These are the questions
Washington Post columnist George F. Will posed to Hanoi "Secret-Service Agents R SOBs" John last month, but through some glaring oversights on the candidate's part have sat at the bottom of the Campaign HjQ's f-ing parakeet cage all this time. While cleaning out said bottom of said cage this evening, the questions were found and, after brushing off several mounds of dried droppings, may at long last be "answered":
In the more than 250 days until Nov. 2 [now 217 days], John [Q]erry can answer questions that linger despite, or because of, all he has said so far.
Why thank you, George. That is very kind of you to say.
[1.] Other than denoting your disapproval, what does the adjective mean in the phrase "special interest"?
Well, George, this is a very common phrase. If you're in Washington, D.C., it means one thing. But to hard-working Americans just trying to make a living in an economy that this Administration has failed miserably to do anything about, it means something else entirely. It means Haliburton and Wall Street insiders. It means having no voice and, likely, no job. It means making another appointment to see the Senator down the hall, or filling out another application to see if you can get a job interview. But most of all, it means watching the rich get away with buying votes while you just try to get by buying groceries.
[2.] Is the National Education Association a special interest?
The short answer is no. They are a long-established and important member of the educational community. They understand the issues thoroughly, and are not shy about telling their representatives in Washington that their members aren't too happy with their plans to cut No Child Left Behind or to force them to make artificial choices between their children having a good, solid public school education or an uncertain, expensive private one. The NEA has free-speech rights and the right to petition its government just like every other group. I for one am not going to stand in the way of their exercise of those rights.
[3.] The AFL-CIO?
Again, when you have a long-established group like the AFL-CIO or the NEA, George, they know certain things and have ideas that we in Washington should hear to be better lawmakers. They themselves represent a large number of our own constituents, who are members of those organizations. So, no, they are an invaluable resource of information and ideas for lawmakers in the Congress. Not a special interest.
[4.] You abhor "special tax giveaways for the privileged and special interests." When supporting billions in ethanol subsidies, mostly for agribusinesses, did you think about corn-growing, caucus-holding Iowa?
Our farm families are hurting, George. All because this Administration has ignored them far too long. They needed help at a time when government assistance was being slashed all to pay for ill-conceived tax cuts for the very, very rich. Iowa, especially, has been hard hit and in need of help. So I supported doing what I could to make sure that they got that help, and so we could concentrate our efforts on helping introduce a renewable fuel like ethanol into the market in order to help reduce our dependency on foreign oil.
[5.] Is the National Rifle Association a "special interest"?
Yes, they are, George. And I'll tell you why. I see guns being the cause of so much tragedy in our country, of children getting hold of them and either shooting themselves accidentally or shooting a playmate. I have seen how guns can rip apart whole families and communities and hold them hostages to fear and despair. That's why I supported extending the assault-weapons ban, as well as expanding it so that all communities could be rendered more safe from these lethal instruments that cause so much suffering. But I was opposed by a very strong lobbying group, an interest group whose lobbyists worked hard and spent lots of money to get its way. And I was asking, why do they oppose what's best for the children? Why do they want to see more tragedies when we can do something now to help? But they were too short-sighted to focus on anything more than their special interest. And they are strong. Too strong, some have said. So I don't think too many would disagree with me when I term them a "special interest."
[6.] Is "special" a synonym for "conservative"?
I don't have a dictionary handy right now, George. But I'm pretty certain that that's not one of its synonyms, especially when you're referring to a special interest group like the NRA that opposes helping communities and children, and helping them stay safe.
[7.] When you denounce "lobbyists" do you include those for Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club?
Now this is not an entirely fair comparison, when you compare what they do with the lobbying efforts of, say, the largest oil companies like Vice President Cheney's Haliburton or some of the others, or even the NRA. I have never had the phone in my senate office ringing off the hook with a bunch of angry Sierra Club members calling and demanding that I vote a certain way or another on an alternative-fuels bill, or seen four or five lobbyists from Planned Parenthood crowd my office, hat in hand, looking for a special subsidy or tax giveaway. But I've seen it happen with other Senators whenever there was a big fight brewing in the Senate for expanding drilling rights in the ANWR preserve, or just this last month when we tried to add gun-safety measures to an extension of the assault-weapons ban. I would not include the two organizations you named with that kind of intense lobbying.
