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Interview With Scott Brown

Interview With Scott Brown

By RealClearPolitics - January 6, 2010

RCP: I’ll start by asking about the new Rasmussen poll today that shows you down 9 points. What are your thoughts on where you stand? Do you think that reflects reality?

Brown: Well, I was 30 points down a month ago, and 9 points now. I’ve never been a big poll person. I know one thing when I’m traveling around the country – sorry, around the state -- it feels like the country sometimes -- the energy’s really fantastic, with Democrats who are dissatisfied with the way that Massachusetts and Washington are treating them when it comes to their wallets and pocketbooks. Independents are the same way. And Republicans are excited about the opportunity to have some balance in Washington in representation for the first time in many, many years. So while I’m certainly happy, I don’t want to have anyone be complacent because there’s still two weeks. It’s not over until it’s over. And I’m going to treat it that way until 8:01 on January 19.
 
RCP: There’s some sense that even a 9-point loss wouldn’t be so bad for Republicans, that it would send a signal about the strength or weakness I should say of the Democratic Party even in a blue state. For you would it be enough just to be closer than expected?

Brown: I don’t know what’s expected. I expect to win. I know I’m the candidate, but I’ve won nine or 10 elections already. I’ve been the underdog before. I’ve been down this many points in elections before, and have won every election. In the last election, in the Obama wave, I won by almost 20 points – more than Kerry and Obama, and almost everyone in my town. I know how to campaign. I’m going to work very, very hard. I’m not taking anyone’s vote for granted. I think it’ll be closer than 9 points, certainly. And if everybody gets out and votes, I may even have the chance to win.
 
RCP: What is the expectation for turnout right now? Democratic turnout was down in some of the 2009 races, but what’s your sense on the ground in Massachusetts for this special election?
 
Brown: We are hitting all of our numbers in terms of phone calls. I just walked in, and the number I was told, I was like, ‘What? You did what today?’ We’re identifying – we know who we need to reach, we know who have voted. We know the 4-for-4, 3-for-4 voters. I’m not an unknown commodity like many people nationally think. I’ve been an assessor, selectmen, state Rep., state Senator. Since Governor Romney has been off the scene, I have been traveling around the state speaking to Chambers of Commerce and businesses, learning more about our state and the way it functions, the needs it has.
 
And in my 30 years in the military and service to our country, coupled with the 6,000 votes that I’ve had, I haven’t been a wallflower. I’ve been fighting to strengthen our sex offender laws that affects kids, our drunk driving rules and regulations, benefits for veterans and military personnel – these are all issues that affect every day people. I’ve always been independent, straight-talking, straight-shooting. And people appreciate that honesty, especially at a time where transparency and good government seems to have gone by the wayside.
 
RCP: The Boston Herald wrote about the fact that your campaign hasn’t had the support of the national Republican party that some Republicans in Massachusetts would like. Do you feel like you have the support you need? Is that something you even want?

Brown: When I responded to the article, I said they’ve given us everything we’ve asked for. And what we’ve asked for and what we needed was some guidance on a few issues, technology, phones, some of the things that are kind of the bread and butter of doing a good grass roots campaign. I don’t want to be beholden to anybody. I don’t owe anybody anything. Martha Coakley is in lock-step with all the special interests, she’s part of the Democratic machine in Massachusetts. And she’ll be the same way in Washington.
 
RCP: On your Twitter feed, and some of the Republicans enthused about your candidacy talk about you being the 41st Vote. Talk about the significance of that, and is that something you're running on more broadly?
 
Brown: Not on a broad basis. But when it comes to the health care bill in particular, we already have almost 98 percent of our people insured, and this national plan will just crush Massachusetts businesses, hurt care and coverage, cut Medicare half a trillion dollars, put veterans’ Tri-care coverage at risk potentially, and do really nothing good for what we already have. So why would we pay higher taxes for four or five years, potentially have a government option that’s gonna be in direct competition with what we have, cost the taxpayers more money, higher fees, higher taxes, lower coverage and longer lines, lessen care – why would we do that?
 
So for that particular issue, yes. And on cap and trade, yes. We’re in the middle of a second-year recession. We don’t need to hurt job growth, we need to create jobs. We need to step back by doing conservation, wind, solar, nuclear, hydroelectric. Step back from our reliance on foreign oil and fossil fuels. To put a massive taxing on businesses and individuals at a time when we can’t afford it, no, it’s just wrong.
 
