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Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) on Campaign 2000

Free Media
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Campaign 2000
Live: "Free Media"
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Monday, July 31, 2000; 2 p.m. EDT

Texas Gov. George W. Bush is scheduled to arrive at the Republican National Convention to accept his party's presidential nomination on Wednesday, along with his running mate, former defense secretary Richard B. Cheney. Analysts note that Cheney's experience on the world stage, particularly as the chief of military strategy during the Gulf War, helps to balance Bush's bid for the White House. But besides the official nomination, what does this week's GOP show in Philadelphia mean to Bush's campaign? What does it mean for Republicans in Congress this fall?

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) (File photo)

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is a member of the appropriations and governmental affairs committees, specializing in areas including defense and international security. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Cochran was online on Monday, July 31 to talk about Bush and Cheney, foreign policy and the GOP's outlook in this fall's elections. The transcript follows:

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Free Media: Good afternoon, Sen. Cochran, and welcome. Do you think, now that he's chosen former defense secretary Dick Cheney as his running mate, that Governor Bush will focus more on foreign policy in the campaign?

Sen. Thad Cochran: I think Dick Cheney being on the ticket certainly strengthens the foreign policy influence on the ticket. And his experience in dealing with crises when he was secretary of defense in a very thoughtful and successful way. I think the foreign policy strength of this ticket is quite obvious. George W. Bush is very well qualified on his own, but with Dick Cheney as vice president, it gives the ticket more credibility and proven experience.

Washington, D.C.: Do you think that Gov. Bush's proposals to protect the U.S. and its troops aboard are better than the plan set out by President Clinton?

Sen. Thad Cochran: I think there's no question that the safety and security of American troops and citizens throughout the world will be better protected in an administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. During President Clinton's service as president, we've seen our forces strung out over different regions of the world, and this has probably lessened the strength and influence of our armed forces in places where we've chosen to deploy them.

Council on Foreign Relations, D.C.: How can we go forward with a commitment to deploy missile defense when it hasn't worked?

Sen. Thad Cochran: While there have been some problems in the testing of ballistic missile defense systems, there is never any new program that has worked in every respect without some difficulty. The Polaris submarine system, for example, was troubled for a long time with many misadventures. But it is now considered a very reliable and important part of our current strategic defense. There's no question that ballistic missile defense will be an important part of our national security in the future. So beginning to develop it now, as the threats emerge, is wise and very important to the security of all Americans.

Alexandria, Va.: How should the U.S. react to the widespread opposition and mistrust of America's proposed nuclear missile defense plan throughout Europe?

Sen. Thad Cochran: I think most Europeans are reluctant to support a robust European security force of any kind without being convinced of the seriousness of a military threat. It's difficult to get parliaments in Europe now to support participation in NATO defense activities, and so it's no surprise that those same governments are hard to convince at this point to support a new regional defense system.

Eau Claire, Wis.: Good afternoon, Senator Cochran. Regarding missile defense: Do you think it is appropriate for the Clinton administration to make the decision on whether or not to begin a missile defense system just months before Clinton leaves office? Or does it make more sense to leave this issue to be decided by the next president?

Sen. Thad Cochran: The passage of the national missile defense act last year was a commitment to begin the development and deployment of a national missile defense system. That decision has already been made, not only by Congress by an overwhelming margin, but by the president himself, who signed the law. The decision is whether or not there is evidence to continue the deployment process. I think it would be a huge mistake for the president to try to abandon the effort at this point.

Rockville, Md.: Food is plentiful and food prices are low in the U.S. compared to other nations primarily because farmers in the U.S. are more productive. Advances in research and technology result in increased productivity by farmers. Senator, you have a record of strongly supporting agricultural research. What is the position of Governor Bush on federal support for agricultural research and other areas of research?

Sen. Thad Cochran: Well, I haven't talked personally with George W. Bush about the level of research he thinks is necessary. I'm confident he will support our annual funding of a robust research program to ensure that we maintain the efficiency of our production agriculture sector, and our liability as a supplier of products for the rest of the world.

Arlington, Va.: How much does our Congress currently spend on overall defense. I know it's a great deal and I am wondering how much of our tax dollars would be better spent towards our schools etc. Your thoughts? Also, how have Republicans altered their platform on this defense issues since the last presidential election?

Sen. Thad Cochran: The platform is strong support for funding national defense. And this year, the Congress has approved $288 billion for funding the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2001. That bill should be signed by the president, and would indicate a bipartisan commitment to protecting our nation's security. We're lucky to have enough funds to do that and still provide nutrition assistance and other services to those who need support from their government.

Free Media: That was our last question for Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). Thanks so much to Sen. Cochran, and to everyone who joined us.

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