Thu 6 Jul 2006
UPDATE: See here
Over a month ago I had reached out to the Sherrod Brown campaign about doing a one on one interview with Sherrod Brown. Up till now they had denied any requests to be interviewed by members of the Ohio blogosphere. Still, even though I was one of Sherrod Brown’s strongest critics during the primary, Connie Schultz always made a point to thank me for being fair. This made me think that there was a slight chance that they would say yes. Surprisingly enough they did, and this Saturday they were able to fit some time in at their hotel in Columbus.
This was the 3nd time that I met Congressman Brown and his wife. The first time was back during the Senate primary when I was writing some of my hardest posts on his campaign. Even so, when we met, we exchanged kind words to each other. The day of the interview I found Sherrod Brown and Connie Schultz to be extremely nice people. While I was setting up Congressman Brown asked me about where I lived, and my family. He was particularly interested in my Grandfather who was elected a Democratic State Senator in Indiana the same year that Kennedy became President. He noticed my copy of Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine amongst my things while I was unpacking. We spent some time talking about what a tragic figure Colin Powell was.
There were no rules. The Congressman did not know the questions in advance. I stopped taping several times for technical reasons, and once at the end to take pictures. There were only two chairs in the room so he ended up making a makeshift chair out of a footrest and a pillow while myself and a staffer sat down. I tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn’t have it since I was operating the equipment.
For this interview I decided to ignore all of the static that I had heard and read from other people about Sherrod Brown and the Senate primary, and just talk to him about what I wanted to talk about… issues that matter to me: How he’s going to beat Mike DeWine. What he would do to turn this country around. I didn’t get into blogging in order to debate who said what to whom in some private conversation at a Christmas party I wasn’t at. As an independent entity I like being relatively isolated from the behind the scenes sturm und drang that most political staffers and wonks obsess about. I didn’t enjoy it back in High School, and I don’t want to blog about it now.
Having now had a chance to interview at length Paul Hackett and Sherrod Brown the thing that strikes me is the intense level of self-confidence they both have. The political sports fan in me loved the clash this produced… the foul mouthed gun toting marine and the crusty old labor street fighter. It was one hell of a fight. Unfortunately, as do all really good fights, it left a lot of lasting damage.
In another time and another place they would have played well off of each other. Anti-war liberals, and pro-military (real) conservatives… these are the two groups that we need to bring together in order to truly change our country… the great bridge as I like to call it. For a time it looked like we were going to build that bridge. Maybe we still can.
In the end I came away very impressed with Congressman Brown. When I listen to him talk, I think how much I would love to have him as my Senator. I don’t care what the polls say. If we have a chance to get someone like that in our corner we’ve got to fight like hell to make it happen, regardless of the past, and no matter what the odds. Besides, I’m really itching for a rematch with Karl Rove.
Bring it on, baby
OH02: Hi, this is Chris Baker, editor of the Ohio 2nd Blog, and I’m sitting in the hotel room next to Sherrod Brown’s hotel room (laughter) interviewing him about the race for Senate. How ya doing Congressman?
Sherrod Brown: Good, thanks. Glad to be with you.
OH02: First off, thanks for letting me do this. It’s very cool. I appreciate that a lot.
Sherrod Brown: Thank you for the substance that you bring to this race, and thanks for your progressive outlook on the world.
OH02: We try to stay positive. We work on it… ya know… day by day is how it works.
So, right off the bat, this is my favorite question: Why are you running for Senate?
Sherrod Brown: This is a chance to change the direction of the country. When I got in this race I’ve watched for the last fives years as Mike DeWine and George Bush as they took the oath of office on January of 2001, when I look at what’s happened to the future of this country in terms of the Supreme Court, in terms of the environment, in terms of the budget, in terms of the Iraq war, in terms of poverty, and all the direction our country is going in, and my winning in this state coupled with Ted Strickland winning the Governor’s, my winning in this state will not only change the direction of Ohio but I think what happens in 2008.
OH02: Every event I’ve heard you talk, you’ve always invoked the Democratic tradition, the progressive tradition of FDR. What’s the 21st century version of that vision?
Sherrod Brown: The 21st century version is government should be on the side of people who work hard and play by the rules, and government today is on the side of the drug companies, and the insurance industry, and the credit card companies, and wall street, and Haliburton, and on people of great privilege, and government has turned its back on those that play by the rules.
Today we went to a, stood outside a company called Techniglass sort of southeast of Columbus. And these are good people; I talked to people who worked there 20 years, 30 years, that lost their jobs, partly to foreign competition, partly to corporate greed. And there are too many Americans that have lost pensions, seen their health care coverage evaporate, or disintegrate, and if Government continues to be on the side of those most privileged we’re going to turn into a country that has a very small middle class, has a few rich people and a whole lot of people who can’t make ends meet.
OH02: So how do you strike the balance? I mean, DeWine has worked pretty hard has an image of being pro business; business friendly Senator. Not completely towing the Bush Republican line. How does a progressive voice such as yours contrast with that?
Sherrod Brown: It’s easy to make the contrast with Mike DeWine because he’s been on the wrong side of every major issue. He has; Mike DeWine voted for the war in Iraq, I voted against the Iraq war. Mike DeWine did nothing about trying to get our troops body armor, I questioned Colin Powell, and administrator Bremer, and anybody else in the administration, wrote letters, organized family meetings of families to try and make that happen. Mike DeWine has consistently until his election year conversion been against the minimum wage, I supported the minimum wage. Mike DeWine voted with George Bush and the oil industry on the energy bill, we end up with higher gas prices. He voted with the drug companies on Medicare, end up with higher drug prices, and anyone that’s tried to help their parents, or anyone of that age who’s tried to navigate their way through that imbed Medicare Part D, understands what that bill did to them. Mike DeWine sided with the credit card companies on the bankruptcy bill, I opposed the bankruptcy bill, and every one of these cases DeWine has gotten huge numbers of campaign contributions from these interest groups that he supports.
