The Candidates: Sen. Sam Brownback
Wednesday, October 10, 2007; 11:00 AM
The Concord Monitor, Cedar Rapids Gazette and washingtonpost.com will host a series of live discussions with Republicans and Democrats running for president to give readers the opportunity to share thoughts and questions directly with the candidates.
Sen. Sam Brownback was online Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions on the campaign and his vision for the United States.
The transcript follows.
Brownback is a two-term Republican senator from Kansas. Prior to that he served one term in the U.S. House, was a White House Fellow in the first Bush Administration and was the youngest Secretary of Agriculture in Kansas history.
Sen. Sam Brownback: Welcome to the discussion, delighted to have a chance to visit this way. I appreciate The Washington Post having such a forum. Let's go to the questions.
Arlington, Va.: Sir, my question is about the Biden-Brownback Amendment to push for a soft partitioning of Iraq into three mini-states. Because the Iraqi Parliament and elected officials make the final decision on whether to divide up regions of their nation, isn't your effort more of a debate point? With 18 provinces already set with a long history, and with the Iraqi people not supporting the divide of their nation, how does your plan unify Iraqis and lead to the end of thuggery and criminals sabotaging the oil fields and power grids?
President Bush is the final decision-maker on Iraq-U.S. policy, and if he doesn't support your idea, what right do you have a senator to undermine our president by shoving policy down his throat and the throats of the Iraqi government? Wouldn't your time be better served in celebrating success in Anbar province and the three Kurdish provinces?
washingtonpost.com: The Trail: Across the Aisle, on the Road in Iowa (washingtonpost.com, Oct. 8)
Sen. Sam Brownback: I think it states a viewpoint from the Senate that we believe this is the route to move forward in Iraq. I believe the military has done a fabulous job in Iraq, but we've had completely inadequate political solutions, starting really from Gen. Garner and Paul Bremer, our political solutions have not matched the commitment and performance of the soldiers on the ground. This is a way forward for Iraq and I absolutely believe this will be the ultimate structure of the country -- one nation, but most power and authority devolved to the regions. Really, it's to keep the country together and away from civil war.
Plus I would note that this is the first Iraq resolution this year to get broad bipartisan support, and it focuses on where we're having huge problems. A couple of weeks ago Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testified about military progress, and that little to nothing happening politically. This addresses that lack of political progress. Also I think it's good to show the country that both parties can come together on Iraq.
Joe Biden and I will be doing a joint presentation of this federalism approach Friday in Des Moines. I also would note that the president of Iraq, President Talibani, endorsed the proposal last week.
Washington: What do you think about comments from some evangelical leaders about supporting a third-party candidate if the Republican Party nominates someone who is for abortion rights? Would you support the GOP nominee if he supported abortion rights?
Sen. Sam Brownback: To support a third party will ensure a Democrat being elected to the White House. As I said last night, I will support the party's nominee. I believe firmly that that nominee will be pro-life.
Des Moines, Iowa: Senator Brownback, I heard over the weekend at a Life Chain that you have introduced an Ultrasound Bill in the Senate that would require abortionists to perform an ultrasound before performing an abortion. Can you discuss this and tell me more about it? Thanks!
Sen. Sam Brownback: This bill is modeled after bills introduced in Texas and other states. It's a simple requirement reflecting the significance of what happens in an abortion. Abortion is the destruction of an innocent child. What this bill simply requires is that before an abortion, the physician must do an ultrasound on the child and offer the pictures to the mother. The mother does not have to look at the pictures -- she is not required to look at them, they simply must be offered to her. It's my hope that this will increase the information available to the mother on whether or not to have an abortion. I think people who are pro-choice will say that they want to see abortions being safe, legal and rare. It would be my hope that this bill would make them rarer.
Topeka, Kan.: Your hard work is admirable. However, your candidacy defies logic. What can you possibly do to get yourself out of single digit standings, in the polls, and ultimately get the GOP nomination?
Sen. Sam Brownback: I would note for Topeka that Lamar Alexander was at single-digits in 1996 two weeks before the Iowa caucuses and came in second. John Kerry was running fourth in Iowa in October before the caucuses. Jimmy Carter was unheard of at this point in time. But things change. It's my hope doing some different things in the campaign, like working with a Democratic presidential candidate in Iowa on an Iraqi solution, would generate some interest. The Republican side of the field is unsettled. It is not determined who will be our nominee -- far from it.
Mitchell, Ind.: As someone who grew up rural America, do you perceive there to be a distinct cleft between voters in the U.S. major metropolitan areas and those in rural areas? For example, in the most recent presidential election, Democrats won majorities in most of our major cities, while Republicans often carried rural areas. Is there a difference in values that accounts for this? And how can America balance this interesting paradox -- a dozen or so major cities that geographically account for very little land area send as many voters to the polls as do more rural and small town areas that geographically account for the majority of the land area in the U.S.?
