I got this from the CNN transcripts website.
BLITZER: You said something at the debate, the Republican debate, earlier in the week that caused a stir, at least among some. You said, "What we did in Iraq, we essentially broke it. It's our responsibility to do the best we can to try to fix it before we just turn away because something is at stake."
Now, what do you mean when you say the United States broke it?
HUCKABEE: Well, when you have a war, you end up with a lot of carnage, not just the human carnage but also the infrastructure of the country. You've got a nation that is clearly in disarray and some would say chaos. But the point is, things are improving.
But you don't just walk away in the middle of the mission. That's never been the history of this country and it's certainly not the mission, nor is it the intent of our military. And it would, I think, break their spirit to take them out before they finish the job that they know they not only can do but that they're going to do if given the opportunity.
BLITZER: Here's a little exchange you had with another presidential candidate, Ron Paul, who supports an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS: We dug a hole for ourselves and we've dug a hole for our party. We're losing elections and we're going down next year if we don't change it and it has all to do with foreign policy and we have to wake up to this fact.
HUCKABEE: Even if we lose elections, we should not lose our honor and that is more important than the Republican Party.
PAUL: We're losing -- we've lost over...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Governor, how long are you ready to stay in Iraq with this current troop level of about 168,000 forces?
HUCKABEE: Wolf, I wish we were out of there tomorrow. I wish every last American could come home if not tomorrow, today. I don't want to see another life lost.
But on the other hand, I don't want the long-term safety of the United States and our security compromised, nor do I want the credibility of this nation lost for generations because we've simply decided that people were ready for us to come out, whether or not we had finished the task we went there to do.
Even our own Senate sent General Petraeus over there this summer with full confidence and told him he would have until this week to be able to bring a report back. He had barely landed on the ground before they were already on the Senate floor saying we had failed, saying we had lost.
BLITZER: But Governor, you've got to be really disappointed in the behavior of the Iraqi government in failing to disband the militias, failing to take virtually any of those political steps that the U.S. has literally begged them to take.
HUCKABEE: Well, the Iraqi government certainly has not lived up to their needs or our expectations. And we're going to have to push harder. I think the fact that we're doing our part and doing it well gives us more credibility and more leverage to say the Iraqi government, "Look, we're doing our part. We have an expectation that you do theirs -- that you do yours." But one thing we've got to understand...
BLITZER: What if they don't? What if they don't, Governor? What if they don't do it?
HUCKABEE: ... is that there's a real problem with...
BLITZER: What if they don't do it?
HUCKABEE: Well, then I think we have reasons then to starting saying, "Here are our limits." Now, I don't think we ought to put a timeframe. This is not football with a clock. This is baseball and we have to play it to its conclusion.
And the fact is, we never want to announce to the enemy exactly how long we're going to stay because then we've already lost. They don't have to beat us. They just have to outlast us. And that's not a strategy that the United States could ever play.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move to some of the presidential politics of the week. Fred Thompson decided he was going to be an official presidential candidate, the former senator from Tennessee. He didn't show up at the Republican presidential debate. He had some other things he wanted to do. I'm going to play a little clip from that debate of some of the statements made by and you your colleagues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Maybe we're up past his bedtime.
HUCKABEE: Maybe Senator Thompson will be known as the no-show for the presidential debates.
FORMER MAYOR RUDOLPH W. GIULIANI, R-NEW YORK CITY: I think he's done a pretty good job of playing my part on "Law & Order."
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: Why the hurry? Why not take some more time off?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, who does he help and who does he hurt? There's a general consensus that another strong conservative like Fred Thompson helps Rudy Giuliani because it sort of divides that conservative base -- you and Romney and others. Do you agree with that assessment?
HUCKABEE: I don't know where Fred stands on a lot of issues. That's why I think we were disappointed he didn't show up for the debate, because then he would have had to have defended his record and his positions, just like the rest of us have in the first five debates that we've already participated in.
But Fred did say that he wanted Lincoln/Douglas style debates. He said he would participate in those. I've taken him up on his offer and suggested that he and I go to it, maybe in New Hampshire.
And I hope he'll honor what he said on the Jay Leno show and be serious about that because I think it would be great for the American people. I've signed Newt Gingrich's pledge to take on nine 90-minute debates. I think that's a great idea and it's the kind of discussion that, frankly, the American people would benefit from.
BLITZER: Well, we welcome all of you guys here on CNN to do that debate at the right moment.
Here's what you said -- I saw it this morning in the new issue just coming out of U.S. News & World Report in an interview with you. On Senator Thompson, you said, "I'm distinctly different -- an executive position as a governor, not a Senate position, don't have a Washington address, never been a lobbyist, never been paid to lobby for a pro-abortion group." You're referring to Senator Thompson when he worked for a law firm, giving some advice to a pro-abortion group. So what do you mean by that? Should he be persona non grata among Republicans?
HUCKABEE: No, not persona non grata, but he's got to defend decisions that he made. And I know that he said, "Well, lawyers take on clients that sometimes they don't believe in." Lawyers can also say no. And if it's a matter of conscience, if it's something that gets to the very heart and soul of an issue like the sanctity of human life, I think if he's genuinely all the way to the bone convinced that it's wrong, then you just say, "You know, there are some case I just don't choose to take."
This was not a court-ordered defense appointment from a judge. This was a choice that he made as an attorney. And he's going to have to defend that.
BLITZER: I'm going to show you some poll numbers because it shows you moving up in Iowa, New Hampshire. Nationally, you're still down at only 3 percent. We'll put that poll of polls as we have up there first. You have a problem nationally.
But if you go to Iowa, you see you've moved up to number three with 14 percent behind Romney and Giuliani. And if you go to New Hampshire, you're at 9 percent moving up. You're at number four just behind John McCain.
At the same time, I want to read to you what Mitt Romney is saying about your campaign. He said this: "If Huckabee raises $20 million this quarter, like we did in the first quarter, then he'll become a front-tier candidate." He says that in an interview with the Associated Press on Friday. Do you want to respond to Governor Romney?
HUCKABEE: Well, with all due respect, I appreciate his budget advice but we're not spending money like he is. We don't have to raise it, and we're getting where we're going by being frugal just like I would want to be with the Federal Treasury.
I would be worried if I were a voter if a person is spending millions and millions of dollars to barely be in double digits. I'd be beginning to think I don't want that person in charge of the Federal Treasury.
So we don't really let Governor Romney decide our campaign budget and neither do we let him decide our campaign message. But I appreciate the advice that he's offered to us.
BLITZER: How's the money situation coming in?
HUCKABEE: It's much better as a result of the Iowa straw poll. That gave us some credibility, Wolf, that we certainly needed. And I think it showed that there is a separation between our campaign and some of the others and that we're gaining traction. We're on the trajectory we want to be on. We're hiring staff, not laying people off. And we're on the path up, not down.
And we're certainly not sitting still or static. And, you know, we've seen this all along, like a marathon, a long race that requires some stamina. And it's want just a matter of a few explosions along the way. We wanted a slow, steady, but upward burn.
BLITZER: And if you do become president of the United States, you will be the second U.S. president from a place called Hope -- Hope, Arkansas. Governor Huckabee, thanks for coming in.
HUCKABEE: Thank you, Wolf. Pleasure to be back on the program.
BLITZER: Appreciate it.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Transcript - Mike Huckabee on Late Edition
at 7:06 PM