The last and maybe the most important is he’s taken more than a million dollars from large corporate interests that have outsourced jobs. And even, and he’s voted for he was for NAFTA, for PNTR, for CAFTA, for Fast Track. This last week voted for the Iman free trade agreement. And we continue to pass, Congress continues to pass these job killing trade agreements that outsource our jobs.
OH02: So what are the Democrats missing that they can’t convince voters in Ohio about these problems? I mean, you look at the factories and you can see what the results are, but they keep winning.
Sherrod Brown: I think Democrats have to connect these issues to voter’s everyday lives. One of the things we’re doing this campaign; Connie, my wife Connie Schultz has been, we’ve talked repeatedly about this is an 88 county race, we’re going in SouthEast Ohio. Connie was in five river counties, four river counties, and Jackson one off the river, last week, talking to people about their hopes and their dreams. People in South East Ohio, white Appalachians in South East Ohio, African-Americans in East Cleveland have the same hopes for their kids, to get an education, and get a decent job, and the same concerns for their aging parents. And I just don’t think that Democrats have talked to people about their hopes and their dreams. About and education, about finding a job, about energy prices, about drug prices, about hope for the future, about minimum wage, and that’s my campaign; you’ve heard me talk about it on the stump, that’s what I’m going to keep saying, and it’s going to work cause the voters want a contrast. Here’s Brown’s vision of the future, here’s DeWine’s vision for the future; Here’s Brown’s record of what he’s done, here’s DeWine’s record of what he’s done. And I think most of the polls show that voters are listening, and I’ve not even started advertising yet.
OH02: One of the things that I’m interested, I’m not a native person from Ohio; I moved here five years ago, and so my experience is entirely Taft. Now you’re someone who’s been in the political system from the get go, in terms of your professional career. How can you contrast your stint as a representative in Ohio, as Secretary of State, to what’s going on now with Ken Blackwell and the whole Republican Administration right now?
Sherrod Brown: Well Blackwell has exhibited; well the whole administration is… Every Republican in the state benefits from the corruption of Bob Taft and Thomas Noe. They’ve benefited from a Republican political machine that’s funded their campaigns; that’s built their grass roots efforts, and I’m not at all sure that George Bush would have carried the state in 2004 without Tom Noe and what he did with fundraising, with party building, the whole corrupt machine.
So Democrats and Republicans alike over the years have had their ethical problems to be sure, but we’ve never seen a systematic, a systematic corruption, a systemic corruption, better word, then we’ve seen in the last 10 years, and Bob Taft with everything from the worker’s compensation to Blackwell’s trying to suppress the vote, to Mike DeWine in Washington taking big money from the drug companies, the insurance, the HMOs, and the credit card companies, and Wall Street, and supporting all their legislation they want, so the system is more corrupt; I’ve been in politics a long time in Ohio I’ve never seen anything like the corruption we’ve seen in Washington and Columbus.
OH02: So, why is it that the Green Party and the Libertarians lead the charge on the voting count in 2004? I mean after what happened in 2000 as somebody who was watching the electoral challengers right in my own voting booth, it really distresses me that the Democrats weren’t as aggressive as the could have been, they weren’t aggressive at all.
Sherrod Brown: I went to Florida in 2000 in November, and what I saw was absolutely appalled, and I have no doubt that, I’m sure that a lot of the practices that the Republicans engaged in in Florida changed the outcome of the election.
In Ohio people were unsure. I saw a lot of things in Ohio that bothered me greatly. One was the long lines in the polls. Unfortunately the Democrats and Republicans both signed off not being able to predict the turnout, as high as it was, signed off on the number of machines at those polling places. The Democrats were wrong. The Democrats made mistakes. I can’t blame those on Republicans. But on a lot of things Blackwell did. On provisional balloting, I helped to write the provisional balloting law, it came out of our office in 1989, I believe, 88-89, in that era. And we could, I couldn’t understand what Blackwell was doing with provisional balloting by the end. I don’t think that the Democrats were aggressive enough; I don’t think that we built a case well enough starting in August, or September. This year we’re much better prepared then we were two years ago. I think that the media would not have, simply, the media mocked after the 2004 election the media in this state mocked anybody in this state who said that the election wasn’t fair, if you recall. I mean, as the media had a rush to the war in Iraq, the media was almost singing off the same page in the war in Iraq with the Bush Administration, the media didn’t seem much interested in exploring any problems with the 04 elections, and I think probably Democrats sensed that and Democrats should have stood up more then we did in that election.
OH02: Well I mean I’ve never seen a Republican be afraid of challenging an election result when ever there’s been anything even remotely questionable. I always wonder why is it that Republicans can be as aggressive as they want, and they don’t seem to be afraid of negative publicity at all, but the Democrats are always, they’re afraid of being mocked by the press. To me that’s not…
Sherrod Brown: Perhaps, I don’t know. If that… if it’s… I don’t know if it’s a fear of being… I think if the press… I don’t have an answer for that. I think that…
I know enough about the press, that the people who are most influential in the state’s media are the people who own the state’s media, and I know where they sit politically.
