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Interview with Bob Schieffer on CBS News' "Face the Nation"

January 13, 2008

SCHIEFFER: And joining us now from Spartanburg, South Carolina, former Governor Mike Huckabee.

Governor, good morning. Let's go right to the economy because there is, with no question about it, a recession out there in Michigan where this next primary is going to be held. John McCain says some of the jobs have been in--lost in Michigan are simply not coming back. Governor Romney says he's going to try to get them back. Where do you come down on this? Isn't McCain really right about that? Some of these manufacturing jobs that have gone overseas, it's going to be impossible to bring them back.

HUCKABEE: Well, when we talk about manufacturing, you need to understand why manufacturing is important to America. It's not just about the jobs--though that's critical--and we want to be able to be--have the capacity to manufacture because those are the jobs that provide stability for the middle class. It's always been a critical part. But there's another reason manufacturing is critical for the United States. If we can't really produce our own weapons of self defense and we outsource our manufacturing, we've outsourced our freedom. And one of the things that I've said, there're three things we have to have for freedom: feed ourselves, fuel ourselves and fight for ourselves. The arsenal to democracy was what Franklin Roosevelt called America, and the heartland of that arsenal has been Michigan, where they really helped us to understand how to produce our airplanes, our tanks, our bullets, our bombs and to build things that provided for us the capacity to be free. If we lose that, we lose more than just jobs. We lose our very basis of freedom.

SCHIEFFER: Well, governor, I think everybody would agree with that, but what are you planning to do to get Michigan back on its feet?

HUCKABEE: Well, one thing we've done, Bob, we've had free trade agreements that we haven't enforced on both sides of the border. I'm a free trade guy, but I'm a fair trade guy and that's not what's happened. When you have one side that cheats by sending in products that are contaminated with lead paint or that makes our pets sick; when you have production methods that pollute the environment and mistreat and violate the human rights of workers, that's not a really free trade agreement that's being enforced. So a lot of Americans are finding that their government is not trying to help them keep their job, their government is working against them.

The United States government ought to work to make sure that, if we're going to have free trade agreements, that these are being enforced both sides. Otherwise, it's as if the United States government is working for the jobs to go to someplace else. And when you look into the face of a Michigan worker, you look into the face of anxiety, of a person who's not sure that he's going to be able to get a paycheck, put food on his table and send his kids to college.

SCHIEFFER: Governor, do you have any plans for any kind of a cutting taxes to get the economy just, say, on a--on a national--on the national level? Do you have any kind of a plan to bring the country out of a recession? Maybe it's not in a recession nationwide, but a lot of people think it's very close to that. What do you plan to do about that?

HUCKABEE: Well, our tax system is part of the problem, Bob. It penalizes productivity. If you create a graduated tax system that graduates the tax rate on the level of productivity and the level of earning, it's counterintuitive to the economy. The reason that I support the fair tax is that it doesn't penalize productivity, it simply taxes people at the point of consumption. There's $10 trillion of US capital that's been moved offshore, marked off in Cayman Island bank accounts...

SCHIEFFER: Governor, may I just interrupt you?

HUCKABEE: But I just want to make the point that that money is not...


HUCKABEE: ...in the United States economy, and it could be.

SCHIEFFER: Yes, sir. But that's down the road. Let's talk about the problem right now. Is immediate action needed? The way you seem to be talking this morning is we can, you know, take these steps down the road. But is there an immediate problem here?

HUCKABEE: There's several things I'd do immediately as president. First thing, I'd make sure we didn't raise taxes. In fact, we tried to cut the marginal tax rates to stimulate the economy. Secondly, I'd make sure that we targeted particularly high unemployment states like Michigan with job retraining programs, and we'd use the Commerce Department and we'd use every resource that we had to try to make sure that we bring business and industry with incentives to some of these hard-hit areas so that we can keep the jobs. The final thing I'd do is I'd insist that we enforce both sides of the trade agreements that we have, and that we'd take a much harder look at the way that they're being carried out on the other side. The American worker going to his job today needs to know that his government is working for him, not against him.

SCHIEFFER: Governor, Governor Romney ripped you pretty good this morning on your ads that you're running about how you cut taxes down in Arkansas. He said, quote, "it is disingenuous" that you raised taxes.

HUCKABEE: You know, he's been throwing that at me for all this time. Here's what I know: He raised the fees in Massachusetts by over half a billion dollars. I took Arkansas, with the firstever broad-based tax cuts in its 160-year history. We were one of 27 states that were under a state Supreme Court order to fix our schools, which we did. And by the way, this past week, Bob, got some good news. Arkansas schools are now rated the eighth best in the nation. That's a long way from 49th. And that's how you build jobs, you educate kids, you make sure people have access to health care. We took a $200 million deficit, I left the state with an $850 million surplus. The business community supported what we did, they were supportive of the road-building program. I did not leave my roads and bridges falling apart when I was governor. I took one of the worst road systems, turned it into what Truckers magazine said was the most improved road system.

