Tennessee Congresswoman and the Volunteer State’s next senator, Marsha Blackburn joined me this morning:
HH: Joined by Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of the great state of Tennessee. Congresswoman, good morning, it’s great to have you.
MB: Good morning. I’m delighted to be with you.
HH: Are you running for the United States Senate?
MB: Yes, I am.
HH: And if Bob Corker, if Bob Corker gets back in the race, are you going to still run for the United States Senate?
MB: Yes, I am. I am running, and I’m going to win. I think what Tennesseans want to see, Hugh, is a true conservative in the U.S. Senate. They want to see somebody there that is going to back Donald Trump and his agenda. And so we are working hard. We have been just enormously blessed. And I’m so grateful for all the people across this state who have shown up to help our campaign.
HH: The website is www.marshablackburn.com, and you can follow the Congresswoman, @VoteMarsha. She is the frontrunner. But in recent weeks, there have been rumblings orchestrated, I believe, by Senator Corker, that he was having appeals sent to him to get back into the race. What did you make of all that and the sort of off again, on again Corker campaign?
MB: I think that, I look at it as just, you know, our filing deadline isn’t until April. There may be many people that get in this race. There are going to be individuals who think well, we need him to stay because he is a moderate, and Marsha is too conservative. And I’ve heard plenty of that. But I have individuals who are moderates and individuals who are conservative. And I have some who are conservative Democrats who are already working in my campaign. They’re every day working, helping us raise money, helping us reach out, build out our network, make new friends, and so I just, you know, I’m kind of keeping my shoulder to the grindstone, and my focus on what we are there to do, which is to run our race and to represent the people of Tennessee.
HH: So to be absolutely clear, your decision to run is irrevocable, and it does not matter what Senator Corker decides to do? Marsha Blackburn is in?
MB: That’s right. When he announced his retirement, I looked at the race. I did all my due diligence. My family talked through the issue. We prayed about it. We went to some people who are close to us and talked through the options that were there. And we decided that this was what we wanted to do. You know, Hugh, some of us are called to public service. And that is a calling in my life. And I am very drawn to doing what I can do to help preserve faith, family, freedom, hope and opportunity. And my husband and I decided that this is the race that would be the right race, the right fit. It was the right time for our family, so we’re in the race.
HH: And do you think you’d beat Bob Corker if he runs?
MB: I certainly do.
HH: Have you talked to President Trump about your race?
MB: You know, I have chatted with the President a little bit, but nothing at length, and nothing that specific. I, you know, talk with the President and his team regularly. I’m always grateful to have their input and hope that he’ll be out there and help me campaign. He is very popular in Tennessee. People are so benefiting by the tax cut, by the reduction in regulation, and so yes, we are hopeful that he’s going to be there with us.
HH: But yet no formal endorsement from him?
MB: No, no formal endorsement.
HH: All right. Let me turn to the Parkland shooting yesterday at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas School. One of the many ideas that are out there, and I’ll talk to the Attorney General Sessions about this next hour, is that we have a joint Congressional hearing on violence in America that includes guns, schools, churches. I’d like it to also include opioids and porn and all the other things that are destroying the collective soul of America. What is your idea of a set of hearings, joint or within the House, that address at least gun violence at schools?
MB: At our committee, Energy and Commerce, and in the House, we have looked at this issue, and have already passed some things that are helpful in this process, addressing this process and looking at the mental health issues that seem to surround this in the causes. And actually, we had three provisions that went through in the 21st Century Cures bill that were fairly specific to this. And then we also had the legislation on bump stocks that went through. Now there are some other issues. Some of us talked yesterday. There were provisions we tried to get in place when we did 21st Century Cures, and could not come to bipartisan agreement on that would deal with notification when you have some of the mental health issues that seem to be involved in these shootings, Hugh, that there would be notification of a next of kin and someone that participates and is aware of the psychotropic drugs, and a reporting of that. Also, a visibility that would be there on your record so that there would be kind of a red flag warning. I think you’re going to see this, I think you will see a return to this, and hopefully, hopefully this time we’ll be able to ensure an individual’s privacy, but also to provide access to a caregiver, a next of kin, someone to be aware of these situations. And I, you just talked about one other point that I think is important. You look at the violence in movies and video games, you look at some of the music, rap music and things that glorify, Oxy, and this all needs to stop, because it is a seediness that has crept into our society. To me, this is heartbreaking. I look at it as a mother, a grandmother, a friend, and you see the way this vulgar culture and this erosion in our culture has taken place. And you know, Hugh, as you, as there is a desensitizing through watching TV shows and movies and things that seem to glorify violence, it is, this is something that people become desensitized to. And we do need to stop…
HH: That’s why I would like to have…
MB: Yes, absolutely.