OH02: Personally, I’m been pretty impressed with what Jennifer Brunner is doing. I think that the ODP has been a lot better at keeping Ken Blackwell on his toes, so I would actually agree with you that things look better, I just… I always like to throw it out there.
Sherrod Brown: No, I appreciate that and there’s no question we’re asked more than what are you going to do to keep the elections fair? Are you going to let them steal? What are you going to do to keep the elections fair? What are you going to do about what Blackwell’s doing with voter registration?
I think that we need to be more aggressive than we’ve been from every part of our ticket. ODP, the governor’s race, everybody’s got to be, and Brunners done it very well, as you say. We’ve got to be very aggressive in challenging Blackwell’s antics. The ID at the polls is outrageous; what he’s doing on voter registration, what he’s trying to do to suppress voter registration drives now…
One of the answers to that is, I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know the legal recourse, but we’ve got to be aggressive that way, but we also, one of the big things we do is that we need to make sure that voters vote in October this year when the new 30 day window of early voting, and that’s what, that should be the organizing strategy for all of us.
OH02: You’re going to have to forgive me, but I’m going to dive into the Senate primary. Starting off:
The first thing that fascinated me about the Senate primary was the split in the unions; The Democratic Unions: UAW, AFL-CIO, which are both strong political forces in Ohio. What’s the state of labor unions in Ohio. How do they relate to what’s going on politically in Ohio these days?
Sherrod Brown: They’re very important. I think that what unions have been able to do in the last two presidential elections, maybe three, probably back to 96, but certainly 00 and 04, is that voter turnout; the union membership percentage of voting age population has far exceeded in voter turnout. In other words, the percentage of voters casting their ballots in union households has increased dramatically, because labor has had very good voter turnout, get out the vote efforts. I think you’re going to see an even better one this year because of early voting.
OH02: Now the thing that I heard in the primary was that there were, that a lot of what was going on was a personality clash between the heads of the labor unions. Is that a legitimate thing to say?
Sherrod Brown: It’s a legitimate thing to say if you want to say it. I had overwhelming support among labor union activists, and rank and file, and leadership, because there’s nobody in Congress who fights for everyday working American’s anymore than I do, for many years. I will get overwhelming union support this time, not just leaders, not just labor union money, campaign contributions, but especially union rank and file. As I would have in the primaries. I as I have my whole career.
OH02: So how do they turn it around into winning? What are the labor unions missing right now? To me, the labor unions as a force is significant, but so far it’s been a failure in Ohio. What are we missing?
Sherrod Brown: Well, they’ve not been a failure at get out the vote. They’ve had to, they’ve had issues that; social issues, that sometimes caused union members to vote against the recommendations of their unions. But I think that what’s happened, what I’ve seen happen in the last five years, is labor union leaders have really not just consulted, but been moved by their membership in the political direction that their membership wants to go. Most unions in the state, not every one, but in most unions they have really done a bottoms up kind of reevaluation, a bottoms up, what issues matter to you? What candidates should we support?
That’s why I’m confident that I will not just get leaders, but also a huge, a very high percentage of rank and fie. But it also takes a candidate that speaks to peoples hearts, and speak to people’s dreams and hopes and future, and with minimum wage on the ballot you can bet that there’s going to be a voter turnout among low income workers, but also people who care about fairness and justice. There’s going to be a turnout, a higher turnout, as a result, and it’s going to be people, it’s going to be to the advantage to the Democrats, because people clearly people who go out to vote for the minimum wage aren’t going to be voting for Mike DeWine and Ken Blackwell.
OH02: Now one of the things; I’m not nearly as savvy on the whole, on unions, but one of the things that I member came out recently, was the split within the AFL-CIO over tactics. Do you have any opinion on what’s going on with the unions in terms of tactics?
Sherrod Brown: The split mostly was over the amount of resources they commit to organizing. I would; just for full disclosure, my daughter is an organizer for the service employee’s international union. She organizes home care workers. She’s bilingual. She organizes workers who are the lowest paid, almost the lowest paid workers in our society, maybe the lowest paid, home care workers. She does some nursing home workers too.
I think that the split is partly personality, mostly though over the split of the internationals, not in Ohio; Ohio labor has resisted that split as much and as long as they can, instead labor central bodies and the counties; state wide Berga has done a very good job I think of keeping people in the fold as much as possible.
But I think that in terms of political tactics, they’re all there. The Change To Win group wants to spend more on organizing, supposedly. I think that’s probably right, that’s a right assessment, they say they do. Then do the older the AFL member affiliates that stayed. But they agree on the importance of elections, and they agree in the importance of electing pro-labor candidates. Because they’ll never be able to organize if you keep electing people like Bush and DeWine, the ability to organize, for unions to organize will continue to disintegrate because they want to put these guys out of business. That’s why they all agree, whether it’s Andy Stern, or Gerry McEntee, or whether it’s John Sweeney, or whether it’s the laborers and the carpenters off of the teamsters, they know that they’ve got to elect labor friendly candidates that believe in the right to organize, for both the United States and the global economy. It’s a very important element in the global economy that the right to organize is in these trade agreements that generally have not been in them.
OH02: One thing that I wanted to be sure to ask you was your perspective on the senate primary combat from the perspective of blogs. To me what was really fascinating was that you had factions who were united in the Congressional special. I mean, there was complete unity, all of these groups were working together, and suddenly on a dime you’ve got a civil war. You’ve got Kos, Armstrong, David Sirota, versus a lot of local personalities, including myself, and, from somebody; I mean I’m somebody who’s enmeshed in the blogs, and the thing that really fascinates me is what’s the perspective of somebody who’s in politics who’s watching this force kind of evolve out of nothing, what’s your perspective on it in general as somebody who’s living in the moment as a politician, but also what’s your comment on that whole…?
