A chat with a presidential candidate
May 13, 1999
Gary Bauer, a Republican presidential contender, is a former domestic policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan.
The following is an edited transcript of an online chat with Bauer who join us via the phone on Thursday, May 13, 1999.
Chat Moderator: Marina of New York City asks, "Given the fact that you have never been elected to public office at the national level or at the state or local executive administrative level, what makes you think that you are qualified to be president of the United States?"
Gary Bauer: Well that's a great question. I hope you will also ask it of Steve Forbes, and Elizabeth Dole and Pat Buchanan. I did spend eight years at the highest levels of government. I was the under secretary of education in charge of a $17 billion budget, and I was Reagan's chief domestic policy advisor at the White House. So I think that eight years gave me adequate experience and that not being a career politician will actually be an advantage.
Chat Moderator: Mike from Cincinnati e-mailed us this question: "What would you do to get this conflict resolved in Kosovo and also with U.S. relations between China and Russia deteriorating? Do you think this conflict is doing more harm than good for America?"
Gary Bauer: Mike, all of us are upset by the pictures of suffering refugees. But on any given day there are a dozen places in the world where bad things are happening. An American president must be able to discern when America can make one of those problems better and when it is beyond our ability to reach a favorable outcome. In Kosovo, the president has made a series of mistakes. Arguably, there has been more suffering, not less as a result of the bombing. The conflict in one form or another has been going on for over 600 years. At this point, I would seek a diplomatic solution. Your point on China and Russia is important. We may destroy (President Slobodan) Milosevic in Yugoslavia and create a new Milosevic in Russia. On China, I believe our policy is a disaster and we need to elevate our own national security ahead of our desire for more trade.
Chat Participant <chadamiles>: What is Mr. Bauer's view on ground troops in Kosovo?
Gary Bauer: I am against placing America's sons and daughters in harm's way unless the national security interest of the United States is at stake. I do not believe they are at stake in the Kosovo conflict.
Chat Participant <KenHorse>: What is your stand on gun control?
Gary Bauer: We have literally thousands of state and federal laws regulating guns at this time, but particularly at the federal level they are not being enforced. Over 6,000 students have brought guns to school in the last three years and have been caught doing so. Yet, only 13 federal prosecutions have taken place. I don't believe we need more laws. I believe we need more enforcement.
Chat Participant <Tenn>: In regards to Littleton, Colorado, what is your analysis/solution?
Gary Bauer: I would love to say that as president, I would wave a magic wand and there would be no more school shootings. But I think the causes of this tragedy are complicated and took years to develop. It will take years to solve them. There are a number of problems: we have a culture of death in a lot of public, popular entertainment that does have an impact on impressionable young people -- particularly if they are wrestling with other emotional problems. We have had an overt hostility to public expressions of religious faith, even going so far as to fail to teach our children that America was founded on the idea that our liberty came from God, and that He was the guarantor of it. We have put judges on the courts that have made it harder for teachers, principals, and other adults to deal with the warning signs that Eric and Dylan displayed. Two boys using the Nazi salute and producing a video that showed them killing fellow students should have raised a lot more red flags and have been dealt with long before the shooting began.
Chat Moderator: Elizabeth Dole called for tougher gun control measures this week. Will her position be well received in the GOP?
Gary Bauer: I don't think it will be a main issue in the race for the nomination. Most Republican voters and caucus goers are very strong in their support for the second amendment to the Constitution. Just yesterday, Republicans in the senate voted down further gun regulation, because they believe, as I do, that there are already enough laws. I think Mrs. Dole's position will get cheers in much of the media, but not many votes in the Republican competition.
Chat Participant <Shawn_S>: What is your take on the notion that further censorship is needed in popular entertainment?
Gary Bauer: I haven't called for censorship, but I have called for the president and others to try to shame those in Hollywood that are laughing all the way to the bank with the millions of dollars they have made from the cultural pollution they have marketed at children. This pollution is arguably more deadly to our society than the pollution dumped into rivers or into our air and it should be dealt with just as strongly. I wish the president would cancel his fund-raiser in Hollywood this weekend in which he will get $1.5 million from the very people who have produced some of the worst examples of this pollution.
Chat Moderator: With so many conservative candidates in the Republican field and many of them more well known and experienced than you, how can you break out of the pack?
Gary Bauer: The best chance that a candidate like me has is to score upsets in early state competitions in Louisiana, Iowa, Alaska, and New Hampshire. We have strong organizations in those states. And a good fundraising base of small donors. A national poll done three weeks ago by Zogby disclosed that when my views were described, I jumped into second place and Gov. Bush lost half of his support. We believe I have the best chance of the conservative candidates to break through.
Chat Participant <Patrick>: Gary, are you going to adhere to Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment, "Thou shalt not speak ill of other Republicans"?
Gary Bauer: I hate negative advertising Patrick, and negative campaigning, so I won't attack other candidates personally. But I think the Republican Party should not be afraid of an animated debate on the issues. There are real differences between the candidates. For example, my tax cuts are aimed at middle class and working class families, not multinational corporations. I want us to emphasize trade with China less and national security and human rights more. Other Republican candidates disagree. We should be able to debate these things without engaging in personal attacks.
