On Thursday, June 7, Republican presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, joined the editors and staff of Human Events and RedState.com for a luncheon interview. The following transcript has been edited for length.
HE: Governor, again, thank you very much for joining us. I wanted to start with something that I think you said in the debate the other night that kind of struck me as fairly profound. You said something to the effect that the Taliban believe they brought about the fall of the Soviet Union, and you said something to the effect of: well, you know, it’s not always the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. And maybe we’ve grossly underestimated the size of the fight in this enemy. One of the things that we’ve been wondering is, is there a better definition of the enemy in this war, then we’ve heard so far? What would be your definition? How would you win the war?
MH: Well to call them radical Islamics or Islamic facists is an appropriate term. What I think a lot of people in the west do not understand is the nature of this war is theological, and therefore it is unlike any other type of war we’re going to fight. If this war were over a border we could negotiate and say if we move the property line here would that be satisfactory? There is nothing we can do to satisfy this enemy, and I think that’s what is perhaps, not really understood.
This is an enemy that believes they are on a mission, as the Blues Brothers would say, a mission from God, and when you can negotiate with another person, but you can’t negotiate with god. It’s an absolute. So the nature of the war being theological means that we are dealing with people from a position of an absolute. And, therefore, any concept of mitigating or ameliorating this great divide is going to get us in trouble, and it will be to our detriment.
What I’m concerned about, in particular, the Democrats seem to have this attitude that if we leave, they’ll leave us alone if we leave them alone. The Ron Paul argument, that’s nonsense. And, it’s a clear indication that he, not just he, but others, have no concept that this is rooted and grounded in a sense of destiny that they believe in as strong as any destiny that’s ever been adhered to. For us, we think of this as a thousand days, they think of it as a thousand years. They’re patient, we’re not. We want a resolution to this, and we’d like to see it in a defined period of time so that the game has a beginning and an ending, more like football. I’ve said this is a baseball game. It’ll be played until there is a winner. And I think that this is a huge mistake that’s being made.
HE: Let me follow up on that. Do you have a theory or strategy on how we get to the point of victory and how do we define victory?
|Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee|
MH: Well, victory won’t be defined in the classical sense. And again, I think it’s a problem a lot of American’s have that there’s going to be a signing of a peace treaty on the carrier deck. Well that’s not going to happen because we’re fighting an ideology and a theology, again, not an entity. This is not an entity. It’s not like we’re fighting a nation has a flag and soldiers and they’re going to march in and surrender and lay down their arms and sign a peace treaty. What would we sign, there’s nothing to sign. And, the ideology exists in every nationality and ethnic group and on every continent.
So, it’s really a matter of realizing there’s two ways to fight this: to contain or to eradicate. There’s really no other option that I am personally aware of.
To contain it means that you either isolate as best you can, you never can completely isolate. Which requires the entire world community coming together, realizing it is not just a threat to the united states and the west, but it is an imminent threat to us, it is an imminent threat to Israel, both of which gives us, certainly, cause for great concern. But it is also a threat to the Saudis, the Turks, the Syrians. It is a threat to anyone who does not adhere to their extreme radical position. And, where I feel one major mistake has been made is that we’ve not, at least if we have I’m not aware of it, and there are a lot of things I’m obviously not aware of that the State Department may be doing or the administration may be doing.
But, I’m not aware that we’ve ever laid out a case to Muslim countries and to Muslim leaders making it real clear that we have a limited capacity for engagement in this by ourselves that our people are beginning to increasingly impatient, ready to pull out. Whether we should or not, becomes irrelevant if the Democrats maintain control of both houses of congress and the presidency. They have to understand if a Democrat is elected president and they maintain the congress America will get out of Iraq, and when that happens the sparks will ignite into a full-fledged flame in Iraq.
There’s no way we can contain anything less than sheer genocide in Iraq that I believe will result in millions of refugees pouring out of Iraq to save their lives. People jumping over borders wherever they can find space, destabilizing every country whose infrastructure can’t handle millions of refugees, whether it’s Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Kuwait, Iran. I don’t see how anything else can be explained.
HE: You said something in the debate, to the effect of that you didn’t think we should end legal immigration, but we need a border that is sealed and a sane, sensible system. Can you elaborate on that for us?
MH: It irritates me that when I go to the airport — this is analogy I use and I think it’s a valid one — that I have to produce photo identification even though they know me at the Little Rock Airport. I have to put my shoes in the bucket, my laptop out. I go through several layers, not just one, but several, and at least two different places I have to show the photo ID and at least three different places I have to show the boarding pass. That’s to get on an airplane in a country that I have citizenship and have served pretty effectively and I’m well known.
|HUMAN EVENTS Editor Jed Babbin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee|
At an international border a person who doesn’t even speak my language or have any citizenship here, can essentially come across at will, with essentially no documentation whatsoever. That’s absurd. The reason I think that the sealed border — and that means a fence electronic or physical, and clear designated entry points — is the beginning of any serious immigration reform.
