Interview with Senator Sherrod Brown

Interview with Senator Sherrod Brown

By The Situation Room - August 18, 2010

BLITZER: President Obama today told reporters he's standing by his remarks supporting the right of Muslims to build an Islamic center and mosque near New York's ground zero. He was asked about that, and he was peppered with questions about the economy as he visited Ohio. He was at a town hall meeting.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown was with the president. He's joining us now from Columbus, Ohio. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN, (D) OHIO: good to be back, thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: What do you make of this whole controversy over this Islamic center and mosque that's been proposed for near ground zero?

BROWN: What I make of it is first of all, it's a local decision, but what I make of it is Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove and Sarah Palin are looking for another way to distract the public. They tried the 14th amendment for a while and worked for three or four days. Now, they're trying this issue.

What matters to people in Chillicothe and Lima, Ohio, what are we going to do to help mall business, partner a small business to create jobs, and particularly manufacturing how do we get people back to work. And people like Gingrich and Palin are masters at changing the subject and trying to distract people.

BLITZER: Is it -- but it's not a popular issue at least according to the polls with the American public, the construction of this mosque at that site. So, I guess, the Republicans if you think they're behind this, they have a point in terms of politics?

BROWN: Well, yes, it's not a popular issue, but it's a local issue. And it's going to be decided by Mayor Blumenthal (ph) in part. I guess, he's an independent now, but was elected as Republican mayor --

BLITZER: Bloomberg.

BROWN: Yes, Bloomberg, I'm sorry. Sure, if you say, should they build the mosque or not, the public may have, you know, be overwhelmingly one way or another, but it's not on people's top list of thinks. Ask five people in Portsmouth, Ohio or Dayton, Ohio, what matters in your life, and they're going to talk about jobs. They're going to talk about health care. They're going to talk about the consumer protection on their credit cards.

You're going to talk about things that matter in their lives in Huber Heights and in Evandale, Ohio, they're not going to talk about some building in New York that they don't think about very much except that it's on the national news, and it kind of gets in their consciousness.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about jobs, because that is the top issue right now, and the president and the Democrats, they got a stimulus package through Congress. They -- but it really hasn't done the job in turning the economy completely around.

Still 9.5 percent unemployment, the African-American unemployment rate is doubled what the white unemployment rate is, and people are saying, you know what, the president and the Democrats have not delivered. How do you respond to that?

BROWN: Well, people are deservedly very understandably very unhappy with what's happened in this country in the last five years, but people also understand that when President Obama took office, we were losing 700 to 800,000 jobs a month. We had lost several millions in the last months in the Bush administration. The president's economic plan began to take effect in the spring and summer of 2009. We're now seeing private sector economic growth, job growth, every month. It is not as good as we'd like. Too many people of the millions that were laid off in the Bush years can't find jobs. People coming home from the army, coming home from college are not finding work. We all understand that. That is why there is a focus with president and others of how do we help small business create jobs. Two of three new jobs in this country are small business in the country. We need to focus especially on manufacturing. That is what we will do when we come back in September.

But people are unhappy for good reason and the Democrats are in control, so let's throw them all out, but I think that when people make the contrast, what did the Republicans do to get us in this mess, and what are the Democrats trying to do? If you ask it that way, there is a very different answer and people will look to the future with what we trying to do rather than what the Republicans have done and will do again given the chance.

BLITZER: Today's daily Gallup tracking poll had the president's job approval number 41 percent, that's the lowest it has been since he took office, so certainly, in terms of the personal approval numbers, they are going down.

BROWN: Well, of course, they are, because people are unhappy with the economic situation, and he's the president. But I think that though at voting time when people stand back and think, well, let's see, we got these candidates who voted tax cuts for the rich, and didn't pay for them, two wars and didn't pay for them, privatization of Medicare and by giving a huge bailout to the drug and insurance companies, and deregulated wall street, and do we want more of that or do we want to try to stay on course with these small business incentives to create jobs. That is the contrast that people are going to make, and frankly, Wolf, Republicans don't look very good in that contrast, because they did all of those things the last ten years, and they will do it again if we give them back the car keys as President Obama said.

BLITZER: So why are they poised to do well, if you believe the polls in November, November 2nd and the Democrats in the Senate and the house not so well?

BROWN: Yeah. Well, in large part because Democrats are in control now and you vote out whoever's in but I think it is a reflection. It's up to Democrats. It is up to Ted Strickland and Lee Fisher in Ohio and the president nationally and it's up to candidates in other states to make that case. Do you want to go back to what they were? Do you want to move forward with what we are trying to do? I think that voters, enough voters will look and think, wait a minute, we don't want to go back to these tax cuts for the rich, and deregulation of wall street and give away to the drug companies. I don't think that makes sense for the country, so I think you will see a more moderating trend there and the voters are going to look forward rather than backwards. BLITZER: We will speak November 3rd and see if the assessment is right. Maybe we will speak before then as well. Senator Brown, thank you for coming in.

BROWN: Thank you, Wolf.


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