Interview with Representative Paul Broun

Interview with Representative Paul Broun

By Anderson Cooper 360 - January 27, 2011

O'BRIEN: Republican Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia didn't attend the speech, he says, out of respect, though he didn't exactly explain what he meant by that. He watched it from his office, and then he tweeted about it, first saying, "Good speech, but long on hope and short on reality."

Then this: "Mr. President, you don't believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism."

As a matter of opinion, there's no arguing with that. But, "Keeping Them Honest," as a matter of fact, it doesn't hold water. When we asked him to justify his statement, here's how the congressman answered.


REP. PAUL BROUN (R), GEORGIA: Mr. Obama believes in a big central government, where the federal government controls everything in our lives. That's socialism. And so I stick by that tweet.


O'BRIEN: Congressman Broun this morning sticking by it, and then taking it a step beyond. Listen.


BROUN: When I was sworn in the Marine Corps in 1964, when I was sworn into Congress, I swore to uphold the Constitution against enemies, both foreign and domestic. We have a lot of domestic enemies of -- of the Constitution, those who want to pervert it, those who want to change it.


O'BRIEN: So, then, according to the congressman, not only does the president believe in socialism. By implication, then, he's also a domestic enemy.


O'BRIEN: This is the president we're talking about. Again, that's his opinion. Hey, that's his opinion.

Kind of hard to find the facts, though, to back it up. Socialism,, according to Webster's, is "any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means and production and distribution of goods."

That's the official definition. Critics, Congressman Broun among them, point to the bank and auto bailout as an Obama government takeover. They were loans, so not a takeover. They began during the Bush administration, and neither President Bush nor President Obama sought any long-term stake in American business.

President Obama said about GM and about Chrysler:


OBAMA: These companies and this industry must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state.


O'BRIEN: And, today, GM is a publicly owned company. Chrysler is a privately owned company. Both are paying back their loans. So are the banks.

Here's President Obama this summer talking about the government's role in the economy.


OBAMA: Government cannot and should not replace businesses as the true engine of growth and job creation. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: As for the president's belief in the Constitution, well, he used to teach it at the University of Chicago, a hotbed of conservative, not radical thought.

And even though young Professor Obama was no conservative him -- conservative himself, his curriculum included readings from noted -- noted conservative thinkers, including former Justice Robert Bork.

Congressman Broun also takes issue -- a lot -- with health care reform. He spoke to us about that and much more a little bit earlier tonight.


O'BRIEN: Congressman, you clearly did not love the State of the Union address. You were tweeting, "Good speech, but long on hope and short on reality."

And then at one point, you tweeted: "Mr. President, you don't believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism."

Do you really -- do you really believe that the president does not -- does not support the constitution?

BROUN: Oh, he absolutely does not support the Constitution.

He has promoted a socialistic type of governance ever since he's been in -- in office. And a good example is Obamacare. In fact, just before Obamacare was passed into law, he said he wanted everybody in this country on -- in one pool. That's socialized medicine.

We have had a greater nationalization of the private sector.

O'BRIEN: In the speech, he actually mentioned small business several times, more than several times. So, if he were really a socialist, right, he wouldn't be talking about hoping for the success of small business. That would be exactly the opposite of what a socialist would do, right?

BROUN: Well, I -- frankly, the -- the policies that have been put forth by this administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress are destroying small businesses, and Obamacare is a good example.

O'BRIEN: You're saying that the health care bill is an issue -- is evidence of the president being a socialist. Roughly, if you look at the polls, half of the people in the United States support it. So, are 50 percent of Americans secretly socialists?


BROUN: Well, no, they just don't understand.

In Hosea 4:6, people say -- or God says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."

We have a tremendous lack of knowledge of how far we have gotten away from the Constitution of the United States. Democrats and Republicans alike have taken us away from the original intent. You see, I believe in this document as our founding fathers intended it.

We should have a very limited federal government.

O'BRIEN: Well, but wait a minute. Let's...


O'BRIEN: But wait a minute. Wait a minute.

You know...

BROUN: And the federal...

O'BRIEN: ... in the last 200 years, the...


O'BRIEN: ... Constitution, the one you're holding up, has been changed like 27 times, right?


O'BRIEN: I mean, so, the original document...

BROUN: Well, yes, but...

O'BRIEN: ... actually has been amended and changed.

BROUN: In fact, I have -- I have -- I have introduced a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget. That's what we're supposed to do when we change it.

We're not supposed to be doing it by fiat or by executive order. And that's what this president has been doing. And, in fact, Republicans and Democrats alike have been doing that. We have got to go back to a solid foundation of governance.

O'BRIEN: But...

BROUN: And the Constitution, as it was intended by our founding fathers, is what we need to go back to. And this president doesn't believe in it. And a lot of different...

O'BRIEN: But the Constitution -- sir, as you know, the Constitution as it was intended by our founding fathers -- and I actually have read the Constitution numerous times.


BROUN: Good for you. O'BRIEN: Three-fifths of a person is what some Americans counted at -- for, right? I mean, you know that. And -- and women didn't have the right to vote under the original intent of the Constitution, ergo, the numerous amendments to the Constitution.

So, why would you think anybody who's going to change the Constitution or try to change the Constitution is -- is an enemy somehow? I don't get it.

BROUN: Well, now, I did not say that, because I have tried to amend the Constitution with my own balanced budget amendment.

But, you see, the thing is, Article I, Section 8 enumerates or lists the things that the federal government is supposed to be doing or Congress can pass laws about. And it's only about 18 or 19, some people say 20.

And, in fact, the size and scope of the federal government has grown way beyond the original intent.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question. I was looking at this poll, a "USA Today/Gallup poll. It says 47 percent...


O'BRIEN: ... of these Americans who were polled said they have a negative view of the GOP.

And guess what that number is for Democrats? The same exact number -- 47 percent of Americans polled also dislike Democrats.


BROUN: Right.

O'BRIEN: And I'm curious to know. You know, in a way I thought, they dislike both of you on both sides of the aisle. They're kind of sick of politicians, and maybe the lack of civility is part of it.

What is your strategy for turning that around? Because with the tweets not so civil, doesn't sound like aiming for more civility is what your strategy is going to be.

BROUN: Well, I think my tweets were civil. I was just stating the truth, that this president has a socialistic type of philosophy and agenda. I believe that very firmly.

And -- and, so, it's not uncivil. I was just stating the truth. And I think we can do -- I think we can work together. And we should work together. I have worked with Democrats on many issues, and I will continue to do so.

O'BRIEN: The one -- maybe the one light at the end of the tunnel is that you did have one tweet which said, "I agree."

(LAUGHTER) O'BRIEN: It was, I guess, you know, somewhere in the...


O'BRIEN: ... roughly in the top 20 minutes. You said, "I agree." Maybe that is a little bit of a hopeful sign for civility...

BROUN: Well, I'll tell you what.

O'BRIEN: ... and getting along among our elected officials.


O'BRIEN: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it, Congressman Broun, joining us this evening.


O'BRIEN: Thank you for your time.

BROUN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet.



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