I think, minus that, we’re not going to have immigration reform. Because if I’m sitting in Mexico and I’ve got a family and I’m hungry and I don’t see any economic capacity for a future for myself there, and I know there’s a place that I can pay somebody or just slip across on my own and get in and once in I can say, “oops, I didn’t know. I just slipped in here. But, if you’ll give me status, I might one of these days, pay you guys back.” I know what I’m going to do, I’m going to come over here as quick as I can. And, so what happened in 1986 with what was then so clearly an amnesty bill, became from 2million to 12million. And, I think that those that suggest that if we pass the current bill as it is, particularly when you give people from now to January 1st to slip in, you’ll have 20 million people.
And, it’s not that I resent people coming here. My position has always been staked out from this perspective: thank god I live in a country people are trying to break in, not a country people are trying to break out of. I’m thrilled to be an American, I love this country. I understand why people want to come here. If my feet were on any other continent on this earth, I’d be doing my dead level best to put them here.
I don’t blame them, I blame us. I blame the people in the building over there (gesturing at the Capitol Dome) who now, for 21 years, have sat on their hands and have not addressed what they surely must have known was an ever growing problem. And, part of it is, after you a build a fence you have to have a process internally so that when people do come to the gate they’re not backed up 7 years because of the paper work, if we actually need them to work.
If we don’t need them to work, then I think we say, I’m sorry the stadium is full I’m sorry you don’t have a ticket today. But, I can’t get into a Razorback game if the seats are all sold out, I don’t care who I am. Why is, I don’t know maybe I’m being simplistic, but why is that so hard?
Part of the reason I think this immigration bill has broken down is because is there is so little credibility Congress has right now with the American people. And because it was designed sort of in secret, you know 12 people get together and come out of a back room and say, “we got it, here it is, love it or leave it.” And people say, “we’ll leave it.” To the Republicans, you want to say, “what part of Kennedy do you not understand?” Because let’s face it, anything that’s got his authorship on is going to be a real problem for most conservatives and people that just don’t by in that his primary goal is to really seal these borders and make this a safe and secure place.
HE: But, do you want to seal the borders first before there is any kind of amnesty, or whatever you want to call it—program of dealing with the illegals here? I mean I’m not quite certain how a lot of people feel it’s security first. I mean we have to have a fence up and we have to make certain, like Charles Krauthammer, had a fairly, I thought, a thoughtful point. First, let’s take 90% of the illegals are no longer coming in here and then we can go to these other aspects of immigration, and guest worker programs and what do you do with the people who are already here and a resident. Is that what you want or are you just saying this bill, as it exists, is not really what you want, but if they could fix it.
MH: Well, I appreciate that they tried to do something. I don’t want to just completely dismiss it as absolutely worthless, at least it’s a starting point, thank goodness they’ve done something. But, the real problem I have with it, is that it starts with status and then work towards justifying the status, rather than starts with the work and ends up in status. I mean, that to me is a fundamental flaw in the current bill. Plus, it does not put the focus on the front end on a true border security with a fence and/or electronic barrier. In other words, some sort of barrier, I’ll just use that term which from now on, understand that means physical or electronic. Something that is so I can’t get from point A to point B without being checked. That’s the goal.
HE: The big thing is that you would oppose this bill if you had to vote on it?
MH: Under its current form, yes.
HE: Do you think President Bush has been wise to attack the opponents so roundly?
MH: No, no he has not. And I’ll tell you why. When I was a governor for 10 ½ years, every piece of legislation that is laid on the table, you know darn well it doesn’t look the same at the end as it does at the beginning. And, to put a piece of legislation with as controversial and complex a subject as immigration lay it down and say “take it or leave it,” it’s real easy to say, “well we’ll leave it. There you go.”
HE: And then do we designate the opponents as unpatriotic?
MH: I hope that was not a scripted remark. I’d like to believe that that was not something actually written into the text that it was an offhand, unfortunate, slip of the tongue. I’ve had a few of those myself, in fact, I’ve had a lot of those over the years.
And it’s one of those things I’d like to believe, “well I didn’t quite mean it like that.” If that were a scripted, text remark, well then, I’m afraid he has somebody handling policy affairs that needs to come out in the real world and receive a real good dose of reality. Because something’s not just clicking.
HE: How is this affecting your home state? Are Republicans on the grassroots level going crazy, but the establishment has basically said we’re for it?