[8.] Is "liberal lobbyist" an oxymoron?
[Laughs.] [Laughs some more.] [Wipes drool off side of mouth.] You know, that reminds me a joke I once heard that tries to link criminal and lawyer the same way. There was very little truth in that one, just like there's little truth in saying you can't be both a liberal and a lobbyist because that can be true. But not as much, I would say, as I've seen coming from the other side.
[9.] All the Americans affected by laws you pass -- that is, all Americans -- refuse to pipe down and mind their own business so that you can mind their business for them. Often they hire lobbyists to exercise their First Amendment right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances." Can you despise lobbyists without disparaging that right?
I've answered that before - and I am always on the side of standing up for the rights of those who have no voice in Washington, who don't get a chance to sit in on meetings with their Congressmen or go to dinners with them and discuss this bill or that and try to influence how they vote. All they can do is write letters and hope they can get in touch with a staffer who might want to talk to them. That's why it's important that we hear from organizations that have hundreds or even thousands of members so we can learn from what they bring to the table with their perspectives. It allows us to write better laws that take into account any grievances they might have and hopefully redress them in a manner that best serves the common good. That's why petitioning the government - especially the federal government - is not limited to just individuals or them signing actual petitions. People also have a right to assemble in organizations. And having such organizations allows their voices to have a better chance of being heard in Washington.
[10.] You say the rich do not pay enough taxes. In 1979 the top 1 percent of earners paid 19.75 percent of income taxes. Today they pay 36.3 percent. How much is enough?
I'm not sure about the first figure. All I know is that today we have the wealthiest of Americans receiving hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts from this Administration, creating huge budget deficits and burdening our children for generations to come with a crushing amount of debt. Do I think the top 1 percent pay their fair share? No. Not at a time when we need to fund No Child Left Behind and make sure that there are more jobs and better caretaking of our environment so that all children have a better chance for a brighter future. But as you know, I have proposed to lower the top rate some because I realize that we need stimulus if we're going to get this economy moving again and create more jobs, which this Administration has failed to do over the last three years. In return, I expect the wealthiest to do their part in that recovery by bringing more businesses and jobs back so more Americans can find work. That will determine whether the tax cut remains permanent or goes back up to pay for needed stimulus and a true recovery.
[11.] You say the federal government is not spending enough on education. President Bush has increased education spending 48 percent. How much is enough?
Well, the amount this Administration has proposed is by no means enough when you consider how woefully lacking our schools are in terms of teacher's salaries and school infrastructure, like repairing leaky roofs on buildings and building more classrooms to reduce overcrowding. Some districts have a ratio of one teacher for every forty or fifty students and that's just way too high. Schools need more money, and this Administration has failed miserably at making sure they receive the block grants and other funds they need for improvements, while focusing instead on things like unproven standardized testing of teachers and school vouchers that will wreck what's left of our public schools.
[12.] In January 1991, after Iraq extinguished Kuwait's sovereignty, you opposed responding with force rather than economic sanctions. Have such sanctions ever undone such aggression?
Well, you know, George, we were making progress in getting Saddam Hussein to really sit down at the negotiation table and start to talk about withdrawing from Kuwait. I stand by my vote because the first Bush Administration was in too big of a hurry to rush to war just like we did in Iraq. We had a real chance of resolving this conflict peacefully and according to international law. So I say, in that regard, sanctions were working but the first Bush Administration wasn't willing to really give them a chance, so we'll never know how it would've turned out otherwise.
[13.] On Jan. 11, 1991, you said that going to war was abandoning "the theory of deterrence." Was it not a tad late to deter Iraqi aggression?
That's not the real issue. Deterrence is stopping aggression before it happens - by standing firm against it before it reaches such a critical juncture. The first Bush Administration failed miserably at keeping Saddam from invading Kuwait. Had Saddam not invaded, there never would've been any need in the first place to rush to war like we did. But because that Bush Administration failed to deter an Iraqi invasion, we were left in far less of a position to put real pressure on Saddam Hussein. Once you go to war, there's no chance for you to offer a reasonable deterrence to keep aggression from escalating. You risk losing allies who might otherwise have stood with you. It's more than just a theory, as we have seen with the actions of this Administration in Iraq. You abandon the hope of using a deterrent to keep aggressive acts from happening when you commit yourself to war.