Sherrod Brown: Well, I joined with the blogs in helping Paul Hackett in the 2nd district. I sent him money. I helped to organize Washington, I got the DCCC. I played a major role in getting the DCCC in that race. And I also, we sent a staff person there that did the whole get out the vote operation for Paul. So, everybody, every progressive group, every national Democrat that’s involved in sort of helping candidates was involved with Paul then. It was the only race in town. It was one that mattered for the direction of the Democratic Party, at least during that summer.
Since I, I think that, you call Dave Sirota the national blogs, whatever, the people that knew me best, the people that knew me were with me right from the start in that race because they know that I’m a bona fide progressive that had a record of standing on the House floor, and organizing walking picket lines, and organizing neighborhoods, and a long long record of progressive outreach and progressive politics, and a fighting spirit that will make me a senator that all the bloggers that are really on the left and of all the bloggers who care about good government are going to be proud of me. But I think that people that were not for me in that Senate race earlier are people that frankly didn’t know my record, and I was new to them. You’re new to this state, you’ve been here five years, you didn’t know much about me, I was from northern Ohio, but I think that with what I know about you as a progressive and your long held family views of progressive government, you like more about, the more you see of my record the more you like, and that’s what you’ll be proud of.
OH02: Well, it was painful to me because, from a purely position perspective, I’m with you 100%. I have nothing but respect for what you do, what you stand for. The prospect of getting someone like you in the Senate would be amazing. But ya know, I’m also a very cynical person, and I like wedge issues. I have a tremendous respect for Karl Rove and what he does. I’m very afraid of people like that and I want, and so it was a question of who did I think could win.
Sherrod Brown: Well, but that, I go back to what I said; people that were not with me early in that primary, didn’t know me well. Maybe they knew my progressive politics, but they didn’t know that I knew how to win in Republican areas, and they knew, that I represent a Republican district in Congress for 10 years before redistricting, I won two state wide races in Ohio, and I know how to win elections, and I know how to talk to Republicans, and I know how, I grew up in a small county, I was in the legislature for eight years from a county that George Bush carried decisively. So, It’s a little bit, it doesn’t really matter now what, those questions, but I surely know how to win races, I think I’m showing that now with the lead in the polls, with way superior organization to DeWine, with Connie actively out their, with the campaign that’s running well, that we’ll see that more and more.
OH02: OK, one of the things is that there are different factions within the blogs, in terms of pragmatists who want to win. Someone like me, I’ve pretty much resigned myself that I’m never going to get the type of political system I ever want, and that I need to move the goals, move towards the goal posts as best I can, through cajoling, compromising, and shaming people into going in some direction. So, someone like me who looks at the senate primary race, that’s my perspective, is that I don’t think about it too much. I mean, with Kos, you kinda get the feeling that for a lot of people on the blogs, it’s much more a question of energy than it is of specific positions. That they’re looking for outsiders… they’re looking for dramatic change… they’re looking for an image of contrast, as opposed to how much they agree with you on any specific position. Does that make sense?
Sherrod Brown: No, I understand that some people; but my focus is on none of that. My focus is on, I want every blog to support me, I want every voter to support me. I want to win all 88 counties. I want to win Warren County; and I want to win Clermont County and counties that are very Republican. But my focus is not on what I got to do to, my focus is on figuring on how to win this election, how to, but at the same time to continue to fight for the issues that I care about. And that’s what I’m going to keep doing.
OH02: Do you consider yourself an idealist?
Sherrod Brown: Yeah, sure. Absolutely.
OH02: Do you think that idealists have a place in American politics?
Sherrod Brown: I’ve been in it; I’ve won elections as an idealist for all but one time. The only election I lost was to Bob Taft, and how embarrassing is that now?
OH02: Well, it’s good to know that somebody still believes…
Sherrod Brown: You can’t follow me around and not tell that I. I’m not saying you, you know what I mean, what I’m saying. If you look at my career, if you’ve lived in my district, if you are an observer in Washington up close, or back home up close, it’s clear that I’m an idealist. I get up every day and fight for social justice, and fight for the causes I believe in, and I’ve done it for 30 years, and I’m going to do it for 30 more; I hope.
OH02: Do you think that,
Sherrod Brown: Maybe I’m officially limiting myself to five terms in the Senate.
OH02: Politics is not the prettiest of businesses. Is there every a tarnish from it? How do you maintain balance?
Sherrod Brown: Well, the way you maintain partly balance, partly is that I have a really strong marriage, and I have a wife that’s a true believer like I am, that helps me achieve a more balance, a balance in my life, since politics is pretty consuming, especially a senate race, is all consuming. But I, I think if you can get up every day and fight for the cause, fight for what you believe in, you’re pretty lucky. I mean, you can sleep at night, cause I fight for what I believe in I sleep well at night, usually, and it’s because I am blessed to have a job that I can do that. I mean, how many people get to do what I get to do, stand up every day and fight for what you care about, and make your living that way? So I don’t think it’s; it’s not a hardship in any way.
OH02: Can you evaluate your tactics your tactics from a blogospheric perspective? People who run the blogs are going to be very upset with me if I don’t obsess about us. So, um…
Sherrod Brown: Some of them are going to be upset just that you are doing this interview.
