no, I think we ought to throw the bum out. By golly, if he didn't believe in Jesus, we ought to get rid of him. And I said, actually, I'm rather refreshed that a person is willing to tell us what he's about. Not only should he stay in Congress, but I'm just proud that he has the courage to express what he really believes. I said, I'm not worried about a person who openly tells me he doesn't believe in God. I'm far more worried about the person who tells me he does but lives as if God doesn't exist. That's the person I worry about.
The whole discussion of whether or not we ought to discuss our faith is different from the discussion of whether or not faith ought to be the criteria by which we vote for somebody, and I hope we can very quickly get to that point. And let me make it very adamantly clear. I believe not only our constitution but common sense tells us that there should not be some test to see, do you have a particular religious belief to qualify you for either running for office, being elected to office, or for that matter, voting for somebody who would like to be in office? That shouldn't be the criteria.
Personally, I would not vote for somebody just because of his or her faith, and I would not fail to vote for somebody or refuse to vote for somebody because of his or her faith. I'm not voting for them to be my religious leader. But here's what I do want to know. I want to know what makes them tick. I want to know where their value system comes from. I want to know what framework they have embedded within them, imprinted deep within their own psyche and soul, so I'll know that when they're making decisions, what is it that drives those decisions?
Now here's what I worry about. When a person tells me that their faith is very, very important to them. And have you ever seen a politician who said-- other than, again, a very honest one like Pete Stark, which is pretty rare, and again, I admire him for his candor. But most of the time, a candidate or an elected official, when asked about his or her personal face, will always say, oh, I'm a deeply religious person. Yes, I believe very deeply. Now, they may go on to say, but it's a very private thing. What I worry about is when a person says, yes, I'm very, very religious. I have a deep, abiding, incredible, just strong. But it doesn't affect anything I do. Now don't worry about it, because if I get elected--
Have you ever thought about how illogical that is? Here is this part of my life that I have embraced as the most important thing that I say matters, because it affects not just my temporal life but, if I am a person of traditional religion, I believe that it affects the life beyond. And I believe that this is such a vital part of my whole being that it touches not just my outward physical actions, but my inward motives.
And somehow I'm supposed to make you believe that these are very, very important things to me, but they're so important that I can take them off like Mr. Rogers would take off his sweater when he came in from the walk and put it in the closet because it was inconvenient to be worn inside. But when it was appropriate, he could put it back on, and it was more like an expendable garment rather than something that was permeating all of his world view.
I find that amazingly difficult to believe. I choose to believe that if a person is a person who has deep faith, whatever it is, that that may give you some insight or clue into how that person would react under certain circumstances, what his or her worldview is, and whether or not that person will likely respond to crises in a predictable fashion. Do I think that you ought to vote for a person like me because I embrace faith in my own life? No. Any more than I think you should not say, I'll never vote for that guy because he's a person of faith. I find that to be rather a position of, frankly, bigotry.
But what I would like to believe is that I should be able to be honest with you or anybody else about who I really am, and then you can decide if that's a nonstarter. And if it is, terrific, because this is America and that's what your vote is all about. But I'd like to think that the worst thing that you would want is a person who was disingenuous with you, and wouldn't tell you what he or she really believed. Because that's the person that is not being honest, one way or the other. Either they're not being honest that their faith is real, or their faith is real and they're not being honest by telling you how it affects them.
So I come to the logical conclusion that, if I'm running for office, I have a responsibility-- not just a right; I have a responsibility-- to tell people, here's what I believe. Here's how it may affect me when I make decisions. I was a lieutenant governor for three years. I was a governor for 10 and a half years. One of the things that I found very interesting out there on the campaign trail was that I got all the God questions in the debates.
I wanted to scream sometimes, because what I spent most of my time as a governor doing was dealing with education and health care and the infrastructure of our roads and bridges and economic development, job creation, tax structure, dealing with issues like corrections. Those were the issues that I spent my time on every single day.
I get to a debate and I would say, I hope you ask an education question. I was Chairman of the National Governors Association. I chaired the Education Commission of the States for two years. One of the things that I became known for in many circles was my advocacy for music and art programs for every kid. I was the governor in my state that signed a bill that mandated that every student, K through 12, have a music and, not or, a music and art education every single week by a certified teacher.
That shocks the daylights out of people to find out that Republicans like music and that Republicans can embrace the arts. But the reason that that became such a passion for me not only is because it was music and the arts in my own personal life that opened up so many opportunities for me as a kid who grew up very shy and bashful, scared to death of people-- you wouldn't believe that today-- but it's because I happen to know that the future economy is a creative economy. And I know that one of the reasons that our education system is failing today, and the reason that we have 6,000 kids every single day in this country that drop out of school is not because they're dumb, it's because they are bored.
We have an education system that has a curriculum, and we try to squeeze the kids into it rather than finding out what is of interest to the students and squeeze the curriculum into the students. And what's really bad is that we have created a curriculum that puts, understandably, a very important focus on math and science and reading. And that's good, because we don't want to be the last in the world in those things. But the mistake we've made is we've done that at the expense of music and art programs. And so we've had this attitude that these are expendable, these are extracurricular.
No, they're essential. Because if an education only stimulates the left side of a student's brain, it's not an education, it's a data download. And what we basically have in K through 12 education, for the most part, in America is a download of data from one dead brain to the next dead brain, and we wonder why kids aren't excited about learning. Music and the arts are where we touch the right side, the creative side. It is not so much just learning what we know, but what are we going to do with it?
And so it's a passion, and I'm saying all that because I sat there on debate after debate after debate, and I was begging, let's talk about education. Let's talk about what's wrong with it. Let's talk about how we can fix it. Let's talk about the fact that this is not a Democrat or a Republican issue. This is an issue that transcends all of our horizontal politics. It's a vertical issue. It's about being up or down. It's not about being left or right.
And you know what I get? Tell us what you believe about evolution. Or here's one. Do you think Jesus would run for public office? What does that have to do with running for president, for gosh sake? And then, because that would get the attention, people would think, that's all that guy cares about. Talking about evolution. And I tried to make it clear, look, I wasn't there when all this happened. Look around the stage, we have some candidates, they probably were. But I wasn't there when all this happened.
Let me address for a moment, how has my faith influenced me? Well, first of all, I think there's a sort of a misconception about what it means to be a pastor in a large growing congregation these days, and I did that from the early '80s until just around 1991. Well, first of all there's not a social pathology in this country that is abstract to me, because I can put a name and a face on every human hurt that you can possibly name.
Spousal abuse? I talked to those women every week. Teenage pregnancy? I counseled those kids. They told me they were pregnant before they went and told their parents. Elderly people who had to make the decision whether they were going to eat or take medicine. I knew who those people were. I went to their homes. Families standing around the bed of an ICU ward at 2:00 in the morning deciding whether to take the life support off their child who'd been injured in a motorcycle accident and whether to donate his organs to someone else? I was standing right beside them when they made that decision, and standing right there with them when the life finally ebbed out of their child.
I knew what hungry people look like, and a lot of people don't understand, there is hunger in this country. Physical hunger. You don't have to go to some third world country halfway around the planet to see real hunger. It exists in America. Poverty is intense in this country. Not everybody is doing well. There are a lot of people who are really, really hurting. Really hurting.
And I saw those people, and part of the reason that I ever ran for office was because I became convinced that a lot of the people who were making decisions about those people had never met them and had not a clue who they were or what their real problems or their real needs were. And that was one of the motivations for which I ran for office. I did not spend most of my time as a lieutenant governor or most of my time as a governor-- and by the way, as 10 and a half years in the governor's office, I had more executive experience running a government than anybody who ran for president in this last cycle, Democrat or Republican.
No one else spent as much time actually being the CEO of a government entity more than me. But you'd never know that by the campaign because the press never talked about, let's talk about your experience as a governor? It was, hey, do you believe the Bible? And what if I do? Is that going to make me a better or worse president in your mind? I personally think it might make me a better one because it means I believe something. I don't take a poll every night to decide what I'm going to believe tomorrow. My beliefs are going to be pretty predictable. You may not agree with them, but you'll know that even if you don't agree with me, you'll at least find some comfort in that I agree with myself.
