Mike Huckabee: I Would Be in a 'Very Good Position' to Beat Obama in 2012

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 22, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The unprecedented expansion of government ushered in by this president has made many of us forget about the limited government envisioned by our founding fathers or even some of our more conservative presidents.

Now with an administration that claims government should take responsibility for everything from health care to the banking industry, it is easy to forget exactly what Uncle Sam should be taking responsibility for and what things it should keep out of.

A brand new book is reminding us of the answer to that very important question. It is "A Simple Government: 12 Things We Really Need From Government and a Trillion That We Do Not." The author, former Arkansas governor, host of "Huckabee" right here on the Fox News Channel, Governor Mike Huckabee.

Governor, good to see you.


I'd shake your hand but I don't want to get you sick.

Well, I would usually ask this question last, but I'm going to ask it first. I read this book and I say Mike Huckabee is thinking about running for president.

HUCKABEE: Of course I'm thinking about it. You know, I read all these stories the reporters write and they say, you know, it's definite that he's not running. I'm thinking, really? Somebody should have asked me. Of course I'm thinking about it. It's just that I haven't made a decision.

HANNITY: All right, but I would say six months ago when I asked you, you were reluctant.

HUCKABEE: I'm probably less likely inclined.

HANNITY: What has changed? Is it the poll numbers that have been very favorable to you?

HUCKABEE: Well, I think there are a couple of things. The poll numbers certainly have been favorable. I've been leading in polls nationally as well as in a number of key states, but another thing is, you know, I finished this book, I looked at and I say, you know, by golly, these ideas could help change this country.

Honestly, I step back from it. You know, when you write a book you get almost tired of it and you step back and you read it and you say, this is what I really believe, this is what I stand for and maybe I should put it out there and find out if there are people in this country who agree with it.

HANNITY: See, I agree with your assessment. You've been one of the few who have been honest about this. I think anybody who thinks beating Obama is going to be a cakewalk is out of their mind. I think, first of all, we don't know what the events are going to be.


HANNITY: We don't know what the economy is going to be like. We don't know what the world situation is going to be like. Up to now I think he's been a failure. But, you know, there might be some events that change people's attitudes on a dime.

HUCKABEE: The Republicans might save him, by that I mean that the Republicans in the House might make enough what I would call sensible votes and actually prevent him from doing some bizarre things like Obamacare and could put him pack in the game.

But here's the reality, I think he can be beat. I frankly think that I would be in a very good position to do it because I believe that standing head-to-head with him, articulating the very clear decisive difference between our positions would be a great contrast. It is the process of getting to that nomination that is tough.

HANNITY: You talked about the most important form of government is a mother and father and family. Maybe you are not in Michelle Obama's camp that we have to, you know, literally gravitate towards what we put in every cafeteria and every school all across the country.

HUCKABEE: Well, Sean, we have a lot of people saying we don't want to talk about social ideas, but the social ideas matter for this reason. The first form of government any of us face is the government called family, mother, father, raising kids. That's where we learn the basic rules of what is right and wrong.

HANNITY: I'm responsible for what my kids eat? I'm responsible for if they exercise? I'm responsible if they get educated? I always thought the government did all that.

HUCKABEE: And you should be so responsible that you pick their educational environment that is best of them, if you choose the home school, if you choose the private school, if you choose public school.

HANNITY: What if I want them pray? Am I allowed to let them pray anymore?

HUCKABEE: I think you ought to teach them to pray. The problem that we have in this country is we don't have enough kids who believe there is a God to pray to.

HANNITY: Well, I think you say -- you talk in the book about the need to return more to local government. I think this is a classic example. I don't need the nanny state -- with all due respect to the first lady, don't tell me what I ought to be feeding my kids. Let the local school districts handle this. You know, why does the federal government have to get involved in telling our kids what they can and cannot eat? What's in the cafeteria?

HUCKABEE: I don't think that's even her plan. I will say this, the federal government is already involved with USDA funding and the subsidies that they give to schools. It makes sense they would put healthy food out, but I don't want the government telling any parent, here's what your kids can or can't eat.

But more importantly, when you talk about local government, I call this the part of simple government where I say the further you drift from shore, the more likely you are to be lost at sea. The further you are from the source being governed, the more like you are to get it wrong. And that's way the more federal government we have and the less local government we have, the more likely we are to mess it all up.

HANNITY: You know, this is a compliment. This book is simple.

HUCKABEE: It was meant so that members of Congress could understand it. I know that really breaks it down to a simple point.

HANNITY: No, but the point when you say, all right, you can't spend what you don't have. You can't borrow what you can't pay back. I'm thinking, OK, this is simple common sense.

We are now headed financially, you can't spend what you don't have, $14 trillion in debt and now the big battle is Democrats are saying Republicans are going to want to shutdown the government because they are not going to raise the debt ceiling. Should we raise the debt ceiling if we don't have the money?

HUCKABEE: No, we shouldn't raise the debt ceiling unless we cut the expenses. It's insane to continue to think -- and the way I try to outline these issues is believing that most of the time you hear people say it is too complex, we can't even deal with it.

Of course, we can. Back up, look at it from the macro lens and then apply a basic common sense principle. So we know that you cannot spend money you don't have personally. You can't do it as a private business. Guess what, we've got to make sure the government understands that. And this idea you are going to shut the government down, this just in -- the government is going to be shut down permanently if we don't do something to arrest the incredible debt we have.

HANNITY: Do you think what see in Wisconsin with the protesting, do you think what we see in Ohio with the protesting, which we'll discuss more in our panel. Do you think what we see in Greece, what we saw in Paris when they were adjusting the retirement age, do you think that is coming to America?

HUCKABEE: I think it is already in America.

HANNITY: Because I do. No, but, I mean, when we have to start austerity measures, are Americans going to take to the streets because they feel they were promised certain things by the government that are unsustainable?

HUCKABEE: Frankly, there are some things that people may hate my book because I say we have to raise this age of Social Security. That's not an if anymore, it's got to happen.

HANNITY: Means tested?

HUCKABEE: Whether we means test or not, Medicare and all these programs are going to have to be revamped --

HANNITY: I'll get Social Security three days before I die?

HUCKABEE: You know what I think we ought to do? A guy like you, a guy like me, don't get a Social Security check, get a one-time buy-out when you hit retirement age, tax free. You do anything you want to with it and the government is done with you.

HANNITY: I'd take it.

HUCKABEE: Of course, I would too. Most Americans would if they have their own pension plan.

HANNITY: How about letting me opt-out now and then keep the money I paid them. Why don't I just keep it, I don't want it. Then I don't have to pay anymore.

HUCKABEE: There you go. The point is, you know, we keep hearing about that 60 is the new 40. Sean, if that is true then let's adjust the retirement age. If it's really true that we are all living longer and we are and we feel better and we are healthier at 60 than we used to be at 40, then let's act like it and build our government entitlement programs accordingly.

HANNITY: You talk about health care in the book. You talk about national defense, the educational system, good fences make good borders. A lot of good stuff in there, so --

HUCKABEE: I've seen the Israeli border and the fence that so many people around the international community hate. But guess what, there aren't any suicide bombers anymore. You know why, because they built the fence. You want to fix the border security issue, I'm sorry, got to build a fence. It just makes sense.

HANNITY: All right, Governor, 41 cities, good luck. We'll see you when you get back. You will be 10 pounds heavier because you're eating on the road.

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