OH02: Yeah, well, you can all that that and uh…
Anyway… you came out, you came right out of the gate with a pretty aggressive internet strategy, and you invested quite a bit, not all of it successful. Can you evaluate your strategy and how it’s gone and what you’ve learned from it?
Sherrod Brown: Um; I can do that a lot better in November, looking back. I didn’t know much about the internet. I didn’t know much about the blogosphere a year ago. I suppose I had a tough learning curve, and had a lot of negative things said but, that doesn’t really matter much now, because anybody that really believes in progressive politics, and has looked at my career is going to support me. I guess I wish I had been more informed about who the players were and maybe talked with them; I spent a lot of time on the phone but, with individual bloggers early in the campaign. On my announcement tour I called several, as you know. And some were for me, some were against me, some were a bit kinder than others. But I’m used to that.
In that way blogs are no different from the sometimes hated main stream media. I’ve had plenty of reporters that are nasty, I mean I’ve had plenty of editors I would say, that have been less than kind. To me reporters almost never are not kind because I play by the right rules. I’m honest to them. I called them back. I respect their work. I know that they are usually underpaid and overworked by their editors, and so I kind of take their side in some sense. And I think that, but I’m used to editors being critical, I’m used to some bloggers being critical. You develop a pretty thick skin in this business, but sometimes I’ll admit that it hurts when someone says something or writes something, or draws a cartoon particularly unkind, but you just move on. You can’t let the, you’ve got to shave the emotional peaks and fill the emotional valleys of the campaign, you’ve need to keep your eye on the goal, and the goal is to win this election, and have a bigger forum to fight for what I care about.
OH02: So you are a stoic?
Sherrod Brown: I am actually somewhat of a stoic. I’m an idealist and a stoic. I’ve read a lot of Marcus Aurelius, and I find his stoicism difficult to achieve, but something that’s often elusive, but a goal to aim for, much of the time.
OH02: As a former professional musician, as a philosophy stoicism just doesn’t cut it. It’s all about extremes, so you can’t shave off anything. You want the hills and the valleys. (Connie Schultz agreeing in the background)
Sherrod Brown: Well, yeah, I mean I guess the opposite of stoic is epicurean, and they often say, I think that Maruc Aurelius said it was, at least some philosophers of that day said it was. I’m more stoic than I am an epicurean, but being a stoic is often times not that much fun. And I’m not a stoic all the time. But I do think that being a stoicism often serves one well in life and serves one well in a campaign.
OH02: Now, in terms of talking about the negativity, to me, I’ve never seen this level of negativity, I mean, you talk about what people say about you. But in terms of this race, people on both sides are getting, are very intense in terms of their comments, How do you react to something that’s not they’re not talking about you at all, but instead they’re talking about your family, they’re talking about stuff that, I mean, as a politician that’s got to be something new, right?
Sherrod Brown: Ah no, it’s not, actually. I mean I… It’s going to be worst this year. It’s going to be… I mean, Karl Rove is involved and Karl Rove hasn’t been involved in my races in the past. But I’ve had very negative things aimed at me at election time and not at election time somewhat. Many questioned my patriotism when I was against the Iraq war, and I was against the war right from the beginning, before the vote I declared against it, that we shouldn’t be doing it, and I got a lot of nasty newspaper columns; questions from audiences, hate mail, all of that. I mean that’s what, you just deal with it.
If this race is as nasty as people predict it will be it won’t be coming from us. All of my attacks, if you will, on Mike DeWine have been about his votes, and about his record, and about his behavior in public office, and not about him personally. I don’t care about him personally anyway. And I hope that Karl Rove keeps it the same way; keeps it on my voting record, and the voters will be much better served then if they start making stuff up about my family or about me.
OH02: Now, the one thing that really bugs me about this race, and it’s not just you but it’s both sides. Why hasn’t there been a mending of fences between you and Paul? Why haven’t you fixed that?
Sherrod Brown: I have no, I didn’t say nothing negative about Paul, you won’t hear me anything negative about Paul, you have not heard me say anything negative about Paul when he was in the race, since he’s been out of the race. I have an 88 county race to run, I’ve been in his counties, in what was his the race when he ran for in the 2nd district; I’ve been there many times, and I’m glad that Paul is helping Ted Strickland do some fundraising, I’m glad he’s helping the Democratic Party. I welcome his support if he wants to give it.
OH02: See, cause to me, a lot of the negativity of the blog’s perspective would be solved if there was a moment where you publicly shake hands…
Sherrod Brown: I cannot, Chris, concern myself with the blogs writing about a primary that did not happen that ended five months ago when the issue is do you want to change this country or not. Do you want to change this country? Do you want to have a Supreme Court that doesn’t drift to the right, sharply continues to veer to the right? Do you want to continue to have terrible environmental policy? Do you want to have budget debts and an ongoing war, or do you want to relive a primary that didn’t happen? I’m hoping; I hope the bloggers and everybody else concerned, and I don’t see a lot of people talking about that any more, but I hope that they can focus, as I am, on an 88 county race for the Senate and put their efforts behind Ted Strickland, and Sherrod Brown, and Jennifer Brunner, and change this state and change this country.
OH02: So get over it?
Sherrod Brown: I’m over it. I hope that people get over it, and if they don’t, they don’t, but I know that what I’m going to do is concentrate on winning as many votes as I can in 88 counties.