I do think it's important that we understand that our society and culture and our government was not designed to function in a moral vacuum. Let me try to explain what I mean by that. I know that there aren't just a bunch of Republicans on the Cornell campus. I just hope they don't walk out of here tonight with paper bags on their heads because of my speech. That's my only real hope.
But let me express-- I didn't grow up a Republican. There were no Republicans in Hope, Arkansas when I was a kid growing up. There were none. None native to Hope, Arkansas. I can remember, by the time I was a teenager, there were about seven people that I knew who were Republican. I'm not kidding-- seven-- and every one of them had moved in from some other state. I worked for one of them at the local radio station where I started work when I was 14 years old, one of two jobs I held as a teenager. That and working for J.C. Penney scrubbing windows and stocking the freight.
I did not grow up a child of privilege. I am not the typical person that you would ever expect to be Republican. My parents certainly weren't. But sometimes people think that all Republicans are wealthy. They're the rich kids. I wasn't. In fact, I was the kid whose dad was a fireman and had to work a second job on his days off, two jobs and barely made enough money to pay the rent on the rent house we lived in on 2nd Street in Hope, Arkansas.
My dad worked as a mechanic on his days off from the fire department. He was one of those guys that never could quite get his hands clean, no matter how hard he scrubbed him, because he did work with his hands. He did heavy lifting. He never got a high school education, never finished. And in fact, no male upstream from me had ever finished high school, ever. I was the first in my entire family lineage, as far as we can trace. And my dad always told me, son, don't look too far up that family tree. There's stuff up there you don't want to see.
We had-- this is true. The only soap we had in my house when I was a kid growing up-- and most of you won't even understand or appreciate this because you've never heard of it-- the soap we had in my house was Lava Soap. If you know what Lava is, you're as old as me. Let me put it this way for the uninitiated. I was in college before I found out that it isn't supposed to hurt when you take a shower.
My mother was the oldest of seven kids. She was a child of the Depression, as both my parents were. That really shaped and colored their world because in the deep South, poverty during the Depression was incredibly intense. As the oldest of seven kids, she grew up in a house with dirt floors, outdoor toilets, no electricity. Went to work early in life to help pay just to put food on the table so that her family could survive with that many brothers and sisters.
Those are my roots. That's where I come from. And I lived a good and decent life. My parents lived their whole life sacrificing so my sister and I would have a better life than them. They did not live for themselves. They lived so we would somehow live better than them. And I'd say they did pretty well.
As a kid growing up, I became a Republican as a teenager, and it was, again, not because there was some family tradition, not because I kept watching my stock options look good and wanted to protect that. It basically was because I realized that I believed that, while I had no ability, no ability at all, to dictate how my life started, I had a lot to do with how it would end. And I believe that I'd been given an incredible gift-- the gift of living in this country.
Unlike any other place on Earth, in this country, I would not be stuck where I started. That I would have the opportunity, if I would go to school, learn, take advantage of the education that was afforded to me for no cost to me, and if I would work hard, be honest. And yes, I might have to work a little harder than somebody else. That's OK. It was still possible for me to get beyond where I started.
And I believe that, in this country, part of the reason that that would work is because our Founding Fathers had this amazing vision for a government, a radical experiment in government, and they weren't sure it would work. But their concept was that we wouldn't need a whole lot of civil government on top of us, restraining and regulating us, because if this thing worked like it's supposed to, there would be the most basic government of all, which was self-government. And self-government was the idea that we would do unto others as others would do unto us.
Now, that was not a uniquely Christian persuasion. It's rooted in Judaism, Christianity, virtually every religion of the world has some basis of treating others as if you would want to be treated. We call it the golden rule. And that, in essence, formed what I call the overarching moral prescription in that we would self-govern, we would act in an ethical way, in a moral way toward each other.
And that in that context of the framework of right and wrong and doing what was right as opposed to doing what was wrong, and living by virtue and by honor, things that our founders spoke of-- and even when they didn't perfectly practice, they embrace it as what the ideal should be-- that we wouldn't need a lot of external government because we would be self-governed by our internal government that said it's wrong to steal, it's wrong to lie, it's wrong to murder somebody, it's wrong to cheat on your wife with someone else's wife. Those things are not healthy for the culture, the society, so let's just say those are taboo, they're off limits and we agree to that. We live by the moral code and we don't need a whole lot of law.
And so the original Constitution is pretty simple. And we added, the Bill of Rights, the 10 amendments which, by the way, if you haven't read them lately, they were not written to restrict you. Every last one of them restricted what government could do, not what you could do. Their whole idea was, we want to keep government as limited, as small, and as unobtrusive as it possibly can be, because what we expect is that people would govern themselves and wouldn't need a whole lot of government.
So even to further protect us, the Bill of Rights were written to say, now government, you can't infringe on people's right to free speech. You can't infringe upon their right to worship. You can't infringe upon their right to publish things even that we don't like. At times I'd like to repeal that during a campaign. I'm just kidding. There's my YouTube moment right there. Huckabee advocates the abolition of the First Amendment.
And they added a Second Amendment. A lot of people today don't like it, don't appreciate it, don't even understand it. But the Second Amendment said government can't keep you from protecting yourself, against even your own government if necessary, if it gets out of control. Pretty radical idea, wasn't it? And on and on they went.
What I want to try to point out is that the best government of all is when we self-govern. The most fundamental government is the government of our own being. And if that operated perfectly, do you realize how little government we would need? Now what I like to do is to create what I call my mythical community. It's hypothetical, and I call it Huck Town. Why? Because I can.
A thousand people live in Huck Town. Let me ask you something. How many police officers are we going to need to hire for Huck Town? How many jail beds will we need in Huck Town? How many public works people will we need to pick up the litter and sandblast the graffiti off the buildings that people have spray painted? How many courtrooms? How many social service counselors are we going to need? How many beds in the juvenile facility are we going to have to have there?
Does anybody know? In the town of a thousand people, what is the number of all of those things? The answer is, we don't know because we don't know how people behave there, do we? Well, let me tell you how they behave in Huck Town. There's no drug use. There's no drunkenness. There's no crime rate. People don't steal from each other. They're extraordinarily civil. If they borrow a lawnmower, they bring it back and mow their neighbor's lawn as a thank you for having been able to borrow the lawnmower. Now you know it's mythical.
There's no domestic violence. We don't have to have a battered women's shelter there. And there's no divorce rate. Kids are growing up in solid, stable homes. And there's very little poverty. People go to work on time. They stay until the end of the day. And by the way, we don't have to drug test the employees, and not only do you not have to drug test them, but you don't have to have security guards checking their purses and pockets as they leave work every day to see if they've stolen something from the company.
People don't have to spend a lot of money on burglar alarms for their houses and put in bars on their doors and windows. It's a pretty nice place to live. And you know what? It doesn't cost much to live in Huck Town. Pretty inexpensive because we don't need jail beds. That's just for people who visit. That's the only reason we have those.
Well, what about let's have another town.
AUDIENCE: You'd need a missile defense system, wouldn't you?
MIKE HUCKABEE: You'll get your turn. And there's a missile aimed at you right now, so look out! So we have another town we're going to create, and just for the sake of doing it, we'll call it Ahmedville. He did the introduction. Are you the President of College Republicans here?
AHMED SALEM: Yes.
MIKE HUCKABEE: You are? That's why I can do this to you. Ahmedville is a little different. Drug use is rampant, people are drunk, most of them drop out of school. The graduation rate is about 60% of high school. So there's a lot of underemployed people, unemployed people, and a lot of people just aren't trained for a job. It's hard to get industry there.
Got a lot of jail beds in this town. That means a lot of courtrooms, a lot of court clerks, a lot of police officers, a lot of folks. Quite a few people that we hire just to go pick up the litter because people have such disrespect for the environment. They just throw stuff all over the place, pollute the streams and the rivers, and that's a big expensive cleanup too. And so all of these expenses add up. And you know what? It gets pretty expensive to live in Ahmedville.
