Interview with Senator Jim DeMint

Interview with Senator Jim DeMint

By John King, USA - October 5, 2011

KING: You remember, of course, that repeal Obamacare was a signature slogan of the Tea Party, as it helped Republicans to giant successes in last year's midterm elections. That repeal effort now, though, has zero chance of short-term success. Democrats control the Senate. President Obama of course has at least 15 more months at the White House.

So was today's event a waste of time and energy?

Well, let's ask one of the organizers. You just saw him there, Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina.

Senator, on that point, you know you have zero chance. And I could make the case 1.6 million signatures, wow, that's a pretty big number, but I could also make the case more than 82 million people voted in the midterm elections. That's not such a great number.

DEMINT: Well, what we're trying to do here is to remind Americans, as we try to cut our budget, try to deal with our deficit, that many on the Democrat side, including the president and some Republicans, have talked about cutting Social Security and Medicare.

We can't talk about cutting our promises to seniors at the same time we're spending trillions on this new entitlement program that we call Obamacare. Millions of Americans want it repealed. Every statistic that's coming out is telling us it's raising the cost of health care. It's hurting job creation in America. And it's going to eventually hurt quality of health care.

So we cannot let the issue die and I don't think it will die because of the debt that we're dealing with. We could cut $1.5 trillion immediately just by repealing Obamacare. Instead, they're going to look at cutting benefits on Social Security and Medicare.

KING: The latest CBS/"New York Times" poll, three in 10 Americans say repeal the entire law. About 17 percent say repeal parts of it. So about half of the country wants to repeal all or part. But don't you from a tactical standpoint right now really have two options in the short term? Number one, maybe the Supreme Court agrees with you and says it's unconstitutional or, number two, you need to elect a Republican president, right?

DEMINT: Well, you're exactly right.

And we need to make sure whatever Republican is elected is committed to repealing Obamacare. That's why we have got to keep the issue alive.

Fortunately, all the Republicans running for the nomination have said that they will repeal this bill. KING: You mentioned the Republican presidential field. Do you think this is it? Governor Christie yesterday saying no. Let me ask you this question first. Does Sarah Palin owe her supporters a definitive, final in or out?

DEMINT: Well, I don't think she owes anyone anything.

She has not said she's going to run. I don't expect her to get in at this point. I think the field is complete, but that's just a guess on my part. And I think the field is actually developing. You know, the three or four top Republicans at this point all would make good presidents, and I'm anxious to see how it continues to go over the next few months.

KING: If you are looking now at the top tier of this field, and you have Governor Perry, who is conservative on some issues, but doesn't support the border fence, supports in-state tuition breaks for children of illegal immigrants, take that vs. Governor Romney, I know you have concerns with the Massachusetts health care plan. Which of those is the better choice?

DEMINT: Well, I think they're both good choices. And I think we have got several other good choices in the field.

So, as you have probably detected, I'm not going to lean one way or another at this point.

KING: Herman Cain has come from nowhere. He's now number two in most of the Republican polls, right up there with Governor Romney and Governor Perry. He's never held effective office. Does that give you pause when you think about being the next commander in chief?

DEMINT: Oh, not at all, not at all.

I think -- well, I had never held office when I was elected to Congress. And I think I was a better congressman for it.

KING: President's a little different, though, isn't it, Senator?

DEMINT: It is, but I would rather have a chief executive than someone who had been a politician their whole life. And so I think we have got a -- again, a good field.

Herman Cain would be a very credible presidential candidate, along with all the others I think that are in the race right now. So, I'm waiting to see how America leans because all of these candidates have a lot of the qualifications that would appeal to me.

But we need to make sure this candidate can not only win the nomination, but can win general election. Again, this may be our last chance as a country to turn things around. We have got to pick the right candidate.

KING: Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, sir, thanks for your time tonight.

DEMINT: Thank you. 

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