OH02: See, my personal; I take a very kind of new-agie view of the blogosphere which is that the blogs are basically ideas resonating and they’re networked. So it’s very similar to music, actually in a way. That you’ve got harmony, such as the Congressional primary, where we were all in lockstep together and we made a huge difference, I know we did. We changed; we proved that you could win in a district like that, and if the party in Washington had realized it sooner, Paul would have won it, and all this negativity never would have happened. We would have been on Earth II where Congressman Paul Hackett was traveling the state stumping for you, so instead we’re on Earth I and we’re stuck with where we’re at.
To me, the fact that this kind of these little broadcasters of information, they’re not that…OK, we’re just little tiny guys, granted I’ve got five readers, but one of them is Jean Schmidt, and one of them is Howard Wilkinson, and I know that they read me, and that’s all that counts to me, I’m happy.
But, it causes static, it causes dissonance in the network. So, to me, I want to see everybody rockin’ again like we were in the special.
Sherrod Brown: As do I.
OH02: I want to see us working to actually win a race, like we were then, as opposed to now where I don’t know what we’re doing. I don’t know what the goal is, besides, basically making an example of you, which to me, I don’t care. That’s not why I got into blogging.
Sherrod Brown: I can’t do anything about that. I am focused on winning that race, and if a few people are still upset, people that don’t know me are upset at me. There are people who are Republicans who are… all kinds of people who are upset at me, because I take a stand and I always fought for things that anger some people. If you are a big share holder of Exxon-Mobile you don’t much like me, and there are a lot of people who don’t like me for whatever reason, and I can’t concern myself with that. I’ve got to continue to fight to win this race.
OH02: Fair enough. By the way, there are a lot of bloggers that are upset with Mike DeWine. So, it’s not like he’s won any points on the blogosphere.
Sherrod Brown: (laughter)
OH02: But, the thing that he did that was very smart was that he didn’t spend any money on it. SO, he just ignores them, and seems to be doing just fine, and which is probably my advice to all political campaigns, just ignore us. Which is why you are making such a terrible mistake by talking to me right now.
Sherrod Brown: Which is why you are making such a terrible mistake saying that with all the bloggers, what are they going to say about you now? Saying that we should just ignore them.
OH02: I love you all. You’re all very special.
Talk to me about Patriot Corporations.
Sherrod Brown: Today, it really came home to me, standing in front of the Techniglass company, with probably 25 people who used to work there, and some other people too, but 25 that used to work there; that companies in this country used to have loyalty to community, loyalty to their country, loyalty to workers. And that meant people; that meant a company would; someone could get a job there, if they worked hard, and if they did their job well they’d get a good pension; they’d get good health care, they’d make a decent wage. They could send their kids to college, and those companies would be involved in the community, and contribute to the high school band, and all of that. Those days, those are past days, but they shouldn’t be, in a sense that we should reward in this country those companies who play by the rules and support the community.
The Patriot Corporations Bill, which Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, and I offered this week says that you would get a lower; if you are a company that was a patriot corporation and you will get a lower tax rate, and you will get an advantage in federal contracts if you follow certain rules; if you pay a decent wage; if you devote a certain percent of your revenue to pensions; to a defined pension benefit; if you provide adequate health care for your employees; if you follow environmental and worker safety rules; and don’t have violations, and do most of your research and development in the United States and if most of your; if you hire workers who do the production in the United States. It’s; the bill gives an incentive to those companies who want to do the right thing, It gives an incentive to those companies that might do the right thing because of the incentives. It’s just such, it’s mean it’s just something that when you think about what this country could be; the lost opportunity of the last fives years; with Iraq; with the budget deficit; with education; with health care; the lost opportunities, this is one where we really could help to shape a future that is so much better for our country, If corporations were to honor its employees, and honor the community, and honor the country it would be a much better place.
OH02: Now, David Hendrickson, of the San Antonio Express today in an editorial column call this “anti competitive” and “protectionist”. “What in the world is patriotic about blocking open competition and markets? Can you imagine the hue and cry if the European Union or other foreign trade blocks…” and it cuts off there.
Sherrod Brown: Well… that’s what they… imagine what? Imagine that they do that? That’s what they do. Other countries practice trade policy based upon their national interest. We practice it according to a high school economics textbook that all of America’s newspaper publishers have bought into. The fact is that this same guy in San Antonio, I would assume, if he’s like most newspaper particularly Texas newspaper columnists, probably think that NAFTA was a great thing, But NAFTA its caused the immigration problem to be worse; its caused devastation in lots of communities in this state, particularly medium sized communities like where I grew up in Mansfield. It’s caused all kinds of lost jobs, and we’re not saying companies can’t do something; we’re just saying that if companies do certain things that we’re going to reward them and give them more benefits.
Instead, perhaps Mr. Hendrickson is suggesting that Congress continue to give unbid contracts to Haliburton; that the Administration continue to give undib contracts to Haliburton; speaking of anti-competitive… I’d be hoping that he’d be writing about that.
OH02: To me American Corporations are basically fighting with one armed tied behind their back, if they stick in America, because of the fact of health care.
Sherrod Brown: Uh huh.
OH02: So, to me, it’s seems like Democratic politicians after Hillary Clinton pretty much got destroyed in front of the Senate, or I guess before Congress for proposing trying to solve the health care problem, but isn’t that really the answer?