Now let me tell you where I think both Republicans and Democrats have it wrong. Democrats say we need a lot more government, and so they believe, if you have more government, then that will take care of everything. Republicans say we need a whole lot less government and that'll take care of everything. It's missing the point. The presence or absence of government is directly proportional to how we choose to live.
When we self-govern, when we actually behave ourselves, it means that there is not an extraordinary need for layer upon layer upon layer of government to tell us what we can and cannot do. We neither need to be restrained nor regulated because we are restraining and regulating ourselves pretty effectively. But if we don't do that, then what will happen is that the citizens who aren't going beyond those boundaries will say, we have to do something about these people who are throwing trash in our yards, these people who are not showing up for work, these people who are using drugs and stealing from our houses, and so we'd better hire some policeman.
Now one of the problems that I ended up getting into with some of my own conservative brethren was their answer to everything was cut taxes and trim government. That sounds great. Look, I'm all about it. But it can't operate without the context of some sense of shared collective moral behavior. Otherwise, you haven't solved the problem by cutting the government. You may have, in fact-- and I know this is unorthodox to say as a Republican-- that you may have, in fact, exacerbated the problem.
You take those policemen off the streets. Did things get better? You take the training programs out of the schools. Did they get better? The real question is not so much how much government that we have, it's how much we need based on how we live.
1992, April the 29th, to be specific, there was a guy named Reginald Denny who was a truck driver and unfortunately happened to get lost while driving his truck through Los Angeles, ended up in South Central Los Angeles during a time when there were riots going on. And Reginald Denny's truck stalled in the middle of South Central and it wasn't a good thing to happen. Four thugs from that neighborhood grabbed him out of his truck, pulled him from it, and with a camera rolling-- unbeknownst to the thugs-- proceeded to savagely beat Reginald Denny within an inch of his life, leaving him for dead.
And would have killed him except four other people from that same neighborhood saw what was happening, came to his rescue, and saved his life. A lot of people in America saw the videotape of that horrible beating, saw this man who, for no reason whatsoever, was taken out and beaten. It was a senseless, savage crime, and most people focused on what a horrible neighborhood it was where people would take a man out of his stalled truck and beat him and try to kill him for no particular purpose.
I think they missed the point. The same neighborhood that produced the thugs produced the saviors. The same neighborhood from which the four rogues came, came the four rescuers. And my point is to say this-- it is not so much where a person lives. It is how a person lives that determines what kind of collective society we ultimately have. And if our goal is to have a society where we can, in fact, live our lives with the utmost personal liberty, without a government coming in, snooping, and doing all sorts of things to really make us mad-- and isn't today a good day to talk about that, April 15th-- then the first line answer we've got to get to is that it means that there must be some behavioral norms to which we adhere that give us the context into which we can say to the government, it is not necessary for you to rule, regulate, or restrain me because I've done it within my own conscience.
Why do we have Sarbanes-Oxley? Because Wall Street got so stinking greedy is why, and we had crooks like Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay who took advantage of opportunities that they could steal, not just from their investors but from their own employees, watching their employees' paychecks and pensions go down the toilet, and they were running off with big bonuses. It's not uncommon what we're seeing, whether it's Bear Stearns or whether it's some of the airlines where the CEOs take multimillion dollar bonuses and the pilots and the flight attendants and the baggage handlers get 40% pay cuts.
Now folks, that's wrong. That's greed. And so when that kind of thing continues to happen, somebody is going to say, what is the government going to do about it? And they will, and it's expensive. And then the Republicans will say, we shouldn't be regulating, and the Democrats will say we need even more, and the truth is what we really needed was an ethical business practice going on in Wall Street, not just saying that government could fix it. Because what government can't really do is to get inside people's hearts, minds, and souls and reconnect them to a moral code in which they didn't do that stuff in the first place.
The last thing we want to do is to ultimately turn these decisions over to the government. That's what makes me a conservative. It means that I don't want the government to be the first thing we turn to. I want it to be the last. What makes me sometimes unorthodox within my own conservative movement and makes some of my own Republican brethren unhappy is that I am honest enough to say that when we have an uncontrolled society, simply cutting government is not always an answer that brings about the desired result. And therefore, my point is that we cannot separate the economic concerns of our society, the educational concerns of our society, even the health care concerns of our society, without doing it in the context of self-government, which means we make moral choices based on what we believe is right and wrong.
Let me apply it to the health care issue, and I'm going to not take a lot of time with this. But do you realize that of the $2 trillion plus we spend on health care in this country, 80% of it is spent on chronic disease? The overwhelming problem we have in this country is not health care access. The problem is health. We're not a healthy nation.
When 80% of all of our health care expenditures goes to chronic disease largely caused by under exercising, over-eating, and smoking, our problem is not that we don't have enough money out there in the system to cover the people who have cancer and we need to take care of them. That's not the problem. The problem is those of us who don't have to have a disease end up getting one because we live like we want with total reckless disregard to what it's going to do to our bodies in 15, 20, 30, 40 years from now.
And now, the average American will spend 85% of his or her lifetime health care expenditures in the last 18 months of life, because the end of life expenses are staggering. And why are they staggering? Because we don't run to the finish line. We don't walk to the finish line. We are dragged to the finish line barely alive, and if it weren't for the extraordinary medical treatments and medications, we'd never make it to the finish line. And we barely do, but it's awfully expensive when 85% of what we've spent in our entire lifetime was spent in the last 18 months, just trying to get us to limp there.
We're much more like El Cid, the dead man on the horse, propped up in writing. Or maybe for those of this generation, Weekend at Bernie's would probably be more something you can relate to. Now my point is, should the government tell people what size cheeseburger they can eat? I'm not going there. I don't think that's the answer. I think it's that people make decisions for themselves. And as a conservative, my answer would be that we start recognizing that we have two choices.
These are our choices. We make them. The choice is we can leave any darn way we want to and nobody can tell us how to live, but it's going to get very expensive when we all live like that. Or we can all decide we're going to start being responsible, not just for our sake but for our families and those around us, and then we will not need as much of the government's intervention. And in fact the government that we do have can take care of the things that I think we all agree we ought to take care of.
As a conservative, how does faith influence me? One way it influences me is my incredible strong respect for human life. I know the issue of the sanctity of life is very controversial. I don't think it should be, but I know it is. I totally recoil when someone says, are you anti-abortion? I say, no, but I'm very pro-life.
But let me explain where I came to that conclusion. I think one of the most magnificent statements in all of the Declaration of Independence is this one-- "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among these life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
What makes that such a remarkable statement is that in 1776, to allege that everyone is equal-- even though we had a little hard time figuring out all that that meant for African Americans and women and others, took us a while to get that part of it right-- I want you to understand that in the context of 1776 for people who had grown up in a society of aristocracy, a society in which your last name, your net worth, your job description, your family background was, in fact, what gave you your sense of worth and place, for those Founding Fathers to say that all of us are equal and our worth and value is not in our last name, net worth, local address, job title, was a remarkable departure from culture.
It was radical. And what they created was a new maxim about life in this country and how we would live. And here's, essentially, the application. Because they recognized that we are all equal, they further believed that these basic rights were not given to us by government, or by even each other, but were the endowments of our creator, which they believed that there was one. And they believed that our worth was intrinsic to us. In other words, it was not something externally applied. It was internal, and therefore our basic value and worth as a human being was uniquely special. This so translated into our culture that even in the military we have the doctrine of leave no man behind on the battlefield.
Now, let me think with you for a moment what that really means, because if we are judged within our value by our function, keep in mind that once the soldier is wounded, he has lost his function within his military operation. If his value is based on his function, then we'd say, hey, you know what? You can't fight anymore. You're really badly wounded. I hate to do this to you, pal, but it's risky bringing a helicopter in here to get you. So here's some morphine, hope it's pretty painless, but we're clocking you out.
