From Poverty to Public Office – Mike Huckabee
From Poverty to Public Office – Mike Huckabee
From poverty to public office… Mike Huckabee’s story could only happen in America. Renowned Wall Street investor Charles Mizrahi interviews the former Arkansas governor on faith, family and achieving his own version of the American Dream.
- The History of the Huckabees (00:02:49)
- How Music Changed a Young Boy’s Life (00:12:24)
- Marriage, Hardship & Faith (00:17:34)
- Lessons Learned in “Extended Graduate School” (00:24:54)
- A Personal Story from Charles (00:29:46)
- The Beginning of a Political Career (00:33:14)
- An Emotional Highlight in Politics (00:40:43)
- Running for President (00:43:20)
- TV Shows & “Tap Dancing to Work” (00:50:52)
- Why People Were Ready for Trump (00:52:56)
- Generational Differences & What Needs to Change (00:56:27)
- Advice for Younger Politicians (1:02:35)
- Thoughts on Israel (1:05:21)
- Future Plans (1:09:15)
Mike Huckabee was the first man in his family to graduate from high school… but he didn’t stop there. When he eventually moved into the political sphere, Huckabee used his unique perspective to attain the highest office in his home state of Arkansas. The former governor now hosts his own show, Huckabee, and provides political commentary on his website, MikeHuckabee.com.
- The Namm Foundation
- The Three Cs That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism and the Constitution
Before You Leave:
Mike Huckabee: The one thing that a kid who’s too young to get a real job could do would be catch chickens. It was a miserable, horrible job. You go out to a chicken house at about 10:00 at night and work most all night long, catching chickens and putting them in these crates that go off to the slaughterhouse. And I can’t even tell you how bad it smells in August when it’s 95 degrees at night and you’re out there catching chickens. And all I could think of was: “What do I have to do so I don’t have to do this for the rest of my life?”
Charles Mizrahi: In a few minutes, I’m going to be speaking with Governor Mike Huckabee.
Charles Mizrahi: But first, almost overnight this year, financial dreams turned into financial nightmares. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., the economy forever changed. Thousands of businesses were forced to shut their doors and millions filed for unemployment. Americans from all walks of life helplessly watched as life as we knew it came to a screeching halt.
Charles Mizrahi: But if there’s one piece of advice I can give you folks, it’s this: Don’t throw in the towel. Don’t give up. As a nation, we’ve faced bigger obstacles. Not only did we overcome them, but we also thrived. And we’re going to thrive again. Because America is the richest, most powerful, most tolerant and freest nation ever to exist on Earth.
Charles Mizrahi: Today, the average American has a standard of living that is the envy of the world — a standard of living that our parents and certainly our grandparents would have just dreamed of.
Charles Mizrahi: For example, in 1920, around the time my grandparents were married, only 1% of U.S. homes had electricity and indoor plumbing — just one out of 100.
Charles Mizrahi: In 1940, when my parents were born, more than half the houses in this country didn’t have hot water, a bathtub or a shower. And only one out of three homes had indoor toilets.
Charles Mizrahi: In the 1950s, air conditioning window units were invented. This was the first time homeowners had access to in-house cooling, a luxury that the richest kings who ever lived didn’t have. Can you imagine — especially if you live in the southern United States — what life would be like without cool breezes blowing from an air conditioner?
Charles Mizrahi: Well, my guest today, Governor Mike Huckabee, surely does. He grew up in a working class family in Hope, Arkansas in the 1950s. Governor Huckabee’s dad told him, “Son, don’t look very far up the family tree. There’s stuff up there you shouldn’t see.”
Charles Mizrahi: He was the first male of his family lineage to graduate high school. The story of how he went from poverty to the governor’s mansion will make you say, “Only in America.”
Charles Mizrahi: How and when did the Huckabee plan get to Hope, Arkansas, population 8,000 people?
Mike Huckabee: Well, I grew up thinking that my family’s roots were in Ireland, but I found out they were actually English from a little place outside of Liverpool, England. And the story that we best can tell is that they were thrown out of the debtor’s prisons of England, and dropped off on the shores of Georgia to fend for themselves.
Mike Huckabee: So, I tell people … I don’t come from a long line of blue bloods. We were not part of the pilgrims. We were not the aristocrats. We were the ones that they didn’t want anymore. And that’s why the clan was so hardy. And they kind of scattered all over the place. A group of my family ended up in south Arkansas around the late 1700s and had been there ever since.
Mike Huckabee: My dad used to tell me — he said, “Son, don’t look very far up your family tree because there’s some stuff up there you don’t need to see.” Of course, I found out the old man was right. To me, it’s a fascinating story.
Mike Huckabee: My family were just hardworking people. That’s all they knew. Because of the hardscrabble life they lived, most of them never had much of an education. I am the first male, Charles, in my entire family lineage that ever graduated from high school.
Charles Mizrahi: My father, grandfather, great grandfather, keep going up the family ladder … Not a single male upstream from me ever finished high school. So for me to just finish high school was breaking the sound barrier. To go on to college and to become governor of a state and run for president … I mean, only in America to something like this happen. It’s truly remarkable.
Charles Mizrahi: So your folks, the Huckabees, were always working class people. You weren’t the political elite. You weren’t involved in the state government. You weren’t involved in any of that.
Mike Huckabee: No. In fact, I used to joke that nobody really cared whether my father put out a yard sign. He didn’t have any influence. He was a fireman, and he worked one day on one day off. And on the days off, he worked as a mechanic in a generator shop rebuilding car generators when they had those things. Now, they have alternators. But all he ever knew his whole life was standing on concrete floors, getting his hands dirty, lifting heavy things … just working to pay the rent on a little orange brick shotgun rent house that we lived in on Second Street in Hope, Arkansas.
Charles Mizrahi: You didn’t even own your house?
Mike Huckabee: Oh, no. Of course not. We rented the house I lived in. My parents eventually bought it, but that was … I think I was maybe a senior in high school when they finally gathered up enough money to buy the house that I grew up in. But it was a rent house — a tiny little rent house. Nothing extraordinary about it.
Mike Huckabee: When people look at pictures of it, they say, “Oh my gosh, you really did live in poverty!” I did. But I didn’t I didn’t complain about it. I think I grew up realizing how poor we were… No. 1, a lot of other people were in the same boat. And No. 2, I didn’t feel a victim. My parents would never have allowed me that. They were not whiners. They didn’t sit around and say, oh, look at how much those people have. It’s not fair. They wouldn’t allow me to think that.
Mike Huckabee: What they kept telling me was, “Look, we may not have a lot … but what we have, we’ve worked hard for. And if you want to live a better life, get a good education, work hard and treat people right.” That’s what they drilled into me. They wanted for my sister and me to have a better life, and certainly a better education, than they had. My dad would often say, “I quit school because I didn’t have much of a choice — had to get to work and help the family.” My mother was the oldest of seven kids.
Mike Huckabee: This may blow you away, Charles, but my mother grew up in a house that didn’t even have floors — just dirt. No electricity, no running water. I mean, you don’t get much poorer than that. And so that’s her legacy. And as the oldest of seven, she had to work to help take care of the other six.