RCP: Republicans in Washington have been able to demonstrate strong unanimity, especially in the House and to a lesser extent in the Senate. Are you saying that you could not necessarily be counted on to always be that 41st vote?
 
Brown: One of the things that’s made me an effective legislator in a highly and heavily-controlled Democrat area is to look at each bill on its own merits. I’ve never been anybody whose vote can be taken for granted. People need to earn my vote. If it’s a good piece of legislation that is a Democrat piece and is good for my state, and it makes sense for the people of the United States, then it’s possible I’ll support it. But for anyone to think that I’m going to be in lock-step with anybody, I think they’re mistaken.
 
RCP: On health care, there’s been some discussion of the Massachusetts plan on a national level, and even some Republicans have been critical of it. What’s your take on how it’s played out, and are there any lessons to be learned nationally?
 
Brown: We did it because we were – our hospitals were paying a billion dollars a year on the uncompensated health care pool, costing us a lot of money. So we knew we needed to do something, and one of the best things we can do is to make sure that people who are making 70, 80, 90,000 can get a basic plan, and make sure that anybody who’s eligible for federal benefits, military benefits or any type of other programs, got processed properly. So we’ve in fact saved money with the free care pool, shifted a lot of that obligation onto our plan. One of the good or bad things is, I think we’ve got more people insured than we thought, so our federal reimbursement is less.
 
Our mandates need to be adjusted and looked at. We have chiropractic care as a mandate. Young people don’t need it, babies don’t. I don’t need in vitro fertilization, but I’m paying for it. So I’m looking to tailor plans for individuals, young, old, male, female, kids, to save money in that regard.
 
To have a one-sized fits all plan that the national plan is pushing is not good for Massachusetts. But more importantly I don’t think it’s good for the entire country. What I would encourage, is states to get animated. Learn from us, but also teach us as to how to do it better, and maybe more cost effective. and let the federal government incentivize us, offer us incentives to do it better and get coverage and provide the services. To have entire government control over the entire health care industry, have one-sized fits all, is not the way to go.
 
RCP: I’ve seen a number of ads. One you released over the holiday shows a previous holder of your seat, President Kennedy, then morphing into you. What were you trying to achieve, and what has the reaction been?

Brown: Certainly to shake things up a little bit, but also to point out very clearly: different person, different era, different party, same message. Lowering taxes creates more jobs. Putting more money in people’s pockets creates more jobs. It also points out to the old-timer Democrats and independents, people who are more conservative when it comes to fiscal issues especially, that the Democrat Party in Massachusetts has fallen off when it comes to protecting the fiscal rights and wallets and pocket books of every day, working-class Democrats, Republicans and independents. I think I achieved that goal and got people talking.
 
It certainly woke up you all. I listen to the radio, and I’m hearing, ‘Midterm elections. We’re going to do A, B, C and D. And I’m saying to myself, do you guys even know that there’s an election?’ I called a national talk show, spoke to the host. He didn’t even know that there was an election, number one. And he thought that Senator Kennedy’s wife was voting right now, not Senator Kirk. These are the people that are talking about saving the country? They now know, and I appreciate they’re stepping up. But people need to know nationally that this is an election that affects them as well. Somebody has the ability to at least – I’m not going to be, like I said, just a filibuster senator. I’m going to be somebody who’s at least going to provide an opportunity to have a fair and open discussion in a transparent manner. No Nebraska sellouts and Louisiana purchases. Let’s do it the right way.  
 
RCP: Obviously the talk has been that this is Ted Kennedy’s seat. Are people still talking about that in this race?

Brown: With all due respect, it’s not Ted Kennedy’s seat. It’s the people’s seat. It’s not the Democrats’ seat. It’s the people’s seat. And people are looking forward to having, finally, an opportunity to make an informed, clear decision. There’s a reason why they manipulated the Senate succession legislation here in Massachusetts, why the president called Governor Patrick to send down an interim senator. They wanted that 60th vote. And people are upset about that. They’re tired of the power grab and the lack of respect for the voters. And I offer the opportunity to send a message.
 
RCP: Let’s do a lighting round here on some of the other issues, you’ve touched on some of them already. The president’s due to speak any minute about the situation with the Christmas Day attack. What kind of grade do you give him for handling the terrorism issue so far?

Brown: I’m not into grading, but I think he recognizes that he made a poor presentation. Napolitano also certainly made -- bungled it. I think that there’s good and bad that came out of it. She recognized that she misspoke, and now this issue has certainly been brought to the forefront as a result of that error.
 