[14.] The next day you said, "I do not believe our nation is prepared for war." How did unpreparedness subsequently manifest itself?
It is not a matter of how the conflict turned out once we rushed in to attack Saddam Hussein. It was a matter of how we stood, at the time, in terms of assuring the American people that we were ready to actually fight the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi forces who were determined to defend themselves. I don't believe the first Bush Administration did enough to assure the American people that we were ready. It risked losing their support, which you need to be successful. That's why I believe we were not as prepared as we should have been before committing to an all-out war.
[15.] On Jan. 22, 1991, responding to a constituent opposed to the Persian Gulf War, you wrote "I share your concerns" and would have given sanctions more time. Nine days later, responding to a voter who favored the war, you wrote, "I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush's response to the crisis." Did you have a third position?
[Scowls.] We were in a war, George. And whether for good or for ill you have to stand behind the commander-in-chief once war breaks out - if only for the sake of the men and women who have been committed by an Administration that was so bent on rushing them into that fight. I would have given the sanctions more time, yes, because I believe they would've eventually worked towards putting sufficient pressure on Saddam Hussein to finally make him leave Kuwait. But we all had to strongly stand behind our military and support the troops because they were the ones now standing in the middle of that crisis. I believe I communicated that support when I responded to my constituent's letter.
[16.] You say the Bush administration questions "the patriotism" of its critics. You say that as president you will "appoint a U.S. trade representative who is an American patriot." You mean the current representative, Robert Zoellick, is not a patriot?
Being attacked because you have heartfelt differences with an Administration that has failed to explore every possible option before committing our nation to war is quite different from, say, pointing out that same Administration's lack of understanding about job losses because of outsourcing due to its mismanagement of the nation's trade policies, and then offering to appoint a trade representative who will do nothing to stem the loss of jobs or get tough with companies who take advantage of loopholes to move their factories overseas. That, in my mind, is a real betrayal of the workers of this country. Which position would you consider to be the less patriotic?
[17.] You strongly praise former Treasury secretary Bob Rubin, who strongly supports NAFTA and free trade. Have you changed your mind about him or about free trade (as you have changed your mind about the No Child Left Behind Act, the 2002 war resolution, the Patriot Act, etc.)?
I did not change my mind about No Child Left Behind or that resolution or the Patriot Act, because this Administration was the one that failed to live up to its promises with regard to all three. First, it failed to fully fund No Child Left Behind, just as it failed to come clean with the American people and the Congress about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or about the abuses of civil rights and ensuring adequate protections against racial profiling under the Homeland Security Department. As far as former Secretary Rubin's support of NAFTA, I believed he was sincere in his belief that expanding free trade opportunities with Mexico would create more jobs and boost both our nations' economies. And all the studies we had done in the Congress and those coming out of the president's Office of Management and Budget showed that opening up trade in both countries would be much more beneficial than it turned out to be, had we not suffered a recession just a few years later. It was an honest assessment and effort to do what was right for our country as well as the people of Mexico. So I do not fault the former secretary for not knowing in advance that we would be hit by that unexpected recession.
[18.] You oppose immediate termination of U.S. involvement in Iraq, and you opposed the $87 billion to pay for involvement. Come again?
It's really very simple, George. I voted to give our troops the body armor and pay increases they needed which this Administration failed to provide before coming to the Congress with a bill loaded down with all manner of extraneous funding that I still believe today was not wise. We should have had more hearings on those provisions before we took it up for a vote. But this Administration failed to convince its friends in both houses to do that, and so we were left with a flawed bill that I thought did not do enough to support our troops. That's why I couldn't vote for that bill, but had voted earlier for the same things that were in it.
[19.] In 1994, the year after the first attack on the World Trade Center, you voted to cut $1 billion from counterterrorism activities. In 1995 you proposed a $1.5 billion cut in intelligence funding. Are you now glad that both proposals were defeated?
