Huckabee on the NIE: Huh?

More than a day after news broke on Iran, a leading GOP candidate still hadn't heard.

By Tim Grieve

Published December 5, 2007 1:10PM (EST)

We know that it's tough out there on the campaign trail -- the constant repetition of stump speeches, the endless days of bus travel, the threat of catching a virus from Candy Crowley -- but is it really possible that Mike Huckabee didn't hear of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran until sometime Tuesday night?

Apparently so.

The new NIE was all over the news Monday afternoon. By Tuesday morning, it was on the front page of newspapers all around the country. The president held a press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the NIE, and the NIE was the centerpiece of the NPR Democratic presidential debate held Tuesday afternoon.

But when Huckabee -- who hasn't exactly shown himself to be an expert on foreign policy -- sat down for dinner with reporters in Iowa Tuesday night, it quickly became clear that the former governor of Arkansas wasn't exactly in the loop.

The transcript, from the Politico:

The Politico's David Paul Kuhn: I don't know to what extent you have been briefed or been able to take a look at the NIE report that came out yesterday ...

Huckabee: I'm sorry?

Kuhn: The NIE report, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. Have you been briefed or been able to take a look at it?

Huckabee: No.

Kuhn: Have you heard of the finding?

Huckabee: No.

Kuhn clued Huckabee in on the report's key finding -- a high degree of confidence that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- then asked him if he thought, in light of the misrepresentations about Iraq, the United States has a "higher burden of proof" when it comes to persuading the international community of the need to take action against Iran.

"Probably so," Huckabee said, then added: "First time I've been asked a question like that."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Iran Middle East Mike Huckabee War Room