Q&A with Mike Huckabee

The former Republican governor of Arkansas on trans fats, thongs, and presidential ambitions.

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Q: You're from Hope, AR. What is it about that town?

A: Arkansas is a state where politics is retail. You have to go out, meet the voters, and "ask for the business." You can't just hide in a television studio and make commercials. It's also a place where people have grown up with poverty. It gives you perspective, and the kind of grit necessary not to be overwhelmed by a challenge.

Q: Besides a hometown, anything else you and Bill Clinton have in common?

A: Neither of us grew up children of privilege, and we've never forgotten where we came from. I have more in common with the people working in the kitchen than the ones at the head table. Regardless of Bill Clinton's politics or personal life, he grew up in obscurity and was elected to the presidency -- twice. Don't take that away from him, because then you take it away from every other kid in America sitting out there in a school bus with a big dream.

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Q: Sounds like you're a fan.

A: I'm sure there are people who wish I'd never say anything kind about Clinton, but I'm not going to be characterized by anger and bitterness. That's what's wrong with politics today.

Q: You've written a book about weight. How much did you lose?

A: [I lost] 110 pounds. It isn't rocket science. Diets fail because you lose weight and then it's, "Oh, thank goodness this is over." I did every diet: Atkins. Cabbage-soup diet. Dean Ornish. But I couldn't live the rest of my life like a rabbit.

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Q: Do you still go to Sonic drive-in?

A: My wife likes it. I have a few guidelines: If it comes through a car window, it's not food. And if it wasn't a food a hundred years ago, it's not a food now.

Q: It's hard to live Twinkie-free. I was raised on them.

A: If consumers make better choices, the marketplace will change. Frito-Lay was the first big food manufacturer to go completely trans fat-free. No more partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. It's a great preservative -- now crackers have a longer shelf life than we do.

Q: Speaking of shelf life, what should we do in Iraq?

A: The key thing is to have clear expectations of an Iraqi government. We're kidding ourselves if we think it's going to look just like ours. We need a self-determining, stable government that enables the people there to live in relative peace.

Q: What if it's a fundamentalist regime?

A: Fundamentalist or fascist? Saudi Arabia is strict. That's their decision. But they don't pose an immediate threat to us. If they're going to harbor or support terrorists, then it becomes my business.

Q: But if they're taking away the rights of women...

A: Obviously, that's not something we'd support. But I don't think we have a right to militarily intervene in every culture with which we disagree.

Q: I read that you're against miniskirts.

A: If a person dresses provocatively, they're calling attention -- maybe not the most desirable kind -- to private parts of their body.

Q: What about a burka?

A: No, that hides everything. I think a person's hair, arms, shoulders, legs are an appropriate display of who they are. I want people to be attracted to me because they find me interesting, not because I'm wearing something...well, I doubt I own anything provocative.

Q: How about a miniskirt?

A: A thong.

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