EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Governor Huckabee Speaks with Catholic Online
In the midst of campaigning for the Republican Presidential nomination, the former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, whose rise in the polls has been the story of the hour, took time out of his busy campaign schedule to speak with Catholic Online on issues of concern to Catholics.
Republican Presidential hopeful, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, joined by wife Janet, left, greets supporters after speaking Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007, at the New Hampshire Community Technical College in Berlin, N.H.
Deacon Keith Fournier: “Governor Huckabee, we thank you for taking this time to speak with Catholic Online. We want the millions of people who view our network to have access to your positions on the vital issues of our day.
As you know, American Catholics are deeply concerned about this upcoming Presidential election.
We were recently instructed by our Bishops to inform our conscience with the truths presented to us in Catholic social teaching and then to exercise our citizenship accordingly.
This Social teaching is not “left” or “right”, “liberal”, “conservative” or “neo-conservative.” It is also not only for Catholics, other Christians or even just “religious people”. It is for all people, offered by the Church to all who seek to build a truly just society. It is called “social” because it speaks to human society and to the formation, role and rightful place of social institutions.
Catholic Social teaching maintains that there are some unchangeable truths, such as the dignity of every human person, and the right to life, from conception to natural death; the primacy of authentic marriage and the family founded upon it; and our obligation in solidarity to one another, and, most especially, to the poor and needy in our midst.
The Catholic position is that these truths can be known by all men and women because they are revealed in the Natural law and expounded upon in Revelation.
It also presents an understanding of human freedom as being properly exercised only with reference to the truth and at the service of our obligations to one another. Any authentic understanding of human freedom must also promote religious freedom because it is a good of the human person and a fundamental human right.
Finally, the compass that is to guide us all as we seek to be both faithful citizens and faithful Catholic Christians is our commitment to the Common Good.
Catholics do not accept the notion that these truths, such as the fundamental right to life, are “religious” positions, in the sense that only religious people need assent to them. Rather, they are human positions. They obligate us all.
Also, we do not accept the notion that our commitment to respect every human life from conception to natural death is a “single issue” approach. Rather, it presents a framework through which we must evaluate every other issue. Children in the womb are our first neighbors. They are also, in the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the ‘poorest of the poor’.
Catholic Social teaching also offers principles for good governance. Because they are “principles”, they leave room for the application of prudential judgment. Included among these principles is the principle of subsidiarity which, simply stated, says that government is best when it is closest to those being governed and that it should begin with, and defer to, the smallest governing unit, which is the family.
Governor, we have followed your campaign with great interest. As your numbers have begun to rise in the polls, there appears to be an effort underway to ‘marginalize’ you by saying that you appeal only to ‘Evangelical Protestants’, or to call you the candidate of the so called ‘religious right’.
As a Catholic, I know that a growing number of people like me, who consider ourselves to be whole life/pro-life, pro-marriage and family, pro-poor, pro-freedom and pro-peace, (and therefore do not like the prevailing labels), are greatly interested in your positions.
Please accept these questions as the beginning of what I hope can be the beginning of further discussions between you and Catholic Online.
QUESTION: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing America today?
Governor Huckabee: “We are, right now, a very polarized country, and that polarized country has led to a paralyzed government. I think the first priority of the next president is to be a president of all the United States. We've got to be the united people of the United States. And a president has got to somehow remind us that we are a great, resilient nation that has to stick together to solve our problems.
I think people in this country are looking for leadership. They're looking for change. They're looking for the people who would be elected to be not so much a ruling class but a servant class.
We've forgotten that. Our Founding Fathers had a brilliant, really revolutionary idea, that the people elected would not represent the elite, but would represent the ordinary people.
Our Founding Fathers had the idea that when we are elected, we're not elected as a part to be elevated up, but to truly remember who it is we work for.”
QUESTION: What is your position on the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death and the fundamental right to life?
Governor Huckabee: “I believe that life begins at conception and ends at a natural death. Life is a gift from God.
Every child deserves a quality education, first-rate health care, decent housing in a safe neighborhood, and clean air and drinking water. Every child deserves the opportunity to discover and use his God-given gifts and talents.
What I accomplished as Governor proves that there is a lot more that a pro-life President can do than wait for a Supreme Court vacancy, and I will do everything I can to promote a pro-life agenda and pass pro-life legislation. I'll veto any pro-abortion legislation Congress passes. I will staff all relevant positions with pro-life appointees. I will use the Bully Pulpit to change hearts and minds, to move this country from a culture of death to a culture of life."
