LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The U.S. shouldn't try to kill Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Mike Huckabee declared when he first ran for office. No women in combat anywhere. No gays in the military. No contributions in politics to candidates more than a year before an election.
His statements are among 229 answers Huckabee offered as a 36-year-old Texarkana pastor during his first run for political office in 1992. In that unsuccessful race against Sen. Dale Bumpers, Huckabee offered himself as a social conservative and listed "moral decay" as one of the top problems facing the country.
Now that he's a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, he's being asked anew about some of the views and comments he expressed in the survey by The Associated Press. Over the weekend, he said he wouldn't retract answers in which he advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, opposed increased funding for finding a cure and said homosexuality could pose a public health risk — though he said today he might phrase his answers "a little differently."
Some of the words in his answers to the questionnaire are indeed strong.
Asked about gays in the military, for example, he didn't just reject the idea but added: "I believe to try to legitimize that which is inherently illegitimate would be a disgraceful act of government. I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."
Earlier this year, Huckabee said, "Nobody's going to find some YouTube moments of me saying something radically different than what I'm saying today."
The full questionnaire offers in written form a chance for voters to see what he was saying as he bagan his political career.
In the questionnaire, he:
— Called for the elimination of political action committees and campaign contributions from lobbyists. He also said candidates should not be allowed to receive contributions until one year before an election and said there should be limits on the amount of out-of-state money they could accept.
As Arkansas governor, Huckabee formed a political action committee based in Virginia to raise money for non-federal candidates that allowed him to travel and raise his profile for a potential presidential run. The Hope for America PAC shut down earlier this year as Huckabee entered the White House race.
— Said he would not support any tax increases if elected to the Senate. Huckabee's record of raising some taxes as Arkansas' governor has drawn fire from fiscal conservatives in the presidential race.
— When asked whether the U.S. should take any action to kill Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Huckabee replied: "The U.S. should not kill Saddam Hussein or anyone else." The U.S. military captured Saddam, an Iraqi court convicted him and he was hanged last December.
— Rejected the idea of women in combat "because of my strong traditional view that women should be treated with respect and dignity and not subject to the kinds of abuses that could occur in combat."
— Said living together out of wedlock "is demeaning to the highest expression of human love and commitment. I reject it as an alternate lifestyle, because it robs people of the highest possible relationship one can experience: marriage."
— Said he believed no one has a constitutional right to an abortion and supported requiring minors to obtain parental consent. Huckabee also said he supported requiring doctors to discuss abortion alternatives and a waiting period.
Huckabee's vocal opposition to gay marriage and abortion have attracted evangelical Christians' support and vaulted him to the top of the field in Iowa.
But some of his earlier comments offer a harder-edged presentation of those stances than he has presented as he's tried to portray himself as a conservative who won't "scare the living daylights" out of moderates and independents.
"I think the model he saw that had been successful in other Southern states was this very hard right message and that's what seemed to be the most natural for him," Hendrix College Political Scientist Jay Barth said when asked about the AP questionnaire.
"He's become much smarter about successfully using language that expresses views without being hard-edged," Barth said.
Now that he's a front-runner, Huckabee himself said Tuesday he expected more attention to be paid to his years in Arkansas.
"When you're a governor for ten and half years you make thousands of decisions every year," he said. "In office that long you're going to have a lot of decisions people can pore through. The good thing for me is a lot of campaigns instead of spending money on advertising or even campaigning, since they don't seem to have a lot of activity, are spending an enormous amount of money hiring researchers to dig through every piece of paper that was filed in Arkansas."
Huckabee's 1992 comments on isolating AIDS patients run counter to a statement he released last month calling for increased federal funds to find a cure. Huckabee says the earlier remarks came at a time when there was confusion about how AIDS could be transmitted.
He said Tuesday he would be willing to speak with the family of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who died of AIDS in the 1980s and whose mother has objected to the 1992 Huckabee comments.
"It's so alarming to me," Jeanne White-Ginder said in an interview with the AP.
Huckabee said when asked about the family on Tuesday, "I would be very willing to meet with them. I would tell them we've come a long way in research, in treatment. I certainly never would want to say anything that would be hurtful to them or anyone else. I would have great regret and anxiety if I thought my comments were hurtful or in any way added to the already incredible pain that families have felt regardless of how they contracted AIDS."
On other subjects in the questionnaire, Huckabee:
— Said he had never smoked marijuana or "experimented with any illegal drug." In fact, he said he had never used any tobacco products because of "a very sensitive allergy" and would support a smoking ban in public places.
— Opposed passing a law that would give workers time off to care for an ailing family member. In 1993, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a close relative with a serious health condition or if the employee could not work due to health problems.
— When asked about the nomination hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Huckabee said: "I watched or listened to many hours of the Thomas hearings and was firmly convinced that the preponderance of testimony backed up Clarence Thomas."
— Called the federal welfare system "disgraceful" and said the burden should be shifted from the federal government to local communities.