Mike Huckabee: So, those are my roots. And I’m not ashamed of them. I’m grateful for them, because what was instilled in me was a sense of hard work, individualism and really a positive outlook to say, “OK, I had nothing to do with where I started … but in America, I don’t have to stop where I was started. I can look beyond it.” And that’s to me the magic of this great country.
Mike Huckabee: And I don’t care what your politics are. Left, right, center … I like to look at life vertically rather than horizontally. And I think too many people see everything as left, right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican … and those are all fine approaches on the spectrum. But the ultimate way we ought to look at life is vertically. Are we going up, or are we going down? Are we getting better, or are we getting worse? And how do we get better? What makes things better?
Mike Huckabee: So, I was very fortunate that my parents were not educated in a formal sense … But, boy, they had a lot of just what I call “street smarts.” They had to survive. And they were resourceful and they were sacrificial. They wanted better for me. They were devoted to my sister and me. We had food on the table.
Mike Huckabee: I thought we had the kind of food we had because we were lucky. I found out, later in life, it was because we were poor. I thought having macaroni and cheese and macaroni and tomato and peas and cornbread … I thought, “Man, we’ve got to be the luckiest people on the planet!” And it was not until later that I realized that that was the food we could afford.
Mike Huckabee: But again, I visit with you today as one of the most grateful people on God’s green earth because I know where I came from. And I know but by the grace of God and some hard work and lucky breaks, I’d still be catching chickens like I used to do as a little kid. And I’m going to tell you, that was a great motivator for me.
Mike Huckabee: Because as a kid, when I was seven, eight, nine years old, if I wanted something, I had to go work for it. There was no allowance. There was no, “Here’s some money. Go do what you want.” I picked up Coke bottles in my neighborhood in a little red wagon. I sold cards door-to-door…
Mike Huckabee: But the one thing that a kid who’s too young to get a real job could do would be catch chickens. It was a miserable, horrible job. You go out in a chicken house at about 10:00 at night and work most all night long catching chickens and putting them in these crates that go off to the slaughterhouse. And I can’t even tell you how bad it smells in August when it’s 95 degrees at night and you’re out there catching chickens. And all I could think of was: “What do I have to do so I don’t have to do this for the rest of my life?” Get an education!
Charles Mizrahi: But see, you had that drive! So, you saw something that many people just don’t get: that the key to get out of that life is not to complain about it, not to march in the streets, not to terrorize people … Basically, our educational system is the key to get out of there.
Mike Huckabee: Yeah, learn something. And the other thing my parents always drilled into me … They made it clear: “Look, we can’t give you any breaks. Our last name will not open a door for you. And we can’t go and grease somebody’s palm and make sure they give you a job. It won’t work like that. So, you may have to work harder than the next guy. But if you work harder, people will notice, and it’ll pay off.”
Mike Huckabee: So I was that guy that would go to work early and stay late. I’d be the first one there and the last one to leave. And whatever I was asked to do, I would do more than that. And if the task was finished, I didn’t sit around and just say, “OK, I’m done. I’ll just clock in for the rest of my shift.” Whatever it was, I’d find something else to do. And boy, they were right. That’s why I say my parents may not have had formal education, but they were really smart when it came to how to get ahead in life.
Mike Huckabee: So, I just say, Charles, I’m not a guy sitting around saying, “Oh, gee, my life is so tough.” I look at it and say, “I was so blessed that I learned how to work hard.” And when I did get to go to college — which I paid for myself because I had to — I worked 40 hours a week as a disc jockey at a radio station (which I started when I was 14 and worked all the way through junior high, high school, college and grad school). But I was working 40 hours a week and taking 19 hours a semester. I got through college in two years and three months — graduated magna cum laude.
Mike Huckabee: And when people say, “How did you do that?” I say, “I didn’t have an option.” I couldn’t afford four years of this.
Charles Mizrahi: Failure was not an option. You weren’t going to go back to catching chickens.
Mike Huckabee: That’s exactly right.
Charles Mizrahi: So I know when I was a kid — when I was in eighth grade, in fact — there was a school band, and you had to pay for the instruments. And my father a warehouse manager growing up in the 70s with inflation, unemployment … It was really terrible times after Nixon through Carter. It was just sad, really.
Charles Mizrahi: And my father said, “You really want to do this? You want to play the trumpet?” And he took whatever little money it was, and we rented a trumpet. And looking back now as a father and grandfather, that was a big deal. And I know you play the guitar. You’re a bass guitar player. How did your parents afford a guitar for you?
Mike Huckabee: Well, that’s one of the great stories of my life in that when The Beatles came out in 1964 on Ed Sullivan, I knew then my ambition. I wanted to be the fifth Beatle. I was going to make it, you know … And so, I was eight years old, and I asked for an electric guitar for Christmas. They said, “We can’t afford that.” And truly they couldn’t. And so they’d say, “What else do you want?” I’d give them the “what else,” and that’s what I’d get for Christmas. The next year — same thing. Next year — same thing.
Mike Huckabee: The third year … “What do you want for Christmas?”
Mike Huckabee: “I want an electric guitar.”
Mike Huckabee: “We can’t afford that. What else?”
Mike Huckabee: I said, “Nothing else. That’s it. I want an electric guitar, or I want nothing.” Charles, I didn’t realize, until I was an adult, how close I was to getting nothing. But here’s the real story…
Mike Huckabee: My parents ordered, from the J.C. Penney catalog, an electric guitar kit with the little amplifier and everything that goes with it. It was $99. It took them a year to pay for it. And they didn’t do Christmas for themselves so they could — every month — put a little more on it until they could pay the $99. Over a year!
Charles Mizrahi: How many years later did you find that out?
Mike Huckabee: Oh, I was probably headed to college — maybe in college — before I ever knew that. I just knew that I finally got that guitar, and I played that thing until my fingers nearly bled. It changed my life.
Mike Huckabee: And it wasn’t because I was a great musician … But I grew up very shy and bashful — which will be a surprise to people who know me now. But I really was. And part of that was because I was poor. I just didn’t feel that I was as good as other kids and I didn’t belong in certain places. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could do better. I knew I could. But I never felt I knew how to act in places and with people that were socially connected. I was just afraid of people.
Charles Mizrahi: You felt intimidated, really.
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. And getting the guitar meant that if I wanted to play and be in a band, I was going to have to play in front of people. And that started giving me a level of confidence. So, music changed my life.
Mike Huckabee: And one of the things that I’ve spent a lot of my adult life doing — and even as governor, we created a program. I loved you talking about your trumpet, because we created a program called Play It Again, Arkansas! We had people donate musical instruments they weren’t using anymore — maybe they were under a bed or in a closet — and donate them. We got them refurbished, and we gave them to band directors all over the state to give them to kids whose parents couldn’t afford the purchase or rental of a band instrument but wanted to play in.