We don't do that. We risk other people to go get him. Why? Because we believe that his worth is not in his function. His worth is in his personhood. And I'm glad we have that doctrine. I'm glad that we elevate and that we celebrate every human life. I'm glad that when a child is born with Down syndrome, we don't say, this one didn't turn out like we expected, so we're going to just take him out.
I don't think any of us here would say that we would ever want to do that. I can't imagine that any of us would want to say that if a person became 80 years old and was in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's, that we should simply go and inject them with a chemical and end their life because they simply were an extraordinary inconvenience and a cost to us that we could no longer afford. Now, maybe there are people who believe that's perfectly OK. I don't, because that might be me someday. It might be me tomorrow.
I want people to treat me like I want to treat them, and I want to treat them like I want them to treat me. It goes back to what I started with. It's the golden rule. You do unto others as you want them to do to yourself. I couldn't come to any other conclusion about life than the one I came to as I logically figured out that, if I believe that everybody has basic value and worth, and we all have that worth that is intrinsic to us-- not applied by somebody else, not ascribed by what somebody does or what somebody has obtained-- then the life of the human being, whether it's the life still in the gestation period or the life of the person in the nursing home or the life of the soldier on the battlefield, is worth something.
And I don't have a fundamental right to go in and interrupt that. I don't have a right to take that innocent life because it might be in my way. For me, that would be the ultimate act of my selfishness. If that person is going to cost me something, be in my way, be an inconvenience to me, so be it. And it very well may. But its inconvenience to me, its cost to me, does not give me the fundamental right to terminate it, because to do so means that at some point I might be in somebody else's way.
So where I come to the conclusion is that if we're going to make a mistake, let's make it on the side of life. Let's truly practice what we say we believe, and that is that we value each other, and that we don't take people out for arbitrary reasons. These are tough questions. They're not issues, quite frankly, that are going to be solved by yelling and screaming at each other and making points.
And I've been guilty in the past sometimes of getting in heated debates with people, and I've said things in past years I've looked back and said, that was stupid. It was stupid because it was harsh. It was stupid because it wasn't intended to have a meaningful adult discussion. It was intended to make my point, to put somebody down, to lift myself up, and that was wrong. I understand that. We all make those kind of mistakes.
But I'm telling you today that America's future is not going to be based on whether we're Democrat, Republican, left, right, liberal, conservative. It better be based on whether we believe that as a culture, as a society, and as a people, we lift this country up or we tear it down. And one of the two things will happen, and what I think would be a remarkable transformation of American culture would be that we would all understand, regardless of where we are on the horizontal scale, that we would recognize that we have a responsibility to self-govern. That we have a responsibility to live within the context of respect for others in all that we do and all that we say and how we live, and in doing that, we truly do create a society where we don't need as much government, as many taxes, as many intrusions.
If you're a liberal, you don't want the government snooping into your stuff. If you're a conservative, you don't want a whole bunch of government. And both of us can ultimately get what we want if we start treating each other with some level of decency, respect, and responsibility.
Thank you very much. I'll be happy to take some questions. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. The mayor of Ahmedville is coming up to be a part of our discussion. And I'm going to try-- do we have microphones? We do here and here. Do we have any others or just these two right here?
AHMED SALEM: I'll explain the process really quickly.
MIKE HUCKABEE: OK.
AHMED SALEM: OK. Excuse my voice. First off, thank you very much, Governor Huckabee, for a thoughtful speech. The ground rules are as follows. [INAUDIBLE] and Mark are going to have the microphones. You're going to raise your hand and come to the end of your line. They're going to hold the microphone while you ask the question. This is going to be an exchange. A 30-second question, allow the Governor to response so that we can get to as many questions as possible within the time frame we have. With that said, respectfully engage, and if you have any questions on Ahmedville you can direct those to me later. With that said, let's respectfully go ahead and start with the first question.
MIKE HUCKABEE: We'll start right over here. Always to my right, to the right. To the right.
AUDIENCE: So thank you, Governor Huckabee, for coming today. My question is, there was recently some controversy on campus about a potential policy to allow concealed hand weapons to be carried by students over the age of 21. I was wondering what your position on that would be.
MIKE HUCKABEE: I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and I believe that there really should be very few, if any, restrictions upon that because it's a right given to individuals. It's a restriction of the government to keep us from having our capacity to defend ourselves. I understand that on a college campus there's going to be some concerns on any type, and in a lot of places.
The issue perhaps would be, if a person is responsible, trained, and law-abiding, I don't worry that they might have a firearm. In fact, I'd be comforted by the fact that, should somebody try to come and start a mass murder, having a person who could stop it without waiting for as many minutes as it might take to assemble authorities to get there, might be preferable. Now, I know that's not exactly a view shared by a whole lot of people, probably not on this campus.
But I just have to believe that the issue is not the responsible, law-abiding person. It's the person who is not responsible and is not law-abiding. They're the ones who worry me. I'm not a gun nut, and I want you to understand that sometimes, everybody thinks if you grew up in the South, you're just waving guns all the time. It's not the way it is.
And by the way, the Second Amendment is not about hunting. I'm a hunter, but that's not the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is not about hunting. Hunting is a sporting exercise. It's also an exercise in conservation. A lot of non-hunters don't understand that if it weren't for the hunters, we wouldn't have deer, we wouldn't have turkey, we wouldn't have the wildlife because they frankly would overrun the habitat. Sad fact. Our license are the ones who make sure we do have all of these species. I wish the people who don't hunt make very little investment in conservation. I make a lot as a lifetime member of things like Ducks Unlimited and National Wild Turkey Federation and so on.
When you bring-- there the real question, and I'll just try to close with this, is that we need to make sure that we don't infringe upon what is a constitutional right for people to protect themselves. But also be respectful that if a person is going to exercise that right, they ought to certainly be responsible and do it in a legal way. And most campuses have a rule against any type of firearm.
The problem with that is, think about this, is that if you're going to commit a foreign crime, you're pretty sure that you're the only one going to be in that room with a firearm. And it gives you a lot more freedom to do what you think you're going to do, and a lot more time to do it. And if you think that there might be somebody in this room who, when I stand up to take a life, I won't get many shots off before somebody takes me out. And again, I know that that seems really horrible to some people, but I think it's really horrible when 27 or 29 or 30 people get killed before anybody can finally get to the shooter. That's horrible too.
AUDIENCE: Good evening, Governor Huckabee. I also wanted to hear about more about being a conservative and Christian. Because I'm a conservative Christian, but at the same time, you see Ann Coulter saying heaven's going to be like the GOP National Convention, you see Robertson endorsing Rudy Giuliani, you see Dobson saying I'll never vote for McCain even though he's a decent social conservatives. You see conservative Christians saying the 11th Commandment is thou shall not filibuster judges. And all of this is happening. Nobody wants to endorse you, nobody wants to endorse Romney, even though you're both good social conservatives. So do you believe that the right is leading the religious right astray?
MIKE HUCKABEE: I do think that there's been some real disconnect, and let me tell you what I think has happened. I think a lot of the people who have been-- in the past, and I want to make that emphatically-- in the past, leaders of whether you call them the religious right or the Christian conservatives, whatever, I think that they have shown, in this election cycle, their true colors. And it's not about principles, it's about power. And they linked up not with people who represented what they supposedly were embracing as their most important views and values, but their new goal was electability.
Now if electability is the new God, then that's perfectly fine. But when that becomes a more important principle than the principles to which we're supposedly adhering, then we in essence have created a new set of rules. And the rules are not about life or family or marriage or those things, it's now become about electability, i.e. power.
And let me be real clear. God is neither a Democrat or a Republican. The last time I checked, he didn't vote in anybody's primary. I'd like to believe if he had voted, he'd have voted for me, but he didn't. And so-- that's a joke, so for those of you that are really, really sensitive and get worried about everything, chill. Switch to decaf.
Look, God is so much bigger than either the Democrats or the Republicans. I'm not a Republican because I believe God is a Republican. I'm a Republican because of some deeply held principles and convictions I hope that I've tried to explain in some way to you tonight, probably not as effectively as I would have liked and maybe not as thoroughly as I would have enjoyed. But my Republican convictions are not because I had a light shine on me on the road from Washington.
