Thursday, July 24, 2014

Politician-turned-TV host wows packed OMA crowd

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 11/4/2013

Laughter erupted from the crowd Saturday night when Mike Huckabee told jokes with church-related humor.

A former Southern Baptist pastor, Huckabee’s at-times comic routine reinforced a broader message as he entertained a crowd of nearly 700 people Saturday at Ottawa Municipal Auditorium, 301 S. Hickory St., during a “Star Spangled Evening with Mike Huckabee,” presented by the Franklin County Republican Central Committee.

Laughter erupted from the crowd Saturday night when Mike Huckabee told jokes with church-related humor.

A former Southern Baptist pastor, Huckabee’s at-times comic routine reinforced a broader message as he entertained a crowd of nearly 700 people Saturday at Ottawa Municipal Auditorium, 301 S. Hickory St., during a “Star Spangled Evening with Mike Huckabee,” presented by the Franklin County Republican Central Committee.

Huckabee’s remarks took on a more somber tone when he discussed major issues facing Americans.

“Let me tell you what I worry about a whole lot more than maybe forgetting the punch line to a joke,” Huckabee said. “I worry that this country is forgetting something. I worry that we as a nation are forgetting who we are, where we come from, what made us a great country, and frankly that worries me a lot.”

Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and a leading contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination who captured Kansas during the primary season, got the laughs going early when he discussed his family and his show “Huckabee,” which airs 7 p.m. Saturdays on Fox News. The crowd went silent, however, during Huckabee’s comments about a country he thinks has lost its sense of history.

“I look back on this country’s history and I see an amazing story,” he said. “Men and women who were so committed to a life of freedom for themselves, and even more for their children that they were willing to take the muskets off the mantle of their farms and ranches and they were willing to take those muskets that were really better suited to hunt rabbits and squirrel, and to put them in their arms and take on the British army, the best-trained, most well-equipped and the best-financed army that existed in the world at the time, and somehow had the audacity to believe that they had secured the freedom for their children by fighting such a battle.

“It was, literally, a revolutionary idea to think that they could do that,” Huckabee continued. “The amazing thing is that, by the grace of God, they succeeded. I say that with emphasis — by the grace of God — because I am convinced that there is simply no human way in which that rag-tag group of revolutionary fighters could have ever been able to establish this country as the United States of America apart from the divine providence of all-mighty God intervening on the path of those men, who before they got on their feet to fight, they got on their knees to pray and asked for the wisdom and the strength to be able to live as people of the earth. That’s who we are.”

Applause and cheers filled Ottawa’s auditorium throughout Huckabee’s more-than-an-hour-long speech.

HISTORY LESSON

“When I speak at schools, I ask [the kids], ‘How many of you like history?’ And rarely does anybody raise their hand,” Huckabee said. “Maybe one. The kind of kid who I was in high school. That kid’s going to get beat up for his lunch money. I’ll go give him a couple of bucks and say, ‘Here kid, you are going to need this for lunch, ‘cause they’re going to beat it out of you.’”

More laughs carried throughout the crowd.

“Now, for most of us, history is boring,” Huckabee said. “Let me tell you something: History is to a civilization what the memory is to an individual, and without an understanding of history, we really don’t know who we are. Imagine if you woke up in the morning and you didn’t know your name; you didn’t know your address; you didn’t know what job you did; you didn’t know your wife or your children’s names.

“You woke up in this strange place and you looked around and you had no idea who you were, where you were and what you were doing there,” he said. “That would be disorienting. As surely as it is for an individual to lose his or her memory, for a civilization to lose its sense of history has caused that civilization to become disoriented and lost. I would suggest to you that our country is on the brink of complete disorientation because we have not understood where we come from, who we are and what makes us the greatest nation on this planet.”

Huckabee confessed that it was a night for the Republican Party, and much of his speech was spent bouncing between such issues as abortion, taxes and today’s political figures. And with just about a week before Veterans Day, he made certain to address the nation’s troops.

“I stand every day grateful for the men and women who put on the uniform in this country and go halfway around the world to places they can’t pronounce and lay their lives on the line so that people like me can enjoy the air of freedom that I enjoy every single day,” Huckabee said. “It angers me beyond anything else when I see that we ever ask our veterans to stand in line and wait, or be put on hold by all the benefits that they have earned with their service and, in many cases, their blood and their limbs. If we have to take down every monument in Washington, carve up the stones and sell them as souvenirs to pay for it, not one veteran in this country should ever have to wait in line behind others for their benefits.”

