John Glenn Discusses Senate Campaign Finance Hearings and the Possibility of his Return to SpaceAired July 7, 1997 - 8:13 a.m. ET
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Senator John Glenn of Ohio is the top Democrat serving on the Governmental Affairs Committee. You'll recall that Glenn was also the first American to orbit the Earth. Now, he's offering to make a second trip into space.
Senator John Glenn joins us live from Capitol Hill this morning.
Good morning to you, Senator. Thank you for being with us.
SEN. JOHN GLENN (D), OHIO: Good morning. Good morning, how are you today?
SAVIDGE: I'm doing very good, thanks.
SAVIDGE: Let's talk about the hearings that are coming up. What do you hope that this investigation will accomplish?
GLENN: Well, I think we have to go after several areas here. One is, illegalities occurred on both sides, Democrat and Republican. And there are -- it's on both sides, it's not just one party.
And secondly, I think at the end of the day, if we have not brought out all the things that need to be brought out to really make campaign finance reform real -- to really set the base for legislation, then we will not have done the job we should do.
There are things to be investigated, like the role of foreign money. Obviously on both sides, that has to be investigated. Tax exempt organizations, the transfer of money to third parties to give in somebody else's name, the pernicious role that soft money played in the last campaign.
All these are things that have to be laid out, if we're to really reach what should be our objective. And that is, a real campaign finance reform.
SAVIDGE: How much of these hearings do you think are going to be focused on the investigative aspect? And how much are going to be focused on true reform?
GLENN: Well, I think probably most of it is going to be on the investigative aspect of things, if things -- if present indications are carried out. You know, on the minority side, we just get a hearing once in a while. We can't control it, the majority controls the hearing. And there will probably be about three weeks, the majority will control out of their investigations. It will be about a week then, that we will control. So, we'll probably have maybe one-fourth of the time overall, the way it looks right now.
You know, with regard to all of this emphasis on foreign money, I think people need to remember there's only one proven track so far of where foreign money really came into our American political system. That was from Hong Kong, through the National Policy Forum, and Haley Barbour, at that time, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and the Republican coffers that were used in the '96 campaign.
Now, that's a proven track. We have the depositions, we have all of that ready to be presented at the proper time. So, we have that proven track.
Now, they're trying to lay out all this track that led to the president and the vice president and so on. And I don't know what they have in that. We've seen a lot of the same documents that they have, of course. But where they go with that, I don't know.
But we know the track -- the other track. So, that's the reason I say this really should be a bipartisan investigation across the board, let the chips fall where they may, Democrat or Republican, and set the base for real campaign finance reform.
SAVIDGE: Two of the people who are considered to be primary in the focus of this investigation, one being John Huang, who reportedly is going to take the Fifth; and then Charlie Trie, who is now in China. Both of them, in some respects, are sort of out of reach now.
GLENN: Well, they are in that respect. Huang is in this country, of course, and Charlie Trie has gone to China, and apparently says that he's not planning to come back. And I don't know how we deal with that, whether he -- I don't think we have an extradition treaty with China. Maybe we do, I'm not sure.
But whether he could be convinced to come back or not, I don't know. Or maybe he just doesn't want to. That's been the problem with some of the people that should be called, I guess, as some of them have gone back to their places, and we won't be able to interview them.
SAVIDGE: All right, Senator. Well, that does it when it comes to the subject of politics. But now we move on to something that has captured the imagination of many -- that's space.
With that, I turn it over to my colleague, John Holliman. John.
JOHN HOLLIMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator, Buzz Aldrin called me the other day and said, is this John Glenn thing for real? And I said, Buzz, I don't think it is. I think the senator just is telling them he wants to go. Then I started talking to people at NASA. And you know what they told me? They said it would take about 12 months to plan a mission around you, and that they are beginning that work. And that you could be in space on the shuttle, July 4th, next year. Would you -- could you be ready to go by July 4th, next year?
GLENN: Oh, absolutely. I could be ready to go a lot sooner than that, and really prepared to go. But let me say, this is not just a favor to John Glenn. I've wanted to go back up into space again for the last 25 or 30 years. I've been outspoken about it -- I've said so repeatedly.
But you don't go just because you want to go. There has to be a good scientific reason for going. And what has developed is, over the past couple of years, there have been studies of the astronauts up there now -- the younger astronauts, the regular astronauts now. Changes occur in their bodies in space that they re-adapt to when they come back to Earth.
Now, many of those same changes occur in the elderly, such as me, as a normal process of aging right here on Earth. What turns your body's immune system on and off? What triggers off osteoporosis, and the recovery from it? Cardiovascular system changes and recovery from it -- these are things that occur in the elderly here on Earth, but they occur with younger people that are astronauts up there now.
Now, there have been some of our geriatric experts who have designed some scientific studies that they are very interested in pursuing with an older person, somebody between 75 and 80. In which you put them up there, and see what the reactions are.
You're talking about something so fundamental as finding a new way to turn the body's immune system on and off, for instance. What does that mean for the study of disease and diseases of the elderly, in particular?
These are things that can benefit us all on Earth, the 44 million Americans that are 60 or over. And so, there's good scientific reason for doing this.
Now, NASA will have to decide, obviously, if they want to set those projects up. Then if they do, then at that point, would I like to be considered first in line to go and investigate some of these things, and start out a whole new area of research? I'd be very anxious to do that.
So, this isn't something they're just setting up as a favor to me.
HOLLIMAN: Oh, I know that.
GLENN: It's something that has a good scientific base.
HOLLIMAN: Yeah, and I think the American people know that. The question becomes, and the question some people at NASA are asking is, OK, John Glenn goes up there, they hook up all the probes, they see what his bones do, and he dies. Are you in good enough shape to take this ride?
GLENN: Oh, yeah. I go down -- you know, NASA asked all the former astronauts to come down and take a physical every year, as part of their longitudinal study, their follow on to what may be impacts out of the space program long term.
And I went down about a year ago and passed a physical, so I'm not -- and I had my flight physical, the FAA flight physical, just about three weeks ago -- I guess, four weeks ago. So, I'm not -- I think I could pass a physical all right. There wouldn't be any problem with that.
The main thing is there's a good scientific reason for doing it. And I'd be honored, I'd be eager to really get in there and do a good job on that.
HOLLIMAN: I know you don't want to queer the deal by really pushing to do this, although you are really pushing to do it. Is it going to happen? I mean, do you anticipate that you will be in space again in the next 12, 13 months?
GLENN: Well, I'm certainly available, and I -- that decision, of course, is up to NASA, after they analyze all of the scientific projects, or the scientific things they would like to find out by putting an older person up.
This would start off a new program, of course. It would be not just me, that would only be one data point. What you'd have to do is set up a program where every so many flights, you'd want somebody older going up on the flight, so you've got a database -- a sampling of older people going into space.
It would mean something -- one data point wouldn't mean that much. But somebody has to start it off. I'd like to be that somebody.
HOLLIMAN: All right, Senator. I passed my flight physical about three weeks ago, too.
So, let's keep our fingers crossed for you, and maybe then for me.
GLENN: OK, great.
HOLLIMAN: See you later.
SAVIDGE: That would be a marvelous coup, though, to get John Glenn up there. I mean, strictly from a public relations point of view for this.
HOLLIMAN: Well, that's -- and he keeps saying, don't talk about the public relations, talk about the scientific research. That guy has fire in his belly, and you can see the sparkle in his eyes. He wants to go to space again.
SAVIDGE: He does. People have to watch, as well. Thanks very much. We appreciate it, John.
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