Chat Participant <Hala>: Mr. Bauer, who is your biggest conservative challenger?
Gary Bauer: That's a great question. None of the leading conservatives have a significant lead at this point. Some of the candidates have run several times and in spite of that they are only two or three points ahead of where I am. In Newsweek this week, I'm ahead of Steve Forbes, even though he has much higher name recognition. So I think at this point, a group of us are bunched together and there's no clear leader amongst conservatives.
Chat Participant <JohnDallas>: What is your evidence that same-sex marriage damages families?
Gary Bauer: Well, my position on same-sex marriage is based on 4,000 years of Judeo-Christian Western civilization. All during that time, marriage has been seen as the uniting of two individuals of the opposite sex. If we were to move towards allowing men to marry men or women to marry women, there would be absolutely no constitutional grounds for denying a marriage license ... to marry two women. There is virtually zero sentiment in the United States for such a radical change and it should not be forced on us by unelected judges appointed by liberal politicians.
Chat Moderator: Diane Garske sent in an e-mail question. She wants to know "As a conservative Christian who is pro-life and pro-family, what will be your strategy to entice votes from people who don't share your same views -- without compromising yourself?"
Gary Bauer: My eight years with Ronald Reagan taught me that it is fruitless to abandon deeply held views in the hopes of picking up additional voters. Ultimately, people will not respect such a candidate. My approach will be to talk to as many Americans as I can about the great issues of the day and to explain to voters why America is better than one and a half million abortions a year. This issue is too serious to take or rely on polls to determine what to do. But polling data is now showing that the majority of Americans want an end to the overwhelming majority of abortions. I am not willing, however, to sacrifice even one baby for political gain.
Chat Participant <SusieSouth>: How do you respond to the people who fear that "President Bauer" would somehow try to force his religion on all Americans?
Gary Bauer: In America, it is impossible to force your religion on anyone else. And my own faith prohibits me from attempting to coerce someone into believing in a particular way. America at its best, however, has had presidents who appeal to moral principle on great issues. Lincoln built his whole argument against slavery on the idea that God made black and white men equal. Martin Luther King was a pastor who built his civil rights arguments on the same concept. FDR routinely appealed to God for protection and wisdom during World War II in his public speeches and addresses to the nation. What is troubling to me is that when I do the same thing in speeches today, some people suddenly feel threatened by what America's political leaders have done for 200 years.
Chat Participant <Rick>: Gary, what will your stance be on economic issues and will you be very vocal on these issues?
Gary Bauer: My major economic issue is my strong commitment to lowering taxes across the board. Too many young workers and young families are having a hard time getting established because of the high tax burden from the income tax to the payroll tax. I want to downsize the IRS and simplify the tax code so that it is easier for Americans to comply with the law. And I would attempt to ease federal regulations, particularly on entrepreneurs and small businessmen and women who are the real success story of the economy.
Chat Moderator: If you were president, would you call for tax cuts? What percentage cut and would it differ depending upon income levels?
Gary Bauer: I was one of the major proponents of the $500 per child tax credit that President Clinton and the Republican Congress finally agreed to pass last year. Generally, I am in favor of a flat tax that would exempt those taxpayers making up to about $25,000 per year. They would pay $0 in taxes. Above that level, the rate would be 16 percent. I would not permit large corporations to write off the cost of all of their investments in the year they made those investments. The Forbes' plan does that. And it would result in a zero tax rate for too many large corporations
Chat Participant <gop1>: Interest rates have been at record lows during this administration. What is your forecast of what will become of interest rates in the next administration?
Gary Bauer: Even Wall Street has trouble predicting interest rates. If we can keep government spending under control, and continue to run a surplus over the next three-five years, interest rates should stay relatively low. Unfortunately, there are signs in Washington right now that the politicians at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are beginning to spend a lot more money again than the budget called for. If we do that, and the economy overheats, inevitably, interest rates will go up. In fact, they have already risen about 1/2 point in the last four weeks. This should be a cause for concern.
Chat Participant <crimson>: Mr. Bauer, what would you do to improve K-12 education if elected? Your view on vouchers? Standardized tests?
Gary Bauer: When I was at the Department of Education, the thing that most astonished me was how many times we had thrown away the ideas and approaches that work in education and had replaced them with untried methods that ended up failing. For example, phonics is the best way to teach reading. Every study has proven that. But many states threw it out and replaced it with a method called "whole language instruction" that has failed miserably to give students the grammar and spelling skills they need in our competitive economy. I would get back to the basics. In the sense of re-implementing those things we know that work, and getting the feds out of the classroom. I support vouchers and tuition tax credits because it will increase competition and make the public schools better. Competition was very painful for the auto industry in Detroit in the 60's and 70's. But we ended up with a better American car. I believe competition in education will give us a better American school.
Chat Participant <Lori>: What plans (if any) do you have to help bring control to the Internet and the free access of dangerous, potentially lethal, information to underaged kids?
