WASHINGTON — Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., announced his presidential candidacy Jan. 20 — two years before the next presidential inauguration and two days before the March for Life. His announcement made him the first Catholic officially in the race for the White House in 2008.
Brownback, who has represented Kansas in the Senate since winning a special election in 1996, is a convert and a leader in Congress on pro-life and pro-family issues. While meeting with right-to-life marchers Jan. 21, he took a few minutes to speak with Register correspondent David Freddoso.
Did you pick the March for Life weekend specifically for your announcement?
That’s part of it, to be an official candidate going into the Right to Life Week. We had thought of announcing a week or two later, but I wanted to be a full-scale candidate during the March for Life.
When people come all the way out here to Washington every year during what always seems like the coldest day of the year, does it mean something? Does it have a real effect?
I think it means a lot. I think it means a lot that over half of the crowd is under age 25, maybe over 60%. It is a young, vibrant crowd that believes in the cause. It’s one of those things that a lot of officialdom seems to try to ignore. It’s the largest march, by far, that comes to Washington each year, and it just keeps building.
Do you think it has an effect on office holders when they see the dedication of the marchers?
I think it does. Where it has more of an impact is when election times come up and they see the dedication of the people who are pro-life.
If you were president, would you be in Washington at the March for Life?
Yes, absolutely. I have been here as a senator; I would be here as a president. President Bush has addressed the march, and I very much appreciated that, but I would be there every march. This issue is vital, and we need to get it right. When we get it right, it will have ramifications around the world. We will get our voice back — our moral voice back. We will be able to speak to China about their one-child policy. Look at what’s happening around the world. We have the Russians and Japanese paying women to have babies. And I believe the French are doing this, and the Italians too. The world is paying a big price for this pro-abortion culture.
What do you see as the most vital battle in the Senate this year, or in this Congress, related to life issues?
Probably on embryonic research. It will be a defensive battle. The president will veto it, but we would hope to maintain at least [enough votes to prevent] a veto override. That will be the biggest issue that will come up. And we’re going to try to bring up a number of issues and force votes on them — on human cloning, we’ll try to put our set of ideas forward on that, as well. There’s also going to be a defensive battle that we’re going to have to try to maintain the prohibition [on patenting human embryos]. That’s an annual appropriations issue. And then we’ll have to fight to protect the conscience clauses [that bar federally funded hospitals from discriminating against medical professionals who refuse to participate in abortions]. We’ve got a lot of defensive battles we’re going to be fighting.
A lot of people wonder after this last election whether the pro-life movement hasn’t fallen back because people are so upset with Republicans and conservative ideas. Do you believe that is the case or not?
Our ideas didn’t get repudiated. Our lack of execution was repudiated. This was an election about the war; it wasn’t about life. Our issues still resonate. But our electorate is such that you have to both run on and believe in ideas. It isn’t one where you run on it and say, “Yeah, I’m with you.” You have to have a depth of conviction. But the country didn’t move ideologically in the last election cycle — it was primarily about the war and corruption.
We may have one more Supreme Court nomination before the next election. Can a nominee who does not swear obeisance to Roe v. Wade get through the Senate as it is composed now?
I think that a John Roberts or Samuel Alito type can get through, but you’re not going to know where they are on Roe v. Wade. I think we can get somebody through that has a conviction to uphold a stricter constructionist view of the Constitution, but it’s going to be a huge fight. It will be very difficult in the Judiciary Committee.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already said that a few Republican senators — pro-life Republican senators like Mel Martinez of Florida and Mike Crapo of Idaho — would be acceptable choices for the Supreme Court to him. Do you see that happening?
I don’t have a prediction on it. I just know that we can’t give up now. We are potentially within one justice of overturning Roe. And the left in this country is starting to walk away from Roe. They see it’s not in the Constitution, a constitutional right to abortion. They have paid a heavy political price for carrying Roe. I think they’re more of a mind to say, “Let’s take it back to the states; let’s have the fight there.”
writes from Washington.