Mike Huckabee is a former governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor. In 2008 and 2016, he ran for the Republican presidential nomination. In his first run, Huckabee surprised many observers when he won the second largest number of delegates behind eventual Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Huckabee dropped out of the 2016 race after a dismal performance during Iowa caucuses, which he won in 2008.
An avowed Christian evangelical, Huckabee argues that Americans must fear God if people in other parts of the world are to fear America. "I never want this country to get to the place where people do not fear the United States of America. But I don't want to get to the place where this country does not fear God because if we don't fear God, nobody will fear us," he said at a 2014 Florida event. Huckabee went on to proclaim that the United States was founded by God. "God help us all when we cannot understand that a nation that has turned its back on our Founder—and I'm not talking about George Washington, I'm talking about the fact that this nation would not exist apart from the intervention and providence of a Holy God."
Huckabee is a vociferous critic of President Barack Obama. In early 2015, he wildly claimed: "Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he's against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community. It doesn't matter whether it's the radical Muslim community or the more moderate Muslim community."
Huckabee has gone so far as to urge young Americans not to serve in the military until Obama leaves office. "Wait a couple of years until we get a new commander-in-chief that will once again believe 'one nation under God,' and believe that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing this country, but defending this country," Huckabee told a talk-radio host in April 2015.
In a November 2015 interview, Huckabee claimed that Obama is "more interested in protecting the reputation of Islam than he is the American people."
Huckabee has also claimed that President Obama was raised in Kenya, saying in 2011: "His perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya, is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather."
After President Obama issued an executive order on bolstering the background check system on gun sales in January 2015, Huckabee declared: "Americans should go out and buy a new gun—and to improve your accuracy, you can take aim at Washington stupidity, blow holes in ridiculous government programs and shred our unfair tax code with a customized shooting target."
His words spurred sharp criticism, including from the Des Moines Register, which opined: "Regardless of whether Huckabee meant to imply that citizens should take up arms to express their dissatisfaction with the president, he should have known that's precisely the message some individuals would take from it. We expect more from presidential candidates, particularly those who wear their piety on their sleeve."
2016 Presidential Campaign
After his 2008 campaign, Huckabee maintained a high public profile by joining Fox News as a pundit. "He built himself into a political force as a governor and presidential candidate, and then cashed in on his celebrity to become a pundit. Now that he wants to get back into politics, he's doing it as a conservative pundit would: by appealing to the petty resentments of his party's base and generating headlines with 'outrageous' remarks," commented Salon.
Like many of the candidates in the 2016 GOP primary—including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Donald Trump—Huckabee staked out staunchly militarist and interventionist positions on foreign policy. He claimed that "America's leadership in the world has completely evaporated" under Obama and declared that if elected he would "lead with moral clarity in a dangerous world" and "conquer" jihadism.
After failing to register many votes in the Iowa caucuses, an evangelical stronghold, Huckabee suspended his campaign. "I am officially suspending my campaign. Thank you for all your loyal support," he tweeted at the time. He was rumored to be weighing an endorsement of Donald Trump, though when asked about it the former governor said "that's nonsense."
Foreign Policy Views
Huckabee, who believes that "God has protected" Israel, is described by theWashington Post as "nuts about Israel." He has travelled to Israel so many times that he "can't remember how many trips exactly." He is also closely affiliated with several hardline "pro-Israel" groups. In 2015, he was a featured speaker at the annual summit of the right-wing evangelical Christians United for Israel in Washington. During a 2015 trip to Israel, Huckabee organized an event with Morton Kleinof the hawkish Zionist Organization of America, who told the group that there is no "such thing as the 'Palestinians.'"
An opponent of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he describes as "irrational and unworkable," Huckabee has berated President Obama for purportedly "putting more pressure on our ally Israel to cease building bedrooms for their families in Judea and Samaria than we do on Iran for building a bomb," using the preferred nomenclature of the Jewish settler movement for the Occupied West Bank.
Regarding a potential future Palestinian state, Huckabee has said: "If there's a two-state solution, the Palestinian state needs to be outside the boundaries of the nation of Israel. There's plenty of land in the world where we can find a place and say, 'Okay, let's create a Palestinian state.'"
In August 2015, Huckabee claimed that the West Bank is not "occupied," stating: "That makes it appear as if someone is illegally taking land. I don't see it that way."
Quipped CNN's Jeremy Diamond: "Huckabee's statements—during a trip to Israel—fly in the face of international law and longstanding U.S. policy, which consider the West Bank as occupied territory and the construction of additional settlements in that territory illegal."
Huckabee also opposed the Obama administration's negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, deriding them as "terrible" and likening a diplomatic settlement with Iran to giving a "pyromaniac" a "10-gallon gas can and a book of matches." After a comprehensive nuclear deal was reached between Iran and the P5+1 world powers in July 2015, Huckabee spurred widespread criticism for claiming the deal would "take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."
His comments were condemned by numerous Jewish organizations, including the staunchly "pro-Israel" Anti-Defamation League, which said the remarks were "completely out of line and unacceptable." The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) issued a strong denunciation of Huckabee as well, saying his comments "may be the most inexcusable we've encountered in recent memory." An NJDC statement added: "To state that President Obama is leading Israelis 'to the door of the oven' is not only disgustingly offensive to the president and the White House, but shows utter, callous disregard for the millions of lives lost in the Shoah and to the pain still felt by their descendants today." Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, a staunch rightwinger closely allied to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also stated that he did not think Huckabee's comments were "appropriate."
According to one observer at the time: "Some pundits have questioned whether Huckabee's recent comments were part of an attempt to ratchet up the rhetoric to get noticed by potential voters, who according to polls favor Donald Trump." Similarly, President Obama said of the remarks: "When you get rhetoric like this, maybe it gets attention, and maybe it's just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it's not the kind of leadership that's needed for America right now."
In a November 2015 interview with rightwing radio host Hugh Hewitt, Huckabee referred to the Iran nuclear deal as the "most disastrous and dangerous deal in the history of the United States."
During the same interview, he expressed support for Russian military intervention in Syria. "If he's [Russian President Vladimir Putin] he's willing to shoot at the same people we're wanting to shoot at, good. We have a common target … if Putin is willing to help us eradicate radical Islam from the face of the Earth, then on that, he's our friend. He may not be our friend on the invasion of Crimea, or the taking of Ukraine, or other desires to expand. But those are arguments for another time."
Huckabee has also voiced opposition to the Obama administration's efforts at détente with Cuba, even though he supported lifting the Cuban embargo as Arkansas governor in 2002 on the basis that it would have helped rice farmers in his state.