Sen. Sam Brownback: It is interesting what you write. We talk about "red states" and "blue states" but a further analysis of the map really shows a red country and deep blue cities. I'm not sure what accounts for that divide. I do know that the next president must work to bring the full country together. That can be done by picking topics that unite us to focus on, like ending deaths by cancer, a political solution in Iraq, becoming energy-secure in 15 years, improving our infrastructure, rebuilding the family. With these types of topics we're not divided as a country. My experience in the Senate is that most topics don't divide us as a country -- but most of the coverage is on the fight that does divide us. I would pick topics that do unite us to bring the red and the blue back together.
Washington: Senator, what is your position on evolution?
Sen. Sam Brownback: I do not believe man is an accident. I believe that every single individual is a beautiful, unique child of a loving God. How God did it I don't know. That he did it I have no doubt.
Bangor, Maine: Many sincere Christians have qualms about supporting a Mormon for President of the United States. Do you understand this hesitancy, and if so, how do you respond to individuals about candidates whose religious faith, or lack thereof, is a concern?
Sen. Sam Brownback: There's no religious test for holding public office in the United States. I think people should look at a candidate's record and views and make their determinations off of that. Values are important, and everyone has values; appraising those in the political process is difficult. Still, I would hope that people would make their decisions off of the candidate, their record and their stands, and not a view of their corporate faith.
Perry, Kan.: Should birth control -- including condoms, diaphragms, IUDs, and birth control pills, continue to remain legal -- for married adults? For unmarried adults? For minors above the age of consent?
Sen. Sam Brownback: The Supreme Court has clearly made a determination on that, that they should be, and that's the law of the land.
Des Moines, Iowa: I saw that you are having a campaign event with Biden. Are you worried about losing conservative support by campaigning with a Democrat?
Sen. Sam Brownback: I am not. I disagree with Joe Biden on many issues of the day, but I agree with him on the political solution in Iraq. We need to learn as a nation how to come together on the things we agree on, not to focus constantly on the things we disagree about. That is something I often have argued while serving in the U.S. Senate and is something that I want to show people that I will do as president.
Iowa: Senator, the president yesterday called for the renewal of No Child Left Behind. What changes would you like to see made to this important piece of legislation, if any?
Sen. Sam Brownback: I would like to see more liberty given to the states to meet the objectives of No Child Left Behind. I would like to see the states be allowed to use their federal money in ways they see fit if they continue to achieve benchmark objectives under No Child Left Child.
Silver Spring, Md.: Would you consider a role as vice presidential nominee if you don't succeed in the presidential race?
Sen. Sam Brownback: I'm running for president. That's what I'm focused on right now.
Portland, Maine: Senator Brownback, thank you for all your leadership in the United States Senate on pro-life issues, you are second the none one of the best on this issue. My question for you is this: How can the Republican Party win back many of the Social Conservatives who feel let down by the Republican Party because of lack of action on our issues?
Sen. Sam Brownback: It's important to first remember all the action that has taken place on the pro-life issues under a Republican president and Congress. Two justices on the Supreme Court who voted to uphold the partial-birth abortion ban; the partial-birth abortion ban itself only passed under a Republican Congress and Republican president. It is the first major pro-life legislation passed and found constitutional since Roe v. Wade. Also, the nation has become pro-life -- it is a majority-pro-life country now. That would not have happened without the efforts of many pro-life activists in America and a Congress willing to pursue these issues. Much more needs to be done, but we shouldn't forget that great positive steps have happened for the first time since Roe v. Wade.
Lawrence, Kan.: How do you justify your current record of missed votes on the Senate floor?
Sen. Sam Brownback: Anybody running for president who currently holds public office has missed votes; that certainly is regrettable for all of us, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd -- my colleagues in the Senate. I am doing all that I can to make the votes that I can and still campaign for president.
Overland Park, Kan.: Kansas wind could power 30 percent of the country. Do you support the requiring 15 percent renewable energy by 2020?
Sen. Sam Brownback: Yes. I am a strong proponent of renewable fuels in America, particularly wind generation. It is a key asset. I do hope we can be careful where the wind power generation is located.
Mount Rainier, Md.: Senator, there is increasing evidence that the number of voter eligible to participate in an election is rising while actual voting is going down fast. Because you are running to lead this nation, how do you suggest we turn eligible voters into actual voters, so that we don't lose a key component of the Founding Fathers' vision for America?
Sen. Sam Brownback: By addressing topics they're interested in: energy; one in two men and one in three women will get cancer within their lifetime -- it's the greatest fear of our lifetime, we should declare war on cancer; highways and congestion are huge daily headaches for people. We should address problems that affect peoples' lives as a way of getting more participation. We also need to focus on growing the economy and economic opportunities in America.