And I believe people can be Christians and be Democrats, and I think they can be Republicans and be unbearable infidels, because I know them. You liked that, didn't you? But it's just true. It's wrong for us to make the presumptions, based on a political affiliation, that we know exactly what a person is all about.
And by the way, you know why I want to say that? Because there are a lot of people who think they know me because they found out, oh, he's a Baptist minister. I know everything I need to know about him. Do you really? Do you really know what I'm about? No. But when people jump to the conclusion-- people on the left have done it to me for years, and people on the right do it to liberals just as well.
And I would say, whether it's the people on the left immediately just writing me off and figuring out what all I'm about because, after all, they found out I'm an Evangelical Christian, I'm, in fact, an ordained minister. Boy, that tells us everything we need to know and we don't like that guy. Is not that bigotry the same way that it would be for a Republican to say, if that guy's a Democrat, we know one thing-- he's not a real Christian. Either conclusion is absurd.
And the one thing that I believe about God is that he's infinite. He's so much bigger that no political system, no national government could contain him. If your God-- speaking here in terms of the literary you-- if your God is small enough that you can live by all of his rules and commandments and perfectly follow his law within the context of your life, my suggestion is, it's not that your life is that large, it's that your God is really too small.
And I would suggest that none of us have found Him perfectly. None of us have lived Him absolutely. None of us have fully known Him completely. And that's what makes faith and the pursuit of it something that we will never completely comprehend, understand, or be able to say, I have it all and you have it not at all. So I hope that that makes some sense. I'll well go over here. Yes.
AUDIENCE: Governor Huckabee, welcome to Cornell.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I recently turned 21, and to be honest, it's been a fun pair of months.
MIKE HUCKABEE: I don't want to hear that. I know what that means. I don't want to hear that.
AUDIENCE: I understand you attended a prestigious Baptist College in Arkansas, and do you have any experiences that you had when you were our age that you carry around with you?
MIKE HUCKABEE: I was a wonderful behaved student in every way. The truth is, I didn't really get in a lot of trouble but it wasn't because I was some moral giant. The reason I didn't is because, frankly, in college I didn't have a whole lot of time. I worked 40 hours a week, got through my four-year degree in two years and three months. And I didn't do that because of being so much more intelligent than everybody.
I told a group of guys over at the Teak House today, I said, you know, you've got to understand the reason I did that was because when I went to college, it was sort of an all you can eat deal. That every semester, you had one price per semester, and you could take all the course hours that you could get into that semester. It wasn't like paying so much per hour. So I sat down with a catalog and figured out what was the fastest possible way I could get through college. Because I was paying for it, and I couldn't afford for four years of it. And I decided, well, here's how I could do it, and I worked out a plan and that's what I did.
So because of that, I didn't have a whole lot of time for goofing off. And I think it was one of those things that it was, I would like to think of it as God's way of protecting me from doing some really stupid things. Obviously he's not protected you as well. No, I'm just kidding. I'm kidding with you! I hope you're a good sport. Oh well, you didn't vote for me anyway, so there you go. Thanks a bunch. I appreciate. OK, over here.
AUDIENCE: Governor, I had a question. First of all, as a supporter of Senator Obama, I thought it was really admirable what you did when you went on Joe Scarborough's show and you defended Jeremiah Wright as a person. I thought that was really admirable. I was curious about your idea of vertical politics. Is it really all that different from what Dick Morris and Bill Clinton talked about when they talked about triangulation?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Yeah, it's a lot different because triangulation is essentially where you capture the other side's issues and you embrace them yourself before they can get to them. And it's like running a military flank operation where they expect you to attack here and you come around the flank and that's where you capture them. Vertical politics is really not so much the tactics, it's the strategy. And so it's very different. Vertical politics is not about the tactical operations of how you beat the other side, it's that the strategic issues that you focus on are issues that transcend the normal horizontal lines.
For example, road building. Is that a Democrat or a Republican deal? Frankly, if you're driving on the highway and you hit a pothole, you don't care who fixes it. You don't say, that darn Republican pothole! And you'd probably use a word other than darn. Being the religious guy, that's as far as I go. My point is that, let's take education. Education is really not a Democrat or a Republican issue. We may have different perspectives of how we should approach it, but it transcends those ideological lines, or at least it should. I'd say the same thing about an honest approach to health care.
Really from my perspective-- and being a governor is what perhaps shaped a lot of this-- governors don't have the luxury of being ideologues. I had a great relationship with the other governors. Some of my close governor friends were the Democrat governors. Mark Warner, Bill Richardson, Phil Bredesen from Tennessee. I could think of several others. I got along with them great, worked together. You know why? Because when governors got in a room together, we weren't talking about the horizontal politics of who's going to be who.
We were talking about solving problems. Because we had to balance budgets, we had to make schools work, we had to see that roads got built. It was very practical issues. And in those issues, it's not so much about who's the Democrat, who's the Republican. It's who's effective and who's ineffective? And if Washington could operate a little more like that, we'd be better off. But Washington has become so polarized, it's now paralyzed, and nothing happens from there.
And I'll tell you what. You know why the Founders really believed that the best government was the most local government and we didn't want to have too much power with the central government? I don't know if they were prophetic, but it was as if they could see into the future and know that if you centralize too much government and too much power was vested in one place, that this is what would be the result.
And that's what's happened to us. We've got so much power there. If you push that power back into the states, we'd solve problems, because governors have to. Governors can't afford to let them go unchecked, and they're accountable and responsible. As are mayors and our county officials more so. OK.
AUDIENCE: The issue of Tibet has been in the news a lot as of late. If you were in George Bush's place right now, would you boycott the opening of the Olympic games?
MIKE HUCKABEE: I would be very strong in protest about the way the Chinese have treated Tibet, but what I would not do is to punish athletes for something for which they had nothing to do. I've never understood why-- well, I guess I can. OK, let me take that back. I understand why we would maybe use the symbolic opening games of the Olympics to say, we're going to punish China.
But who are we really punishing? I think we're punishing athletes who have spent years and years and years working to represent our country in these athletic events which, quite frankly, sometimes have a way of reminding us of our sense of community within the world more so than dividing us. Sports and music are two ways in which we can unite rather than divide. And in one of the only two things on this Earth that I think can actually unite people without a lot of politics involved, why would we take one of them off the table?
So I know that's probably not the politically correct position to take, and again, I'm saying that very unorthodox from some people in my own party and persuasion, but I hate to see those athletes denied their ability to represent us and to participate in something where our pride as a nation can be upheld to make a political point. Let the politicians and the diplomats make the political points. Let's boycott something else. Let's boycott some trade. I'm not suggesting specifically, I'm just saying. That will make the papers too. Let's find something, though, in the political realm, because it's a political thing we're trying to protest, not an athletic one. OK.
AUDIENCE: Governor Huckabee.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Yes.
AUDIENCE: All day and for the past week, I've been debating whether I should ask you for a handshake, a hug, or a high five.
MIKE HUCKABEE: I'd say the high five or the handshake would work for me. I mean, I'm OK with a hug if we really need to go there.
AUDIENCE: Can I have a handshake please?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Yes, sir. And a high five. There we go. By the way, I think your tuition should be free next semester. OK, over here.
AUDIENCE: Governor Huckabee--
MIKE HUCKABEE: Would you like the hug or the handshake, which one?
AUDIENCE: I'm fine, thanks. Welcome to Cornell.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Oh, OK.
AUDIENCE: I feel bad. I'm going to ask a sort of confrontational question.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Oh, that's all right.
AUDIENCE: So here I go.
MIKE HUCKABEE: OK.
AUDIENCE: You mentioned in the debates you wanted to talk about the substantive issues and you didn't want to get pigeonholed by the media as the religious candidate.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: How, then, do you explain your 2007 Merry Christmas political ad?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Because it was Christmas.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Go ahead. I'm going to let you finish.