QUESTION: How have you lived that commitment personally, as well as in your years of public service as an elected official?
Governor Huckabee: “I have always been actively and aggressively pro-life. No candidate has a stronger or more consistent record on the sanctity of life than I do.
When I was elected Lieutenant Governor, and later Governor, I marched in the annual Right to Life parade down Capitol Avenue in Little Rock. I did this at a time when no other state-wide elected official in Arkansas would participate in this event.
I first became politically active when I helped pass Arkansas' Unborn Child Amendment, which requires the state to do whatever it can to protect life.
As Governor, I used that Amendment to pass pro-life legislation. The many pro-life laws I got through my Democrat-controlled Legislature are the accomplishments that give me the most pride and personal satisfaction.”
QUESTION: What have you done to build a new culture of life and defend the right to life against the encroachment of what the late Pope John Paul II rightly called a culture of death?
Governor Huckabee: “As Governor, I banned partial birth abortion; I required parental notification; I required that a woman give informed consent before having an abortion; I required that a woman be told her baby will experience pain and be given the option of anesthesia for her baby; I allowed a woman to have her baby and, if she was unable to care for it, leave the child safely at a hospital; and I made it a crime for an unborn child to be injured or murdered during an attack on his mother.
I support and have always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life. As President, I will fight for passage of this amendment. My convictions regarding the sanctity of life have always been clear and consistent, without equivocation or wavering.
I believe that Roe v. Wade should be over-turned.
I applaud the Supreme Court's recent decision in Gonzales v. Cathcart forbidding the gruesome practice of partial birth abortion. While I am optimistic that we are turning the tide in favor of life, we still have many battles ahead of us to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and so it is vital that we elect a pro-life President.”
QUESTION: Because of our obligation to respect the good of life and our obligation to hear the cry of the poor, what is your plan to help us as a Nation ensure the availability of health insurance coverage for all Americans, including the poor?
Governor Huckabee: “The health care system in this country is irrevocably broken, in part because it is only a "health care" system, not a "health" system. For example, insurance companies will pay $30,000 for a diabetic to have his foot amputated, but won't pay far less for special shoes that would save his foot.
We don't need universal health care mandated by federal edict or funded through ever-higher taxes. We do need to get serious about preventive health care instead of chasing more and more dollars to treat chronic disease, which currently gobbles up 80 percent of our health care costs, and yet is often avoidable. The result is that we'll be able to deliver better care where and when it's needed.
More than that, preventive health care improves the quality of life. A man who learns to eat right, exercise and not smoke has a better quality of life than one who doesn’t do those things, has a heart attack and the pain and limitations on life that follow.
I’ve seen such pain. My father smoked, didn’t exercise or eat right. He had open heart surgery and five bypasses. His quality of life after his heart attack was never as good as it was before. I often think how much better and longer he would have lived if he’d taken better care of himself.
Also, I advocate policies that will encourage the private sector to seek innovative ways to bring down costs and improve the free market for health care services. We can make health care more affordable by reforming medical liability; adopting electronic record keeping; making health insurance more portable from one job to another; expanding health savings accounts to everyone, not just those with high deductibles; and making health insurance tax deductible for individuals and families as it now is for businesses.
Low income families would get tax credits instead of deductions. We don't need all the government controls that would inevitably come with universal health care. When I'm President, Americans will have more control of their health care options, not less.”
QUESTION: Many Catholics opposed the initial decision to enter Iraq, not believing it fit a "just war" analysis. However, most now agree that we have an obligation to do what is right for the struggling people of that Nation and to support our troops. What are your thoughts on the way forward in Iraq?
Governor Huckabee: “Iraq is a battle in our generational, ideological war on terror. I am focused on winning. Withdrawal would have serious strategic consequences for us and horrific humanitarian consequences for the Iraqis.
If we leave, Iraq's neighbors on all sides will face a refugee crisis and be drawn into the war: Iran to protect the Shiites; Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan to protect the Sunnis; and Turkey to protect its control over its own Kurd population. Iraq is a crossroads where Arab meets Persian and Kurd, Sunni meets Shiite, so if it's not a peaceful buffer, it can easily become a tinder box for the region.
