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CNN "State Of The Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

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When we come back, the interview we did earlier with Senator DeMint.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Senator DeMint, thank you so much for joining us.

DEMINT: Candy, it's great to be here.

CROWLEY: I have listened to you since the election of Christine O'Donnell, and you have repeated what you said kind of all along during this election year, which is, in general, I would rather have people who adhere to conservative principles than have the majority.

So accepting that, the problem is that in the minority, you can't get anything done that you'd like to get done. So how do you -- I mean, square that for me. You can't repeal Obama health care. You can't cut spending. You can't eliminate earmarks, which is one of your favorite causes here. So I don't -- I just -- it is inexplicable to me that you would rather have true conservatives than the majority, where you could actually do something.

DEMINT: Well, first of all, let me clarify what I mean by conservative. I'm just talking about common-sense people who don't think balancing a checkbook is a radical idea. That's what we're looking for now. Because the people in Washington have clearly gotten out of control, in both parties.

When you have $13 trillion in debt, you've got a big problem. That's what America is asking for right now. But I came into the Senate in the majority, Candy, 55 senators, a large majority in the House, Bush in the White House. And Republicans didn't do what we said we were going to do.

We spent too much. We borrowed too much. And, frankly, if we get the majority again, even if it's just in the House and we don't do what we say, I think the Republican Party is dead. And the urgency for me here is the Democrat Party, and I know this sounds partisan or completely dysfunctional, they're the left of Europe. I mean, the spending is...

CROWLEY: They would argue, let's just put it that way.

DEMINT: Well, I know they would, and that's fair enough. But you can't argue with the facts. Republicans are the only one who can carry the banner of what I think millions of Americans are saying. Not just Republicans, independents, Democrats, stop the spending, stop the borrowing, stop the debt, stop the takeovers. This is kind of uniting America. So my point is, is the quickest way to a majority, the quickest way to 60 votes in the Senate is to have Republicans who stand on principle. nothing right-wing. What I'm talking about is where mainstream America is, and it's just common sense.

CROWLEY: But let me -- let me -- we had a poll, there was a poll in The New York Times that said about one in five, about 19 percent of Americans support the tea party movement. That's not mainstream. That's not most Americans. That's a fifth of Americans.

DEMINT: Well, the interesting thing is, for instance, in Delaware, there are probably a few thousand at most tea party activists. But ten times that many voted for Christine O'Donnell in the Republican primary. So for every person who takes up a sign and goes to a tea party rally, there are thousands of Americans who agree with them.

DEMINT: They don't necessarily think you should go out to a rally or they don't have time to themselves, but I've been around the country enough to know that there are millions of people who have never been involved with politics before, who don't like Republicans or Democrats, but they're concerned about the incredible spending, the debt, and the government owning the auto companies.

So I think there is a unity out there. And the exciting thing for me as a Republican is I think the slate of candidates that we have for the Senate, particularly, that I've been involved with, is representative of America as I've seen in a long time.

And I think that you see it in the polls. People they told me couldn't get elected, like Marco Rubio, is probably about 10 points ahead today in Florida. We've got good candidates and they're coming out with a good common-sense message.

CROWLEY: You also talked about how you sort of looked around and thought, I don't want to be hear with the same people we've got here now. We need some true conservatives, want to hold the line on spending, hold the line on regulation, hold the line on taxes. I went back and I looked up the records on the top four issues that we've seen in the past year. The stimulus program, TARP, the bank bail-out, health care reform, and reg reform. When you took Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, who lost to a tea party candidate; Bob Bennett in Utah, who lost to a tea party candidate; and then, of course, Mike Castle, who lost to a tea party candidate in Delaware; their voting records on all four of those issues were the same as John Thune's, Mitch McConnell, and John Cornyn, with the exception of, I must say, Mike Castle voted for reg reform. He was the only one in that group.

So should John Thune, Mitch McConnell, and John Cornyn be thrown out of office? Because on those major issues that you're so upset about, they voted the exact same way as these candidates who got thrown out by the Republican Party?

DEMINT: Yes. Well, I didn't campaign against Lisa or Bob Bennett. this was a decision...

CROWLEY: But you supported Bob Bennett's -- one of the people who challenged him.

DEMINT: Well, once Bob was out, yes, I was supportive of Mike Lee, because he's a great candidate. But these are appropriators, Bob Bennett, Lisa Murkowski. They believe in their job is to take home the bacon. I mean, it's a big part of the culture here in Washington.

And, frankly, I've been around long enough to know that people are tired. Even in Alaska, Candy, in Alaska the voters there threw out someone who was bringing home the bacon. Joe Miller, running against earmarks, because I think we're hearing all over America, it's, I don't want money for my state if it's going to bankrupt my country.

CROWLEY: But we're talking, really, 1, 2 percent of a budget here, when you're talking about the earmarks. That doesn't get you to a balanced budget.

DEMINT: Oh, Candy, it's like saying the engine is a small part of the train. All the legislation, you look at health care, was pulled through by "Cornhusker kickbacks," that's an earmark. The bail-outs failed in the House until they went back and added earmarks.

So it's always a way to grease the skids, and it's the power here. It's the power. It's why thousands of lobbyists are here to get earmarks for special interests or projects back home. It really is a part of the culture that has resulted in a spending mentality, and a parochial focus.