AUDIENCE: You mentioned that you don't like people who are disingenuous with their faith. Are we supposed to believe it's just a coincidence that you were competing with Governor Romney, who's a Mormon, over the same constituency, and that, as you said in previous interviews, it's just a coincidence that the shelf turns into a big cross. And is that a coincidence?
MIKE HUCKABEE: It wasn't even a coincidence. It was a bookshelf. And let me tell you how that spot came about. Let me tell you. Nobody-- seriously. Nobody thought that was funnier than the production crew that put the spot together, because here's what happened. We struggled and debated with, how do you campaign at Christmastime? And, do you run traditional political ads right in the middle of Christmas?
And because the caucuses got moved up so close to Christmas, January the 3rd, and it is right during the holiday season-- and I'm sure this discussion went on in the other campaigns. I'm assuming that it must have in all of them. But I know for us it was a real question. What do you do? Go in there and say, my opponent is a bum! Merry Christmas, everybody. We love. So we decided that what we would do is to do something-- our campaign has been built on the unorthodox. We did the Chuck Norris commercial, which was a funny commercial. You liked that.
AUDIENCE: I did, yes.
MIKE HUCKABEE: You know why you liked it? Because it was different and it was totally unexpected. Nobody thought that we would do something as the first spot out of our box that wasn't the traditional, Mike Huckabee is the greatest thing since toothpaste. And instead, we have Chuck Norris and me clowning around on the spot and talking about, he's my thing [INAUDIBLE]. And people thought, that's different. And they watched it, and we spent $60,000 buying the ad, and all the networks gave us $10 million of free time.
It came time for Christmas. We said, what do we do? We don't want to do the traditional thing. We want to do something that doesn't offend people. And so we had taped spots that day, rented a house in Little Rock to do it. That was our location. And there was a decision that we ought to do something that is strictly nonpolitical. And there was no script for that spot. This is the truth, I will tell you, and there's plenty of witnesses.
I was feeling horrible. We had been taping for a couple of hours. I was worn out. It had been a long day, it was about 6:00 in the evening. And the production crew had been set up in the living room. That shot was going to be made in the den. It was where the family's Christmas tree was. And so our campaign manager and media guy said, let's do just you sitting in front of the camera, looking at the camera, and essentially saying, Merry Christmas. I said, OK. But I said, guys, I've got one or two takes in me and that's it. So we'd better get this right.
So they moved the camera equipment-- I'm giving you a lot of this stuff. It's a little piece of history. Moved all the camera equipment in there, hurriedly set it up to point it at the Christmas tree, and put me in front of a Christmas tree. Behind me was a bookshelf, an honest to God bookshelf. That's all it was. And the spot had no script. I ad libbed it, and I basically just said, at this time of year, we're going to pull aside from all the political yin and yang and just say, Merry Christmas.
And I said Merry Christmas because it was Christmas. It wasn't something else. It was Christmas, and I don't know that that should be offensive to anybody. My feeling is this-- if you find saying Merry Christmas offensive, then be sure not to take the day off from work. Go ahead and work.
So the spot ran, and out of the clear blue, the websites lit up and people said, you know, he's doing a subliminal cross. And what was the funniest thing to me were the people, the talking heads-- I call them the talking idiots because there's nothing dumber than a guy sitting on television talking about things with great authority about which he knows nothing. And these guys would get on cable and I'd watch them. Let me tell you, I've been in the political business a long time. I've made a lot of spots. I'm going to tell you right now, that was purpose. They knew exactly what they were doing. They had that all figured out.
And I'm thinking, we're not that smart. We are not that smart. And our campaign did not have enough money to hire enough people to figure all that out. We rolled the camera in, we shot a spot, it happened to be in front of a bookshelf. Bookshelves look like that when you put them together. I don't know why. That's the way they look. And somebody started coming up with the idea that we were pushing the cross of Jesus.
Look, let me explain one other thing, and I'm not aiming this at you because it was a very good, legitimate question. I appreciate you bringing it up. If we were pushing the cross, we'd have done that at Easter. So give me at least enough theological capacity to know the difference between Christmas and Easter.
And I'm telling you, when I saw those people on television talking about, with great authority, what we had done, we laughed our heads off because we thought, you have got be kidding. Now providentially, that spot ran almost as much as the Chuck Norris spot for free! And so even though it was not our intention to create this controversy, the net result was we got a bunch of stuff out of that that we couldn't have afforded. That's how our campaign got as far as it did, a dollar to the dime of the other candidates, because people kept looking for the subliminal messages that weren't even there. Anyway, I do appreciate the question.
AUDIENCE: Governor Huckabee, I've heard you talk a lot today about wanting to treat others as you wish to be treated.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Yep.
AUDIENCE: But I also understand that you are personally against same-sex marriage, and I understand you might have your religious motivations for that. But don't you see the issue as, by restricting a group of Americans from the same right that everyone else is allowed, to marry the person they love, you're treating them as second-class citizens and therefore inferior? And for me, that's a step away from hate and discrimination. How would you relate that to treating others as they wish to be treated?
MIKE HUCKABEE: I appreciate the question. Thank you. I don't see it as treating people as I do respecting the institution of marriage. Marriage has always historically meant one thing. It's meant the relationship and a commitment between a man and a woman who have the capacity not only to reproduce and create the next generation, but the purpose of that context is to create the next generation and then train our replacements. To train the next generation how they are supposed to take over from us, because we're not going to last forever.
So there's two very important, obvious functions-- creating, training. It is in the context of a home and a family and a marriage in which those basic lessons are learned, and I believe that the ideal relationship is to have both a father and a mother present in the relationship. It's not always going to work out. My wife was raised by a single mom, raised five kids by herself because their father left when she was little. So some families don't always work out perfectly.
The real question is not, should we endorse, necessarily, same-sex marriage? The real question is, should we make a change in the definition of marriage? And if we should make that change, who makes that decision, what decision gets to be made, and why does it get to me made? So let's look at it not so much in the micro sense of same-sex marriage, man-man, woman-woman. Let's look at it in a larger context.
Should we change the definition of marriage? That's the question. Now if we decide we're going to change it, should we limit the change to only allowing same-sex marriage? Should we not also, then, if people who are adults and who believe in polygamy, should we not allow people to marry multiple spouses? And if not, why not? I've not heard anybody make that argument. In fact, we're arresting people in Texas right now for polygamy. And no, no. I know you're going to say, oh, that's not the same. But yes, it is. It is the same when you change the definition.
And the question is, if we want to change the definition as a society, because we have the ability to change our laws. We can do that. Now, if you have enough people in America that agree with you that we should change the definition of marriage, then eventually that will happen. And it might. But until it does, we've still defined marriage as one man, one woman relationship. And if we ever do make the change, we might make it originally for man-man, woman-woman. But what's to say that somebody won't come along and say, but if we're going to make that change, let's make some others as well?
Now I know I'm never going to satisfy everybody on this. I believe this-- people have a right to live any way they wish, and if they wish to live with a person of their own gender, I believe that's their right to do so. But to change the definition of the institution involves a bigger decision, all of us collectively. And until we've come to some agreement collectively that that's what we should do, then I think we ought to keep the institution as it is.
Frankly, I'm concerned not so much about creating a new form of marriage as I am about the fact that 50% of the marriages that we have are ending in failure. And that's very troubling. I'd like to work on making those better before we try a new version of it.
I respect your position, I really do. I know you may not think I do. I disagree with it. I honestly disagree with it. Yeah, I know, you disagree with me, and you know what? That's America. It's a great country because we can disagree. If one day you convince enough Americans that your view is right and you get them to change the law, I'll be asking you that question on the stage some day.
AUDIENCE: I don't exactly know about faith and politics, but I just want to tell you that my grandma, a liberal Democrat, tried to vote for Senator Clinton and accidentally voted for you. So I think the take-home lesson is, God must be on your side.
MIKE HUCKABEE: You know, you beat me to it saying that, because that's exactly what I was thinking. Thank you, Lord.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Unfortunately, what state was that? Was that in New York? Was that in New York?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, New York.
