Heading into a major forum this weekend for “values voters,” Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee complained that some Christian leaders haven’t endorsed him because they “are more intoxicated with power than principle.”
In an interview with “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” on PBS, the former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister shared frustration with people who say they like him personally but don’t believe he can raise enough money or win over presumed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I think that some of them, frankly, are more intoxicated with power than principle, and I know that’s a pretty outrageous if not rather bold statement to make, but I think it’s the truth,” Huckabee said.
“Some have become so acquainted now with power and have been so close to it that they forget that the purpose for which they got involved in politics was not to be close to power; it was to speak the truth to power,” Huckabee said. “It was to hold those in power, to hold their feet to the fire over issues they said got them involved and motivated.”
Huckabee said he hears “so-called Christian leaders” who say: “Well, we love Huckabee. He really agrees with us, and he’s one of us in terms of views. But, you know, we’re looking for somebody that we’re confident is going to win.”
Huckabee had two messages for those people.
“First, a lot of these people, if they would get behind me, I’d be winning right now, and I think I will ultimately without them,” he said. “But secondly, if they really are principled, it’s not about who might win, it’s about who stands with us.”
Huckabee said such people “have forgotten the essence of what Jesus taught, and that is if you gain the whole world but lose your soul what does it profit you?”
Huckabee is scheduled to appear before an expected 2,000 social conservatives at an Oct. 19-20 Washington “values voter summit” briefing along with other Republican presidential hopefuls Sam Brownback, Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo and Fred Thompson.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, one of the sponsors of the event, told reporters last week he is “very optimistic” that one or two candidates will emerge from the briefing as a consensus candidate for religious conservatives.
In a conference call last week with reporters, Perkins reportedly said earlier reports that Christian leaders might consider a third-party candidate if Giuliani, who is pro-choice on abortion, is the Republican nominee were “misconstrued.”
Another Religious Right leader, Gary Bauer, sent an e-mail last week asking pro-life and pro-family Christians to “keep an open mind” about the candidacy of former Sen. Fred Thompson.
According to the Washington Times, both Bauer and Perkins said while Thompson is not a regular churchgoer, neither was Ronald Reagan, an icon for the Religious Right.
Another conservative leader said Bauer’s e-mail violated a pact among top social conservatives not to endorse a candidate until after the values voter summit, Oct. 21. According to the Times, Randy Brinson of Redeem the Vote said the meeting came amid fears that conservatives would rally behind Huckabee and organizations run by Perkins and James Dobson would become irrelevant.
Dobson, who is also a scheduled speaker at this week’s Washington briefing, has said he will not support Thompson.
In his PBS interview, Huckabee said he thinks Christian Right leaders are afraid of losing their place at the table. The tragedy, he said, is that some candidates will give lip service to get elected but won’t waste time and capital after they are elected because the Christian agenda really isn’t their agenda.
“A person maybe runs for office, and he goes and presents himself to that Christian community for votes,” he said. “But there’s a difference if that person comes from that Christian community in really understanding it. It comes down to whether the language of the church is a second language for the candidate or if it’s the native tongue.”
Huckabee also said he thinks it is healthy that more Democrats are talking openly about faith.
“I don’t worry about people who talk about their faith,” he said. “I worry about people who say they have it but they refuse to say that it affects them. To me that’s disingenuous, or it’s somehow indicative of a person who’s almost ashamed of his or her faith.”
Huckabee said he “would rather a person be honest and be an atheist than claim to be a Christian but then act like they can’t talk about it ’cause they’re almost embarrassed to bring it up.”
Huckabee said he doesn’t think Democrats talking more about faith will hurt the Republican base of religious voters, but “if it does, it does” and it is “still a good thing.”
Huckabee also said he supports expanding the “values agenda” beyond the hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage used to rally religious voters in the last presidential election, to incorporate other issues, like the environment.
“As Christian believers, we ought to be concerned about the environment,” he said. “I think, frankly, the Christian community has a lot to answer for, for not being stronger advocates of better care of the planet for the simple reason that if I’m true to my faith, I don’t believe this world belongs to me. Last time I checked it wasn’t mine. It belongs to the Creator, and I get to live here. I’m, let’s say, a guest, a visitor, but I don’t have the right to tear it up, not leave it in good shape for the next generation.”
On Monday Huckabee’s Web site posted an endorsement by James Robison of Life Outreach International. Robison, a Christian talk-show host and a former leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, said he has personally known Huckabee for more than 30 years and vouched for him as a “man of character,” who is “exactly who he appears to be.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
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Bob Allen was the managing editor at EthicsDaily.com from 2003-2009, writing more than 1,500 news stories during his tenure. He is currently the news editor at Baptist News Global.