Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TOP STORY >> Huckabee in top form at banquet

Leader staff writer

Just before former Gov. Mike Huckabee careened down a mile-long bobsled course in 2001, a 16-year-old junior Olympic told him, “Keep your eyes on the curve ahead.”

“It was a profound lesson I’ve never forgotten,” the former presidential candidate told the crowd of about 200 at the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce dinner Monday night.

It was the advice that he left everyone with: Keep your eyes on the curve ahead.

Huckabee said that in February 2001, while governor, he was in Utah for a forum and that state’s governor surprised the other governors by saying they were going to visit the Olympic village the next day for the governors’ bobsled race.

“I didn’t think he really meant that we would be in a bobsled. I’m from southern Arkansas and had hardly seen snow and had never seen a bobsled. I was hoping they were going to name bobsleds after us governors and we would watch the bobsled race. But no, he really meant that we would race bobsleds, but said we would get some training,” Huckabee explained.

The former governor said he went to the hotel room that night and immediately looked up bobsledding on the Internet. “That was not a good idea. Do you know bobsleds can travel at 90 miles per hour?”

But Huckabee said the Utah governor was true to his word about the trainer. “My trainer was a 16-year-old teenager. I’ll be truthful, I don’t want to learn to drive anything from a 16-year-old,” he quipped.

The governor said that as he and the teen walked up the course and stopped by each curve and the youngster explained what would happen if the governor steered too high or too low that he just became more nervous.

“By the time we trekked to the top, I was terrified and exhausted,” Huckabee said.

He said they placed him in the bobsled and the teen was the brakeman. “Now, that’s a funny name because there were no brakes on the bobsled. I hoped he prayed,” the governor chuckled.

But it was at the top, Huckabee said, that the teen said something so profound that it has become a mantra for the governor.

The teen said, “Don’t look back. Always keep focused on the curve ahead.”

The youngster told the governor that the bobsled zips down the course so quickly that if they made a mistake on a curve and were still on the track they were okay.

“It can’t hurt us now,” he told the governor.

The teen added that while in a curve, don’t try to make any quick adjustments. “It’ll just make more of a mess,” he said.

“If you just steer for the curve ahead, we’ll make it okay,” the boy assured him.

And Huckabee said that’s the way people should live and the government should act.

“By the way,” the governor added, “I finished second in that race, too.”

Huckabee opened his speech with a comparison of his life as a presidential candidate to that of a television talk show host.

“As a presidential candidate, I was able to tour the country in pretty much anonymity, even though I finished second to John McCain. But now that I’m on television I’m recognized just about every day, but not always as me,” he said with a laugh.

He said he was in the Atlanta airport recently signing copies of his books—he has written seven—and posing for pictures with members of the Delta ground crew.

“I’ve flown out of there so much lately, I know a lot of them by name. Well, as I was talking to the employees and posing for pictures, a young woman was watching the whole thing and walked up to me and asked, ‘Are you on TV?’”

I said, “Yes.” She then said, “You’re in politics, right?”

I said, “Yes.”

She then said, “I knew it, I knew it. You are Bob Dole.”

“Now, Bob Dole is a great American,” Huckabee told the crowd, “but he’s 85!”

Huckabee is just 53.

Even though Huckabee ex-pressed concern that Americans recognize television personalities better than politicians, he’s glad for the recognition and his show’s popularity.

“With unemployment at 10 percent, I don’t want to make it 11 percent,” he said.

One of the things that Huckabee hates now is when someone comes up to him and says, “Are you who I think you are?”

“I just don’t quite know how to answer that because I don’t know what they are thinking,” the governor said, adding, “I’ll often say, ‘You’re right, I’m Brad Pitt.’”

The person will say no and usually walk away, Huckabee said.

Huckabee didn’t mention any political races that he might be interested in for 2010 or 2012, although he is often mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for president.

For now he is staying busy with his television show, as a guest political commentator, author and with his radio news and commentary broadcasts that replaced Paul Harvey news at many stations across the country.

Huckabee talked about his parents as part of the Greatest Generation and how their goal was to make sure their children had a better life than them.

“It was about getting a good education, a good job and a better life,” he said. “Parents lifted kids up on their shoulders and were willing to sacrifice for them.”

But the governor said the current climate is different. “It is now the opposite. There is a willingness to sacrifice our own kids to give us a better life.”

He added that the government can’t continue to fund the country on credit cards. “At this rate, we will burden our children with debt and will hope they learn to speak Mandarin.”

Huckabee said the government’s job is that of a sports official. “Their job is to make sure things are fair and right and not help determine the outcome.”

He compared the government to the officials from last year’s Florida-Arkansas football game.

“It was clear we were beating the No. 1 team in the nation on their field at their homecoming, until the referees stepped in.

Even the ESPN announcers said the calls were bad and the SEC suspended the crew for three games. The SEC never does that,” Huckabee said.

But the former governor said the officials clearly helped determine the outcome of the game.

“That’s not their job or that of the government. Government’s job is not to determine who will win and who will lose, and that’s what it has come down to with the bailouts,” Huckabee said.