Prospective presidential candidate Mike Huckabee called Saturday for the imposition of term limits on U.S. Supreme Court justices, saying that the nation’s founders never intended to create lifetime, irrevocable posts.
"Nobody should be in an unelected position for life," the former Arkansas governor said in an interview, expanding upon remarks he made during an hourlong speech at the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda.
"If the president who appoints them can only serve eight years, the person they appoint should never serve 40. That has never made sense to me; it defies that sense of public service," he said.
Such a move would require a constitutional amendment. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, two other potential 2016 candidates for the Republican nomination, have also backed court term limits.
Huckabee said the Federalist Papers, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, supported his view that the nation's founders came close to imposing judicial term limits in the Constitution; they never could have imagined people would want to serve in government for decades, he said.
During his speech to hundreds of people at the library, Huckabee said term limits should be applied to all branches of government. He spoke in a replica of the East Room of the White House, in front of seven American flags and a Navy lectern bearing a symbol similar to the presidential seal.
"Let me just say, I really like this podium. I think a fellow could get used to a podium like this, but that’s another discussion for another day," said Huckabee, who left his Fox News television show in January to try to rally support for a second presidential campaign. (He ran unsuccessfully in 2008.)
He is expected to make a decision by mid-June.
The appearance, which capped a three-day California trip, was part of a tour selling Huckabee’s newest book, "God, Guns, Grits and Gravy." Earlier in the week, Huckabee spoke at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he met with former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and other domestic and foreign policy advisors. He also greeted past – and potentially future – donors and appeared on the "Real Time with Bill Maher" television show.
On Saturday, Huckabee, a favorite of evangelical voters in 2008, likened his humble beginnings to President Nixon’s. He recounted growing up in a rented two-bedroom shotgun house in Hope, Ark., and becoming the first boy in his family to graduate high school. As a child, he said, he never imagined he would see an American president in person, catch sight of the ocean or fly on an airplane. (Last year, he flew 369,000 miles on Delta alone, he said.)
"So when people talk about the American dream, for me, that is not something abstract, something I have read about," Huckabee said. "I have lived it. I love this country because I know where I started, and I know because I grew up in America, I didn’t have to stop where I started."
He used the sentiment to forward an argument common to many presidential campaigns: "The single worst thing that could happen to this country is my grandkids could grow up not believing the American dream is alive and well and somehow achievable to them," Huckabee said.
While he ticked off what he said were the nation’s woes--an uneven economic recovery and a troublesome overseas enemy in the Islamic State—Huckabee said he was optimistic about the nation’s future. He attributed the country’s greatness to God, a statement he said he expected would draw scorn.
"This nation can only be explained in terms of the providence of an almighty God. There is no other explanation for America," he said.
Huckabee largely avoided talking about the presidential contest, but did talk of defeating Bill Clinton’s allies to win the governorship in Arkansas. Huckabee won two terms after taking over for Clinton’s Democratic successor, who left office after a fraud conviction. He said Republicans could face an "extraordinary challenge" in competing with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumptive front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
"I can tell you, it ain’t easy and they play to win," he said. "I can also tell you, in every race I’ve ever run, I’ve ran against their machinery, their money and against them."
Follow @LATSeema for political news.