Mike Huckabee: My commitment was: Any kid who wants to play music ought to be able to. And if a kid doesn’t have something positive in his hands, like a musical instrument, a guitar, a trumpet, drumsticks … he might find a knife or a gun. Far better to put music in his hands. And his parents will know where he is because they can hear him! So, it became — and it still remains to be — a passion of mine.
Charles Mizrahi: Beautiful.
Mike Huckabee: And so I work with an organization now to try to raise money to get musical instruments in the hands of kids whose parents can’t afford it.
Charles Mizrahi: Give me the organization again, Governor. I want to put it down below.
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. NAMM Foundation — National Association of Music Merchants. And I’m also working with a local group in Hendersonville, Tennessee. And then, I got appointed by the president to be on the Kennedy Center board. So I’m on that board, and one of my goals with Kennedy Center is to get them to nationalize a massive Instrument in the Hands of Kids program. So, I hope to be able to do that as part of my tenure there.
Charles Mizrahi: Outstanding. Because first of all, it creates discipline. You have to practice. You have to set aside time. There’s responsibility. You have to play in a band. You have to make commitments. You know, it’s a whole daisy chain event. And you give kids that responsibility at the beginning … Like you, it changed your life!
Mike Huckabee: Yeah!
Charles Mizrahi: Look, I remember — over 50 years ago — how that trumpet … Having that in my hands, I thought I was Louis Armstrong. It didn’t sound anywhere near it, but just that empowering feeling, you know? I have an instrument, and I have to practice … It’s just a great feeling. Wow.
Charles Mizrahi: So, you also got married at a young age, right? You were 18 or so … You were still in college?
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. My wife and I married after our first year of college. We were both 18, just a few months shy of our 19th birthdays. And I know it sounds, in this day and time, absurd. But we’ll be married 47 years next May. So, it’s worked out somehow — despite all of the predictions that it wouldn’t.
Mike Huckabee: I think both of us … Both of us had to mature. Much earlier than a lot of our peers, I had to work, my wife was one of five children raised by a single mom. She, too, had to work. She did not grow up with privileges and all the material things.
Mike Huckabee: And we had an uncle who came to live with us when I was 13. He had cancer. He was dying. He never had married and had no children. We were basically as close a family as he had. So, having to be a caretaker in my teenage years — because my parents were both working, so my sister and I had to pick up a lot of the slack … Bottom line is, I did a lot of growing up when I was much younger. Because I didn’t have a choice. And I think by the time I was 18, I’d been through some stuff. And as a result, it didn’t seem so abnormal for me to act like an adult, get married, start a family … And that’s kind of what I thought.
Charles Mizrahi: So, you get married to your beautiful sweetheart — 18 years old — and then she gets sick two years later?
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. In fact, barely a year later, she had back trouble. She decided to withdraw from college and help me so I could get through at my accelerated pace. I was working and she was working as a dental assistant. She started having some back trouble that we assumed was from standing over the dental chair. And several months of various doctors who said it was everything from stress and strain to a muscular problem … Finally, the doctor said it was a slipped disk — textbook case. They’d operate on it.
Mike Huckabee: They did a myelogram, which is a test injecting dye into the spine to see where the disk is. Now, we were 19 at this time — about to turn 20. And the doctor told my wife, “You don’t have a disk problem.” And he said, “I’ve called in a neurosurgeon. He’ll explain.” Well, that was bizarre, but I knew it was bad news. And the neurosurgeon came in that night and said, “Your wife has a tumor in her spinal canal. It’s blocking the spinal cord. That’s the problem.”
Charles Mizrahi: Oh my goodness…
Mike Huckabee: And he said, “We’re not sure it’s operable because it’s inside the canal of the spine. And if we can get to it, we’ll probably sever her spinal cord in order to remove the tumor. That may be the only way to save her life. So, if that happens, she’ll be paraplegic for the rest of her life.” And that was the good news. That was like, “We have real hope here. We might can get you through this, and you’ll only be paraplegic and not die.”
Mike Huckabee: So, that was pretty stunning — to be 20 years old, trying to go through college and suddenly deal with this. But once again, Charles, it’s the tough moments of life that test you, try you and even make you into a person of character and into a person of strength. No rope is tested by leaving it slack. You test it by pulling it hard as you can. And I think sometimes in life, what makes us realize what strength is, is when we’re pulled really hard. And that’s when we know.
Mike Huckabee: But, anyway, they did the surgery quite remarkably. And I think in answer to a lot of prayer, the tumor came out more easily than the doctor had expected. They did not sever her spinal cord, but, of course, they obviously bruised it pretty badly. But she learned to walk again, had to go through six weeks of five-day-a-week radiation therapy for which we had to drive 75 miles each way — a 150-mile round trip every day.
Charles Mizrahi: And you were going to school during this time?
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. We’d get up at 4:30 in the morning. We’d drive to Little Rock at 7:00 in the morning. She’d do the radiation. We’d drive back. I’d get her back in a hospital bed that we had set up in our little $40-a-month apartment that we had.
Charles Mizrahi: How were you putting food on the table? Where was the money coming from?
Mike Huckabee: Well, I was still working. And I would work at the radio station.
Charles Mizrahi: So, you were working at the radio station, you were caring for your wife in recovery and you were going to school?
Mike Huckabee: Yes. And I’d go to class, I’d come back and check on her at lunch, I’d go back to class, I’d go to work, get off at 11:30 or midnight … and we’d start all over again. Look, it wasn’t the easiest time of my life, but it prepared me for what would later be some of the harder times of my life. And that’s the thing that I came to realize, is that I can sit around and say, “Well, why me? Why wasn’t it someone else?” I didn’t have time for that, and it wasn’t going to make anything better. So by the grace of God —and I really believe that, more than anything, it was our faith that got us through this…
Mike Huckabee: We knew that there are bigger things in life than even our lives — that, ultimately, I can’t control the circumstances that I live with, but I can control my reaction to them. And that was a real turning point for me and a lesson learned.
Charles Mizrahi: So, coming into this challenge, you and Janet both were people of faith?
Mike Huckabee: Yep.
Charles Mizrahi: And where did you get that basis from? From your parents? Or did you find that on your own?
Mike Huckabee: My parents certainly were people who believed in God … I think my faith came more from what was a very important part of the culture in the late 60s, the Jesus movement. And that’s kind of what attracted me as a young person. The contemporary music that was speaking to me musically, but the message spoke to me spiritually, and more profoundly. My wife grew up in a much more church-oriented home, but faith was a very integral part of our teenage years and our lives, and has been throughout our marriage.
Charles Mizrahi: It’s so interesting because during that time period, everyone was going the other way. Everyone was dropping out of faith. There was doubt, there was: “Religion is dead. Let’s move on from there.” And you found your strength there and that pulled you right through. Wow.
Charles Mizrahi: And was it when you were in college that you said you wanted to be a Baptist minister, or afterwards? Was that your plan or your dream?
Mike Huckabee: No, it really wasn’t. My career path, I thought, was going to be broadcasting because I’d started in radio at age 14. And I even thought that I would go into Christian broadcasting — do something in radio and television but in the faith world. And I had no intentions of being a pastor. That really wasn’t my career goal at all.
