As former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee soared to first place in polls among Republican presidential candidates in Iowa and to second place in many national polls, he is being gifted with both opportunity and further scrutiny.
Huckabee found himself this weekend explaining proposals he made during his disastrous 1992 Senate race, when he suggested AIDS patients be quarantined. For the most part, Huckabee defended his views from 17 years ago.
In an Associated Press survey from 1992, Huckabee suggested that the government isolate AIDS patients from the rest of the populace.
"If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague," he wrote. "It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents."
Saturday evening, at a brief press conference in Asheville, N.C., Huckabee explained his quarantine proposal.
"Fifteen years ago, the AIDS crisis was just that, a crisis," he said. "There was still a great deal of, I think, uncertainty about just how widespread AIDS was, how it could be transmitted. So we know more now than we did in 1992, all of us do -- hopefully."
Four years before Huckabee's statement, however, President Ronald Reagan's surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, sent out a brochure (http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/QQ/B/D/R/L/_/qqbdrl.pdf) about AIDS to American homes in which Koop wrote, "No matter what you may have heard, the AIDS virus is hard to get and is easily avoided. You won't just catch AIDS like a cold or flu because the virus is a different type. The AIDS virus is transmitted through sexual intercourse, the sharing of drug needles or to babies of infected mothers before or during birth."
And two years before, in 1990, President George H. W. Bush had signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program into law to care for those suffering from the disease. The bill had passed the Senate 95-4.
Huckabee made it clear that he would not have voted for those funds.
"In light of the extraordinary funds already being given for AIDS research, it does not seem that additional federal spending can be justified," he said.
He suggested that the money come from celebrities who championed the cause.
"An alternative," he said, "would be to request that multimillionaire celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor[,] Madonna and others who are pushing for more AIDS funding be encouraged to give out of their own personal treasuries increased amounts for AIDS research."
Asked about those words this weekend, Huckabee clarified, "I didn't say I wasn't for funding, but the question was, was I for additional funding. And I mentioned that there were a lot of diseases we needed to fight, and that included diabetes and heart disease. And I would add to that Alzheimer's and a whole host of diseases that affect a lot of American families. To single out one disease as the only one we're going to increase funding for to the exclusion of the others was wrong then and I think it would be wrong now. Do I support additional funding for HIV/AIDS? Yes."