Before Sarah Palin, one of the biggest surprises of the 2008 election season was the success of the Mike Huckabee campaign. The former Arkansas governor and senior pastor ended up the last man standing next to John McCain in the effort to achieve the Republican Party nomination, outdoing more noted candidates like Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney... on a smaller budget.

Huckabee has never shied away from his faith, even when - as he admits in his newest book, Do the Right Thing - it has often caused him to receive naught but token morality or do-you-believe-in-evolution questions in debates. But Mike Huckabee, as this interviewer learned in reading Do the Right Thing, has so much more to say, so many more ideas for a better America where individuals would be better prepared to practice self-government, to be taxed at point of consumption rather than point of income or status, and where those in authority are more in touch with the common man than the country club crowd.

We caught up with Governor Huckabee - who has said repeatedly that it's too early to tell whether he will run again in 2012 - while he was somewhere between Florida and Kentucky on his book tour, which unfortunately for him is happening right in the middle of one of his favorite times of year in his home state...

Crosswalk: Governor, do I understand correctly that you are away on book tour during Arkansas duck season?

Mike Huckabee: Well, I'm telling you, this is very painful. I'm going to miss duck season until the week of December 21st, which is not easy for me to accept. But the book hit number five on the New York Times' best-seller list its first week and that was a little bit of a comfort, but otherwise, I'd just have to say, "Guys, forget it. I'm going duck hunting."

CW: I hope you do get some in at the end of the month, and congratulations on the success of the book. Most of my questions for you today, sir, are in regards to Do the Right Thing, but with the news of cabinet appointments this week - and how you've been noted as having been gracious to and optimistic about our president-elect - how do you feel about the appointments Barack Obama has made?

MH: I think he's made some very smart choices. He's shown his wisdom in bringing in experienced people who can help him from the very beginning. Sometimes a president brings so many new people they don't even know how to find the paper clips. He's bringing in people who truly understand how the White House works, how Congress works; I think that's smart on his part. I also think that picking people like Hillary Clinton to be in the cabinet's a brilliant move. It's like the Godfather said in the movie, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." So he's neutralized any opposition that Hillary might have provided for his administration in these early days. I think it was a stroke of genius.

CW: You recount so many valuable lessons from your months on the campaign trail in Do the Right Thing - ones that not only shaped you personally and your strategy, but ones that are valuable to individuals and society. Which lesson from the campaign sticks with you the most?

MH: I think the most important lesson was just how great a country this is, and how hard people around America are working, and how they really don't want a lot from their government other than to be left alone. They're not participating in politics because they want more involvement with government; they're not expecting an appointment to the ambassadorship of France, or a sleepover in the Lincoln bedroom. They don't expect to be seated next to the First Lady during the State of the Union address. They just want to be able to pick their kids' schools. They want to be able to get a paycheck and know that the government isn't going to take most of it away from them. They'd like to be able to live in a safe neighborhood and know that if they work really hard, that their work will pay off in increased prosperity for themselves and their families.


CW:
On page 31, when you're talking about that government in the chapter "The Best Government of All," you write that "having a moral code that is objective and consistent is necessary for a system" such as our government to work. "Should each person have ability to define his or her own 'code,' order completely falls apart." We see that dilemma of post-modernism every day - people and groups defining their own morality. Is there a solution, and if so, does it involve more looking to the past, or moving forward?

MH: Well it's moving forward, but our moving forward is also rooted in understanding that the strength of America comes from people who live within a moral center of some things being right and some things being wrong. The chapter in my book that's called "The Best Government of All" really does remind us that all the government in the world can never substitute for self-government, governing myself, doing the right thing. Which is: to do unto others as I would wish for others to do unto me. And if we all live by that, we wouldn't really need any other laws; the legislature could go home, they wouldn't meet, they wouldn't create a bunch of government, and they wouldn't have to tax us very much because there just wouldn't be a lot of cost associated with things if we properly governed ourselves.

CW: And yet, how do we create a society wherein people again begin to govern themselves?

MH: It starts at home. This is not something we can elect people to do for us. Mothers and fathers raise kids, and they need to be able to raise them more than having governments raise them. But mothers and fathers have to be committed to universal and permanent, everlasting truth. All roads don't lead to the same place. I think that's a great fallacy. It sounds awfully warm and fuzzy, but it's just not true. Some roads lead to disaster. For example, we start re-defining things like Life and Family, Marriage, it may sound like we're just accommodating people's desires and being awfully kind about it, but it has disastrous consequences. Words have meanings, and institutions have meanings. And we need to respect and keep them.

CW: One of the things I really appreciated in your book was the clear way you explained the right to life Americans are guaranteed by the Constitution and how, in your words, that "culture of life is much broader than the simple notion that abortions are immoral." So, how broad is it, and do you believe Christians are overly concerned with just the abortion part of it?

MH: I think there has been, maybe, an emphasis on the unborn, and that's maybe obvious, but we have to make sure that people understand that a committment to pro-life is not just during the gestation period; that the 80-year-old woman in hospice care is just as deserving and frankly just as in need of our respect of the sanctity of her life as we would be of an 8-month-old unborn child in the mother's womb. It's critically important that we realize that the heart of the pro-life movement - and I talk about this in my chapter called "What is it about 'Created Equal' You Don't Understand?" - that the real issue of being pro-life is accepting the intrinsic worth and value of each human life, whether that life is in the womb, whether it's an 8-year-old child, an 80-year-old grandmother, every life has worth and value. Nobody has a right to diminish or to destroy that precious life.