Mike Huckabee: And I landed a job with a Christian organization in Texas. I was director of communications. I ran an ad agency for a while that mostly handled clients who were megachurches or large Christian organizations. And I became the head of that agency. We did full-service print ads, billboards, radio, television, copy … everything. And I thought, “This is this is great. This is a career path for me.” And eventually I wanted to run for office. I thought, “I’ll go into advertising and communications.” I ghostwrote some books for people…
Charles Mizrahi: When you say “office,” you mean political office?
Mike Huckabee: Yeah, political office.
Charles Mizrahi: So, office outside of the church?
Mike Huckabee: Absolutely. I mean, I saw my career path as being advertising and communications and, eventually, I’d save enough money and I’d run for Congress or do something like that. So then, it was a detour for me to end up in as a pastor.
Mike Huckabee: A church asked me to come and speak for them just as a guest speaker. I did. They asked me to become their interim pastor while they were looking for someone to come and be their pastor, so I said, “I can do that.” I still was running my communications business. And then, they told me they wanted me to be their permanent pastor. And I said, “Well, no. That’s not what I want to do.” And they said, “Well, you really should pray about that, because we’re convinced you’re the person who needs to be here.”
Mike Huckabee: And to condense the story, that’s what happened. I ended up being there six years. I started the locally run Christian television channel — actually, a community television channel — from nothing. And then another church in Texarkana, Arkansas, asked me to come and be their pastor. And I was there for almost six years. So, that period of 12 years, I call it my “extended graduate school.” It was a great time of my life to teach me about humanity in a way nothing else would.
Mike Huckabee: And the nutshell of it is this, Charles … A pastor sees every social pathology that exists in our culture. You see people at their best and their worst — at the beginning of life, at the end of life and everything in between. You’re the one that the 14-year-old girl comes and says she’s pregnant to before she tells her parents. You’re the one that’s holding the hand of an elderly 80-year-old in ICU as they slip away into eternity. So, you see life in ways no one else does.
Mike Huckabee: And I look back and realize that was the proving ground — and really, the training ground — for me to later run for office. Because when I did, my perspective about what the real problems of human beings are — what really is affecting our culture in our society — was very different than it would have been had I never had those what I call “real-life human experiences” with people at their worst and at their best moments.
Charles Mizrahi: You know, a friend of mine who was a rabbi who passed away several years ago said that if it was up to him, every clergyman should have a master’s in social work. Because being in the clergy — basically, you’re a social worker. You’re helping people when they’re at their worst and best, and you have to know how to do it. And you were probably a young guy — probably in your 20s doing this.
Mike Huckabee: Yeah, I was. And up until I was like 35. So, it taught me a lot about everything. I’d grown up in poverty, but then dealing with it from a public policy perspective … When you’re carrying groceries into a home and the only food that’s in that house is what you just brought them … When somebody talks about food stamps and they speak dismissively of it, I say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. You don’t you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Mike Huckabee: Maybe there are people who cheat. Certainly, there are. But you need to know that there are people who are absolutely hungry tonight. There are kids who come home from school. They had a school lunch, and they won’t eat again until they get back to school because there is nothing in their house unless some guy, like me, brings a bag of groceries and puts it in their home. Because there’s nothing else there. And a lot of Americans do not understand that that’s real.
Charles Mizrahi: Yeah. On a personal point, when I was growing up, we went to a private school. And my parents were on scholarship that was not academic — it was totally financial. And it was really tough. My father had to go before his peers — guys who had money, who were on the board — and be questioned. “What type of car do you have?” It took away every piece of dignity that he had.
Charles Mizrahi: And they also had to work bingo. The school had a bingo parlor in the evenings that those on scholarship had to work it off. I remember my father coming home after a long day of work, gobbling down dinner and then going until 11:00 at night to do this bingo.
Charles Mizrahi: I knew I was going to be successful … Like you, I had no choice. It was either sink or swim, and I wasn’t sinking. And I, eventually, became treasurer of that school, and we revamped the scholarship committee. I put guys on the scholarship committee who weren’t wealthy, who knew what it was to be poor … When you say you have no money in your pocket and you’re a rich guy, that means you have nothing in your pocket now. When a poor person says, “I have nothing,” it means they have nothing.
Mike Huckabee: Nothing.
Charles Mizrahi: And the whole mood changed, because now when you saw that poor person, you didn’t have to sit there and say, “Did you do this?” Look, 2% of people just try to get by, but you don’t destroy the 98% for the 2%. I’d rather let those 2% get the free ride. Just don’t destroy these people.
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. I think what you just said is so very powerful. And a lot of people who’ve only grown up in affluence have no idea that there are people who will go into the store, walk down the aisles, look at an item, check the price and put it back because they know they can’t afford it. Or they know, deep down, that the next dental appointment wipes away their savings.
Charles Mizrahi: That’s what we used to say! Look, there may have to make a decision: go to the orthodontist for their kids, or pay this month’s tuition. They’re not saying they’re going to their second home or on vacation. You just don’t get that if you grow up with too much, or if you grow up sufficient … When you don’t have that hunger, you’ll never get that flavor. You’ll never understand what it is.
Charles Mizrahi: I remember my father in the morning, before I used to go to school … And he would be praying in the living room. I’d say, “Dad, I need a dollar for something.” And he’d open up his wallet, and literally, it’d be empty. And my friend said, “Yeah, my father sometimes doesn’t have money.” No. That meant that when he opened up his wallet, that was all the money we had, and he didn’t have any. That didn’t mean he had another bank account somewhere else. That was it. That was it.
Charles Mizrahi: But like you, it not only tests you, it makes you more empathetic. And I think that’s why you’ve done such an outstanding job in the political arena. It’s like what they say about the difference between a politician and a statesman … A politician cares about the next election. A statesmen cares about the next generation. I think that’s why so many people love you!
Charles Mizrahi: I came back to Brooklyn, New York, and I told people I was on The Huckabee Show, and they said, “I love that guy.”
Charles Mizrahi: I went to my mother and I said, “Mom, I’m on The Huckabee Show. You watch this?”
Charles Mizrahi: “Yeah. Channel 257. You have to move things around.”
Charles Mizrahi: I couldn’t believe it! And now it’s coming through to me why that’s so.
Charles Mizrahi: So, how did you jump into politics?
Well, I had an interest in it since my childhood, and I was involved in all the student government … But part of my time as a pastor led me to the conclusion that people who were making the decisions about how we live, the politicians, didn’t know the real problems. I became increasingly convinced they didn’t understand what it was like for people to be hungry, to be poor … And they didn’t understand what was going on even in terms of people whose lives were being shattered by drug addiction, alcoholism, spousal abuse … I was seeing all that every week. Like I said … Every social pathology, Charles, I could put a name and a face to it.
Mike Huckabee: And I would listen to the politicians and their proposed solutions and I thought, “You guys don’t know what you’re talking about.” And I guess it was one of those things that I sort of came to the conclusion that if I think I can do better, then why don’t I stick my name on the ballot and go do it?
