Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says he came away "stunned" at how easily President Barack Obama talked about bipartisanship out of both sides of his mouth on Tuesday night at the State of the Union address — and how vividly the speech demonstrated Obama's inability to find common ground with his opponents.
"That's how you govern, and he just has never understood the art of governing," Huckabee, a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2016, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV
Wednesday. "And it was never more clear than it was last night in the State of the Union."
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Huckabee added that he "stayed awake" for the president's entire hour-long speech — "and for that I'm very proud of myself."
But there were memorable moments, he said.
Addressing a new Congress run by Republicans in both chambers, following the midterm electoral rout of Democrats, the president paid lip service to cooperation but defaulted to partisanship, said Huckabee.
"I was stunned that on one hand he said, 'I really want to work with you,' and then turned around and said, 'Now here's everything I'm going to veto if you put it in front of me,' " said Huckabee.
The president said he would not sign any legislation that rolls back the Affordable Care Act, defunds his executive order allowing immigrants here illegally to stay, imposes new sanctions on Iran, or tampers with his regulatory efforts to combat climate change.
Obama also spoke in favor of new taxes on the rich — a nonstarter for Republicans in Congress — as part of a campaign to aid the country's faltering middle class.
In sum, "he said, 'I want to work with you, but I'm going to spend the next several weeks out campaigning all over the country telling everybody what a bunch of bums you are,' " said Huckabee.
"The fact is, if he's serious about leading and being the chief executive, what he has to do is build relationships, sit down and spend time with those people, even the ones who don't like him and the ones he doesn't like," he said.
Huckabee wasn't alone among Republicans in doing a double-take at the president's remarks.
"Finding common ground is what the American people sent us here to do, but you wouldn't know it from the president's speech tonight," House Speaker John Boehner
, who sat behind the president during the address, said afterward, the Associated Press reported.
Although Huckabee has given up his Fox News television program in anticipation of a presidential run, he has been highly visible on television this week.
He sparred with Jon Stewart
on "The Daily Show" on Monday on the relative virtues of Ted Nugent vs. Beyoncé.
He joined Newsmax TV's "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Tuesday to size up his potential GOP presidential rivals
and to defend his biting opinions on pop culture.
On Wednesday, the author of "God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy
" told Berliner on "MidPoint" that judging by the State of the Union speech, the remainder of the Obama presidency looks like more of what voters roundly rejected in November.
"He's been doing the same thing for six years," said Huckabee. "I guess he is going to continue in the final two years of his term to just dish it out like this."
Huckabee also praised
the Republicans' choice for the traditional opposition response: rookie Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.
Ernst got mixed reviews
for her nationally televised debut, but Huckabee said she was "a much better choice" to articulate the Republican case than one of the party's old guard or congressional leaders.
Huckabee called Ernst "warm," "sincere" and "authentic" in her remarks.
"The very tone and nature of her message last night was perfect, because she talked about growing up, having to use plastic bread sacks to put on her shoes to keep them dry," he said. "People out there in working-class America can relate and identify to that, and that was a very powerful illustration of her own life."
"I campaigned with Joni Ernst in Iowa when she was running for the Senate seat. I found her to be an extraordinarily intelligent, thoughtful, and frankly very compelling person," said Huckabee.
"So it was a good choice and it kind of says, if you want to know who the face of the Republican Party is, it's not just the hoity-toity people who have great amounts of wealth. It's the moms — the colonel in the National Guard who has done combat but who has come back and now chosen to serve her country in a different way," he said.
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