Gary Bauer: This is going to be an extremely difficult problem to solve. We all want the Internet to be as much as it can be a place for the free exchange of ideas. But no right is absolute and there are abuses going on now. It is possible, for example, to get easy access to information on how to build a bomb on the Internet. Young children are being exposed, often by accident, to horrendous graphic pornography that belittles women, and can particularly affect young adolescent boys. We need a national debate in the months ahead to determine how to nurture the creativity of the Internet while stopping the worst abuses and I am committed to trying to do that.
Chat Participant <jason>: In reference to your Web page, how does opposing equal rights for gays "strengthen" families?
Gary Bauer: Jason, my view on gay rights is the mainstream view in America. In this country, people have a tremendous amount of leeway on how they choose to live. No one is suggesting that that be taken away. But when the gay rights movement enters the public square with a political agenda they should not be surprised if opposition develops. I will continue to oppose same-sex marriages. I believe private organizations like the Boy Scouts and the Salvation Army should be able to set their own rules for how they treat homosexuality in their own organizations, and I oppose using the public schools to teach children that that way of life is the moral equivalent of a man and women living together in marriage. I believe the public overwhelmingly agrees with me on all three of these areas.
Chat Participant <Wachita>: What is your stance on affirmative action?
Gary Bauer: I believe it is a good thing when companies or universities advertise and go to media markets that minority students or job applicants are most likely to read and get information from. In the hope of attracting applicants for schools and for jobs. But I think it is a mistake to ever fail to promote or deny admission to someone based on race, or ethnic background.
Chat Participant <Java>: What qualities are you looking for in a vice president?
Gary Bauer: The first requirement is that the vice president have the same philosophy that I do so that our administration would not be divided by different approaches and that the individual would have the experience in life and here in Washington to be able to take over the presidency in the event that I could not finish my term.
Chat Participant <chadamiles>: If the allegations that China has in fact contributed to U.S. political elections and has committed espionage against the U.S., what do you think should be done?
Gary Bauer: There needs to be a sense of accountability. If anyone in our government knowingly took money from a foreign power that is hostile to the United States or if any bureaucrat or politician compromised American security in exchange for that money, or for any other payoff, we need to identify who they are and apply the full force of our laws. The information we have now indicates at the very least that the Clinton administration has been incompetent when it came to safeguarding America's most important military secrets. The result of this is a world that will be much more dangerous for our children and grandchildren. Somebody needs to be held accountable for such a tragic and dangerous outcome. This will be a major issue in my campaign. And if I am elected, I will insist on a full investigation, even if such an investigation ends up embarrassing previous Republican administrations that may also have made some mistakes.
Chat Moderator: Marcia Bash sent us an e-mail asking, "What is your military background? How do you propose to help the military, if you are elected as president?"
Gary Bauer: I was in college and law school during the Vietnam War and had a student deferment. Later, I was drafted, but disqualified because of a physical problem that gave me a rating of 1Y -- meaning I could not be inducted unless there was more of a military emergency. I feel very strongly about the decline of our military over the past 10 years. When you see parts shortages developing in the relatively small conflict in Kosovo we have all the evidence we need that our military strength has gotten to a dangerous low point. Our Navy is back down to 350 ships from the 750 we built it up to in the Reagan years. And the current administration refuses to move ahead with a missile defense system to protect our country from rogue nations or terrorist attacks. One of my high priorities will be to deploy such a system as president.
Chat Participant <Ed>: I believe that everyone should have some sort of a private life. Where should a public official like the president draw the line? What is public and what is private?
Gary Bauer: This is one of the great dilemmas of American politics. No one wants reporters going through trash cans and snooping into the private lives of our public officials. But when a public official abuses the power of his office, and engages in inappropriate behavior while on the job or in buildings and offices that belong to the American people and then lies about it under oath, it was inevitable that we would have the national scandal that we had to deal with over the last two years.
Chat Moderator: What is your strategy to win the nomination? Specifically, what states/contests will you target and where do you need to come in in Iowa and New Hampshire?
Gary Bauer: There are competitions going on right now. There will be a vote this weekend in Virginia among hundreds of conservative activists meeting in a state convention. And we believe that I will do very well at that event. There will be other straw polls taken around the country this year, including a large one in Ames, Iowa, in August of this year. I need to be finishing in the top three or four places in these mock elections. Then in January and February of 2000, I hope to finish in the top three in Louisiana, Alaska and Iowa. If that happens, I believe I will be the conservative alternative that will be challenging an establishment candidate who will probably be Governor Bush.
Chat Participant <Wachita>: How much money do you need to actually be a viable campaigner? Can you compete with the fundraising prowess of George W. Bush?
Gary Bauer: This is the most depressing part of being involved in American politics. Ideally, we should raise $65,000 every day through all of 1999, and no one is allowed to donate, under federal law, more than $1,000. So, as you can see, it is very difficult if you are not independently wealthy or supported by a lot of special interest groups. We have been doing relatively well, but our donors tend to donate around $40 or $50 each. I think I can raise $15 million from small donors, which would make me competitive in the race.
Chat Moderator: Our thanks to Gary Bauer and to all of our chat participants today. Thank you for your time, patience, and interest.
Gary Bauer: Thank you for having me today.
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