Charles Mizrahi: And what was the first thing you ran for?
Mike Huckabee: I ran for U.S. Senate, which sounds like a kind of a bold place to start. But I’d been president of the Baptist Convention in Arkansas which sounds like maybe a minor thing, but in that state, that means that you were the presiding denominational executive over almost half a million people of a state of 3 million people.
Charles Mizrahi: How old were you?
Mike Huckabee: I was 35 years old.
Charles Mizrahi: At 35 years old, you were the No. 1 guy in an organization for half a million or so people?
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. And so it gave me a level of notoriety, and sort of a platform that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And I started having people who would say to me, “Have you ever thought about running for office?” Now, they said this without having any knowledge that I ever thought about that. And I had people that would say, “I really wish you would consider running for office.” And it started becoming almost a chorus. So, I thought maybe they were God’s instruments to kind of encourage me to do something that, deep down, I’d wanted to do.
Mike Huckabee: So anyway, that’s what I set out to do. I did not win my first election. Most people don’t, by the way. But this was in 1992. Bill Clinton was elected president, and the lieutenant governor became the governor because Clinton had to vacate the governor’s office. So now, there was a special election for lieutenant governor. The party came to me not thinking I had a chance to win because Republicans never won in Arkansas at that time. But they needed somebody to sort of take one for the team and said, “Look, you’ve just run a statewide campaign. You have the organization in place. It’s a special election.” And so I agreed to do it.
Mike Huckabee: And surprising, I think, to everyone … I won. And I was reelected.
Charles Mizrahi: Why do you think you won?
Mike Huckabee: I think it was because my campaign tried to speak to what I call real issues of people, and I was running against a person who was Bill Clinton’s hand-picked candidate. He had defeated a bunch of other Democrats in the primary. He was a Harvard-educated attorney — very smart, very successful — but really didn’t connect to the ordinary rank and file people. And because it was a special election, I think a lot of it was that the Democrats assumed they would win. How could they lose? They always win. And our people went out there and just outworked them. And we didn’t have we had a dime to their dollar, so I didn’t have hardly any money to run the race.
Mike Huckabee: And then when I did get elected, the Democrats were so angry about it that they nailed my door shut at the state capital — the door to my office — and it remained nailed shut. I mean, physically nailed with nails in the door.
Charles Mizrahi: How does a Democrat lose the South?
Mike Huckabee: It was tough in those days, and that’s why they were so angry. They couldn’t believe it. And the ratio, for example … The house in Arkansas was 89 to 11, Democrat to Republican. The Senate was 31 to four. There was not a single member of the constitutional officers who was a Republican. And there was only one member of the congressional delegation that was a Republican. Everybody was Democrat — 93% of all elected officials in the state were Democrat.
Mike Huckabee: So, I wasn’t supposed to win, but I did. And then I got reelected the following year. And then two years after that, the governor was convicted of Whitewater-related felonies. They went after Clinton. They didn’t get him, but they got the then-governor, Jim Tucker. So, I was unexpectedly swept into the governor’s office in 1996 in the summer. Reelected twice.
Charles Mizrahi: This reminds me of Esther in the Bible. You just happened to be in the right spot. And divine providence keeps moving you in the right spot.
Mike Huckabee: It truly was just that just.
Charles Mizrahi: Wow. How were you then? You were the governor of a state. Just a short while ago, you were catching chickens in 95-degree weather … and now you’re the governor of the state of Arkansas. How old were you, 40?
Mike Huckabee: Yes, I was just 40.
Charles Mizrahi: You were 40 … and a Republican.
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. It was bizarre to say the least! I never thought I would even set foot in the governor’s mansion other than maybe to cut the lawn. And there I was living in it. Interestingly, my wife and I lived longer — almost 11 years — in the governor’s mansion than we’ve lived any one place in our 46 years of marriage. So, it’s where we raised our children. Mostly Sarah. She was the youngest. Our oldest son was in college, our middle son was in high school and Sarah was just getting into junior high. So, it was quite the experience to suddenly be thrust into this very highly visible role to lead a state. But it was the best job I ever had. I loved it.
Charles Mizrahi: You were ranked, I think, in 2005 as one of the top five governors — or most-liked governors — in the country.
Mike Huckabee: Yeah, TIME Magazine listed me as one of the top five governors. I always said, “Gee, were the other four that bad?” I couldn’t imagine. But here’s the thing … I didn’t go into it from the same experience, nor did I have the same sense of “let’s do things like they’ve always been done.” I did not want to oil someone else’s machinery. And so because of the background that I had, I looked at things differently.
Mike Huckabee: I’ll give an example … I created something that really preceded the SCHIP for kids who didn’t have medical coverage. And here was the problem. People who were poor had Medicaid, which is actually a platinum-level medical plan for children. People who were rich had plenty of money. They could afford whatever medical care they needed.
Mike Huckabee: But there was a huge hole in the middle for the children of working mothers and fathers who made just above the threshold. They didn’t qualify for Medicaid, but there was no way they could afford monthly premiums or the health care costs for their kids. They were the ones who were the most vulnerable, and yet they were being penalized for working. If they quit work, they could get Medicaid. But they couldn’t get a job that paid them enough for medical care.
Mike Huckabee: So we created a program. We called it “Our Kids First,” and we built a medical care program for these children of working parents. Because the parents, nor the children, should be penalized because they were working but they weren’t wealthy. And it was wildly successful. We covered virtually every kid in the state, and it became sort of the model for what SCHIP ended up becoming nationally. It’s always something I’m proud of. And if anybody said, “Well, you expanded government!” Say whatever you want to, but we looked at a gaping hole in our state and for its children … and we filled it. And for that, I will never be apologetic.
Charles Mizrahi: So, looking back on your career, would you say that was one of the highlights?
Mike Huckabee: Yeah, absolutely. I was standing at a reception once … I was doing a fundraiser for a congressional candidate who was actually a member of Congress. One of the ladies working for the catering service was serving and helping out. When everybody had left and I was getting ready to leave the room to go into the main event, she came over to me, she put her hand in mine and — it’s emotional even telling this — she looked up at me, and tears started coming down her cheeks. She said, “I wanted to thank you for the Our Kids program.”
Mike Huckabee: She said. “I teach school in the day, and at night, I have to do events like this. And I’m a single mom. My 12-year-old daughter has a congenital heart problem. But because of Our Kids, she had surgery at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and she’s going to be OK.” Wow. At that moment, every political pain I’d ever had was erased, and I remembered why I was doing what I was doing. It was a beautiful moment.
Charles Mizrahi: Wow, wow, wow … That is absolutely astounding. So, you did great work as a governor. You felt there was more to do and you wanted to run for president?
Mike Huckabee: Yeah, I came to the conclusion again. It was almost like running for governor. I thought, “I think I could do this job better.” And I wanted to do it from a practical standpoint. We’d done a lot to rebuild our road system in the state, revamp our education system … I saw government not as a means to power, but as a vehicle to really help create an environment where people could succeed. It wasn’t that the government was going to give people their success, but government could help create a playing field where they could play to win, and they could play toward their success.