When we deposed Saddam, we emphasized Iraq's central location as a prime place to establish democracy and have it spread. That was the potential dramatic upside. Now we're faced with the potential dramatic downside that the terrorists are fighting to take advantage of: Iraq's central location as a prime place to create chaos and have it spread.
The surge is working as we’ve seen the Sunni tribes turn against Al Qaeda and work with us. The same strategy is working in turning Shiites against their militias. So I have confidence in “bottom up” reconciliation and in General Petraeus. We have started to withdraw troops and expect to be down to pre-surge levels by next summer.
Also, casualties – both civilian and military – are way down.”
QUESTION: What would you do to protect and defend marriage and the family founded upon it as the first institution of society?
Governor Huckabee: “Marriage is the foundation of civilization. Marriage must remain what it has always been – a union between one man and one woman. And I would add to that, a union for life.
No other candidate has supported traditional marriage more consistently and steadfastly than I have.
While Massachusetts was allowing homosexuals to marry, I got a constitutional amendment passed in Arkansas in 2002 defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
In an effort to turn the growing tide of divorce, I led Arkansas to become only the third state to adopt "covenant" marriage.
My wife Janet and I renewed our vows on Valentine's Day, 2005 as a covenant marriage. Today, many churches in Arkansas will perform only covenant marriages, so I'm hoping we'll see a decline in our divorce rates.
The late Cardinal O'Connor decried a domestic partnership law (which provided that all couples who signed up, whether heterosexual or homosexual, would be treated the same as married couples) as legislating that "marriage doesn't matter."
I agree with the Cardinal: marriage does matter. And, I would add that nothing in our society matters more.Our true strength doesn't come from our military or our gross national product, it comes from our families.
What's the point of keeping the terrorists at bay in the Middle East if we can't keep decline and decadence at bay here at home? The growing number of children born out of wedlock, and the rise in no-fault divorce, has been a disaster for our society.
They have pushed many women and children into poverty and onto the welfare, food stamp, and Medicaid rolls. These children are more likely to drop out of school and end up in low-paying, dead-end jobs, they are more likely to get involved with drugs and crime, they are more likely to have children out of wedlock or get divorced themselves someday, continuing the unhappy cycle.
My wife, Janet, and I celebrated our thirty-third wedding anniversary this past May. For us, every anniversary is a miracle. When we were both twenty and married just over a year, when I was in my last semester of college, Janet was diagnosed with cancer of the spine.
I can't tell you what a stunning blow it was - two kids just starting out, you don't think something like that can happen when you're so young. Yet there we were, staring death in the face.
At first, they told us that even if she lived, she might be paralyzed from the waist down, so I'd be a young man with an invalid wife. After I learned she wouldn't be paralyzed, I was told that because of the radiation she had to receive following surgery, we'd probably never have children. I wanted children very much, I couldn't imagine never being a father.
During that time, a lot of things went through my mind. But one thing never did - the thought of leaving her. If Janet were in a wheelchair today, if we'd never had children, I can tell you this - she would still be my wife.
We have a loving and merciful God, and I want you to know that Janet and I did have three children – John Mark, David and Sarah."
QUESTION: How would you expand participation in the great promise, opportunity and bounty of America to those less fortunate?
Governor Huckabee: “I believe that every child should have the opportunity for a quality education that teaches the fundamental skills needed to compete in a global economy. As I traveled the country and the world over the last decade bringing jobs to Arkansas, the business leaders I met weren't worried about creating jobs, they were worried about finding skilled and professional workers to fill those jobs.
The success of our schools has to be judged by the results we obtain, not the revenues we spend. A focus on true quality rather than mere quantity requires us to set high standards for our students and teachers, measure their performance diligently, and hold educators and administrators accountable for the results in an atmosphere of transparency and efficiency.
As Governor of Arkansas, I created intensive reading and math programs that went back to basics. I started with elementary students and, as those children thrived, I expanded the program to middle and then high schools. Our test scores rose dramatically. I then created one of the most demanding high school curricula in the country, and the number of students taking advanced placement classes grew by leaps and bounds.
I also fought hard for more charter schools, with their strong parental involvement and their unique ability to serve as laboratories for education reform, and for the rights of parents to home school their children. I am proud that my three children attended public schools from K through twelve, as did my wife and I.
Lastly, I want to provide our children what I call the "Weapons of Mass Instruction" - art and music - the secret, effective weapons that will help us to be competitive and creative. It is crucial that children flex both the left and right sides of the brain. Art and music are as important as math and science because the dreamers and visionaries among us take the rough straw of an idea and spin it into the gold of new businesses and jobs.”
