Sunday, December 09, 2007
9 Dec 2007 19:50 Africa/Lagos
NEWSWEEK COVER: Holy Huckabee!
Presidential Hopeful Mike Huckabee Says Being Attacked 'Means You're Doing Better'
Huckabee: His Many Sides and Record as Governor Are Good Indicators of How He Would be as President
NEW YORK, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire/ --
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee tells Newsweek he is about more than religion. "When people think I am a one-dimensional person, I realize they haven't done their homework on me ... I've been a governor for 10 years, and to have the resume I've built over that time on education, health care, transportation, the environment and jobs ... all that stuff is important and says a lot about what kind of governor I was and what kind of president I would be."
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20071209/NYSU002 )
In the December 17 Newsweek cover story "Holy Huckabee!" (on newsstands Monday, December 10), White House Correspondent Holly Bailey and Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff delve into how Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister, once the butt of political jokes, has slowly amassed a sizeable lead over Mitt Romney, once the double-digit front runner. In the new Newsweek poll, Huckabee is the top pick among 39 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers, compared with Romney's 17 percent.
Huckabee has spent less than $400,000 in Iowa, compared with Romney's estimated $7 million. Huckabee's new status as a frontrunner in Iowa has gotten him the kind of attention he once dreamed of. He jokes that he used to have trouble getting anyone to take his picture with a cell phone. Now he is chased by reporters and television crews wherever he goes. Political rivals such as Romney have also stopped ignoring him. He has recently come at Huckabee saying he is soft on taxes and illegal immigrants. Huckabee doesn't necessarily mind the attack. "The other campaigns are just in almost frantic mode cranking out negative releases and throwing oppo research," he tells Newsweek. "Being ignored is sometimes more pleasant, but being attacked means you're doing better."
Attacks from party rivals over his views on immigration, however, are not his only worries. Another problem for Huckabee could be questions over the many pardons and clemencies he granted to Arkansas criminals such as Wayne DuMond. In 1999, DuMond, a convicted rapist, was released from prison by the Arkansas parole board. In 1984, DuMond had brutally assaulted a 17-year-old girl. Before the trial, masked men attacked him and cut off his testicles, leaving him bleeding on the floor. His assailants were never caught. DuMond was given life in prison, a sentence some believed was excessive, especially given the brutality of the attack against him. In 1992, Gov. Jim Guy Tucker commuted DuMond's sentence to 39-1/2 years, making him eligible for parole. In 1999, DuMond won his release. The next year he was arrested again for sexually assaulting and murdering another woman.
DuMond died in prison as he awaited trial. Huckabee believed that DuMond had found God in prison and, soon after taking office as governor, announced he intended to commute DuMond's sentence to time served. Huckabee said he ultimately never took action in the case. But several members of the state parole board said that Huckabee had pressured them to sign DuMond's release papers at a meeting in 1996.
The moralist candidate who has made character the foundation of his campaign is having a far harder time explaining away persistent questions about his alleged ethics lapses as governor. While in the statehouse, Huckabee faced 16 ethics complaints that resulted in $1,000 in fines for failing to properly report outside income and payments from his campaign fund. But no complaint was more controversial than his involvement with a secretive nonprofit group called Action America. In 1994, a group of Huckabee supporters set up Action America to help the new lieutenant governor advance his political career. At the time, Huckabee was broke. He'd spent everything he had on his failed Senate race. During Huckabee's time as lieutenant governor, the group raised $119,916. Of that, according to tax returns, $71,500 was paid directly to Huckabee as payment for speeches and traveling expenses. When the press discovered the fund, Huckabee refused to disclose the names of Action America's donors-oddly claiming at the time that doing so would somehow violate federal law.
"It's not like there was something nefarious going on," Huckabee tells Newsweek. "It was an upfront, legitimate effort to travel around and drive up interest in politics." In fact, there was a bit more to it than that. Two of Action America's directors, J. J. Vigneault and Greg Graves-both former Huckabee political consultants-tell Newsweek that the group was substantially funded by one source: R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant. Vigneault and Graves say the company hoped to use Huckabee's political skills to drum up grass- roots opposition to the national health-care plan then being pushed by First Lady Hillary Clinton. The two Action directors say Reynolds pitched in $40,000, making it the fund's largest contributor. Vigneault says the idea for the group was hatched in the Admirals Club of the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, where Huckabee had mentioned his financial troubles to Vigneault. Huckabee tells Newsweek he had "no idea" where the funds came from. "I don't even know who all the donors were." Vigneault says details of the fund were worked out at a meeting with a Reynolds executive that took place inside Huckabee's Little Rock apartment: "Hell, Huckabee had some ideas. He thought we needed to play up that this was the first step to socialized medicine."
The cover package also includes a column by Editor Jon Meacham discussing the growing focus on Huckabee and Romney's religious beliefs and how this will impact the upcoming caucuses. During a telephone interview with Romney, Meacham asks about his speech on faith and why he did not explicitly extend the definition of religious liberty to those who believe nothing at all. "I think it spoke for itself ... but of course it includes all, all forms of personal conviction," Romney said. "Well, the people who don't have a particular faith have a personal conviction. I said all forms of personal conviction. And personal conviction includes a sense of right and wrong and any host of beliefs someone might have. Obviously in this nation our religious liberty includes the ability to believe or not believe." Meacham opines that the "politics of the primary season probably kept him from making himself clear from the start: to offer a hand to atheists and agnostics, while presidential, would do him little good and possibly much harm, with the Iowa voters he needs."
Miami Bureau Chief Arian Campo-Flores profiles Janet Huckabee, who has long been known as a straight-talking, independent-minded good ole gal with a daredevil streak and a passion for the outdoors was dubbed the "First Tomboy" when her husband was governor.
Cover: Holy Huckabee!
A Pastor's True Calling
Wife of the Preacher Man
Jon Meacham: A New American Holy War
'This Is Who Mike Huckabee Is'
Read cover story at www.Newsweek.com
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