Mike Huckabee: So, I announced in 2007 that I was going to run for president in the 2008 election. I ended up coming second to John McCain in the Republican primary.
Charles Mizrahi: What did Janet and the kids think about that? What did they think when you wanted to run? Did they think you were crazy? It’s a cesspool out there. Politics on the national level … they play for keeps.
Mike Huckabee: Well, honestly, the national level in some ways was less brutal than the state of play in Arkansas politics as a Republican. It was vicious. I can’t tell you how many times I’d go somewhere and people wouldn’t shake my hand because I was a Republican. It was pretty rough. So, I think I was better than prepared.
Charles Mizrahi: You had more than half that state hating you!
Mike Huckabee: Yeah! You’d walk into some place and half the people would smile and look at you, and the other half would sneer and hiss. So, you get used to it.
Charles Mizrahi: And how did that weigh on your family? They didn’t opt for this. It was you who was the governor.
Mike Huckabee: Well, they did. I would never have done it had they not said that they were 100% behind it. And that’s part of the reason that I’m so proud. Because you see politicians whose kids turn on them. They hate politics. They turn up rejecting everything that their parents stood for … You know, my daughter’s the most famous of my three — pretty well-known for what she’s done as press secretary to the president.
Charles Mizrahi: By the way, when I watched her … First of all, you just sit with your mouth open. Because here you have the Washington press corps — the alpha people of the alpha industry — and there she is on the stage, and it was like Wonder Woman with her magic bracelets just knocking away bullets. They came one after the other. And what I loved about her is that she isolated the question, and then just started to dissect it with the facts. If it came up more than once or twice, she said, “Enough. Let’s move on.” It was brilliant. It was just amazing.
Mike Huckabee: She grew up in that environment. She saw it all firsthand. So, none of this was a big shock to her, and she was prepared. And my other two children, both boys older than Sarah — she’s the youngest — are interested in politics, but they’re all solid, conservative, pro-life … They didn’t end up hating me and hating everything I stood for. And that, for me, is the greatest achievement of all.
Mike Huckabee: When people say, “What’s the greatest accomplishment you had as governor?” I can point to some policy things, but the greatest is that my family survived it and came out on the other side in good shape.
Mike Huckabee: And I’ll never forget … My daughter was being interviewed back when I was running for president. She was just out of college, and a reporter said, “Was it hard growing up as the daughter of a governor?” It’s a lot of pressure, and everything was amplified. Because seeing your name in the paper when you’re a high school sophomore is not fun…
Mike Huckabee: And she said, “It was tough, and there were some really rough moments. But, you know, we got to do a lot of cool stuff and meet some great people that we never would have been able to meet had it not been for that. So, in the end, it turned out OK.” And that was her perspective. And I was so thrilled when I read that, and I thought, “Gosh, I’m glad that that was the way she looked at it — that, yeah, there were some pretty painful moments, but there were also some spectacular moments that she would never have had had her dad not been the governor.
Charles Mizrahi: That is a cool thing. There’s no question.
Charles Mizrahi: Being a man of faith — and your family, one of faith — you take your religion seriously, you take the Bible seriously, you take God seriously … How difficult was it for you to go into a secular world — in the world of politics? When you were running, it wasn’t looked on as a positive. That was a negative.
Mike Huckabee: Oh, very much. Yeah. I think people expect me to say it was much harder, but I’ve always said it was actually much easier. And here’s what I mean by that, Charles … Some people, every day, have to sort of wake up and decide what they’re going to believe that day. And they’re constantly checking a poll or seeing what the latest trend is. I didn’t have to do that. I knew what I believed. I was comfortable in it. I could defend it and articulate it. And if people rejected it, then I still believed it. And so, I didn’t wake up wringing my hands and stressing as to what my beliefs were going to be on that given day.
Charles Mizrahi: Your moral compass was always pointing true North. You never had to make any of those tough decisions. Because they weren’t tough. They were the right decisions that you spent 50 years developing and cultivating and learning about and experiencing.
Mike Huckabee: It made a big difference.
Charles Mizrahi: So, in 2007-2008, you bow out early on. How difficult is it running a national campaign?
It’s very challenging. It’s all-consuming. Running for president, especially in the early stages, is really like running for governor in about eight or nine states. Because that’s where the election is going to be decided. You may run raise money nationally, but you’re actually running in a handful of states that are the early primary states. And so the fact is that if you can win in those states, you go on. If you can’t, you’re over. But it was an exhilarating experience. And it was not lost on me that here I am, this kid that once caught chickens, running for president of the United States, and standing on the debate stage with somebody who was going to be president.
Charles Mizrahi: Governor, did you wake up some mornings, look in the mirror and say, “I really can’t believe this”?
Mike Huckabee: Oh, every day. I still do.
Charles Mizrahi: To sleep in the governor’s mansion, to run for the presidency … Do you sometimes wake up and see yourself as that eight-year-old kid asking for that guitar?
More often than you can imagine. Because I think it’s important to look back. And on days that I’m thinking, “Well, I haven’t done much. I could have done better.” And I stop and say, “You know what? Given the circumstances with which I started, life’s been pretty doggone good.”
Charles Mizrahi: So, you bow out, and then what do you do? You went into Fox at that time, right?
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. Fox hired me to do political commentary and to host a television show there, which I did.
Charles Mizrahi: Did you enjoy that? How’d you like that?
Mike Huckabee: I loved it. I had a great time doing the show. In fact, had I not decided to run again in 2016, I probably would have stayed there and done it indefinitely. But in a way, it worked out better. Because as much as I loved the show at Fox, the show that I’m doing for TBN is the dream show. It’s the one that I really wanted to do all along. And TBN has given me the resources to do a show that, I think, is 10 times better than the show that I did at Fox. Better production. Our studio in theaters … You’ve been there. You know it’s fantastic.
Charles Mizrahi: I just love the fact that when you walk in … I was outside the green room, and there is a beautiful display of guitars in a circle. It’s a very hip place. By the way, it’s a beautiful place. It really is.
Mike Huckabee: It is. It’s a great place and a great team of people. So I have no complaints. It’s been a great ride for me. It really has. And I hope to continue to do the television show for a long time.
Charles Mizrahi: I want to tell you something. You feel happy. Just meeting you and your family for the first time … You, as Warren Buffett says, tap dance to work. You really feel good.
Mike Huckabee: I love that!
Charles Mizrahi: If you don’t tap dance to work, you’re in the wrong job, right?
Mike Huckabee: That’s great.
Charles Mizrahi: You’ve got to love what you do. That’s the way I feel. The day I don’t tap dance is this the day I switch professions. I love what I do. I love getting up every day and writing about investing and helping so many subscribers and getting to meet great people like you. It’s just exciting. And, most importantly, working around a great group of people. if you have great people that you want to work with, that you go to dinner with … Tell me a happier day.
Mike Huckabee: Right. I think that’s an absolutely wonderful way to live life. I truly do.
Charles Mizrahi: And if you help people along the way, it’s just a blessing.