KEY TO THE STATION

Huckabee, 58, also talked about his upbringing and how he was influenced greatly as a 14-year-old boy working at a radio station. He said he did everything from working as a disc jockey to covering high school sporting events, all while he still wasn’t old enough to drive himself to the station. Huckabee’s radio boss ended up being one of the most influential people in his young life, he said.

“I had a key to the radio station ... at 14,” Huckabee said. “I have a son who is 37 years old. I wouldn’t give him the key to a radio station right now. [My boss] taught me that life is about being an individual. He taught me that we should love our country, and that patriotism was not just an emotional feeling, but a moral obligation to be grateful for a country that had given me the freedom even if I wanted to criticize this country.”

An “amen” could be heard from amongst the crowd. Huckabee touched on several other issues from his conservative Republican perspective to a crowd that included the likes of U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, state Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, and several other political officials. One of the prominent topics he discussed involved the federal government’s tax system.

“I’m a Republican. I understand what that means,” Huckabee said. “It means I realize we have to have some taxes. I’m not anti-tax in the sense that I think we shouldn’t have any, because I kind of like if my house catches on fire, that I can call a fire department to come put it out. I like to drive on paved roads. I like for the trash to get picked up regularly, I understand I have to pay for that. I get it. Taxes are a vital part what makes us a civilized society. I’m not anti-tax. But as a Republican, I believe taxes ought to be as low as they possibly can be for the simple reason that any time government takes something from me, government at that point has decided that what it is taking and what they do with my money is more important than what I would have done — had it been left in my pocket.”

TAXING PROBLEM

Huckabee wasted no time jumping deeper into the tax issue.

 “The reason that many of us have had it up to here with government is because government is taking from us money they have long since been able to justify the way they are spending it, and they are taking money not because they are building the road, or making sure that the trash is picked up, or making sure the parks are safe for our kids to play in, or making sure schools are decent enough for children to get an education. They are taking money because they have come to the place to believe that if they can take something out of your pocket and put it in someone else’s pocket who didn’t work as hard for it as you did, then maybe they’ll end up making a voter for life out of it.”

Huckabee’s message took aim at “centralized government.”

“We know that there never was a notion in the Founding Fathers that the government would ever be so powerful at the federal level and become centralized,” he said. “Today, our federal government is doing a lot of things, in fact most of what it does, has not one thing to do with the constitutional authority that it was given when our Founding Fathers created the constitution and wrote it.”

Later in his address, Huckabee took shots at those currently in office, calling President Obama the “most inept person to ever hold presidency,” and saying his worst fear is if Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House minority leader, maintains her position. He also called the U.S. Senate the “roach center of politics.”

While Huckabee didn’t indicate whether he has plans to run for office in the next presidential cycle, he closed by saying the 2016 election year is not about Republicans versus Democrats, but changing the direction of the country’s heart, soul and mind.

Shouts of, “You should run for president,” rang out from the crowd as Huckabee joined in on bass guitar with the Christian band “Evidence of Journey” for the final song of the night, “I’ll Fly Away.”

GOOD IMPRESSION

Those in attendance said they were impressed with Huckabee’s stage performance.

“I loved the patriotism that came out [in his speech],” Dennis Pratt, Ottawa, said. “We need more politicians that speak honestly. I definitely would have voted for Huckabee.”

Pratt is a retired veteran who served in the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force.

Even some with Democratic views had positive feedback from the evening.

“I think he was awesome,” Jan Wagner, rural Lyndon, said. “I am a registered Democrat, but I am sure thinking about changing. His and my life values are very similar. It is tearing me up what I see in my children’s and grandchildren’s lives, and it is a struggle to enforce the values as a Christian that I hold.”

Jeff Richards, Franklin County sheriff and a member of the Franklin County Republican Central Committee, estimated between 650 and 700 people attended the event.

“I thought it was a pretty good turnout,” Richards said Monday. “All the feedback I received was positive. Everyone was very happy to have something like this here.”

Richards, who had never met Huckabee, had an opportunity to talk with the former governor during his visit to Ottawa, he said.

“I liked him. He reminded me of my dad,” Richards said, smiling. “My dad is a preacher, too.”

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