St. Louis: Senator Brownback, if elected president, what would you do to improve the United State's reputation in regards to foreign policy, especially among Middle Eastern countries? Also, what steps would you take to improve the quality of life for soldiers returning from Iraq, as well as for all veterans?
If not elected, what are the chances you run for president again in 2012? Personally, I feel like you are the only true social conservative candidate. Your passion to rebuild the family and the positive effects that will have in this country is exactly what we need out of a president. I hope if not elected, you will strongly consider running again the future. Don't give up, money is only a small obstacle one has to overcome when considering the enormous scale of positive contributions you could make to society not only now but those which will also continue in the future as president. God Bless!
Sen. Sam Brownback: I think we need to walk more humbly around the world. I think we need to engage more in Africa and South America. Particularly in Africa we are seeing growing interest and conflict with Islamic fascists, and with China resourcing materials. We need to go to those places and listen more than we talk.
With regard to veterans, I would fund veterans health care and a focus on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I believe this is a big untold problem that many of our returning military personnel are facing.
And as for 2012, I'm focused on 2008.
College Park, Md.: How would you balance the budget and work to pay back the $9,000,000,000,000 national debt? Which programs will you decrease spending to? Which taxes will you not change or even raise?
Sen. Sam Brownback: I would not raise taxes. Growing the economy addresses 70 percent of the deficit, and restraining the growth of federal spending is the key to the rest of it. I have been in a Congress that has balance the budget. These are the two steps needed to balance the budget and pay back debt: grow the economy, restrain the growth of federal spending.
I think we need a more growth-oriented tax policy. The current code is highly manipulative of individuals' economic decisions. I would like to see us put forward an optional flat tax and allow people to choose whether to stay in the current code or choose the optional flat tax. On spending, there are many programs that have been unsuccessful and yet continue. Corporate welfare programs, like the Advanced Technology Program or its successor come to mind.
But we really need to change the system for spending, because the system is built to spend. I have represented Kansans the past 12 years in the House or the Senate. I have not had a single constituent come in and say to me that they're getting too much federal money, please cut it. Many say to me, "I'm a conservative, but we need money" for this bridge or hospital or program. The system is built to spend.
The change in the system I'd advocate and would implement as president is to take the BRAC military base closing process and apply it to the rest of government, so that a commission regularly reports to the administration and Congress on what programs should be eliminated; those recommendations would then be voted on by Congress without amendment. That is a systems change that has worked on closing military bases, and that could work for the rest of government.
Herndon, Va.: What do you think of the impact to the Republican Party and its electoral success with minorities when the presidential candidates skip debates with African American and Latino audiences, and appear to some to be anti-Hispanic American in the manner in which immigration issues are addressed? Do you think such voters may feel they are not welcome by your party by such actions?
Sen. Sam Brownback: I think it's terrible that many of the candidates skipped the presidential candidates' forum on minority issues. It sends absolutely the wrong signal. The immigration debate far too often sounded negative toward Hispanic voters. This not only hurts the Republican Party, it hurts the country. As a presidential candidate I participated in the minority forum and tried to work on constructive solutions on immigration. This is important for America, not just the Republican Party.
Boston: Sen. Brownback, studies show that the majority of the people in Massachusetts are against homosexual marriage. However, our liberal legislature has prevented us from having our say at the ballot box. If you were elected president how would you be able to help us?
Sen. Sam Brownback: By the appointment of federal judges who are strict constructionists, who won't try to legislate from the bench. Also, I would push pro-family policies emphasizing rebuilding the family structure. For instance: Welfare reform is needed to keep from punishing the family. Right now if someone on welfare gets married, they lose most of their benefits -- that's insane. We need to encourage the family, not discourage it.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Do you think it is right that the media declares that someone cannot win the election, months before the primary?
Sen. Sam Brownback: (Laughs). No, no, it's not, but it's also not historically accurate. Think Jimmy Carter.
Greenwood, Mo.: Will you be at the KU-MU game at Arrowhead in November?
I don't agree with you at all, but I respect your ability to stick to your convictions and principles and not pander to anyone in your party. Why don't the powers that be, who are claiming they will back a third-party candidate, not backing you or Huckabee with their full-blown support. I don't think they are.
Sen. Sam Brownback: I doubt I will be at the KU-MU game, although it should be a great one. I don't know why Mike Huckabee or myself are not getting the full endorsement of social conservatives.
Topeka, Kan.: Is it true that you will drop out of the race if you don't finish in the top 4 in Iowa?
Sen. Sam Brownback: That is correct. I need to finish in that group to move on forward.
Sen. Sam Brownback: Thank you all for joining the conversation. The questions were substantive, thoughtful and polite -- I appreciate all of that. I hope the answers were equally so. I appreciate The Washington Post for providing this forum, and I hope you all have a great day.
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