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September 5, 2008

Q&A with Sen. Brownback

Sen. Sam Brownback, who originally ran for president against John McCain, believes that the biggest challenge McCain faces among evangelicals is getting them out of their houses on November 4.

Here's a portion of the interview earlier this week:

What do you think of the Palin pick?

It’s excellent. I think it was a game change. You know, the American public wanted to vote for history, and that was some of the appeal of Barack Obama to show yes, we can do something like this. Well, now you can vote for history by voting for the Republican ticket, by placing the first female vice president of the U.S.

What challenges do John McCain and Sarah Palin face, particularly among evangelicals?

You know, I don’t think they face much challenge among evangelicals now, other than getting them out to vote and pushing their neighbors to get out to vote. It’s probably more of an organizational challenge at this point. And that can take some time but it’s doable.

Do you think people will be as excited about McCain on November 4 as they were for Bush in 2004?

That’d be hard to do. You know, because Bush was one of them, really spoke the language and knew it in his heart, and John loves the country but is a different candidate. I think he’s going to get their votes and now with the pick of Palin who may become one of the future leaders of the overall movement, I think he’s really endeared himself to the faith base of the party even if they don’t see it in him as much as they’d like to.

Barack Obama speaks more openly about his faith and has an intense religious outreach. Do you think that will work?

I don’t think so, because he’s just off on the core subjects. That came through so clear at Saddleback, that he’s not there on life, he’s not there on marriage. It came through at the Democratic convention in his big speech – he talks about supporting abortion and same-sex marriage. And I just think those for a lot of people are the portal issue. You’ve got to get the basics right before I can look at you on other issues. And if you can’t get the basics right, how can I trust you on a broader set of issues?

At the Democratic National Convention there was more religious outreach. Why is there less here?

It’s because it’s woven into our program here, it’s in the DNA. It’s the priest or the pastor that kicks off the convention and prays in the name of Jesus. It’s people speaking of their faith or their testimony. It’s more woven into who we are and what the party is.

What objections do evangelicals or Catholics raise when they’re talking to you about whether to vote for McCain or not?

Individuals raise the issue of stem cell research to me – that’s the major one I get. But then when they weigh it against Obama who’s for stem cell research and not even for protecting a child that’s accidentally born in a botched abortion, that one’s so over the top pro-abortion that there’s not even a choice here.

Have you heard any objections to Palin because of her daughter’s pregnancy?

From the media I have. From other people I get a yes and amen, that life happens and things happen that you wish didn’t, but this is how you deal with it. You don’t kill the child. You have the child and you try to make a go of it as a family and you surround the child and the family with love and affection. For most people it’s been yes, that’s how we deal with the things that happen in life that you wish didn’t. So it’s been, by and large from the faith perspective, a yes, this is what you do. And it’s been a good common object discussion with the country about what it means to be pro-life.

There’s been talk of the evangelical agenda broadening, and some think that may be a chance for Obama to get more votes. Do you see that?

Yes, I see it happening, particularly in younger evangelical voters, and I don’t think that’s all a bad thing. But I don’t concede then those voters to Barack Obama. I have to stand upstairs – I don’t concede the social justice agenda to Barack Obama when McCain’s the guy that led the charge for a reform immigration system and opposed his own party to do that, when McCain’s the guy who endured torture and is opposed to torture. I think we fight on this new terrain when McCain’s the guy putting forth proposals to deal with global warming.

Usually people enter politics because of a topic. In this case it may have been the pro-life movement or it may have been when they were driving and got out at the public square that for a lot of people faith came in. But then once you’re in the system you broaden because now you have a thousand issues to deal with. You may have come into politics because of that but now there are a bunch of issues you have to deal with. You can’t just say well I don’t care I only want to deal with my set. If you’re an elected official or otherwise you have to deal with them.


I give full credit to Sen. Brownback for being part of the broadening of the evangelical agenda, but I think his argument that McCain holds the upper ground on social justice issues rings hollow. When the ONE Campaign asked Obama and McCain to give their positions on a number of social justice issues (poverty, debt relief, aid, malaria, the AIDS pandemic, etc), McCain could only talk in vague generalities. Obama, on the other hand, demonstrated a clear understanding of the issues and made specific, measurable policy commitments - for example, doubling President Bush's historic commitment to funding for AIDS treatment in Africa.

I don't agree with Obama on every issue (abortion being a good example), but when it comes to caring for the poor and oppressed in our world, he's got a clear, detailed plan. McCain doesn't.

Pardon me for getting slightly off subject. But I was shocked to see comments from CT's comment section being read in Australia! See the reference to Christianity Today below


Regarding John's post:
John, if Obama really believes in helping the poor and those in Africa, why not his half brother? Of course, he has an interest in African health issues, etc. which is admirable but there are Aids vitims in Indonesia, the U.S., and poverty is everywhere. McCain's wife showed it first hand working as a humanitarian. They even adopted a "needy" child and embraced that child as their very own daughter. Don't forget that McCain's heart speaks louder than words through his life.
I have worked in Africa on vacations every summer for the past ten summers. I know the poverty and I know that the U.S. has ALWAYS done humanitarian aid there sending billions. So, how is Barak now going to do better than that? Well, of course, I don't know his intent or plan (he had not made that clear, either, on main issues) or maybe I am just deaf and can't hear his real plan just as the Democrats can't hear John McCain's plan that he has stated loud and clear on many other issues. The bottom line is this: no one can be judged just on promises. There has to be character, past experience, etc. Both men, I believe, have issues that touch their hearts. They are human. You and I have different issues that speak to us louder than others and if we were asked to speak about these, we might omit issues that we still believe in but are not the top priority. We really won't know which man will or can (after all, the President is not always the policy maker, actually rarely) make the change. We can only vote our conscience. Mine is controlled by my values as a Christian.

Hi Gloria,

I think you make some good points. Both men have done some good things for the poor. Both, for example, co-sponsored PEPFAR, President Bush's emergency AIDS relief package which, since going into effect, has increased the number of Africans getting treatment from something like 71,000 to over 2 million. And yes, poverty is definitely not just an African problem.

The main point I was trying to make was that when you line up the candidates' positions on key poverty issues (fighting HIV, eradicating malaria, achieving universal primary education, food and clean water, etc.), Obama's plan is filled with specifics, McCain's with generalities. You can compare their plans on the ONE Campaign's website: www.onevote08.org/ontherecord/compare.html?c=13&c=8

You're absolutely right that character and past performance matter every bit as much as promises. But the value of specifics like Obama provided is that if he's elected, we can hold him accountable to these specific promises.

As for George Obama, he has disputed reports that he lives in extreme poverty and is actually pulling for his half-brother to win. But your point, that we need to practice what we preach, is well taken.