ABC Grills Huckabee; Gushed over Clinton's 'Knowledge Base'

ABC's George Stephanopoulos highlighted adversarial quotes and characterizations for an interview with 2008 Republican candidate Mike Huckabee on Tuesday's "Good Morning America." The former Clinton operative quoted conservative Phyllis Schlafly as saying, "[Huckabee] destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas" and Betsy Hagen of the Eagle Forum who compared the GOP contender to Bill Clinton and labeled him a liberal. In a previous piece, ABC reporter Jake Tapper highlighted an American Spectator article that derided Huckabee as "a guy with a thin skin, a nasty vindictive streak and a long history of imbroglios about questionable ethics."

Now, one could argue that Stephanopoulos's critique hit Huckabee from the right and, by quoting Schlafly, questioned whether the former governor is conservative enough to be the GOP nominee. However, just two weeks ago ABC medical expert Dr. Tim Johnson conducted a fawning interview with Hillary Clinton over her health care plan. He lauded the Democrat for knowing "health care better, I think, than any other candidate" and gushed over how impressed he was with the New York senator's "knowledge base." She certainly didn't face any adversarial quotes about temperament and "questionable ethics."

To be fair, Stephanopoulos did offer some neutral questions and even this softball: "I know you had a big concert on Saturday night...Who's the one rock star you would just love to jam with before the end of this campaign?" And, certainly, hitting a GOP candidate on the issue of being conservative enough is valuable for Republican primary voters. But if Mike Huckabee is going to have to respond to such stinging critiques, it would be nice if Hillary Clinton faced reporters who do more than coo about her "knowledge base."

A transcript of the Stephanopoulos segment, which aired at 7:16am on October 30, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is where I began with Governor Huckabee, earlier this morning. Good morning, Huckabee. Boy, the better you do, the bigger the target you've become. Some of your old adversaries in Arkansas are stepping out now. Betsy Hagan of the Eagle Forum saying about you, 'He was pro-life and pro-gun, but otherwise a liberal. Just like Bill Clinton, he will charm you, but don't be surprised if he takes a completely different turn in office.' Phyllis Schlafly, 'He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas and left the Republican Party a shambles.' What do you say to that?

MIKE HUCKABEE: There are probably over a hundred Republican elected officials and appointed officials who are ready to counter that argument. So, sure, you can always find somebody that I made mad. You know, George, when you're governor 10 and a half years, as I used to say, you got to wake up every day and make ten new friends because you're going to lose seven by something you said or did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about more generally? It seems like the conservative Christian movement this year is having a hard time finding a candidate. And I was struck by the fact that right now, at least, Mayor Giuliani is the most popular candidate among white evangelicals and he's got a plurality of the Christian conservative vote. How do you explain that given his pro-choice, pro-gay rights positions? He's had three marriages. How do you explain that and what do you do about it?

HUCKABEE: Well, I don't know that I can explain it, except that there's a lot of anxiety about the prospect of Hillary becoming president. But what they sometimes forget is that nobody knows her better than me and nobody has successfully run against the Clinton political machine in Arkansas as I did not once, twice, three times, but four times and won.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the one-line case against Hillary?

HUCKABEE: Well, I think that people know that if Hillary is president, there's going to be a different focus on more taxes, more government, more intrusion into the lives of people in terms of government having more control than the private sector and that brings some anxiety. There's also the concern she's not going to be that strong on the Islamofascist movement we face as an enemy and I think there's just that sense of anxiety.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You look among white evangelicals. Last year, 80 percent said they would vote for President Bush. This time, only 60 percent say they're open to a Republican. Same thing for white Catholics, white main line Protestants. What is going on inside the Christian movement? You're a former minister.

HUCKABEE: Well, some of it, George is there's a maturing and seasoning within the evangelical world. Many of us, including me, believe that we've also got to address the issues that affect the poor. We can't just be-- We're for sanctity of life and we're for traditional of marriage. We also have to be conservationists and be good stewards of the Earth. We have to deal with issues like poverty and AIDS. And if we don't deal with those issues, we're really not being true to our own Christian calling. I think that's part of what's kind of what's happening in the movement.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you take it to the next step? How do you close the deal with Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani?

HUCKABEE: Well, obviously, I'm doing something right. And I think it shows that people are beginning to pay attention to the message. And in the last six days, we've raised more money online than we've raised in the first three months of the entire campaign. So, it's beginning to catch just at the right time as I had hoped and prayed it would.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you had a big concert on Saturday night. Who's the one -- Who's the one rock star you would just love to jam with before the end of this campaign?

HUCKABEE: You know, at some point, I want to be on stage with Keith Richards and just, you know, turn it loose. I think it would be pretty incredible to be on stage with somebody who has lasted, you know, longer than the entire rock era. I think that would be pretty slick.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I don't know if it would help your campaign, but it sounds like it would be a lot of fun. Governor, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

HUCKABEE: My pleasure, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Keith Richards at the inaugural ball? But you know, what he's hoping for, the breakout moment in Iowa like so many other candidates.

HUCKABEE: Keith Richards, Mike Huckabee what kind of spectrum is that? We'll be back.

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