HH: …a joint committee on, with Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell, and Nancy Pelosi and Leader Schumer agree we’re going to have a series of hearings on the corrosion in the soul of America. And there are lots of reasons for that. You know, I’d add the opioid epidemic. I’d add porn. I’d add guns. I’d add violence. I’d add the internet and inflammatory, extremist rhetoric that just amplifies hate and put it all, it’s a cauldron of poison, and it erupts. But I’d also very specifically, and this is what I’d like to ask you about, I think principals and superintendents need to be immunized by federal law against lawsuits so that if they call the local authorities and say Joe Bag-o-Donuts is trouble, and we think there’s probable cause for you to put him on a no buy list, and to seek a mental eval, that that happen. Do you have a problem with that? I mean, you’ve got to have civil liberty protections for the individual. You will, but I want to make sure that principals who are worried about particular people like this evildoer yesterday are immunized from a lawsuit if they turn him in three days ago and not get sued two days ago, as opposed to yesterday having a massacre.
MB: And this is one of the things that we hear from teachers and coaches and individuals. Well, you know, I felt like there was a problem here, but people, because of political correctness and because of a litigious society, sometimes they do hesitate. I talked to someone this week, and they said you know, I’m afraid that my neighbor is having some issues, and they didn’t know what to do. I said we are at a point in this time where you see something, you say something. And people should, they need the ability to return to helping their neighbor and helping their friend, or helping people that are in their employ or are their students. And because of this litigious nature, which you so correctly put the point on, this is something that they hesitate to do, because they are fearful that somebody is going to sue them, or somebody is going to be offended, or is going to…
HH: You know what bothers me, Congresswoman? I’m reading the Washington Post. A tipster alerted the FBI in September to a disturbing comment that had been left beneath the online video, I’m going to be a professional school shooter, read the comment posted by Nikolas Cruz. Two FBI agents interviewed the caller, and then they name him, Mississippi bail bondsman Ben Bennight, the next day. Well, that says to everyone if you call the FBI and give a tip on a shooter, your name’s going to be in the paper when that shooter strikes. I mean, I’m sure Ben Bennight is not very happy about this. And so we need shield laws as well, shield laws and immunization for people who see something and say something.
MB: Well, and that is, this is one of the things as you look at the entire bucket, the issues that have been a part of debasing what is the shared common good in this country, these are things that it is, yes, you’re right. It is time to review those. I think that this is part of what should be the oversight and due diligence of the House and the Senate, and be specific in that. You know, looking at the erosion in our culture, and I will tell you something else, a separate, completely separate issue. You know, it is time to look at maybe a repeal agenda where you look at regulations and things that are on the books that have, that are keeping our banking system from working as it should, or keeping access to capital from happening, or keeping regulations from happening. Look at what is, what you would repeal and get off the books that get in the way of people getting access to health care or are driving up the access to health care. And because we are so laden with laws and government interference and government regulation, that business doesn’t work properly, that citizens feel like they cannot participate in helping their neighbor. Companies feel like they cannot get their underpinnings, if you will, and stand up. It takes too long to start that business. And Hugh, you get to a point where government gets in the way of the business of the country and the protection of the people.
HH: Marsha Blackburn, thank you for joining me. Come back throughout the campaign, very firm statement that she’s in to win and in to stay regardless of what Mr. Corker does. I appreciate the candor and the directness. Come back again soon, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. Follow her, @VoteMarsha on Twitter.
End of interview.