ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Now, another Republican contender for the 2008 presidential nomination joins us in the studio, former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee. Welcome to the program.
Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Governor, Arkansas): Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: I've to ask you about a couple of issues in the next few minutes. First, Iraq - very contentious issue - if you were in the Senate right now, and if there were indeed a vote on whether you approve with the surge of troops in Iraq, and that I assume you'd vote in favor of it.
Mr. HUCKABEE: Well, the good thing is I'm not in the Senate right now. And I think the Senate is not a good place to be, because they seem to not be able to agree on the procedure, much less the product. The problem in Iraq is that we didn't have a real plan of how we were going to have a long-term way of building a permanent peace. And with the sectarian violence taking place, and the unwillingness seemingly of the neighbors in that region to get involved, the Americans are left with it all by themselves.
At some point we're going to have to insist that the Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Kuwaitis, even the Syrians and Iranians recognized this is your neighborhood. If it goes up in flames, you're scorched before we are.
SIEGEL: And 20,000 or 40,000 more American troops, where Iraq right now, is not a good idea.
Mr. HUCKABEE: The commander in chief, police it is, the general that he sent there thinks it is that the U.S. Senate just unanimously confirmed that general to go and implement the strategy. Let's hope it works. But if it doesn't work, then I think the president is pretty much out of options.
SIEGEL: If in fact this is the last chance of for the Iraq policy, and I believe you've said something to that effect just now. Does that mean that if you were president taking over in January of 2009, you might unpleasant as it may be, or have to face a withdrawal from Iraq of some sort, an acknowledgement of failure of the mission?
Mr. HUCKABEE: The mission of bringing Saddam Hussein down didn't fail - our military didn't fail. Our policies may have been shortsighted and that they did not take into account the complexity of trying to build a democracy in a people who'd never experienced it.
The big issue is if our president - what I would do is to make sure I knew what would the heck was actually going on, surround myself with people who would be honest enough with me to tell me the truth and disagree with me if they thought I was wrong, sort out make a decision and then live with it.
SIEGEL: On to other matters, you're a Baptist minister by training and background. You were the speaker last year - or a speaker - at last year's Reclaiming America for Christ Conference. Is the aim of reclaiming America for Christ an ambition that's consistent with your approach to politics in your presidential campaign?
Mr. HUCKABEE: Well, I think people need to understand what that really means. To reclaim a nation for Christ doesn't mean that we would coerce people to be of a particular faith. It means that we would reflect what he reflected, and that is compassion and love. For me, what it means is no child would go hungry tonight. It would mean that no woman would have the daylights beaten out of her some abusive alcoholic husband.
It would mean that no child would scramble to his neighborhood, afraid of a predator, unable to access safe drinking water, or portable housing. If Jesus were in charge, I assure you he would have an incredible intense, the desire to make sure that we didn't forget the littlest ones.
SIEGEL: Would it mean that no woman would have an abortion in the country also?
Mr. HUCKABEE: I think it would mean that people would not be so cavalier about life - whether they would have an abortion, I'm not sure. I think life begins at conception. I think it's important to protect it. But the problem with those of us in the pro-life community often is that we have put such a focus on the gestation period that we forget that life extends beyond the birth canal. And that we also have to be concerned about education and health care.
I want to be concerned about making sure every child has a music and art education. There are a lot of things that to me are a part of my being pro-life.
SIEGEL: But over the next couple of years, or on the next president's watch, there could be changes on the Supreme Court that would indeed overturn Roe verses Wade. Weigh that the case, do you think it should be U.S. policy to re-criminalize abortion as it was prior to Roe verses Wade?
Mr. HUCKABEE: Well, I think there's a misunderstanding of Roe v. Wade and what it did and what it didn't do. It didn't really decriminalize abortion. It took it from the states and made it a national policy based on privacy. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, what it would only do it wouldn't eliminate abortion. It would simply give states the authority to make that decision within its own boundaries.
So some states would have very liberal abortion laws, other states would have very strict abortion laws. That's what it would mean.
SIEGEL: One horse race question for you. Which of the early tracks are you - are you a better suited for: Iowa or New Hampshire?
Mr. HUCKABEE: I think I can do well on both. Iowa certainly is a state whose demographics are very much like Arkansas, primarily a rural state, few urban areas.
SIEGEL: Very many evangelical voters take…
Mr. HUCKABEE: A lot of evangelical voters.
Mr. HUCKABEE: Absolutely. So I think I'll be comfortable there. But I've been to New Hampshire and we'll be there this weekend. Frankly, I feel at home there.
SIEGEL: We can ask you about every tax you've ever voted for in your life.
Mr. HUCKABEE: And that's good. You know, they maybe the ones who'll help get the truth out about my record on that. That'll be good.
SIEGEL: Governor Huckabee, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. HUCKABEE: Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, and one of those seeking the Republican presidential nomination for 2008.
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