In a January 29 article on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's (R) announcement that he would form a presidential exploratory committee, Washington Post staff writer Lois Romano reported that when "pressed" by Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press, "on whether he [Huckabee] would lead the United States to be a more Christian nation," Huckabee answered, "We are a nation of faith. It doesn't necessarily have to be mine." But the Post article omitted the context in which Russert put his question: Huckabee's statement came in response to two Huckabee quotes Russert read, including one in which Huckabee stated he wanted to "take this nation back for Christ."
Huckabee made the statements Russert quoted -- originally reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on June 8, 1998 -- at a Southern Baptist pastors' conference in 1998.
The Post article noted that Huckabee is a former Southern Baptist minister and has "publicly supported creationism" but did not make clear that Russert's question was based on statements that Huckabee had made. In fact, during the interview, Huckabee backtracked on his earlier statements, saying, "I'd probably phrase it a little differently today."
From the January 28 edition of Meet the Press:
RUSSERT: I want to ask you a couple things that you said earlier in your political career. "Huckabee ... explained why he left pastoring for politics. 'I didn't get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn't have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives.' " And then this: "I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ." Would you, as president, consider America a Christian nation and try to lead it as -- into a situation as being a more Christian nation?
HUCKABEE: I think it's dangerous to say that we are a nation that ought to be pushed into a Christian faith by its leaders. However, I make no apology for my faith. My faith explains me. It means that I believe that we're all frail, it means that we're all fragile, that all of us have faults, none of us are perfect, that all of us need redemption. We are a nation of faith. It doesn't necessarily have to be mine. But we are a nation that believes that faith is an important part of describing who we are, and our generosity, and our sense of optimism and hope. That does describe me.
HUCKABEE: I'm appalled, Tim, when someone says, "Tell me about your faith," and they say, "Oh, my faith doesn't influence my public policy." Because when someone says that, it's as if they're saying, "My faith isn't significant, it's not authentic, it's not so consequential that it affects me." Well, truthfully, my faith does affect me. But it doesn't make me think I'm better than someone, it makes me know that I'm not as good as I really need to be.
RUSSERT: But when you say "take this nation back for Christ," what does that say to Jews, Muslims, agnostics, atheists? What --
HUCKABEE: Well, I think I -- I'd probably phrase it a little differently today. But I don't want to make people think that I'm going to replace the Capitol dome with a steeple or change the legislative sessions for prayer meetings. What it does mean is that people of faith do need to exercise their sense of responsibility toward education, toward health, toward the environment. All of those issues, for me, are driven by my sense that this is a wonderful world that God made. We're responsible for taking care of it. We're responsible for being responsible managers and stewards of it. I think that's what faith ought to do in our lives if we're in public service.
From the January 29 edition of The Washington Post:
When moderator Tim Russert pressed Huckabee on whether he would lead the United States to be a more Christian nation, he replied: "We are a nation of faith. It doesn't necessarily have to be mine."
"I make no apology for my faith," he said. "My faith explains me."