Instead of improving the economy to generate more jobs, President Obama is hurting it, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tells Newsmax
Although Obama's efforts have been well intentioned, they have been “horrible,” Huckabee says.
“It’s just a lack of understanding of how the economy and the private sector work,” Huckabee says. “I think he believes he’s helping a lot, but any time when you even raise the threat of raising taxes and the cost of doing business and perhaps unionizing the employees of a business, nobody wants to hire.”
At this point, “Businesses are not hiring, they’re not spending, and they really can’t afford to, because they don’t know if their costs are going to go up dramatically with healthcare, tax increases, cap and trade, unionization of employees,” Huckabee says. “You put all those things out in front of them and tell them that’s what they may be facing, and they know they can’t exist now under the current employee load they have. So they certainly aren’t going to be adding new employees if they can avoid it.”
That is a segue to Huckabee’s book, “A Simple Christmas: Twelve Stories That Celebrate the True Christmas Spirit,” a New York Times best-seller. As inviting as a homey fireside, the book recounts 12 Christmas memories, ranging from Huckabee’s childhood in Arkansas, to his years as a young husband and father, to his time as a governor and then a presidential candidate.
“I think in an economy that’s going through a downturn, it’s important that people reassess the whole idea that Christmas is not so much the expensive gifts that we give or get, but it’s really about the value of relationships,” Huckabee says. “To be honest with you, I didn’t realize how timely the book would be when I was writing it. It was more kind of therapeutic to write it, but the reaction I have gotten from people when they read it is profound. It’s been very reassuring to me that it was achieving what I’d hoped. And that is that people would read the book and see their own stories, but also come away saying that, in a time when a lot of people are going to be having less of a Christmas because of the economy, they may have the best one they’ve ever had.”
Unlike many Republican presidential contenders, Huckabee does not see Obama’s plan to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in 18 months as a problem.
“I was somewhat comforted in the speech the other night, that he seemed to, at least for the first time that I can remember, recognize the very clear and present danger that we face, and that the continuation of al-Qaida cells in Afghanistan and the destabilization of Pakistan do pose an immediate, direct threat to the U.S.,” Huckabee observes.
Obama’s intention was to let the Afghanistan government know that the U.S. commitment is not open-ended, Huckabee suggests.
“The reality is, he’s not about to go out there in July 2011 and just say okay, clock’s ticked and time’s up,” Huckabee says. “He can’t afford to do that. So my belief is it was more a rhetorical device than it was an actual timeline. Maybe this was to kind of give his base some gravy for the potatoes that they didn’t order.”
Turning to the clemency he granted Maurice Clemmons, who is accused of killing four uniformed police officers in Tacoma, Wash., Huckabee notes that Clemmons was 16 when he began a crime spree of burglaries and armed robberies, for which he was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.
“If we want to punish people for the rest of their lives for some dumb idiotic thing they did when they were kids, we can certainly go there, the former Arkansas governor says. “But I would argue that the long-term cost of that policy is far worse than it would be to look at each case individually and determine whether it had merit. That’s what I tried to do.”
Politically, Huckabee says that granting clemency was “a stupid thing to do.” But, he says, “I didn’t run for office because I wanted to cover my own rear. I ran because you run knowing you’re going to be asked to do hard things. The idea I’m soft on crime is ridiculous. I carried out more executions than any governor in my state’s history. So it’s hardly indicative of somebody that’s just a soft touch that can’t carry out the ultimate sentence of the jury. That certainly has proven not to be true. But I also looked at every case with a view toward what’s right.”
Huckabee concedes that he granted twice as many clemencies, which include both pardons and commutations of prison sentences, as his three predecessors combined. But he cites a change in state law that required background checks before many employees are hired.
“If you at age 18 had taken a joy ride or been caught with an ounce of marijuana, and then by 30 you hadn’t had any trouble at all, you tried to go to college or get a job at a nursing home emptying a bedpan or try to work at the airport carrying bags, you were unemployable,” Huckabee says. “We were creating a situation prohibiting people from even applying for work if they had even the slightest nonviolent record.”
Still, he says, he rejected clemency requests more than 90 percent of the time.
Asked about a possible future presidential run, Huckabee clearly does not rule it out.
“It really isn’t something I sit around thinking about,” the former governor says. “I know people believe that I do, but I honestly don’t even have the time, between what I’m doing with Fox and then the radio commentary that I have three times a day five days a week, traveling and speaking and all the other activities, my plate’s pretty full. I really don’t want to start thinking about it until after the 2010 election cycle.”
In the meantime, asked what Republicans should avoid, Huckabee says, “They have to avoid being part of a policy agenda that defies Republican principles. That’s one thing that hurt them before: big government, major spending, deficit spending.”
Republicans also need to avoid “being narrowly partisan and just opposing everything just because they didn’t come up with it,” Huckabee says. “They should vigorously oppose things like the healthcare policy and cap and trade.” At the same time, Republicans “need to not only come up with an alternative, but they need to find things that they can compliment.”
In addressing the issue of illegal immigration, “We have to separate our desire to see strong borders with personalizing that toward the people who want to come here for the same reason that our ancestors did, and we shouldn’t begrudge them,” Huckabee says. “I’ve always said I get on my knees every night and thank God I’m in a country people are trying to break into, not one they’re trying to break out of.”
On that note, I ask Huckabee how he’ll celebrate Christmas.
“We always go to our Christmas Eve service at our church, and then my sister’s family and my family will get together after church and eat Chinese food,” Huckabee says. “My dad always liked Chinese food, so maybe in honor of him we started going and eating Chinese after the Christmas Eve service.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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