The Interview: Transcript of Mike Huckabee's Conversation With NJ

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NJ You've put out two Christmas books in the past two years. The newest, a children's book, tells the story of you and your sister opening up your presents early. What inspired you to write them?

HUCKABEE The book that came out last year was very well-received, it was on the New York Times best-seller list for many weeks, and after the success of it, the publisher said, "Why don't we make a children's book using one of the stories from it?" So we did it. They hired an illustrator to do it who did a great job. We essentially wanted to make it very simple, with a moral, absolutely so simple even most members of Congress could read it, which is a pretty low threshold. We wanted to make sure 5 year olds could read it, so that was our target.



NJ Something that carried over from both books is that you're not good at sitting around, you're pretty impatient and like to be on the move. Is that so?

HUCKABEE That's a very accurate description. The quicker I can get somewhere, the better.

NJ Where are you headed now? Are you happy doing the book tour, radio show, and TV?

HUCKABEE I've enjoyed it a lot; it's been great fun. Both on television and radio, writing and speaking, all the things I'm doing right now are an incredible opportunity for me to speak on issues that are important to me, [to] have a part in the public discussion on issues of the day. It's really, in many ways, a perfect world.

NJ Is that a perfect world you're ready to mess with, or is this something you're going to be doing for a while?

HUCKABEE That's a question I've got to contemplate over the next few months, whether I want to keep [doing] what I'm doing, or whether it's time to jump back in. It's not a decision I have made, nor is it one I'll make very hastily. Having gone through the process before, and knowing just what it entails, it's not a decision I'll make lightly.

NJ You're building a house in Florida. How is the construction going? Do you plan to make it your primary residence?

HUCKABEE The house is going very well; it's pretty much on schedule, which for a construction project is all you can hope for. Florida actually already is our primary residence. We've been renting down there while our house is under construction. We have deep roots in Arkansas, and I'll always be a razorback. Two of our adult children live there, and we maintain our house there. Part of it is, I have to travel to New York every week from Thursday to Saturday, sometimes more, [and] it's a little easier to get there from Florida. We're anticipating a year from now that there may be some nonstop flights from Florida, which will make it a lot easier for travel. I'm taking it each day at a time. One of the things I've learned about life is, don't ever say never.

NJ What was it like to work with your daughter (Iowa field director Sarah Huckabee) on your campaign the last time around?

HUCKABEE Well, it was just an incredible thrill. To be able to spend the time with her, she was primarily doing a lot of field work and traveling with me a great deal. As a dad, it was one of the greatest joys of my life. I love my kids; I'm very close to all three of them. We have a very ideal relationship in terms of very open communication. All of my children are ideologically and politically in sync with me, they all have authentic Christian faith. It's something I'm very grateful for. When people ask me what my greatest accomplishment is, they usually expect me to talk about some political success that I've had or some legislative success. But I always tell them it was raising three children that turned out OK. I think the time we were able to spend together [on the campaign] and to watch her not as the little girl that sat in my lap that I would read stories to every night, but to watch her as an adult manage people older than her, to do it effectively and skillfully, it was one of the greatest thrills of my life. She is an incredible political operative; she's one of the best I know.

NJ From what she told National Journal, she wants to stay in Arkansas. She doesn't want to return to D.C. or go work in another state doing field operations. Do you think that's the right choice for her?

HUCKABEE I think it is. She worked in D.C. for a couple of years at the Education Department, and it was a great experience for her, she loved it. She worked with some terrific people there. She loved the culture of the city, like so many young people there, but she's married now, she's realizing D.C. is not exactly conducive to the settling down world of marriage and raising kids, all of those things. The stability and serenity of life she looks for in Little Rock, I think that's a sign in itself of her maturity.

NJ What do you think of the tax-cut agreement that President Obama and congressional Republicans reached earlier this week? Was it a fair compromise?

HUCKABEE I think it's the best anyone can hope for at this point. Obviously, it's a much better deal than letting there be complete limbo about the tax rates. It's good news for those who were wondering what the tax code was actually going to be. I wish it had been longer than two years. Politically, I was shocked it was going to be two not three, because it puts this whole thing in the very center, the bull's-eye of the 2012 presidential election. It doesn't have it resolved. But it does allow people to forecast for the next couple of years, and it'll make a big difference in people making some decisions about expansion and hiring. It means more money in the hands of the private sector and less in the hands of government. So those are all very, very good things.

The most bizarre part of the whole process was watching President Obama self-destruct at the podium yesterday. I was just stunned--I really couldn't believe that a man that was elected president was as amateurish as he was, and essentially launched from the podium at some of his own, taking aim and mowing down everybody in D.C. and walking away having not understood that he just lost a lot of people.  

NJ Do you think up to that point that Obama been acting responsibly but flew off the handle during the press conference? What did you think of the overall process--is that the type of D.C. you've been hoping to see in terms of working toward compromise, working toward getting things done? Was it a good sign of things to come, or was it the position he was forced to take?

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Cameron Joseph is a staff reporter (politics) for National Journal.

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