I have always said, being somebody who was in the military for 30 years – I’m a JAG now, I was an infantry officer and quartermaster – I understand the laws of war and the rules of engagement and the Geneva Conventions and how we treat people. The biggest mistake that I think the president’s making is that he’s treating these people as ordinary criminals, and they’re lawyering them up at taxpayer expense instead of treating them like they are. We’re in a time of a war. These are clearly enemy combatants, and they should have been shipped down to Guantanamo Bay and interrogated, pursuant to all legal means. Then if they felt, once they released the information, they still have, as they’ve done before, the option to bring them to civil court if they think it’s appropriate. It’s not like -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed being picked up in Pakistan and then say, hey I’ll see you in New York with my attorneys.
 
It’s clear what the intent is, is to manipulate our judicial system, make a show not only of us but also certainly their methods. And it’s wrong. That’s one of the main differences between Martha Coakley and me. She believes that Eric Holder is right, and we should offer constitutional protections to people who have never had them before. I just don’t get it. As an attorney of 25 years, I’m like, ‘This is different.’
 
RCP: Immigration was something Senator Kennedy worked on as well. What’s the right approach for this issue?
 
Brown: One of the main problems with immigration is, we don’t provide the tools and resources for the processors, the people that do the jobs to process these people timely. I’m in favor of strong border enforcement, and also strong verification to try and make people are here legally. If employers are hiring them, they should be fined. And for those who are here illegally, if they want to become legal citizens, they should go to the back of the line and do it legally.
 
RCP: The Globe has written about abortion quite a bit, we’ve seen it trip up Democrats in the state in the past. What role is that playing in the race?

Brown: It’s only an issue because Martha made it a principled position, that she wouldn’t support the health care bill if it restricted federal funding. Then, when she won the primary, she said, ‘Oh, by the way, I am in favor of the health care bill now,’ even though it did not include federal funding.

One thing about Senator Kennedy -- he was a principled man. And when he didn’t want something, he stood up for it. People have great respect for that, as I do. And it just shows how in a very short period of time, that Martha has flip-flopped, changed her mind on something that is so personal to her. Well it was personal to her for a few days, then she realizes she’d be the 60th vote and could push this through.
 
RCP: Today there’s a lot of talk again about the state of the Republican Party nationally. I wanted to get your take on whether the direction it’s taken in past years has made it harder for you as a Blue State Republican to achieve success.
 
Brown: I’ve always been a Scott Brown Republican. And that’s an independent, clear-thinking, honest, straight-talking person.  That’s why I get overwhelmingly re-elected in a very Blue State.
 
RCP: You say you’re a known quantity in the state. But as your introducing yourself formally in a statewide election for the first time, what’s something that you think voters should know about you that they probably don’t?

Brown: Many of them do by now, but they should know that I’m not owned by anybody. I don’t owe anybody anything. No special interest groups are giving me hundreds of thousands of dollars. No big party machinery is lining up behind me telling me how to vote. I’m definitely not a Beacon Hill insider, and I’m certainly not a DC insider. I’ve always been known, whether it’s in military, sports, and life in general as somebody that’s been a very plain talker, independent thinker and voter. I’ve taken over 6,000 votes. There are times that I’ll support a good Democrat idea, and there’s times I’ll support a good Republican idea. But I need to make sure they make sense, they can be paid for, and that there’s a reason for the legislation. I don’t avoid tough votes. I stand up and look people in the eye and tell them my feelings. While we may not agree, at least you appreciate my honesty. I think that’s what people know of me, that’s what they expect of me, and I’m hopeful that message of independence and balance will help me get elected.
 
RCP: And if you do win, who is the bigger sensation in your family: you or your American Idol daughter and basketball star?
 
Brown: She’s been a little jealous lately. You’ve seen the commercials with the kids. They’re great kids, I’m very lucky to have them. Ayla has a wonderful career. She’s a very talented young lady. My wife and I think God every night for blessings of both of our daughters – our other daughter just today got admitted into the honors program pre-Med in Syracuse. A very selective group of only 50 kids, I think, in the whole school. So we’re very, very fortunate. For somebody whose mom was on welfare, my parents were divorced – married and divorced, my dad three times my mom four times – coming from humble beginnings, I count my blessings every single second of my waking being that I have these wonderful opportunities.

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