Holt To Huck: Wish You Had a 'Do-over' on Pakistan Comments?
Weekend host Lester Holt kicked off the show's political segment by implying that among presidential candidates, Huckabee was the big loser in his handling of the Pakistani situation.
LESTER HOLT: The murder of Benazir Bhutto is having a big impact on the presidential race here in this country, where we now stand just five days from the first contest, in Iowa, and it's forcing Republican Mike Huckabee to do a bit of backtracking.
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Lester tossed it to NBC reporter Lee Cowan in Iowa.
LEE COWAN: Mike Huckabee was actually one of the first candidates to come out and offer a response to the violence in Pakistan, but it's actually what he said about how that relates to the US that's raising some questions.Cut to clip of Huckabee at an Iowa event. Cowan narrated.
COWAN: It was the second time in two days that Mike Huckabee tried to tie the unrest in Pakistan to illegal immigration, using it as a rationale to build a fence along the US-Mexico border.Holt then interviewed Huckabee.
MIKE HUCKABEE: There are more Pakistanis who illegally cross the border than of any other nationality, except for those immediately south of our border.
COWAN: Turns out, those numbers aren't quite right. According to the Department of Homeland Security, there were hundreds of Pakistanis who crossed into the US illegally, but they are hardly near the top of the list. In fact, they don't even rank in the top 25.
HOLT: I think some would argue that it was not your finest hour, your comments regarding Pakistan. You said that we should monitor our borders for illegal Pakistani immigrants and you said that Pakistanis make up the second largest group of illegal immigrants in the country. Do you kind of wish you had a do-over on those comments?Regarding Huckabee's expression of "apologies" to Pakistan, his claim to Holt of having corrected himself on the fly and not even having pronounced the entire word would seem to be at variance with this CBS News account [emphasis added].
HUCKABEE: Well I was quoting from a Denver Post article and pointed out that there were 660 Pakistanis who had been apprehended by Homeland Security. And the point that I was making is still valid, and the fact is that the numbers are over a longer period of time than I had originally thought, but my point is that we don't have control of our borders. And if people go back to a speech that I made in September, it looks almost prophetic [NB: interesting choice of words] when I was spending a lot of time on Pakistan, talking about the danger that exists there. People scoffed at that, they said our issue is Iran, I said you better look at Pakistan. If we have another terrorist attack, it'll be post-marked Pakistan.
HOLT: Are you saying the threat of Pakistani terrorists --
HUCKABEE: Then I looked at the fact though that we have illegals coming into this country and our borders aren't secure, so I think the point is quite valid.
HOLT: Governor, are you saying the main purpose of a border fence is to keep out Pakistani terrorists and not illegal Mexicans?
HUCKABEE: No, no, not at all . . .
HOLT: Governor, as you know, you're in a full-contact sport, presidential politics right now. Critics are quick to pounce on anything perceived as a misstatement or a gaffe. You expressed apologies for what happened in Pakistan, you later said you meant sympathies. You later suggested Pakistan is still under martial law, you went back and clarified that. But can you afford those kind of misstatements when the spotlight is on you and people are looking for credible foreign-policy credentials?
HUCKABEE: What they're looking for is authenticity; they're looking for is honesty. I didn't say "apologies." I said "we need to offer apol-- I mean," then I said. And it was like the reporters pounced on it. Lester, you and I both make mistakes when we make comments. What I don't make a mistake is a mistake of the heart. I know what I believe. I have convictions. People are looking for a president who isn't perfect, but who has at least a sense of direction in his own life and has clear and unmistakable ideas about what's right and what's wrong.
With about 150 supporters crowded around a podium set up on the tarmac of Orlando Executive airport (and about 20 Ron Paul supporters waving signs outside) Mike Huckabee strode out to the strains of “Right Now” by Van Halen and immediately addressed the Bhutto situation, expressing “our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan.”In any case, as Huckabee establishes himself as a front-runner, it seems that the media-mascot phase has ended. Were he to emerge as the GOP candidate, it's fair to assume yesterday's mascot would soon become an MSM pinata.
The Huckabee campaign later clarified the last quote, telling CBS News: "Gov. Huckabee while speaking at a campaign event earlier this morning in Florida intended to extend his deepest sympathies to the people of Pakistan when he used the word 'apologies.' He is outraged and saddened by the attack and the loss of a world leader whose life he believes was a profile in courage."