Ronald Reagan would have been criticized by Mitt Romney today, just like Mitt Romney criticized Ronald Reagan a few years ago when he said he wasn't part of that Reagan-Bush thing.


HUCKABEE: But I was a part of that Reagan thing, and I just want to conclude: Ronald Reagan raised taxes when he was governor because governors balance budgets and act responsibly. But he also believed that lower taxes are better than higher taxes, and I believe that. And I believe less government is better than more government. And I govern that way. But you balance the budget, you don't leave debts for the next generation. And that's what people in America are looking for is competence, not political judgment, but principled judgment.

SCHIEFFER: But you did raise taxes, didn't you, governor? I mean, in addition to cutting taxes, you did raise some taxes.

HUCKABEE: Bob, when you're under a supreme court order, you do what you need to improve your schools, I worked with our legislature and we got major, really improvements done in our school system that, without, our kids would still be languishing in last place. I don't apologize for raising the expectations and the hopes and the opportunities for the kids of my state.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

HUCKABEE: I don't apologize for building roads, either. I'd apologize for leaving my roads in a mess, is what I'd be apologizing for if I hadn't have done it.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Governor, we're going to take a quick break. We'll come back and talk about this some more.


SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with Mike Huckabee.

Governor Huckabee, talking about the state the--of the economy out there in Michigan, you know, you've been a governor, you were a Baptist preacher. While you were doing all that, Mitt Romney was a businessman and he was a very successful businessman, and he took over a lot of companies and he put them back to making money and made them successful. Why would you argue that you're better qualified to get Michigan back on its feet than, say, Governor Romney?

HUCKABEE: Because as a governor, I got Arkansas back on its feet. We had the largest number of job creations in the history of our state. We had the lowest unemployment numbers consistently in the history of our state. You know, what Mitt Romney did is admirable in some quarters, but in some ways, there are a lot of people who lost their jobs when his company would take over, restructure a company, lay a lot of people off. Lot of times the CEOs and the people at the top got some pretty huge bonuses and made a lot of money. A lot of people went home without a pension and a paycheck. I'm not sure that's what Michigan's looking for.

I think what America's looking for--not just Michigan, but the rest of the country--is somebody that understands how to lead in a way that, when he's completed his leading, he can get re-elected. And I didn't just get elected one time and say that's it, but I continually went back to the voters of my state, and my leadership was affirmed by them. And that's pretty remarkable when you are a Republican in a state that's been dominated by Democrats for all those years. And even when I became governor, 90 percent of elected officials were of the Democratic Party.

SCHIEFFER: Let's just talk about a little bit about the politics of all this now. What do you have to do out in Michigan? Do you think you can win that state? Or would you be satisfied with second?

HUCKABEE: Well, I mean, we're going to be satisfied with being in the mix. Because John McCain won there eight years ago; he's got a good organization, is a known quantity, but I think people are beginning to say "maybe we need someone from a new generation, someone who's not a Washingtonian, somebody who comes from the practicality of actually leading a state.' Mitt Romney grew up there, graduated high school there. His dad was governor there. His last name opens doors. I assure you, my last name hadn't opened a single door in Michigan. But I think people in Michigan are looking for somebody who relates to the way that they've struggled, and that's one of the reasons our campaign is even in play. Without a staff, without a big organization, it's about heart, message and soul. And if we can recapture the soul of the Republican Party, we can recapture the soul of America. I'm not going to predict a win in Michigan, but I'm going to predict that we'll surprise people by even being a contender.

SCHIEFFER: You know, you and Senator McCain have been very nice to each other. You've had some harsh words, though, for Governor Huckabee. Are you and Senator McCain in some way in cahoots?

HUCKABEE: Well, you said harsh words for Governor Huckabee. I assure you, I've never said a harsh about Governor Huckabee.

SCHIEFFER: I mean Governor Romney. I beg your pardon.

HUCKABEE: I'll say very nice things about Governor Huckabee. I think Senator McCain and I have a mutual respect for each other. We're both going after the same job, but I hope we've proved that you don't have to be angry and hostile and tear someone else down, you just ought to share what you have, what you bring to the job and let the voters make the choice. John McCain and I have tried to operate with a level of civil discourse that I am convinced a lot of Americans are hungry for in politics.

SCHIEFFER: Governor Huckabee--and you are Governor Huckabee--thank you very much. We appreciate it.

HUCKABEE: Thanks, Bob. Good to be with you again.

Mike Huckabee, Interview with Bob Schieffer on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/279170

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