But if your focus here -- if you think you're here to take home the bacon and all year you're working on getting earmarks for your state, you're not working on tax reform and fixing Social Security, fixing our health care system. And that's what I've seen for the 12 years I've been in the House and the Senate, is everybody is working on the press release back home, for getting a "bridge to nowhere," rather than coming up here and doing things that are for the national interests. I think that's all Americans are asking for now, is stop the spending and the borrowing, stop taking over our country, and focus on those things that make good common sense. And, again, I'm excited about the prospect of having a wave of new people in the Congress who I believe are going to do exactly what they promise the voters.

CROWLEY: Stick with me just a minute. And we will be right back with more about the politics of 2010 and 2012.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We are back now with Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

Does it occur to you that it might not be so much who the Republicans are or what they stand for as much as it is people's perceived -- the perceived failure of the Democrats to deliver? That it's not that you're out there offering these things, that it's that they're just angry that the job market is bad or that there's so many more...

(CROSSTALK)

DEMINT: Well, there's some truth to that, Candy, because I think it's a matter they're madder at the Democrats than they are at the Republicans right now. But there is some genuine excitement for candidates like Marco Rubio or Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. I think you're going to see a lot of excitement for Christine O'Donnell.

I know she was massacred in the campaign with millions of dollars of negative ads, but she raised over $1 million in the last two days from people all over the country. They like an underdog. They like someone who is taking on the establishment. And a third of the voters in Delaware are independent.

And I think when they get the sense that this gal is taking on everybody, I think she's going to surprise people in the general election too.

CROWLEY: Did she surprise you in the primary?

DEMINT: Well, yes, she did. I mean, I knew that there was a surge, and I knew she was a great candidate. But I also knew they were spending all this money trying to make her look silly. But she stood strong and stayed really positive throughout. And she didn't ask for the support from the Republican Party.

And I was really just honored to stand with her. And I was glad, obviously, Sarah Palin has done great work around the country drawing attention to underdog candidates.

CROWLEY: When you -- some of these candidates that have been embraced by the tea party and by you individually, have had some ideas that people do consider to be out of the mainstream, the argument is, that's great, inside the Republican Party, big civil war going on, the tea party has had some great victories, but once we get to the election...

DEMINT: What ideas are you talking about?

CROWLEY: Well, OK, and I wanted to ask you about it. So, for instance, Sharron Angle wants to get rid of the Department of Education, is that a good idea?

DEMINT: Well, I think -- I agree that we need to devolve a lot of power out of Washington, and I would have to ask her what her position is on that.

CROWLEY: Well, getting rid of it completely, is that a good idea? Just, no more Department of Education?

DEMINT: Well, I can see a role of looking at best practices around the state. But the fact is pretty clear, Candy, since the federal government increased its involvement in the '60s, the quality of our education relative to the rest of the world has declined. And we spend more per student than any other country in the world.

So I've introduced a bill to devolve a lot of power from the federal government back to the states.

CROWLEY: But that's not the same as abolishing the Education Department, which, as you know, is quite symbolic. And a lot of money comes from the federal government...

DEMINT: Well, she's very bold to say it. The fact is, education would probably work a lot better without the Department of Education.

CROWLEY: So you would support...

DEMINT: I would support a devolution of power out of Washington for education, health care, transportation. And I've introduced a lot of legislation for that too. And you can do it in a common-sense, reasonable way that doesn't disrupt any of the activities that we support.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about a couple of just sheerly political things. And that is, you have predicted an earthquake election.

DEMINT: Right.

CROWLEY: Give me some specificity. What does that mean?

DEMINT: Well, I -- I think Republicans are going to take the House back. I think you're going to see a number of new senators come in. There are not that many races in play, so the chances of a majority in the Senate may not be that great, but...

CROWLEY: Will you take any responsibility if the Republicans don't take control of the Senate, if, for instance, they should lose in Delaware, with someone you backed?

DEMINT: I'll tell you this. The only -- the only reason we have a chance at a majority now is in large part for the candidates I've been supporting.

Candy, if the Republican Party in the Senate was now symbolized by Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist, we would not have the energy behind our candidates anywhere in the country.

CROWLEY: Then, why are -- why are Democrats so excited?

DEMINT: Well, they're faking it, because I think there -- there's no question that all of them are in trouble.

CROWLEY: I know you've said that you're thinking about 2010; you don't want to talk about 2012 and the presidency, but who right now that we know is thinking about running fits your template for that true conservative, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich?

Who do you -- who is your person in this (inaudible) at the moment?

DEMINT: I -- I haven't picked a person. All those you mentioned are -- are great candidates. I'm looking for someone that's almost like a Governor Christie in New Jersey, who's willing to tell people the hard truth, that the federal government can't do any more; we've got to do less if you want to save our country and fight the fights against the union bosses.

And so I'm looking for a combination of Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill, and I know he or she is out there somewhere, but I think you're going to see some great candidates for 2012, but we do need to get through 2010 and show America that Republicans once again will re- earn the trust of the American people and do what we say.

CROWLEY: Senator Jim DeMint, thanks for stopping by.

DEMINT: Candy, thank you.

CROWLEY: Appreciate it.

Coming up next, reaction from Senator Lisa Murkowski.

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