Charles Mizrahi: So, why did you try to go again in 2016? That was a crowded field!
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. You know, after eight years of President Obama, I really thought that maybe the country was ready for someone who was a pragmatist. I’m certainly ideological. I’m not pretending that I’m not. I’m very conservative and have very strong convictions. But as a governor — and really, politically — I’m more of the pragmatist. How do we get things done?
Mike Huckabee: And quite frankly, much to my surprise, I found out that in 2016, people were not looking for a pragmatist. They looked for a fighter. And by fighter, they didn’t mean somebody who fought his way through the political system. They wanted somebody with bare knuckles to go out there and duke it out with the establishment. And that’s part of the reason Donald Trump was so successful — because he was unapologetic, unafraid, unabashed, recklessly candid about what he believed … Plus, the media couldn’t take their eyes off of him! There was no way that any of the rest of us were going to win that primary — in part, because once Donald Trump entered the arena, he sucked all the oxygen out of the room.
Mike Huckabee: But interestingly, the very people who hate him now made him in 2016. Every speech he gave, they covered the whole thing.
Charles Mizrahi: As soon as he saw that red light go on, he just kept going. He was so smart. He knew that there were millions of dollars that he didn’t have to spend to get exposure. You couldn’t get that.
Mike Huckabee: No. And if they did come to me for a question or even an interview on one of the news channels, they never said, “So, Huckabee, what is your plan for rebuilding America’s infrastructure?” My question always would be posed this way: “Today in New Hampshire, here’s what Donald Trump said.” They’d play the tape.
Mike Huckabee: “What do you think about what he said?”
Mike Huckabee: And I’d sometimes say, “Why don’t you ask me what I’m thinking? All you’re asking me is to react to somebody else.” So, it was cooked before it ever got to the kitchen.
Charles Mizrahi: So, when did you drop out? Pretty early on, right?
Mike Huckabee: Yeah. After Iowa, I realized I was not going to be able … Before, I won Iowa in 2008. And then I carried a whole bunch of states on Super Tuesday. And, as I say, I came in second to John McCain, but at that point, the press decided that I couldn’t win and they pretty much wrote me off. And in 2016, I realized that this was not going to end in a Huckabee victory because there were so many people on the stage. So many were outraising me financially. And I could see that Donald Trump was scratching where people were itching. And he was going to be the nominee. And so, I got behind him.
Charles Mizrahi: You got behind him pretty early, as I recall.
Mike Huckabee: I tell people all the time, “He was not my first choice, but he was my second choice.” I was my first choice.
Charles Mizrahi: And so that brings us to now…
Charles Mizrahi: I love your story. It’s just really the American story. It’s the American dream, you work your way up. No one gave you anything. You got into government. You gave back service. You made the world a better place — as we call “tikkun olam,” which means you made the world much better than it was before Huckabee.
Charles Mizrahi: So, my question to you is this now. This younger generation who is blessed with so much … How come they’re so angry? They’re so indifferent. They believe that our capitalist way democracy is on the wrong track. Where did they go off the track so badly?
Mike Huckabee: I would attribute it to three things…
Mike Huckabee: One, they did not grow up with the spiritual base of understanding that they are individuals and that God made them to be individuals. So, they grow up with a sense of groupthink — that they’re a part of an identity. Their identity is either their gender, their race, their economic status, their political leanings … And that’s unfortunate. Because to me, the greatest gift of America is the gift that I’m an individual, and that I’m ultimately responsible to God, to myself and to others for the life that I live. And when people say, “Oh, I can’t help what I am because I’m male … I’m black … I’m Asian … I’m transgender,” or whatever the excuse can be, then we never have to accept responsibility. That’s one thing.
Mike Huckabee: Second thing. Kids, I think, did not grow up being educated. They grew up being indoctrinated by an education system that is out of control and that, at its core, hates America. And that’s a bold statement. But when kids don’t grow up believing that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and George Washington were good guys and that they, instead, were imperialist and racist and horrible people … Well, no wonder they hate this country!
Charles Mizrahi: The 1619 Project.
Mike Huckabee: Absolutely. It’s tragic!
Mike Huckabee: And I think the third reason is that they had parents who indulged them rather than disciplined them, did not insist upon their excellence and bailed them out. And if the kid got in trouble at school … well, it was the teacher’s fault. I grew up probably as you did, Charles. When if I got in trouble at school, the one thing I said was, “Please don’t tell my parents. Do whatever you’ve got to do to me here. Do not tell my parents, because the trouble I’m in there is way worse than anything you can do.”
Charles Mizrahi: The worst words you could ever hear were: “Bring your parents to school.” To think my father would have to take off from work to come to school … “Please do whatever you’d like now. Corporal punishment is fine. Just don’t tell my parents.”
Mike Huckabee: Absolutely. And kids today have such an indulgent sort of attitude. And I don’t mean to overgeneralize. That’s not fair to a generation of people. But they don’t have this sense in which they are responsible — it is someone else’s fault. Like I say, you and I grew up in much the same way. But I didn’t get to go to school and say, “Well, I’m poor. Therefore, I can’t learn.” That was not an option.
Mike Huckabee: I’m poor. Therefore, I better learn. Maybe I have to work harder at it, but I better come out with something here.
Charles Mizrahi: When my kids were going to school … There was a movement about 10 years ago. We give every kid an award. Give everyone a trophy because everyone is special! And they did that. Every kid at graduation got an award. And the kids were so smart on their own. They figured out, “Oh, they got the baloney award. We got the real award.” So, you tried to create this even playing field — or so you thought — and you just bred more contempt for this total way of “everyone’s a winner.” No, there’s got to be a loser somewhere, and that just toughens you up.
Mike Huckabee: It does. Had I grown up in this world of “everybody gets a trophy,” I would never have ended up doing what I did. And part of it was because I realized early on that I was not a great athlete. I mean, I tried. I played baseball and football, but at a young age, I figured, “I’m not getting a trophy. I’m never going to get a trophy.”
Mike Huckabee: So, I turned my attention to music and to student government. And if I hadn’t, I’d have been a mediocre guy at everything, rather than to have excelled in a few things — the things that I was really designed and equipped for. That’s where I think we’re failing kids. And they need to understand that even if I fail at something, it leads me to either look for something I can do, or it leads me to discipline and work harder at the things that I want to do.
Charles Mizrahi: I love it. So, how do we change this? You’ve identified three real difficult barriers that, for whatever reason, that generation is behind. How do we get them over that? How do we change this whole mindset?
Mike Huckabee: Well, I think of the educational realm. We’ve got to have a virtual revolution in our education system.
Charles Mizrahi: How does that happen?
Mike Huckabee: Empower parents to choose schools for their kids rather than have the government do it. I’ve become increasingly a strong advocate for school choice. Because a parent shouldn’t be forced to send his or her child to not just a failing school academically, but to a school that will indoctrinate that child to hate everything his or her parents stand for. A parent ought to be able to say, “I want to send my child to a religious school,” and be able to do that. Or maybe to non-religious but private school where there’s a focus on the arts the child is interested in. And if they want to send their child to a public school, they should have that option, too. And the public schools ought to be worth sending your child to.