Sherrod Brown: That’s a big part of the answer, absolutely. I had legislation with Pete Stark, Ted Kennedy, and Patrick Moynihan in 1996 or 7 that we’d worked and we pushed since, but this Congress will never hear it, to extend Medicare to 55, so people who have lost, people that many of whom I saw today could have bought into Medicare between the age of 55 and 64. People who have, who are more likely to need health care, and are more likely to be in a time of their lives when they are more likely to need more health care, and a time in their lives when they are often losing the health care coverage they have because of plant closings and layoffs. That would be the first step. So I; they we would do a Medicare for all, more likely a wider ranging Medicare at some point too.
One of the things that I want to do in Congress is figure out how we wean ourselves from this whole way we deliver health care in this country. The big companies, as you say, as you suggest, the big companies like GM have all kinds of competitive disadvantages because of health care costs, with their global competitors. And if you just look domestically, the different between Wal-Mart and Costco. Wal-Mart’s got eleven thousands employees in Ohio; according to state figures that are on…they’ve got election thousands children on Medicade whose parents work at Wal-Mart; Costco doesn’t. Costco pays; generally pays healthcare for its workers. Wal-Mart often doesn’t, so Costco is at a competitive disadvantage.
It’s clear that the way we deliver health care in this country, is not good for economy, it’s not good for our workers, and it’s not good for our society. I’m hopeful that Congress gets very serious about that next year. There’s a lot of other things that we need to do to restore a fairer kind of globalized economy, but health care is the biggest barrier of all.
OH02: The thing that I always wondered about, is there ever going to be a point where American business realizes that they can’t keep going the direction they are going. That looking at the bottom line at the expense of everything else just can’t continue. Do you ever thing that there’s a possibility of hope; that the”ll realize that this is a run away freight train, and there’s got to be change? Do you ever feel that happening?
Sherrod Brown: I don’t feel it yet. The people that benefit from, your term, run away freight train; people that benefit from this corporate economy, the economy in our country, people taking the most benefits are the ones that are at the top; are the ones making the decisions. When the CEO of Pfizer gets a seventy or eighty million dollar retirement package, and the company’s stock’s gone down forty percent in the six years he was CEO, something’s wrong with the system. When the Exxon-Mobile CEO makes seventeen thousand dollars an hour, and a woman filling; a minimum wage worker filling her tank up with Exxon-Mobile gas makes not much more than ten thousand dollars a year, something’s pretty wrong with that too. I don’t think that the people making the decisions in this country right now, in the economy and the government don’t exactly have Middle America’s values at heart, and interests at heart.
OH02: In the July 3rd edition of the New York Observer, DSCC Chairman Senator Chuck Schumer is quoted as saying that he doesn’t think that there is any need for Democrats to take a position on Iraq.
“The average”, this is a quote, “The average person knows: We are not commander in chief, we are not in the majority–our job is to hold Bush’s feet to the fire. And the whole issue of Iraq will be how well George Bush is doing in Iraq, not if Democrats have a substitute plan or not.”
Do you agree with that?
Sherrod Brown: He may be right but I don’t agree with it for me. I’ve been very specific about what I want to do in Iraq. I hear Condoleeza Rice say we may be there ten more years. President Bush said that the next President has got to deal with getting out of Iraq. We’re building an embassy on a hundred and four acres at a cost of over a billion dollars. The average American embassy is ten acres; this is a hundred more. I think that if the Iraqi people believe we’re going to be there a long, long time, the insurgency will continue unabated because the Iraqi; there’s no incentive for compromise between the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds, and there’s no incentive to build the kind of security force, police and military, that is necessary to bring order to that country. That’s why we should declare victory, because we overthrew Saddam Hussain, and we should; the President should issue a winning exit strategy with a timetable that begins redeployment of our troops and ultimately over a year and a half or so they’re all redeployed into the gulf region or home.
OH02: What do you think of John Murtha’s plan?
Sherrod Brown: Murtha’s… I generally agree with Murtha’s plan. I prefer what I just outlined, but Murtha’s plan is so, so better than Bush’s non plan, that the White House has no plan to win, and no plan to exit, and you don’t go into a war with no plan to win and no plan to exit.
OH02: What do you think it says about the state of the country when you basically agree with John Murtha on something like that? In terms of the extremes, you guys are pretty much the extremes of the Democrat Party, when it comes to military.
Sherrod Brown: Yeah, Murtha is… well… I don’t know about that, but Murtha has seen a badly conducted war, where the President didn’t tell the truth, to get us into the war. I’ve been out to Walter Reed and to Bethesda and seen our injured troops, but Murtha has been out there almost every week, and he is convinced that this war has been badly conducted and it doesn’t serve our future, and I think that the fact that we agree is symptomatic of the fact that most of the Country agrees.
OH02: Now in that article Senator Schumer says that this election, the 2006 elections, “this is going to be a referendum on George Bush.” Do you agree with that?
Sherrod Brown: Um, I think that it is going to be a referendum on the betrayal of our country by our government. People are going to make this decision to vote against Mike DeWine and vote for Sherrod Brown because they are going to say, who’s on; is Mike DeWine on our side? No, he’s on the side of the drug companies and the HMOs and the oil companies. Sherrod Brown is on our side, and I think that this is what this election will be about.
OH02: It worries me when I hear George Bush become a lightning rod, because all of the energy gets focused on him. And that’s what happened in 2004. What I wanted to see was pressure on Congress, which to me is the weak link, and then force them to shift their positions, because they’re worried about keeping their jobs. If you make it personal on the person you are running against, suddenly it’s a lot harder to justify what you’re doing then if it’s just this concentrated; if they have to defend one point it’s much easier for them to get away with stuff, because all you have to do is make sure that George Bush wins, and everything stays in line.
