National Catholic Register

Inperson

The Next Catholic President?

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., is looking into running for president — in part because of the state of the American family.

BY TIM DRAKE

January 7-13, 2007 Issue | Posted 1/2/07 at 5:50 PM

 

Sam Brownback knows one way to rebound after his Republican Party suffered defeats in 2006. He is planning a run for president.

The Republican senator from Kansas announced in December that “after much prayerful consideration” he will consider seeking the nomination for the presidency in 2008, in part because he’s concerned that the family is disintegrating. A 2002 convert to the Catholic faith, Brownback was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 and elected to the Senate two years later.

He recently spoke with Register senior writer Tim Drake.

What do you make of the 2006 midterm election results?

The Republican Party got whipped; there’s no question about it. I believe strongly that the three key factors were the war in Iraq, corruption, and the cycle we are in of the last midterm of a president’s second four-year term. That’s typically a time when the party in power loses a substantial number of seats. That led to the defeat.

The good news is that the basic ideas that the Republicans have stood for were not repudiated. If anything was repudiated, it was our lack of carrying through on those basic principles. A number of people on the Democratic side supported marriage, and they certainly didn’t run on raising taxes.

Tell me about your decision to seek the Republican presidential nomination.

We’re still in the exploratory phase. We formed a committee and are traveling. In my heart of hearts what I’m interested in pursuing is saving and improving lives and rebuilding families and renewing this culture. That is the message I’ve been discussing, and I’m trying to determine its resonance. My strongly held view is that to be elected president you have to be the right person with the right message at the right moment. I’m trying to determine if that is lining up right for me right now.

Is there anything that you feel makes you stand out as a potential presidential candidate in 2008?

The needs of the moment really stand out. I’ll be the only person at the core of the campaign who will be pushing for the reform of the family and restoration of the culture and human dignity at all phases of life. I hope to present those in new packages, such as talking about prison recidivism rates, what we’re doing in Africa, reducing and eliminating deaths by cancer, as well as issues of reducing the budget and tax reform. It will be a full-scale conservative message. I won’t be backing off the social issues because they are central to rebuilding the family and the culture.

Do you have any favorite presidents yourself?

Lincoln is my favorite because of the way he stood on moral principles and would articulate them. He had a real faith in action. A recent favorite is Ronald Reagan. I love Mother Teresa’s quote about him. She said after she met him that, “in him simplicity and greatness lie.” He was a clear thinker and a good-hearted man. He really brought the pro-life movement to the center stage in his campaign, and in his stance for life and his writings on life.

The last Catholic president faced a world-wide war against communism and a crucial moral domestic reform (civil rights) at home. Do you see yourself facing similar issues?

We certainly are facing a global war on terrorism with a dedicated enemy that seeks our removal from the Middle East and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate.

We also face an extraordinary issue in the decline of the family. Four in 10 children are born to single moms. Half of our children spend a significant portion of their time in a single-parent home before the age of 18. The optimal setting is with a man and woman bonded for life. The institution of marriage is under extraordinary attack and it really needs support. It is one of the key reasons why I’ve stepped forward in this presidential race.

I certainly appreciated his visionary leadership, and I would hope to be able to put forward visionary type leadership following the Kennedy tradition. I’ve worked well with his brother Ted in the Senate despite clear policy differences. My hope is to be able to work across the aisle on topics we agree on even though there are many we disagree on. A key part of that is not judging others. You can, and will, disagree on policy, but you don’t condemn another person.

Indeed, you come from a very different background. Tell me about your family.

I was the third of four children, with two brothers and one sister. We grew up on a farm in Parker, Kan. It was a typical family farm with about 800 acres — corn, soybean, wheat, cattle and hogs. My parents still live there. My brother still farms there.

Was there a particular event that spurred you into public service?

I had been involved in a lot. I was student council president at my high school, Prairie View High School. I was involved in sports. We had 62 students in my graduating class.

What stands out in my mind most was meeting a congressman while I was state president of Future Farmers of America. That was the summer before I entered college. It seemed to me that his work was very interesting. It seemed like a position where you could help people a great deal and the possibility of doing something like that intrigued me.

       

I know that you’re hesitant to talk about your conversion to the Catholic Church, but can you tell me what motivated you to join the Church?

I don’t talk much about it because people look at it and question this or question that. I felt a deep calling to join the Catholic Church. I was very happy with the evangelical church I was in at the time. There was no dissatisfaction.

I had really studied Mother Teresa’s sayings and comments and the example of Pope John Paul II. I studied and followed them very carefully and was impressed with the clarity of their faith and the boldness with which they acted. I met both of them. About eight months before Mother Teresa died, I carried the bill to give her the Congressional Gold Medal. I met Pope John Paul II while still a Protestant. I carried that bill as well — we presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal in the first part of 2001.

Tim Drake writes from

St. Joseph, Minnesota.