Mike Huckabee: But empower parents, which empowers the children and make that available for everyone. That’s, to me, one of the most important things we could do. A lot of parents don’t have a choice. They send their kid to the only school that they have as an optional. And when their kids turn out to be angry little zealots, what are the parents supposed to say about it?
Charles Mizrahi: Governor, I want to thank you so much for your time, but I want to ask you one last question. Huckabee 2024 … Any shape or form anywhere?
Mike Huckabee: No, no. I mean, I’ve reached for the ring twice.
Charles Mizrahi: And three times the charm. You know that, right?
Mike Huckabee: Well, I don’t want to be that guy that just refuses to leave the stage. I want to help other people. My pact this year, for example, will give over $2.5 million directly to candidates. I want to help those people who were me 30 years ago. And it’s not that I wouldn’t love the opportunity in some ways, but I realize that there’s other people whose time is yet to come. And I’m content being a part of the process from where I am. And as I tell people, I’ve gone out there twice, and twice the people said, “We want someone else.” So, I’m going to let them go ahead and go for someone else in 2024.
Charles Mizrahi: Do you have a lot of folks, by the way, a lot of young politicians who come to Governor Huckabee to ask for guidance, direction, support, ideas, insight?
Mike Huckabee: Sure. And it’s always kind of gratifying that somebody would think that I had something to offer to them. And there’s two things I tell every single candidate. The first is: How does your family feel about it? And if they say, “Well, they’re not really for it, but they’ll come around.” I’ll say, “Don’t run until they have come around. Do not put them through this unless they’re 100% with you. If they’re not with you, help somebody else. But until they’re as confident of doing this as you, forget about it.”
Mike Huckabee: And the second thing I tell them is this: If you’re going to run for office, don’t tell me you’re just going to run one time. Because I know you’re going to win, you know you’re going to win … but you might not. Learn from not winning, go back, be the better candidate and win the second or the third time. If you’re only going to run one time and your attitude is, “If I don’t win, I’ll quit forever,” don’t waste everybody’s money and time. Don’t even bother. Only if you’re willing to commit to this for the long haul should you even do it.
Charles Mizrahi: And when you say long haul, you’re talking about what you did. You were in government for 11 years or 12 years?
Mike Huckabee: Longer than that. Three years as lieutenant governor, almost 11 years as governor and then, of course, running for president twice. And I’m still in it to some degree by helping other candidates and being an ongoing commentator and facilitator … But as an actual public servant, a little over 14 years. And it would have been longer than that had people elected me president twice.
Charles Mizrahi: Governor, I have an important last question for you … My daughter and my two grandchildren and my son-in-law live in Israel. I haven’t seen them for a little while because of coronavirus. When are we going to be able to go back to Israel?
Mike Huckabee: I hope soon. I had four trips this year alone that had to be canceled, and I have one in February that I’m supposed to be taking. I’m hoping, by then, things will open up. It really needs to. And I don’t even have family there like you do. You really do need to be able to see them. And I hope it’s soon. I truly do.
Charles Mizrahi: Thank God for FaceTime. But my granddaughter is growing up, my grandson is growing up … And I think they’ll only think of me as a small image on a screen for the rest. But you run missions or tour groups?
Mike Huckabee: I do. I’m there usually a couple of times a year taking large groups 400 or 500 people. And then I go other times, either for speaking engagements or maybe for media reasons and doing tapings and documentaries. So, various things. But it’s not uncommon for me to be there four or five times a year.
Charles Mizrahi: Wow. And now, with these Abraham Accords, it’s just absolutely amazing. We’re living in really amazing times. Whoever thought of Israel having relations with two Arab countries? OK, Jordan and Egypt … now, normalized relations with two others. And I saw a rumor — I wasn’t sure — where Sudan is going to be coming to the table very soon?
Mike Huckabee: I think we’re going to see a rapidly growing number of Arab and Muslim nations creating normal relations with Israel because they’ve come to realize Israel is never going to invade their country. Israel doesn’t want anything they have. They just want the land God gave them, and he gave it to them. And they want to be left alone and live in peace and freedom. That’s it. And I think, increasingly, you’re going to see other nations come to realize that the common enemy that all these Arab nations have is not Israel — it’s Iran and the Shiites who will kill them if they get the opportunity.
Charles Mizrahi: You know, it’s just amazing. It’s just really has to be divine providence. There’s nothing else to it. The Iran agreement that President Obama was pushing through really opened the doors to all this happening.
Mike Huckabee: It did, yeah.
Charles Mizrahi: It’s just one of those things in history. We’ll look back years from now … But everything started to line up after how terrible that deal was and how ridiculous it was. And then President Trump came in and the Arab nations started saying, “Oh my gosh, this cannot happen. We’re in trouble.”
Mike Huckabee: It’s a lot like the story of Joseph in Genesis 50, when Joseph’s brothers were afraid he would have them all killed because of what they did to him and he made the comment — it’s such a powerful one — and he said, “What you intended for harm has turned out for good.” And it saved the nation of Israel. And I think sometimes what was intended to boost Iran actually ended up being their undoing. And it has not only given Israel a new place, but new peace partners. Again, only God could orchestrate something of that magnitude.
Charles Mizrahi: Just how much prosperity it’s going to bring to the region! Poverty is the second biggest challenge that they have. And look at the way it all coincides. It’s the falling oil prices, the new rise in electric vehicles, causing the Arab nations to start figuring out, “Hey, our economies are not going to survive. Let’s figure out another way to do this.” And now with all the money that’s going to be piling into startups and technology in Israel … It’s an exciting time to be alive. It really it is an exciting time.
Mike Huckabee: Yes.
Charles Mizrahi: Governor, God bless you. Keep doing what you’re doing. I’m telling you … We spoke for an hour and 10 minutes. I feel like it was 15 minutes.
Charles Mizrahi: By the way, you’re in Tennessee or you’re in Arkansas now?
Mike Huckabee: I’m in Florida right now, actually.
Charles Mizrahi: So, where do you live? You just come in for the show?
Mike Huckabee: I live in the panhandle of Florida. I go to Nashville every week to do my television show. We still have a little place in Arkansas that we go to so we can see our grandkids and our friends. But we moved to Florida about 10 years ago.
Charles Mizrahi: Wow. If you ever come after the corona thing to New York, I will take you to the best kosher restaurant for steak or anything you’d like. I’d like to hang with a guy like you — just hang out! I’ve learned so much. And you’re such a positive inspiration.
Charles Mizrahi: But, you know, there is hope. It’s a great country and you just keep hearing all these negative things. Enough already!
Mike Huckabee: I think I’d appreciate it. I’ve enjoyed being with you. It’s been such a pleasure.
Charles Mizrahi: Ben Shapiro said — I don’t think I’m getting it exact, but I just started laughing. He said, “American kids woke up on third base, and they think they hit a triple.”
Mike Huckabee: Well said. Well said.
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