MIKE HUCKABEE: In New York? Well, the bad news is I didn't win New York anyway. Yeah. OK. Let's go here. I'm sorry.
AUDIENCE: So this is going to be another marriage question. My fiance and I are actually getting married on August 2nd, and she is a big supporter of yours. I think she's .025% of what you got in Utah. She donated money, and she's a co-author of Brian Wansink. And her father's a Baptist minister but he has to walk down the aisle with her, so we still need a Baptist minister for our wedding.
MIKE HUCKABEE: And you know what? You still do. I would love to do it. I really would. But I'm afraid, first of all, I don't know that I could commit to August the 2nd without knowing what I'm going to be doing. And secondly, do you have any idea that if I said yes to that, how many requests for doing weddings? Besides, my credentials may be a little rusty and old at this point. I'm not sure.
You know what? Congratulations to you guys. And since you're going to get married, let me-- I don't mean to be overly religious but that's what I was told I could talk about-- so let me share with you a scripture verse from the New Testament for your marriage. "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." Congratulations. By the way, my wife and I will celebrate 34 years together next month. We got married when we were not even 19, so it can be done and I wish you the very best. God bless you and best wishes to you.
AUDIENCE: So, Huck, my question is, what are some ways that you've been able to share, specifically, the gospel of Christ in your spheres of influence [INAUDIBLE]?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Within the political realm?
MIKE HUCKABEE: I think in a lot of contexts. Sometimes it's individual, talking with people. People sometimes want to know what I believe because I know just enough that they don't know much more than that. And I think it's given me a great opportunity to share my personal faith and why I'm a believer and what that means. In many cases, I find it is explaining what it doesn't mean. I find that it means that I can tell people that being a Christian for me does not make me think I'm better than somebody.
Because there's a lot of misconception that people say, I'm a Christian, oh, you think you're better than people. I say, no, no, no, you don't understand. My understanding of being a Christian means that I accept, admit, and deal with the fact that I'm not even as good as I want to be. I have to come to grips with the fact that, in order to become a believer, I have to accept my own sinful nature. I have to turn and repent from that. I have to acknowledge my failure, or else I can't make that step.
And I think that surprises people, and this is frankly, I think, where those of us who are Christians, we fail, because if we've come across as self-righteous and people who are holier than thou and we're right and everybody's wrong, we have not given the right kind of witness. I'd like to always believe that what we've shown is compassion. We've shown that we understand our own failures and fragile nature, and we've accepted it and we've turned from ourselves to look to our God through Christ in order to find not only forgiveness but strength.
But that's what it means. It doesn't mean we're stronger. It means that we've accepted that we're weaker. We need the strength from beyond ourselves. And I hope that I can get-- again, not only in an individual way but when given the opportunity to explain it, and given better questions than things like I got in the debates. So let's go over here. We have only probably two or three more, and then we're going to have to close it down. Yes.
AUDIENCE: OK. So you talked about a lot of logic and the golden rule, which is really great. Do unto others as they would do unto you. But can you apply that to the war in Iraq and my right to choose about my own body? If you're talking about having the right to have an unobtrusive government to impose on the people, can you apply that to both issues, please?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Let me address the one on the abortion issue, because I know that's sensitive and I'm very respectful of the fact that there are people who will disagree with me no matter what. But first of all, if we look at this scientifically, it is scientifically incorrect to say that the child inside a woman's body is a mere part of her body. Biologically, that's not the case. That child has 23 chromosomes from a father, 23 from a mother. It has a unique DNA schedule that is unlike anything that's ever been before or will be again. Biologically, it is incorrect to say-- it is not like the appendix or the gallbladder or the kidney. It is not imprinted with the same DNA schedule. It is unique.
MIKE HUCKABEE: It is unique to that child. And the point that I want to make is that I'll never make everybody happy with the answer that I'm giving. I understand that. But the choice is the choice in, frankly, becoming pregnant. Now if it's a rape then I understand there's some real serious discussions to be held.
I'd like to believe that, because frankly I worked for a man in Texas who was the product of a rape. He now does more to bring water wells to Africa. I could tell you some things that he's doing. It's remarkable. Somebody may say, well, that's a rare exception. But it is an incredible picture of a person who easily could have been justified as being terminated. But he wasn't, and the reason was because in 1993, when he was born, his mother couldn't find a doctor who would do the abortion.
It's a tough situation, and I'm going to have great respect and not be angry and hateful toward people who make a different decision than I would make on that, and I hope that I can be respectful. But at some point, we either believe that that's a human life or it isn't. That we either honor it or we don't. That we either, if we make a mistake, make it on the side of life or we don't. And I've come to the conclusion that life is precious, whether it's in the womb, or the bed of illness, or whether it's on the playground, and I want to make sure that we do all that we can to protect, preserve, and take care of it.
Now you asked about the war in Iraq. Let me try to address that because it's a tough question. I think we've got to remember in the context, that Democrats and Republicans both voted to go to Iraq. Very few exceptions. They believed that there were weapons of mass destruction and that there was a clear and present danger to the United States. After we got there, never found the weapons of mass destruction.
It's easy now to second guess and say, gosh, we shouldn't have gone. I think there was a bigger mistake that was made, and part of that was that when we went in, we had a tactical plan of how to topple Saddam Hussein's administration. We did not have a strategic plan of how you can take a totalitarian government and people who have been generations under a dictatorship and suddenly help them to culturally come to the immediate conclusion of what a democracy would be like. And I think that there was some naivete in approaching that government that we could just, if they all voted, everything would be fine. Well, you don't undo generations and generations if not centuries of culture by simply saying, we're going to have an election. And I believe that was one of the major mistakes that was made.
Now that we're there, it would be even more harmful to just say, we're out tomorrow, because genocide would likely be the result. And the tribal wars that would go I think would be absolutely just beyond horrible, to all of us. I hope that we can bring enough stability getting the Iraqi people to self-govern and secure themselves, to a point, and that we can get out, and that we'll be very, very careful about putting ourselves in a similar situation in the future.
And I just want to say, with all sincerity, I do respect your point of view. I truly do. And I know it's not one that's going to satisfy me, and mine certainly won't satisfy you. It's a discussion that we would need hours to have, and maybe someday we will have it. But I deep down just have to come to the conclusion, following my convictions, that life is precious. We should do all we can to protect it and preserve it, and that's where I end up. But I thank you very much. I think we'll have to let this get be the last question.
AHMED SALEM: Governor Huckabee, if I may, we're going to take a total, after this, a total of two more questions. But I just wanted to ask you something because we're interested in hearing you address this and we told people that you would. What is your view and how is-- if you want to talk about religion shaping your view on this particular issue-- on the US relationship with Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict in general.
MIKE HUCKABEE: OK. I've been all over the Middle East. I've been to Israel nine times. I've been to Syria, to Lebanon, to Egypt, to Jordan, to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Pakistan and to India. I'm telling you I've been to these countries primarily to say it is not something I've just read about. I've seen up close. I've seen it personally.
This is not so much of you based on my religious faith. It's not that I'm imposing that. Based on the issue of national security for the Israelis. I do not believe that we should force the Israelis to give up land because, if you've ever been there, you know that they have a tiny sliver-- a tiny sliver-- of real estate, surrounded by people who have vowed that they want to destroy them and annihilate them. That's a dangerous position to be in.
And when they give up an inch of land, they're giving up more than land. They're giving up security. They're giving up their capacity to exist. And I think it's really troubling when I see you say, let's just encroach upon those borders and tighten them in more and more, because they don't have a whole lot to give up. Theirs is a unique oasis of democracy in the midst, surrounded by dictatorship, and they have been one of the true and only loyal allies that we have had in the Middle East, and one of the true examples of how a democracy can, in fact, work.