No. And I'll tell you why. First off, like the bills before the $87 billion Iraq funding bill - which I voted for - each one was intended to offer improvements in the way we did counterterrorism and intelligence by cutting out unnecessary functions and replacing those with less expensive methods of doing the same things. I could give you some examples but I don't have the bills before me right now and I think it would take too much time right now to look them all up. Let me just say that I am a strong supporter of our counterterrorism and intelligence agencies and will always make sure that they have the level of funding needed to not repeat the mistakes that this Administration failed to keep them from making over the last three years. I would also note that by eliminating wasteful funding, we're better able to pay down the debt and keep our children from having to be straddled with it when they reach voting age.
[20.] You favor civil unions but not same-sex marriage. What is the difference?
There's a big one, George. Marriage is something that's always been between a man and a woman, and civil unions are something that we have tried to use to make sure that no one is discriminated against when they and their partners want to be together in a loving relationship.
[21.] What consequences of gay marriage worry you?
I don't believe there are any consequences that could not be adequately addressed by promoting a system of civil unions while keeping marriage just between a man and a woman.
[22.] Your state's highest court says marriage is "an evolving paradigm." Do you agree?
I cannot address the legal aspects of their decision because it has not come up before the Congress and is not likely to come up, at least in this year. It is something that those in the Congress would have to study thoroughly if and when it does, and hear from all sides and give them a chance to express their viewpoints before reaching a decision that is best for the country and those involved. As you know, the president would not be called to express an opinion in the case of a constitutional amendment because that is something he has no power to approve or veto. And the separation of powers would disincline a president from trying to exert such influence in any case. So that's probably not an issue that I would have any influence over unless I remained in the Senate.
[23.] You say you agree with what Dick Cheney said in 2000: States should have a right to "come to different conclusions" about same-sex marriage. Why, then, were you one of only 14 senators who opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which protects that right?
Because I believe that it's unconstitutional. States can have their rights to make such domestic decisions for themselves. But if one state is prevented from having its decisions recognized by all the others, then it has less rights. So the Congress should have looked into this constitutional aspect of it more before passing the law that it did. I think we could've done a better job with protecting decisions of those states that reached a conclusion that's different from the other states.
[24.] Massachusetts opponents of the same-sex ruling are moving for a referendum to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. How will you vote?
I am unable to answer that until I see exactly what form the amendment finally takes when it's presented to the voters. I'm not trying to intentionally evade your question, George. [Laughs.] It's just that I can't say one way or the other if I would vote for something before I know what it is I'm voting on. [Giggles.]
[25.] You favor full disclosure of political spending. Organized labor is fighting new regulations requiring full disclosure to union members of the political uses of their mandatory union dues. As president, would you rescind these regulations?
I believe the courts have already settled this, saying that they do have to disclose. But I'm not absolutely certain about that so I would have to look it up.
[26.] Praising McCain-Feingold restrictions on political contributions, you said: "This bill reduces the power of the checkbook, and I will therefore support it." In December you saved your sagging campaign by writing it a $6.4 million check. Why is your checkbook's unfettered freedom wholesome?
Because of what I'm facing, George. I had to take that option if I wanted to stay in the race. I was not only facing stiff challenges from my fellow Democrats in the primary campaigns, but was already looking ahead at the well-funded one that I'd be facing afterwards from an Administration that was being supported by big oil and other huge special interests and had built up an unprecedented amount of funds in its campaign chest to get re-elected. This Administration has failed to live up to the standards set by our new rules; and I was not about to let myself get tied down by those that would keep me from competing in the campaign on the same, level playing field.
[27.] You deny that restricting campaign contributions restricts speech. How much of the $6.4 million
did you spend on speech -- in the form of broadcast messages?
I don't necessarily deny that it does. If every candidate were required to abide by the same rules, then yes, there would be no restriction because everyone would be under the same limits. As for the ads I took out during the primaries, I believe those are now a matter of public record.
[28.] Billionaire George Soros says he will spend whatever is necessary to defeat President Bush. As one who believes -- well, who says -- there is "too much money" in politics, are you appalled?
From what I understand of the ruling by the Supreme Court and the recent one by the FEC [Federal Election Commission], he is allowed to raise funds for efforts to just get out the vote and get more people registered so long as he doesn't cross the line of advocating one candidate over another. I'm not sure whether his recent ads [produced by MoveOn.org and Americans Coming Together (ACT)] can be considered to fall into the latter category.
There are 28 more questions where these 28 came from.
[Waits until George Will leaves the room.] That sonofabitch!
Hey, is this mike still on?
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