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Huckabee calls for common sense

Mike Huckabee has had an unforgettable year.

In 2008, he wrapped up an impressive but unsuccessful Republican bid for president of the United States, took a job as a political commentator on Fox News Channel and wrote his seventh book.

The former Arkansas governor and new star in the Republican Party will visit Lexington Dec. 2 to sign his book, Do The Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America.

It is billed as part campaign memoir and part manifesto about Huckabee's vision for common sense solutions to tough issues to build America up rather than bring it down. He calls it "vertical politics."

Huckabee, 53, is to be at Lexington's Joseph-Beth Booksellers from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

He recently talked to the Herald-Leader in a telephone interview about his book and life.

Question: Your new book is titled Do the Right Thing. What's your definition of "right" in the title?

Answer: It is to treat others as you would wish to be treated.

Q: Does it have anything to do with political philosophy?

A: No. I guess someone might think it's a play on words but it is about doing what is right universally and not just in politics.

Q: Your book discusses how the Republican Party can be a true majority party again. Do you expect Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be a national leader for the party?

A: Absolutely. She excited a lot of people within the party and was a very strong force in the McCain election. She will be a strong player in our party's future.

Q: Would you have taken the role as Sen. John McCain's running mate if he had offered it to you?

A: I never thought about that because it never was offered to me. I never want to go around and say, gee, I wish I had been picked. I always said he needed to pick somebody he not only was comfortable with, but who he thought could help the ticket.

I think he did that.

Q: What did you learn about yourself in running for president of the United States?

A: I came to realize how much I truly appreciate and love this country by seeing some of the best people on earth. You have your faith renewed that there's an extraordinary spirit out there. Some people may think you may come away from an experience like that as cynical, but, for me, it was completely the opposite. It was a very wonderful experience and one I wouldn't trade for anything.

Q: I don't know how many times each day you get this question, but are you going to run for president again in 2012?

A: I do get that question a lot. The honest answer is I don't know. A lot of it depends upon circumstances beyond my control. I'll look at the political landscape and see if there is support and consider what position I'm in. But, at this point, it's just too early to even think about it.

Q: Religion was frequently mentioned in this year's presidential race. You have been up front about your Christian beliefs. An interesting quote about religion and politics sometimes is attributed to the theologian Martin Luther. It says, "I'd rather be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian." Do you feel that way?

A: I'd rather be ruled by somebody who is competent. Whether a person is a Christian is not as important as that person's principles in determining our leaders. I'm a Christian. I would like for everyone to be. I want my political leaders to be competent in government. If the choice is between competence and faith, I'll do the praying and let them do the governing.

Q: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about a Barack Obama administration?

A: I tend to be an optimistic person overall. I don't want to be anything but optimistic about the country. Even though he was not my choice for president, I will respect him as my president come Jan. 20. I want him to do well because I love my country more than I do the Republican Party. If America does well under President Obama, I certainly will not be sad about that.

Q: Mike Duncan of Inez, Ky., is chairman of the Republican National Committee. Some have said he should step down, given the GOP defeats in this year's election. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia has expressed an interest in the job. Who do you think should be RNC chairman?

A: I'm supporting John "Chip" Saltsman Jr., who is a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. He has managed five presidential campaigns, including mine. He also was an adviser to former Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist. He's been a longtime grass-roots activist. The party needs somebody who understands two very important pieces of the political puzzle that Republicans need to work on. One, we need a ground-up rather than a top-down operation. In other words, the party at the national level needs to be supporting all the field operations as opposed to asking all state parties to support the national organization. The second thing is we've got to get more into the game through technology and the Internet to communicate with and attract young voters. Chip understands that.

Q: In late September, you started hosting a weekend show, Huckabee, on Fox News. Are you having fun with it?

A: I'm having a great time. It's been not only a lot of fun, but a lot of hard work, too. I've been able to attract a lot of guests that you normally wouldn't see on the Fox News Channel. I especially was pleased with a Nov. 22 interview with newsman Dan Rather about the assassination of President Kennedy 45 years ago.

Q: You have conducted a personal war against obesity, having lost 110 pounds in a very short time. You advocate a healthy lifestyle. Kentucky has a serious problem with obesity. Any advice for us?

A: We made a concerted effort in Arkansas during my tenure as governor to really deal with this, particularly in respect to children. We emphasized it in our public school systems. I'm convinced that it has to be an all-out effort. If people don't think we have a problem with childhood obesity, I would ask them to go back and pick out a photo of themselves in the third grade and then walk into any third-grade class in America today, take a look around and then tell me if they notice anything different. I promise that if they do that, they will never again wonder if we have a problem with childhood obesity in this country.

Q: Have I asked whether you are going to run for president in 2012?

A: Yeah, you did. The answer is still the same. I'll have to wait and see.

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