There is no easy solution, and if we think we can fix this by having a presidential visit, we're kidding ourselves. Look, this fight goes all the way back to Isaac and Ishmael, and it's not going to be solved any time by any of us anywhere soon, and it is going to be a long, protracted discussion. And the one thing I hope we can do is perhaps get all of the nations, particularly if you look at the vast amount of land in the control of Arab countries, to be willing to make some concessions to provide for real estate that is ample and really desirable for there to be location of people when there's not going to be adequate space within the context of Israel itself.
OK, we've got two more questions, one here and one here.
AUDIENCE: How's it going, Governor. My name is Tarik and I'm from Rhode Island. So I was wondering if you could define exactly what states' rights means to you, and particularly if you were the governor of a state, let's say South Carolina, which was waving a visual symbol of institutionalized bigotry above its state capital, what exactly would you do as governor about that?
MIKE HUCKABEE: There was a lot of misinformation that was spread about a statement I made in South Carolina. People were asking me about the flag. My point was, it has nothing to do with being president. It's a South Carolina issue. They already decided it. They'd already dealt with it. Why bring it in? Because it was being brought in to create an unnecessary, and frankly unholy, controversy that had no business in the presidential debate.
People took my answer as to try to say that I was out there pushing for the flag. I was not pushing for the flag. My point was, it's none of my stinking business. This is an issue that the people of South Carolina should decide, and they already had. I didn't have to. If somebody came to my state who didn't live there, had no responsibility, paid no taxes there, and told us how to live, I wouldn't take too kindly to it.
States' rights should always be respected until those states' rights violate something that is bigger. Now, let me give an example of what I mean by that. Some people believe-- and this goes also to the abortion question-- I personally believe that just overturning Roe v Wade is no great answer to the issue of abortion, and I'll tell you why. Because Roe v Wade overturned only means that every state makes up its own rules. Some states may have very, very liberal rules about abortion, more liberal than we have in any state right now if Roe v Wade was overturned. When pro-life people act like, boy, that's what we want. We want judges to overturn Roe v Wade, I'm thinking, are you sure? Because it may not turn out just like you think.
Here's the problem with overturning Roe v Wade and making that a states' rights issue. The issue is, is this a political question or is it a moral question? Now, if it is a political question, you're exactly right-- or you're not, but a person is exactly right to say-- he might be right too-- if it is a political question, then each of the 50 states can come to their own conclusion, and no other state should violate the sovereignty of that state in deciding it.
If, however it is a moral issue-- and for me it is. This is a moral issue, not just a political one, and that's why, with hopefully respect, I spoke to the lady before and said I can't yield on it, because for me it is a moral issue. If it is a moral issue, then it's completely inconceivable that every one of the 50 states can have a different version of it. Folks, that's the logic of the Civil War. That's why we had a civil war. And by the way, I live in a part of the country that was on the wrong side of that.
The South argued that this was a state's right to have slavery. And at some point this country said, no, you know what? A person cannot own another person. It is wrong to own another human being. I believe that's why abortion is wrong, because in essence it's a person taking ownership of another human life and deciding what to do with it and how to dispose of it. And for the same reason that I would oppose slavery-- and again, I know that that argument just makes people mad, but follow the logic of it-- if you can take a life, you obviously have ownership of it.
We said slavery was wrong, and we came to the conclusion as a nation that it was not politically wrong, it was morally wrong, and therefore you couldn't have 50-- at the time we didn't have 50 states-- but every state couldn't have its own standard of what slavery could mean or not mean because the issue transcended a political issue. So my point is that when it comes down to states' rights, if it is a political question-- the speed limit, the tax rate on gas-- yeah, let the states make up their own mind.
If it's a decision that we have collectively now decided is moral, like the ownership of another human being, slavery, et cetera, then I don't think you can have 50 different definitions. Because if we can, then we need to go back and apologize to the people of the South and say, we're sorry. You guys can have slaves if you want them. And I don't know of a single human being, I don't care who they are and how stupid they are, who honestly would get up in public and say, I think slavery is a great idea and we ought to go back to it. I mean, I don't even know idiots who say that anymore. So why would we ever come back to that conclusion?
OK, final question. You get to ask it over here.
AUDIENCE: Governor Huckabee, good evening. I'm wondering-- you mentioned earlier in your talk that you pride yourself on your steadfastness and your desire to not change your opinions in the face of opinion polls or similar beliefs. And certainly no one wants an empty suit who has no moral center who will change his will. But at the same time, isn't there-- people attack flip-floppers, we must stay the course. Clearly people agree with this. Is there not, though, some value in recognizing that you were wrong, in recognizing that a situation has changed and changing your mind?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Oh, absolutely. But there's a real difference between changing on a moral question-- and it kind of goes back to what I was saying-- changing a political question. If the tax rate in the state is 6% but you suddenly have a huge budget shortfall, and if you don't raise the tax, you close schools down, end college scholarships, put Medicaid patients on the street, and people don't get their medicine, you know what? Your view is that 6% is a good tax rate, but you may end up saying, we've got to go to 7% because we can't. The consequences are unfathomable.
Now, that's not a flip-flop. That's responsible governing, although you'll take a beating running for office if you ever do something like that. A flip-flop is when you say, abortion is OK, then it's not OK. Gun control is OK, now it's not OK. On an issue that is really fundamental to what I call a conviction question, not a convenience question or a process question.
I think you have to be able to change as you govern to the waters, because sometimes you're steering your canoe through low water. Sometimes you're steering it through high water. You'd better steer it differently through low water and high water. I've been in both, and I'm telling you, canoes operate differently under the circumstances. But the basic idea of moral convictions should not change. So I hope that that makes some sense.
I know our time has gotten away. I know some folks had to leave. Some folks didn't have to, they just wanted to, but I'm going to think that they had to, OK? Those of you who have stayed through all of this, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate, first of all, your presence. But second of all, I'll be honest with you, I had been prepared and told Cornell is a pretty freethinking group of people and they may just really be rough on you.
You guys ought to be aware that you have been-- and I know there's a lot of folks here who don't agree or adhere to what I have said tonight-- but you've been incredibly respectful and as congenial an audience as I could have hoped for if I'd gone into a Baptist church to make this talk. Actually, I've been in a lot of Baptist churches. You're a lot more congenial and respectful than most of them.
But I want to tell you how much I appreciate this incredible opportunity. I've benefited from your participation. I've enjoyed it immensely. You have a beautiful campus, a remarkable community. I wish you all the best. And whether you agree with me or not, this is your country. You owe it to its future to become informed and involved.
And I close with this reminder for all of you who are students. Your participation in the political process is a lot more important for you than for me. If I live my life expectancy, I may have 30-something years left, and that's really stretching it. If you live your life expectancy, most of you in this room have 65 or so years that you're still going to be affected by the decisions of the next president and the next Congress.
Many of the things that are going to matter in my next 30 years I've already pretty well put in place, like a retirement program and stuff like that. So I kind of have it mapped out. I've made most of the major career choices that I'm going to make. Some of them didn't turn out so well, but I've tried. Some of you don't even know what you're going to major in, much less what you're going to do in five years. And the chances are, you'll change jobs every seven years, according to new figures that have come out, so you've got a lot of things to decide out there in the future.
And the capacity for you to make those decisions in the context of what's going to work will largely be affected by the people you elect. So when I hear people say, I'm young, I don't think I'm going to vote because it doesn't matter, it matters a whole lot more for you than it does for me. If I don't vote, you know what? The next president won't really ruin my life. I don't care who it is. May make it uncomfortable, I may not like the decision, but I'm not going to be completely ruined by the next president. You might be.
That's why you should have elected me, by golly. Thank you. I appreciate your coming. Thank you very much. I'll head off the stage here.
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Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee acknowledged right away that he knew his visit to Cornell wouldn't exactly be a political homecoming.
"Someone has told me Cornell is just a little left of center, for the most part, so I know the Q and A is going to be a whole lot of fun," quipped the former governor of Arkansas during his April 15 visit.
He was right. Huckabee's casual, self-effacing demeanor brought levity to a near-capacity audience of 1,200 in Bailey Hall, for a talk titled "In God We Trust: The Role of Faith in Politics." ... more from