QUESTION: Catholics believe that parents are the first teachers of their children and that they should be able to choose how to extend their own teaching office from among all of the available alternatives; public schools, charter schools, private and parochial schools and home schools. What is your position on parental choice in education?
Governor Huckabee: “I support parental choice. Parents are much better able to make those decisions for their children than a government bureaucrat.”
QUESTION: Another Governor from Arkansas - who became President - reminded us during his campaign that, "It's the economy, stupid."
What are your plans to improve the economy and expand participation in the market economy to more and more Americans?
Governor Huckabee: “I want a major change in the tax system in this country, The FairTax will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax, like the taxes on retail sales 45 states and the District of Columbia have now.
Everyone will get a monthly rebate that will reimburse us for taxes on purchases up to the poverty line, so that we're not taxed on necessities.
That means people below the poverty line won't be taxed at all. We'll be taxed on what we decide to buy, not what we happen to earn.
We won't be taxed on what we choose to save or the interest those savings earn. The tax will apply only to new goods, so we can reduce our taxes further by buying a used car or computer.
Our current progressive tax system penalizes us for working harder and becoming more successful. As we climb the ladder, the government lurks on each rung, hungry for a bigger bite out of our earnings.
The FairTax is also progressive, but it doesn't punish the American dream of success, or the old-fashioned virtues of hard work and thrift, it rewards and encourages them. The FairTax isn't intended to raise any more or less money for the federal government to spend - it is revenue neutral.
Expert analyses have shown that the FairTax lowers the lifetime tax burden for everyone: single or married; working or retired; rich, poor or middle class.
The FairTax will instantly make American products 12 to 25 percent more competitive because the cost of those goods will no longer be inflated by corporate taxes, costs of tax compliance, and Social Security matching payments.
When we buy products now, those taxes are built into the cost, so all of us pay corporate taxes indirectly on top of the personal taxes we pay directly. Compliance costs are just make-work with no real added value, yet they consume as much as 3 percent of our gross domestic product annually. These costs are an especially heavy burden on small businesses, which generate most of our jobs."
QUESTION: Your position on illegal immigration has been criticized for allowing higher education benefits for the children of illegal immigrants while you were Governor.
However, many Catholics, like you, are also concerned for the children of illegal immigrants. In a recent debate you said to one of your opponents "We are a better country than that." What did you mean?
Governor Huckabee: “Children are not given a choice in where their parents raise them. I don’t believe we should punish children for the sins of their parents.
That’s why I said we are a better country than that.
I once supported the measure before the Arkansas Legislature that would have allowed the children of those here illegally to apply for one particular scholarship in Arkansas if they met some qualifications.
They had to have gone through the Arkansas public school system, have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, be drug-free, have applied to become American citizens and already been admitted to an Arkansas college or university as a full-time student.
Those students student would simply have been treated as any other graduate of an Arkansas High School, and not given any special consideration. That bill didn’t pass and it has been greatly distorted in this election."
QUESTION: Are you in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants?
Governor Huckabee: “I oppose amnesty. It would be unfair to those who have waited for years to legally immigrate to this country.
I am proud to live in a country where people want to break in rather than want to break out."
QUESTION: What will be your position with regard to the growing threat of extremist acts of terrorism at home and abroad?
Governor Huckabee: “I believe that we are currently engaged in a world war. Radical Islamic fascists have declared war on our country and our way of life. They have sworn to annihilate each of us who believes in a free society, all in the name of a perversion of religion and an impersonal god.
We go to great extremes to save lives, they go to great extremes to take them. This war is not a conventional war, and these terrorists are not a conventional enemy.
We are dealing with people who will put a bomb on their own children to kill innocent people and then they celebrate as if this is a great victory. I will fight the war on terror with the intensity and single-mindedness that it deserves.
The top priority of the President as Commander in Chief is first and foremost protecting our own citizens. While we live in a neighborhood of nations and must strive to be good neighbors, as President, I will ensure the peace, safety, and well-being of American citizens at home and abroad.”
Deacon Keith Fournier: Governor, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. And, thank you for your service to our Nation.
May the Lord bless you and your family.
Catholic Online has not endorsed any candidate in the Presidential primary. We have raised the questions which we believe are of special importance to many Catholics. We will offer a similar opportunity to answer these questions to any candidate running for the Presidency.
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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