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Kansas Senator and presidential candidate Sam Brownback on the ISG report.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

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HH: Joined now by United States Senator Sam Brownback, back from the great state of Kansas, been in the United States Senate for a decade. And Senator, I want to talk to you about a number of things, but it must be sort of a bittersweet day. A number of your friends, Senator Talent, and Senator Santorum saying goodbye from the Senate floor today.

SB: It is. It’s a tough day. Although those are great gentlemen, they’re going to move on with their lives, and they’re going to do a lot of great things. But still, it’s tough. These are guys that really stood and fought on good, clear, important issues, and they’re not going to be here any longer.

HH: And they understood the war.

SB: Yes.

HH: I hope someone mentions them to the President when it comes time to find some federal judges. But they understood the war, and the body is not as understanding of the war. Senator Brownback, what did you make of the ISG report?

SB: You know, I think it’s a good starting point for us to get back to a bipartisan solution. The Democrats voted for the war, it was a bipartisan vote. And then, this past year and a half, two years, have done nothing but bang on the situation, and hammer away. And I think this is a chance for us to get back, pulling in somewhat in the same category, in the same way. And the Democrats are going to have to fund the war, or decide not to fund it. You cannot conduct a war in this country with one party being for it, and one against it. And this, I think, gives us a chance to get back together.

HH: Well, perhaps an opportunity, but in the text of the report, and the call for negotiations with Iran, Senator Brownback, do you think that they really understand the nature of the regime you’re up against?

SB: I think they understand the nature of the regime, and I think they’re probably, in some respects, calling the bluff. I don’t think Iran’s going to join in. I think there’s…there’d be a willingness to talk with them, and Iran has its fingers all over the place in that region in the world, and in Iraq. But I don’t think they’re going to join in.

HH: One of the colleagues of yours in the Senate, John McCain, has called not for a draw down over fifteen months, a certain draw down, but to a surge of support and troops into Baghdad. Your reaction, Senator Brownback?

SB: Well, I respect John, and on military issues, he has experience, and he’s been around for a long time. I just don’t think there’s…that’s a politically sellable proposition to the American people today, number one. Number two, I don’t think it necessarily sends the right signal to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. It makes it sound like okay, we’re in, and we’re going to be staying in, when in fact, what’s taking place is the country is starting to pull back from Iraq.

HH: Senator Brownback, the ISG did not talk to a single member of the Lebanese democratically elected government that we backed. Was that a failing on their part?

SB: I think they should have talked to them. Now it may have been just an oversight on their part, but that’s a critical group in that region, and it’s another place that is a flashpoint, and it would have been good, I think, if they had engaged them.

HH: Two aspects of the report also drawing a lot of criticism today, one is that they suggested the Golan Heights needed to go back to Syria, the other that the Palestinians enjoyed a right of return. Your reaction of both of those propositions, Senator Brownback?

SB: Well, I disagree on those propositions, and I don’t think that’s the role of the Iraqi Study Group to propose solutions on the Palestinian-Israeli situation. I understand why they did that, and that they were being pressured to say okay, if you’re going to get the regional countries involved, you’ve got to deal with all of the regional issues, and the key biggest flashpoint for us is the Israeli-Palestine…but I don’t think that’s the way that it should be looked and seen from here, from our vantage point. I think we should be looking at is, what does it mean and say, and what should we do and can we do on Iraq.

HH: Now Sam Brownback, you’ve formed an exploratory committee this week to look at the possibility of a presidential run.

SB: I did.

HH: What’s the technical transition time? When does that become an actual campaign?

SB: Well, we are now out and organizing, and at some time, I hope, in the near future, if the exploratory process is successful, we’ll be moving onto the next step. But we don’t have a time frame set for that, and it can vary substantially, just on the technical moves of taking forward. Still, this race has started faster, probably faster than anytime in history, and I think it’s important to be out there, and talking to people.

HH: What’s the centerpiece of the Brownback campaign?

SB: Saving lives, rebuilding families, renewing the culture. That’s the centerpiece.

HH: Let’s break that down. Saving lives, does that go to abortion?

SB: It goes there, but it also goes to Darfur. It also goes to cancer, finding…if we can get this done, and I co-chair the cancer caucus here, next ten years, eliminating deaths by cancer, through a very aggressive, moon shot type program. That’s the life component.

HH: Does the moon shot component involve aggressive stem cell research?

SB: It does, but not on embryonic stem cells. We can do this on adult and cord blood, and have, and we have cancer patients being treated in this country today with cord blood stem cells.

HH: And how do you understand the enemy we face in the war?

SB: Well, I think it’s very clear that we face an enemy, and I think we’ve done some of a disservice by using a verb, and not a noun in the war on terrorism. Who is it that we’re fighting? And we’re fighting Islamic-facists. I think we should be saying that. We should confront this group that wants two things. They want us out of the Middle East, and they want to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region where we pull out of. This is a very serious enemy that we’re confronting.

HH: Can we allow Iran to go nuclear, to possess nuclear weapons?

SB: Well, that’s a tough issue to decide, and discern just exactly where the Iranians are. Hugh, I don’t have a direct answer on that. I do know that I believe we have to strongly confront the Iranians, we have to confront them on a multiple set of issues, including human rights issues, which I don’t think we’ve done, the strength of which we need to on that. And we’ve got to get the Europeans and others engaged with us, to aggressively confront them, which is tough to get done. But you know, the way you phrased that question, it almost begs a military response, as is does it get to that level. And I can’t, in my own mind, commit to that at this point in time.

HH: Let me ask you about, as we’ve got about 45 seconds left, Senator Brownback, and I look forward to talking to you throughout the campaign, in an invitation that will be open to all would-be presidents, about judges, and especially Supreme Court justices. In 30 seconds, what are you going to look for if you are the president?

SB: What I’ve already been looking for, somebody that will abide by the Constitution, and not try to rewrite it, somebody that will be a jurist, not a superlegislator. I think we have some good models in John Roberts and Sam Alito. I think those are…and I think it’s important, I think it’s important for the judiciary to be a judiciary again, and not seen as some form of legislative body.

HH: United States Senator Sam Brownback, thanks for spending some time with us. We look forward to many conversations from the trail.

End of interview.

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