CW: Governor, you admit on page 55 that other issues outside of life and traditional marriage have become of concern among evangelicals, even if our beliefs have brought us to a condition of what you call being "politically homeless." You note that issues like poverty, AIDS, disease, and hunger have, for the better, come to the fore. Here at Crosswalk, we receive a lot of feedback suggesting the opposite - commenters often blame leaders like Rick Warren or certain social-minded conservatives for splintering our united interests on "more important" hardline issues, and perhaps even costing us the White House. How would you respond to that claim, sir?

MH: Well, I know Rick Warren very well. He was a seminary classmate of mine, and a dear friend. He is as pro-life as anybody I've ever met! He is as much for the traditon of marriage meaning one man and one woman as anybody. But, like me, Rick Warren believes that we also must address issues like hunger, poverty, and disease, and that to fail to do so is not really being pro-life! I can't say that I'm pro-life if I'm interested only in the child until he comes out of the birth canal. And then when he's starving to death or is wracked by a disease that we could have cured I say, "Hey, it's no longer my problem. Soon as he came out of the birth canal he's on his own." That's not being pro-life, so I would totally say that it's the Rick Warrens and Joel Hunters of the world that very much share my committment that bring pro-life is far more than just being anti-abortion.

CW: In your first eight chapters you describe a lot of the problems that we have as a society, or within the D.C. culture, or even as conservatives/Republicans/Christians. The remaining chapters then very much inspire and simplify, touching on everything from taxes to healthcare to volunteerism within a framework of what you call "vertical thinking" or "vertical politics." Can you elaborate a little bit on what you mean by this concept of verticality?

MH: In the chapter called "Let's Get Vertical" I point out that a lot of people in politics see everything in terms of left-right, liberal-conservative, democrat-republican - all on the horizontal plane. But the average American looks at life - and votes - vertically. They're not as concerned about where I am on the horizontal scale, they want to know: will I make the roads better? Will the schools get better? Will our borders get more secure? Will per capita income go up? And those are vertical issues; they don't really care whether a republican or a democrat gets it done. They just want to make sure that those things actually do get done.


CW:
One thing that was just a revelation to me in your book was the concept of the FairTax. That was so exciting. Is this something that you can truly forsee coming to fruition in our society?

MH: Oh, I really can. In fact, one of the things that I am very committed to, whether I ever run for an office again, is being a voice for the FairTax. I want to help people to understand it. I am convinced that if we could implement it, we could salvage our economy without a bunch of bailouts, and it would do so much to empower people economically - get them out of the hole and give them an opportunity to put food on their own family's table. I would hope that if people aren't really familiar with the FairTax, they would buy the book for that sole chapter. I think it will want to make them look more into the restructuring of our tax system, and I think they'd be on the phone or on the computer to their congressman saying, "Either get the FairTax or we'll fire you and get a congressman who will."

CW: You don't spend a whole lot of time in Do the Right Thing talking about the hot-button issue of gay marriage, though you do indicate in the FairTax chapter that one benefit would be that the FairTax is good for everyone, including homosexual couples. How so?

MH: When you're building a tax code based on sociological patterns, Congress always has the capacity to manipulate it. One of the arguments that many same-sex couples make is that the tax code favors married couples. In some cases it doesn't, but sometimes it does. My point is that if you have a consumption tax, you only pay taxes at point of consuming something.

Now, I'm an absolute unflinching traditional when it comes to marriage. I think it means only one thing: one man, one woman, relationships for life. And when we start re-defining it, we've stepped across a line. And I don't think we have the right or the power to say that marriage now means something different, something that it's never meant as long as we've had recorded human history, regardless of the religion or the culture. It troubles me when I hear people saying, "It doesn't matter what we call it." Well, it actually does matter what we call it, and I would argue that if we are going to allow same-sex marriage, then we also have to allow for multiple-spouse marriage - that a man could marry six or seven or 25 women if he wanted to, and a woman could marry multiple men. And people say, "No, no no, that's not what we're talking about," but once we've decided that you can define it to accommodate somebody's lifestyle, why would you accomodate same-sex couples and not a person who wants to have multiple wives? That seems to me even more arbitrary than what heterosexuals are accused of by wanting to keep marriage defined as a-man-and-a-woman relationship.

CW: Another quote that I loved from your book was on page 174 where you say that we don't have a healthcare problem, in so much as we have a health problem. And you've acknowledged that changing this culture could take more time than a president would have in even two terms of office. So who will lead the way, and could that even be a responsibility of Christianity or the Church?

MH: Oh, I think it would be great if the Church would take a very leading role in encouraging people toward healthy behavior. And there's two reasons. One is because it's a matter of good stewardship of the body, but secondly, as a spiritual person, I recognize that my body doesn't belong to me. It's not mine to do with what I want. I have no right to abuse it. I have no right to overfeed it or under-exercise it, or to pump smoke in that was never intended to be in my lungs. My life is not my own, it's been bought with a price. It's wholly on subsidiary once Jesus Christ became the Lord of my life. And I don't have a right to say, well, I can throw caution to the wind and live any way I want, do whatever I want to my body. I really don't have that right, and it's a sin against God for me to think I do.

CW: Governor, one final question: in looking at your website this morning I noticed a link to the Vertical Politics Institute. Can you tell us a little about that?

MH: We just established a foundation called The Vertical Politics Institute. The purpose is to develop good, solid public policy and try to put it into the hands of state and even national leglislators to get passed. What we want to do is put some of the finest and sharpest minds in the country together to write critical papers on the ways that we can improve our culture and society. We'll try to be involved and active in being a spokesperson for just causes wherever they are. And it's another opportunity to keep the motivation of the message behind this.

For more from Mike Huckabee, visit www.mikehuckabee.com, or watch his show, "Huckabee," on the Fox News Channel at 8 p.m. Saturday nights. You can order Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America, by clicking here.