Sherrod Brown: I agree with that. My focus is not George Bush, as badly as I think he’s served this country as President. But my focus is, but it’s not Mike DeWine personally, it’s what Mike DeWine has done. He has betrayed working families, and middle class values in this country.
OH02: What do you think about what Senator DeWine’s actions with regards to spying on American citizens?
Sherrod Brown: When DeWine was a prosecutor, which was his first elected office in Green Country; If he’d brought an armed robber; if he’d indicted someone for armed robbery and brought him in and said, well, ya know I’ve changed my mind. We’re going to change the law so you’re allowed to do armed robbery, so then you didn’t commit a crime again. That’s really what his proposal has done with President Bush. President Bush basically broke the law, and Mike DeWine wants to change the law so that he didn’t break the law.
OH02: How do you make trade sexy? You’re issue is trade. Everybody goofs on trade trade trade. Now I can intellectually understand why trade is such an important issue in the state of Ohio. How do you sell it to people?
Sherrod Brown: You stand at the Techniglass today, and you look in workers eyes who lost their jobs because of trade. And you go somewhere else, and you look at a small business; you talk to a small business owner who lost a lot of customers, and a lot of sales and had to lay off people because of bad trade policy. And you look at a community that’s laid off twenty police, and fifteen firefighters, thirty teachers because of trade issues, and you connect that to people’s lives.
And you raise the minimum wage at the same time.
OH02: What’s your message to misguided souls, such as my wife, who look at Senator DeWine, and think that he’s actually a pretty good guy? That, you know, in terms of Republican Senators he’s actually been one of the better ones. Bono likes him. What’s your message to her?
Sherrod Brown: My message to her is that Mike DeWine has been on the wrong side of every major issue that’s come up in the last five years. He’s been on the wrong side of the Iraq war; he was on the wrong side of Social Security privatization; of Medicare law; of energy bill; I believe Mike DeWine has voted for almost every single bad federal judge; right wing federal judge that President Bush has put forward, some of whom have been terrible on civil rights; have been terrible on worker rights; have been terrible on questions of choice. He has had an election year conversion that seems to have appealed to a few, but persuaded almost none.
Sherrod Brown: It was a little big.
OH02: I thought it was brilliant. I thought it was a brilliant marketing strategy. I was disappointed you didn’t buy the bus.
Sherrod Brown: Are you serious?
OH02: Yeah. Plus it’s funny. I think it’s a funny thing to ask to ask you.
Sherrod Brown: I can go to a night club a lot cheaper and listen to funny jokes a lot cheaper than buying a bus.
OH02: So you don’t think it worked. Well, obviously it didn’t work in the…
Sherrod Brown: I don’t know. It’s not the campaign tool I would… I would rather put my money in talking directly with voters and getting around the state at low cost. I’ve always run very people oriented campaigns.. I don’t buy expensive things… I don’t buy expensive clothes. I just run grass roots stuff. (at this point Connie Schultz was pointing to his shirt and saying that she bought it for him.)
I run as low budget an effort as I can, saving our money for voter contact; for mail; for radio; for TV. And we’ll have got a lot of surrogate speakers out there. Connie went to five counties; Connie touched an awful lot of voters two days ago, at very low cost, cause she and Chris (Chris Stelmarski), and Shana, and Wendy, Wendy’s a volunteer, the other two are on our staff, went to five; left home; well, they went down the night before I guess, and spent eighteen hours on the road; maybe twenty. (inaudible comment by Connie Schultz) The woman came up after Connie had spoken in Washington County, Marietta, and she said, I had a, she’d just had kemo for breast cancer, and she’d heard Connie talk about what we were going to fight for in the Senate, and she walked up afterwards and handed her a two-hundred dollar check, and said, don’t cash this for a couple days, because I don’t have my paycheck received yet. Two hundred dollars. And that makes you spend, that would mean that I wouldn’t buy a bus. That would mean I’d be very careful how I’d spend that money.
OH02: Anything to talk about in terms of the race with Jean Schmidt. She’s a colleague of yours.
Sherrod Brown: HA! She’s fun to watch. Victoria Wulsin’s terrific, and I hope that Victoria; I just think Victoria’s got to do the same thing we’re doing. Just make the contrast between the direction that Jean Schmidt or Mike DeWine want to take the state, and the direction that Victoria Wulsin or Sherrod Brown will take the state, and I think that it’s a very compelling vision. Victoria, I think, has a vision of this country and this state, as I do, and I think that that’s a winning vision for people.
It’s also, the other reason that people need to be… You will not hear me in the camp… you’ll hear me criticize DeWine a lot in this campaign; you’ll also hear me talk very specific in terms of what I will do, in terms of alternative energy, in terms of the patriot corporation, in terms of the fair wage… decent work condi… fair competition, decent work conditions bill I introduced a couple of weeks ago, and, I think we have an obligation to voters to say, OK, this guy is bad for this reason; here’s what we’re going to do; I think we have that obligation to paint what we’re going to do. I also think that you can’t really govern if you haven’t specifically said here’s what I’m going to do when I’m in office. When we’re in the majority we’re going to raise the minimum wage the first week. We’re going to change the way that Medicare, that drug prices are determined, by giving the government the ability and the mandate to negotiate prices with the drug companies, so that their prices resemble Canada’s and the EU’s more than the do American prices, for example.
(at this point I asked the Congressman if I could take some pictures.)
OH02: Thank you very much, Congressman.
Sherrod Brown: Sure, no, I enjoyed it, thanks. Good questions. You made me think. I like that.
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