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Huckabee on Jimmy Carter

Hannity & Colmes

COLMES: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is canceling his appearance at a Baptist conference organized by Jimmy Carter, in response to the former president's comments about the Bush administration.

Huckabee criticized Carter for breaking an unspoken code whereby former presidents don't attack the current one. In a press statement Huckabee said, "I feel it would be best for me to decline the invitation and to not appear to be giving approval to what could be a political, rather than spiritual, agenda."

Joining us now is former Arkansas governor and presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee.

Welcome back, Governor.

By the way, Jimmy Carter is not the first person to break that alleged code. You know, George W. Bush -- George Bush 41, I should say, criticized Bill Clinton a couple of times on a couple of things. It's happened that every president has been critical of a former president. I don't buy that this is a code that's never been broken.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't say it's never been broken. But I think that to call a sitting president the worst in history, that's pretty much over the top.

Let me be very clear, Alan. And I think Jimmy Carter is a great humanitarian. And I even value him as a Christian brother. This isn't a personal thing about Jimmy Carter.

But I just feel uncomfortable going on a program that was presented to me as a nonpolitical program. And then these comments this weekend seemed to have such an edge to them that I thought it's just better for me to pull away.

COLMES: He clarified the comments and said he was talking about -- the question was about a comparison of the Nixon administration. That's what he was talking about.

HUCKABEE: Well, but that's not what the transcript said, if you listen to it.

COLMES: And he clarified that.

HUCKABEE: It's on the web sites. You can listen to it. And in the context, there was nothing about the Nixon administration.

COLMES: But he clarified that. And as a public figure, you know that sometimes you might say something and have -- you want an opportunity to clarify it. And you -- it might even happen to you at some point during this campaign.

HUCKABEE: Alan, surely not. You don't think I would ever say anything that I'd have to go back and correct. Surely not.

COLMES: Maybe something about John Edwards' hair. I don't what it could be about.

But in any event, let me ask you about you said you're content to lay low as the other, allegedly, so-called top tier candidates beat up on each other. And while they realize eventually that you are the true conservative in the race.

Are these people, the so-called top tier candidates, not true conservatives?

HUCKABEE: I'm going to let the American people, and particularly the people in our party make that decision. Right now, some of the talk in our party seems a lot like Rosie and Elizabeth.

And so, we'll let them duke it out. And some of us will be waiting to talk about some of the issues that I think a lot of the American people are waiting on us to talk about, like education, overhauling our tax system, which desperately needs to be done. And those are the conversations that I'm looking forward to having.

STEYN: Governor, you certainly don't sound like Rosie and Elizabeth. You maybe have the opposite problem, in that you're behaving too refined and dignified. Perhaps you should be -- be a former president, because you behave with more dignity than President Carter does.

Isn't the reality that this wasn't an isolated one-over, that he's consciously, around the world, talked down the Bush administration in quite unprecedented ways? That's one reason they gave him the Nobel Prize.

HUCKABEE: Well, I do feel that, while a person is as -- sitting as president, the people who have had that job previously need to be very careful what they say.

Because it's not just being said in the context of politics. But it's being said in the context of the world stage, in which we have sworn enemies who would use those comments as propaganda to encourage even more hatred toward this country. And that's not what we need right now.

STEYN: Do you think it's particularly problematic, given that a lot of the problems the United States is facing at the moment, for example, Iran, these problems essentially arose on Jimmy Carter's watch?

HUCKABEE: Well, I'm not going to blame Jimmy Carter any more than I would let him blame George Bush for all the world's ills.

But he had his chance to be president. He had four years. The people decided they wanted a change after that four years. And we had Ronald Reagan.

And I do know this. With eight years of Ronald Reagan, we ended the Cold War. We saw the Berlin Wall come down. And we saw some of the greatest days of peace and prosperity this country has seen.

I think America looks for that kind of leadership again. And they certainly don't want a return to the days that we had back in the mid- to late '70s.

STEYN: How about the broader point that Alan was making? That in a political culture in which even octogenarian ex-presidents sound like foaming radicals, are you, perhaps, too nice for the cat fight that is necessary to get to the White House?

HUCKABEE: I don't think so. You know, Mark, I think the American people are looking for some civility. I told people I am a true conservative, but I'm mad at anybody over it. I want to see some change in this country, but not because I want to tear down somebody else.

I want to build this country up. I'd love to see us have the fair tax enacted, because I think it would provide the first real opportunity to see our economy just rebirth. I would love to see an education system where every kid had exposure to a music and art program.

I'd love to see us solve some of these problems. That's what we need to be talking about, and that ought to be done in the civil context.

COLMES: Wouldn't the Christian thing to do to be give Governor -- President Carter the benefit of the doubt? Wouldn't that be the good Christian thing to do?

HUCKABEE: Well, the Christian thing to do is to continue to love him but to not go on the program with him.

COLMES: We thank you, sir, for being on the program once again.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Alan.

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