Huckabee Takes the Lectern

Gov. Mike Huckabee greets guests at a reception prior to his Drew Forum appearance. Photo by Jordan Maslin.

In class, the former 2012 presidential candidate showed a knack for mollifying students prepared to oppose him.

Sophomore Matt Carroll arrived 35 minutes early with his question written out on paper and took a center seat in the front row. He disagreed with virtually everything he’d ever read about Mike Huckabee’s conservative political philosophy, and wondered how the former Arkansas governor would answer. Huckabee, once a potential presidential candidate in the 2012 Republican primaries and the 2011 Thomas H. Kean Visiting Lecturer, met April 12 with Baldwin Honors students, political science majors and other interested parties.

“You advocate for transparency in government,” he asked Huckebee, referring to an April 1, 2011, article in Mother Jones magazine charging that Huckabee had destroyed all records from his term (1996–2007) as Arkansas governor. “How do justify removing 11 years of your administration?”

Huckabee derided the story, and the objectivity of Mother Jones, and said he was simply protecting personal, confidential data about state employees. Carroll wasn’t satisfied by the explanation, but as the talk went on he found himself revising his opinion of the maybe-candidate. Well, somewhat.

“He was actually more bipartisan and genteel than I expected,” he said afterwards. “I appreciated the opportunity to see him. I think my perspective has definitely been enlightened.”

Huckabee started off his chat by inviting students to engage him in serious talk. “I’d like to avoid a lot of the more outrageous points,” he said, possibly referring to a recent spate of news stories trying to pin down his stand on the “birther” issue dogging President Obama. On talk radio Huckabee had recently said he would “love to know more” about where Obama was born, and stated he grew up in Africa.

The audience obliged, and stuck to policy issues. Students asked about his stand on concealed weapons, campaign finance reform, public pensions and Wall Street regulation. Huckabee, unprompted, also discussed his plan for replacing the federal income tax code with a single national sales tax.

Nicholas Chiappini C’14, a chemistry and German major, walked away from the program with added respect for the man. “Socially, we don’t see eye to eye at all, but economically, I think he’s very well informed,” he said.—Mary Jo Patterson

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