MH: I think there’s a perception that, Tyson Foods, which is a huge employer in Arkansas, the perception is that they’d just love to look the other way. Well that’s not true. I know these guys well. I know John Tyson very well — strong supporter of mine. He’s a good guy. Strong Christian guy, he’s had a dramatic adult conversion, and a very very strong Evangelical believer. I know all their government affairs people. Truth is they would love to have a completely, absolutely, ironclad legal workforce. They don’t want to risk a multi-billion dollar enterprise, either with economic problems or even just image problems, over getting busted for illegals.
Here’s the problem the employers are faced with that never gets talked about, well I say never, rarely gets talked about. If an employer puts out need for work and people come in and apply, and they present documents. They may be false, but if the business owner questions those documents, then they get into trouble with EEOC over having challenged, and then being accused of discrimination. If they don’t check the documents thoroughly then somebody says “you’ve allowed illegals, we can fine you.”
The conflict within the federal law, to me is part of the problem that I’m not sure anybody up here really gets. They’ve created competing laws. One that says you’ve got to check everybody and we’re going to fine you. And, when I hear everybody making these speeches, you know, whether it’s Tancredo, or anybody else, you know, “we’re going to put you out of business, if you hire an illegal.” Sounds real good, that’ll get him applause at a Rotary Club, certainly at a Republican rally, not the Rotary Club. But, on the other hand, if you do that, you may get fined and sued, and be in court for a real long time with a civil rights lawyer who comes in and says, “you picked on this guy. How do you win that?
MH: I think that may happen more at the small level. Tyson foods is not going to take the risk…
HE: What risk? Who enforces the law?
MH: Well, there still is a huge risk to them though. I think that from fines and the image problems that it brings.
You know, I’m just telling you, my experiences dealing with them is that they would love to see a real solution to this. You know I don’t think they pay people under the table and give them lower wages than they would pay for somebody else. You know what their big problem is? They can’t get anybody to come do the job.
Let me tell you something I have done, because I use to have people that would come to my office or would see me at some rally, and they would come to me and say “they’re taking our jobs. These Mexicans are taking all our jobs.” I would say, “are they really?” I’d say, “ok, can you personally give me the name of a US citizen, someone who lives in our state, who is looking for work, who would be willing to work in a chicken processing plant? If you can get me their name and phone number, and you can get that to me by 5:00 this afternoon I can have them in the plant, into work tomorrow at 8:00. Can you get me their name?” And they answer, “Well, I…it’s happening all over!” I said, “really? Is it happening? Well do you personally know anyone who was trying to apply, and they went, I’m sorry we’ve got some illegals we brought in.” I’ve yet to have anyone take me up on that. Nobody can provide me, and these are people who I would call outspoken activists in saying “they’re taking our jobs,” they go to the capital steps and do news conferences. But when you ask them, and say “can you give me a list of specific people, who would be willing to tar a roof on a hot august day, pick a tomato, pluck a chicken, I can’t get anyone to give me a name.
HE: Isn’t it more than just doing the job, it’s doing the job for a pittance? I would tar a roof, and I’ve tarred roofs, for $50 an hour, but I wouldn’t do it for $8 an hour. I think that if you want someone to raise their hand and work in a chicken processing plant, I would do it, but you have to pay me the right wages. Do you believe it’s a matter of not wanting to do it or is it not wanting to do it for the wages offered?
MH: It’s some of both, I mean I don’t think it’s one or the other. I think in some cases people aren’t willing to do the work because it’s not very pleasant. But on the other hand, again if I’m an employer and somebody brings to me, what appears to me, from what I can tell authentic documentation, and applies, and the minimum wage is $6.25 in Arkansas, but I’m going to pay them $8 then I’m doing better then I’m having to do. Why should I pay people $18 an hour, when I can get people to do it for $6.25? I mean then we really get into price controls and wage controls and that’s not a conservative idea. So who gets to decide? Does the government come in and say you have to pay everyone $18/$20 an hour to do a job…
HE: Well, artificially depressed wages from illegal immigrants is not an American free enterprise?
MH: Well, then that goes back to the fact that if the government is allowing people to come in, and there’s an easy way to have fake documents, which is part of the solution here is a document system that is tamper proof. If you don’t have that and you don’t have a secure border then…
HE: Do you believe that that could be answered through the social security system, if we could actually have a system where you check the social security and within an hour you get an answer: if this face and this name matches this number then you’re good to go.
MH: Sure we could do that, I mean think about it, why couldn’t we? We have instant background checks on guns. My God, I can go to any bank in the world and take my card out and get cash out in the currency of the local country in which I’m visiting. I can do that on the spot with a pin number. Tell me why, on God’s earth, we cannot have a system that you can instantly check a number against a face. But, you know if you don’t have a photo id process and a tamper proof system, my driver’s license, an Arkansas drivers’ license is such that we store the images, and when somebody says, “what does Mike Huckabee look like?” You can pull my picture up this afternoon because that photo is stored. It’s absurd, and that’s a little state in the south.