Sen. Jim DeMint Interview
11/27/12 with Ernest Istook on “Istook Live!”
To LISTEN to the interview -- http://www.istook.com/pg/jsp/charts/audioMaster.jsp?dispid=301&pid=56626">click here
Istook: Joining us now--Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina. I served with him in Congress. Jim, welcome to Istook Live!
DeMint: Ernest, it’s an honor to be with you.
Istook: Well, it’s always great to be with you and I cannot say enough of how I’m proud of how you have been a model of courage. It is the type of courage that means something--standing up to your friends who may be some of your fellow Senators; sometimes some of your fellow Republican Senators. And yet you stand up for principles. And I and a great many people are proud of you for that.
DeMint: Well thank you, it’s been a difficult place to work in and if it wasn’t for people like you on the air and all over the country who keep telling me to keep fighting it would be a lonely life but it hasn’t been in fact it’s very encouraging to go around the country and people just to say, “keep fighting, we’re praying for you.”
Istook: Absolutely. And you’ve got an opportunity. This is one of those gut check times in this lame-duck session of the Congress. All the conversation about the so-called fiscal cliff. Questions of who is going to pay how much taxes. And those that already pay the lion’s share, they say they want them to pay even more and they are willing to let taxes go up on the middle class if they don’t get their way in punishing the high income earners. But it’s not just something about the country, there’s also the chatter about: this will tell us whether the Republican Party can be salvaged in the eyes of the Conservative movement.
DeMint: Well there’s a lot of questions here but Republicans are willing and ready to work with the President on dealing with these issues, but it’s hard to work with a leader who has no plan. And you can’t compromise with someone who hasn’t but a plan on the table and told Americans what he really stands for. Saying he wants to tax the rich is not a plan and it certainly doesn’t solve many of the problems, really any of the problems we’re faced with right now. So the President has got what he wants, Ernest, he wants to raise taxes, and wants to cut the military, and this is the result of a very bad deal that the Republicans were willing to make, over a year ago and we’re paying for that now. Certainly if we make taxes go up it’s not good for the economy. Cutting the military is not good for our defense and the security of our nation, but I think Republicans need to not make a long-term bad deal that hurts our country. We need to insist that this is a time that we need to reform our tax code and get rid of the loop holes and the subsidies and lower the rate. And Ernest, the key thing to remember here: the government is not short of revenue. In fact, last year we were near historic highs as far as tax revenue. We’ll probably have all-time high revenues coming in from taxpayers this year. So the country doesn’t need more money; they need less government. And as Republicans we can’t concede that point by saying, “Oh, ok we need to raise some taxes or raise revenue.” The government has doubled spending in the last ten years and the problem is not tax revenues and all we have to do is get the economy growing a little bit faster and the revenues will effectively double. So I can’t get into this argument, ok? that we need to tax the top 2% more. It doesn’t come close to solving the problems. And you’re right, it is a gut check for Republicans. Are they going to carry the conservative message and be principled about it? Or are they going to try to weasel out of this by capitulating and the President gets what he wants in tax increases and cutting the military? The only thing else he wants is for Republicans to completely discredit themselves with their base.
Istook: They do. And Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina is our guest. A couple of things that tie into this: One, even though it’s only I think at most maybe 3 or 4 Republicans in either the House or Senate that have made public pronouncements about they might do something that may be seen as violating their pledge not to raise taxes, the one involving Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform. To look at the headlines and listen to the media you would think there is a whole, huge lineup of Republicans that would like to reverse course. That’s one image the media is trying to portray and at the same time that seems to be an effort by the White House to take its victory in the election and make it larger than it was and steamroller over the opposition--to crush the opposition right now so that they can be sure to get their way on more and more issues in the next four years.
DeMint: Yes, they smell blood in the water and they’ll keep pushing. So it’s hardly, they’re not coming our way or coming to the middle to try and govern, they actually want to steamroll what’s left of the Republican Party here in Washington. But the truth of the matter is, I don’t think any of those who have been portrayed as breaking their tax pledge will actually vote for anything the President will support because there are conditions. Tthose who are talking about increasing revenue are saying only in return for real tax reform or real entitlement reform. The President isn’t going there, particularly [not] in the next couple of weeks. So I think the President and a number of Democratic Senators have said they want us to go over this so called “Cliff” because it gives them a chance to get what they want in terms of higher taxes and they believe the mainstream media will blame Republicans and it will hurt us more than it will hurt them.
Istook: Well I certainly concur in that and I also believe that the administration feels that the administration will either achieve that result--taxes go up on everybody and Republicans get the blame--or they will succeed in splitting the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement by having some people go along with them while others don’t. Then they will have fractured the opposition and have used this whole divide-and-conquer approach that this President seems to favor.
DeMint: You’re right and I think there are a number of Republicans saying they are willing to work with the President and as you said there are a few of them and the media is highlighting it as a real spilt in our party, I frankly don’t think there is, unless the President is willing to work reasonably with us to fix the real fiscal issues I don’t think you’re going to see Republicans to raise taxes. I mean there may be a few, there always are who probably aren’t real Republicans, but I don’t think you’re going to see very many Republicans go along.
Istook: What does it tell us that the media makes it want to seem like their numbers are larger. They take them they clone them they make numbers look bigger than they are. What does that tell us that the media is giving that portrayal?
DeMint: Well what we’ve known all along, they generally believe in a collectivist, big government society, and they see the government as a key player in our economy, and our culture, and anything we suggest otherwise is alien to them. So their paradigm is big government.
Ernest: You’re talking about the paradigm of the liberal democrats or the media?
DeMint: It’s the same thing.
Istook: OK, got it. So where do we go from here? We have an administration that’s going to take advantage of the gridlock, the fact that the House and Senate cannot agree on things, which means when they take an action through the bureaucracy that requires a united Congress to block, how are we going to deal with that in these next few years?
DeMint: Ernest, we need to do everything we can do as conservatives here in Washington to minimize the damage of a second Obama administration. At the same time I hope to be a part of working with states all over the country, there are 25 states with Republican Governors and Legislators, a lot of them are trying to implement conservative polices, lower taxes, better regulatory structure, tort reform, things we know that work. And that’s what we need to do as Republicans is pull together states and other, whether they be schools or other organizations to demonstrate that conservative principles work better. And last night on “The O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly talked about the difference between California and Texas. Those are the kind of things we need to demonstrate to people. The theory of good policy is not going to work; we can tell Americans all they want but they’re not going to listen. But if we show them how conservative principles are working better in states like Texas and what’s happening in states like California, they’ll begin to see how we need to change our national policy so our country can work better for everyone. It’s a challenge but we have to admit at least temporarily we’ve lost the battle in Washington and the best we can do here at the federal level is to keep the federal government from stopping those states from doing the right thing!
Istook: We’ll pay attention to that. And I’m afraid we’ve reached the end of our time, but I’ll look forward to having you back on again.
DeMint: Thanks a lot, Ernest!
Istook: U.S. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. A stalwart, keeping the faith here in Washington.