The field of candidates for the Senate seat once held by the late Edward M. Kennedy is taking shape. Massachusetts state Sen. Scott Brown launched a campaign over the weekend for the Republican nomination.
Brown is campaigning with endorsements from people who had previously been considered possible candidates: former Bush White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey.
As part of an ongoing series of conversations with the Senate candidates, we spoke with Scott Brown about health care reform, financial regulation, the war in Afghanistan and other issues.
Bob Oakes: You are one of only five Republicans currently among the 40 members of the state Senate up on Beacon Hill. The congressional delegation is entirely Democratic. I’m sure many people are wondering how realistic you think it is that you’re going to be able to change that — become the first Republican to represent Massachusetts in the Senate since Ed Brooke was elected in 1972.
Scott Brown: Well, certainly I’m an underdog and I’m up against the machine in Massachusetts and I’m not part of that machine. I’m not going to promise to pander to anybody and I’ve been an independent voice in Massachusetts and the Legislature and I’ll continue to be that way down there.
You’ve pointed something out right, we have 11 people down there already who are a Democratic delegation and I don’t plan to be a rubber stamp for either party.
Do you subscribe to the political notion that many people do: that this seat will be even more tough to win for a Republican this time around, because it’s the seat that was held by Ted Kennedy?
Well, certainly Sen. Kennedy was a legend in life, and in death those shoes are certainly harder to fill. I don’t think it’s a seat that any one party has a right to, or any one person.
And I think there is so much anxiety and anger and frustration out there with business as usual that the people of Massachusetts are looking for a change, and I think they would like to send somebody down there who is a little bit more independent than the folks that are there now.
I mean, they are very nice people, but they have 11 people kind of doing the same thing, answering to the same person in the same party. It would be nice — wouldn’t it? — to have a different voice down there.
Let’s talk about some issues. There is talk that the so-called public option in national health care reform may be moving off the table, since a key Senate Republican, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe says she won’t support it; some congressional Democrats appear to be backing off.
Where were you in the public option in national health care reform?
Well, it’s really a government option and obviously — certainly for us in Massachusetts — I’m somewhat surprised that the delegation would so easily support this bill, when we have almost 94 percent of our people insured here in Massachusetts.
And we have a fantastic health care system, teaching hospitals, insurance companies that provide great benefits for our state. Why would we want to — I feel — dumb down the medical services and medical insurance in Massachusetts to provide for that type of plan?
So I’m not in favor of it now — we’re actually reading the entire bill as we speak. So, at this point, I agree with Olympia.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the start of the financial crisis in the U.S. It was one year ago today that Lehman Bros., the investment bank, went belly up, and within days the U.S. economy was pretty much in a full-scale panic.
Today, the president is marking the anniversary by saying that he wants to review efforts to pull the financial system back from the brink, stressing how much work must be done before the damage is truly mended. There’s some question about whether he’s going to pull back from the regulation of the financial markets that he suggested just a few months ago. Where are you on that?
Well, you know the economy — it’s all about the economy and jobs. 401(k)s and retirement plans have certainly been hurt, and jobs not only in Massachusetts but throughout the country have been lost. Financial services will certainly play a large role in that recovery.
And they’re even talking about, $800 billion for the previous stimulus, of maybe even doing another one. So pulling back on the financial [regulations], I think if you do too much too soon, it doesn’t have a chance to catch up and see if we can work out of this ourselves through free enterprise, through private enterprise, intervention and creativity.
So I’m all in favor of just holding back for a little bit and letting private enterprise try to get us out of this mess.
You just mentioned it: another government stimulus plan is being talked about by some. Is that a good idea or not a good idea?
I don’t think so. As you know, right now we’ve spent the most money we’ve spent probably in the history of our country and we are leaving a legacy, amassing amazing amounts of debt, passing it on to our kids and grand-kids, and at some point we are just going to be top heavy.
I have very real concerns about China and other companies owning our debt — does that affect our national security in any way? But at some point we have to rely not so much on government. Government has a place. They have a place, but they also should know when to get out of the way.
A lot of the stimulus from the previous package really didn’t go to creating jobs. It was really to back the local state governments as we did here in Massachusetts.
Congressman Barney Frank has been a leader in a movement on Capitol Hill to make financial industry executives more accountable, hold their salaries in check in the process. Do you think that’s a good idea?
I don’t agree with Barney’s proposal on that. We should let the free-enterprise and the business market do what it needs to do to get our economy back and running. I’m concerned that government intervention into private businesses is just crossing the line.
Where are you on the war in Afghanistan? In terms of whether or not you think we need to ramp up the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, or whether you think , as some do, that his war is un-winnable. Should we pull out, or should we at least consider pulling out?
That’s the million-dollar question: Should we stay in and ramp up or should we not? At this point, I’m not sure, to be honest with you. I’m not sure. I wrestle with it every single day of my life. But I know that on the one hand we want to try to stabilize that region, on the other hand, is it too lost? I just don’t know yet.
Massachusetts State Sen. Scott Brown, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. Thank you very much for speaking to Morning Edition.
Thank you very much.