From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
ON THE ROAD, IA -- In a gaggle with reporters aboard his campaign bus, Huckabee elaborated on his response to a man from Marshalltown, IA, who had expressed concern that only Christians would be attended to by a Huckabee White House. "It's not like I'm stepping out of the pulpit last Sunday and running for president today," Huckabee said. "I don't think anybody's going to find that, you know, I'm some intolerant bigot when it comes to religion. If anything, it's the opposite -- because in my view of faith, it's only faith if it's voluntary ... and to try to force faith on somebody would, to me, violate the heart and soul of it as to what it should be."
Yet when he was pressed on whether he would continue certain practices he began in the Arkansas state house, such as a Christian Heritage Week or hanging the Ten Commandments in his office, Huckabee said, "[I] don't know why I wouldn't."
He pointed out that the Christian Heritage Week was celebrated in 37 states, but he was the only person who received attention for it, "which to me showed that there was some level of almost a different sort of treatment that I would get on the religious questions than anyone else."
As for the Ten Commandments in the Oval Office, "the Ten Commandments are in the Supreme Court," Huckabee said, adding that he "wouldn't hesitate" to hang them in the White House. "The Ten Commandments form the basis of most of our laws and therefore, you know if you look through them does anybody find anything there that would be all that objectionable? I don't think most people would if they actually read them," he said.
This conversation helped lead reporters into the difference between a moral argument and a political argument when it comes to Huckabee's social views. According to Huckabee, moral issues are not up for political definition, meaning that the practice of individual states legalizing certain immoral acts -- such as abortion -- is "the logic of the Civil War" and thus mustn't be allowed.
"The country had to finally come to the conclusion, no slavery is ... a moral issue; it's not a political one," Huckabee said. "That's why I define the whole issue of sanctity of life [and marriage] not in political terms but in moral terms. If it's a political issue than it's perfectly legitimate to have fifty different versions."
He elaborated on his logic using the tax code as an example, saying "there's not an absolute rightness or wrongness about the tax rate," thus it is a political issue, unlike abortion.
Moral issues can be federally legislated, Huckabee said, because "all law imposes morality on people. That's one of the fallacies when people say you can't impose your morality… All law defines right and wrong. Morality means the definition of right and wrong. What law does, it is codifying what you've determined right and wrong to be."
But Huckabee also hedged his bets. Contrasting his stance that law is the enforcement of a lawmakers morality, Huckabee also helped to justify the pro-choice argument saying that as a society "we can change what we think is right and what we think is wrong." Although he argued that abortion was a moral issue, and thus under his framework deserves to be decided at the national level, he added that "if a person concludes that it is a political question than you can justify having different laws in every state."
On a lighter note, the Huckabee family may have a tough time getting all together for Christmas this year.
"One question is whether Sarah is coming home for Christmas from Iowa," Huckabee said of his daughter and national field director. "We say she is ... she's saying that she's not, so we haven't settled that quite yet. I don't think she's told her mother that she's thinking about staying up here. I don't want to be the one to announce that."
Ooops. Janet Huckabee -- who was feeling a bit under the weather and didn't make this week's trip on the Huck-A-Bus -- got new floors in the kitchen for Christmas, her husband told reporters on the press bus somewhere between Dike and Waterloo yesterday. But she is expected to be feeling better in time to participate in the family's Christmas tradition.
"The only thing that I know that for sure we're going to do that we have always done is we'll go to our church Christmas Eve service," Huckabee said. "It's a huge community-wide celebration, and we do that every year. And then we have an unusual tradition that after the Christmas Eve service we go out and eat Chinese food. Don't ask me why."
Asked if the tradition is intended to help him better relate to the Jewish community -- who often celebrate Christmas with egg rolls and General Tso -- Huckabee said, "No, it's Chinese food."
He was unaware of the Jewish Christmas tradition.