BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, why do you want to be president someday?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: To be able to serve the people and to be able to renew the society and the culture. There are lots of reasons why one wants to do something like this. And I haven‘t made a formal announcement or a formal declaration. I have been traveling to a number of the early primary states.
But at the core of it, I just see that the country really needs to renew its basic structures. We have got -- I chair the D.C. Appropriation Committee, and we have got over -- just right at 60 percent of the children born to single mothers. A child can be born in that situation and do well, but the numbers generally move against him.
And I think we have really got to renew just these basic structures within the society. And that‘s at the core. I‘m also an economic conservative. I push things like the flat tax. I‘m a strong proponent of the military and a robust foreign policy. I‘m a full scale conservative in that sense.
But at its core I think we have to renew the society and renew the culture.
LAMB: Can you remember when you first wanted to be president of your eighth grade class?
BROWNBACK: A little bit I can remember of that. It‘s -- I guess the idea for me to be involved in leadership had an early impetus and I‘ve enjoyed serving leadership positions through much of my lifetime.
LAMB: What else did you run for besides eighth grade?
BROWNBACK: Well, I was class president somewhere in my high school class. I was student council president. I was president of Future Farmers, which for us in a rural Kansas community was a significant thing. Student body president at K-State and was class president of my law class.
So I‘ve been involved in a lot of leadership positions along. And I‘ve enjoyed it and I enjoy bring people together, solving problems. Some problems you never get solved. My daughter is at Kansas State University and when I ran for student body president I was going to start off with a parking problem at K-State.
And there‘s still a parking problem there. So she goes, dad, come on, you let me down. So those things happen.
LAMB: Where does this come from?
BROWNBACK: Just a deep calling within. It‘s not particularly part of my family heritage. My family, good, hard-working farmers in eastern Kansas and had always been there. Had not been particularly involved in organizations.
My granddad on my mother‘s side was a county commissioner in Miami County, Kansas. And we would talk politics once in a while. But it‘s just a stirring, actually, within me that I want to do these things. I think I can. I think we can get some things done. I like to get things done and move the country forward.
LAMB: When did you decide to become a Catholic?
BROWNBACK: It was about three years ago that I actually joined the Catholic Church. And I had thought about it from about four years prior to that. So it has been seven years that I‘ve thought, studied, considered doing that.
LAMB: What were you before?
BROWNBACK: I grew up a Methodist. Parker, Kansas, where I‘m from, that a town of 250 people, we kid that we lived up in the suburbs of Parker, we were a mile-and-a-half out of town, but we were on city water, so we thought, that‘s -- we were in the suburbs of Parker that -- on a farm there.
It‘s a one-church town, the Methodist church, and so I grew up a Methodist, then went to college and got involved with some of the youth groups on the college campus. The Navigators was an organization. And went to a Baptist church there for a period of time.
And most recently, before I joined the Catholic Church, was attending and still attend an evangelical -- free, independent evangelical church in Topeka. My family didn‘t join the Catholic Church and so we go -- I have a great Sunday morning.
I‘ll go to Mass, then I go to evangelical church. I get the Eucharist and the proceedings from the Catholic Church and the preaching and singing of an evangelical church, and it‘s really -- it‘s a beautiful mix.
LAMB: Why Catholic and what lead to that? Who introduced you to it?
BROWNBACK: Really nobody did. It was a personal searching that took place. And you know, a deep feeling and calling. I did have a chance to meet Mother Teresa about eight months before she died. We hosted her here for a Congressional Gold Medal.
And I had read many of her writings, her speeches. She didn‘t write a lot. She gave a number of speeches and a lot of really piercing comments. And I was very attracted to the depth and beauty of the faith that she saw.
The Christian faith is a very hard faith to practice and to get it right. There -- I guess, we‘re always practicing and never quite getting there. And yet, you know, you look at a person like her, and I‘ve seen others that seem like they have gotten an awful long ways along it.
And they still have problems. They still have difficulties, but seem to have perfected more the faith within them. And it was a beautiful thing to see.
LAMB: Why is the Christian faith hard to practice?
BROWNBACK: Actually, I think it‘s impossible to practice. Gandhi actually was quoted as saying this, that -- and I‘m going to butcher this quote, but that would become a Christian if he could ever see one fully practiced.
It‘s a very self-sacrificing faith. It‘s premise is to love God and love one another. And that love is not limited. In its practice of love, it seeks fruit, it seeks you to show that fruit by caring for other people.
And these are all things generally really against human nature. So it has to be a real, you know, flowing through you for that to take place. And it‘s so easy for us to get our eye back on ourselves and our own selfish interests and desires and ways of doing things.
LAMB: You went where to college?
BROWNBACK: Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, and law school at the University of Kansas. First generation out of our family. My sister and older brother had gone to college, but our family prior to that, there hadn‘t been anybody who had ever gone to college.
LAMB: What distinguishes Kansas from the other 49 states?
BROWNBACK: Well, it‘s the greatest state in the Union, what distinguishes it. But I think too there is a very distinguished history of Kansas. It comes in in the battle over slavery.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act, one of the biggest policy decisions in this country‘s history, Kansas was supposed to be a slave state. Nebraska, it was going to popular sovereignty to decide Nebraska and Kansas.
Nebraska they thought would be populated by Iowans, it would be a free state. Kansas would be populated by Missourians, it would a pro-slavery state. Congress, frequently avoiding tough topics, says let‘s keep the balance of power by doing this.
But the abolitionists, and this is the first time they really galvanized, said we are not going to let Kansas be slave state. So they came out, they populated it. And you had this border war going on and a guerilla warfare that people fought over the issue of slavery.
And it became a free state. And really probably was the match that ended up lighting the Civil War and the final resolution for us as a nation and dealing with the issue of slavery.
LAMB: There is a contrast between your growing up in Kansas where there is a much smaller minority population, and the time you spent in Africa. Why Africa? What is it that takes you to the Sudan or takes you to Rwanda and places, the Congo, what is it?
BROWNBACK: Extraordinary hurting people.
LAMB: When did you first go to Africa?
BROWNBACK: I first went to the Sudan, I believe it was 1997, I may be off a year on that, it might have been 1998, but I think it was 1997, went into southern Sudan. An issue that really attracted me to it initially was that there was slavery going on.
And being from Kansas and the abolitionist movement and anti-slavery viewpoint, the thought that in this point in time in history, in 1997-1998, that there is slavery going on, was just beyond. I just couldn‘t contemplate that that would occur.
And yet, the more people I interviewed, people coming out, and I thought, well, this is something I can shine a light on. And then plus, if you look at the situation today, I just got back from the Congo, Dick Durbin and I did a trip into eastern Congo, they think they are losing about thousand people a day to preventable causes.
This would be malaria, diarrhea, because there‘s no health care, food shortages. Just incredible loss of human life and people and potential, you look at that situation, and you say, we can and we need to do something.
We are overall a well-to-do nation and these people are suffering at an incredible level. And I just -- I really believe we‘ve got to help.
LAMB: When 800,000-plus people were killed in Rwanda we did nothing, why? I mean, you went all the way over there and went to all those countries and want to offer help, but we didn‘t do anything when they were really in some trouble. And what about Darfur?
BROWNBACK: Well, and that‘s something we have sought to prevent it being the next Rwanda. And we have had some mixed results to-date. We do have an African Union force in there. It is keeping some of the combatants apart. There is still this rolling genocide that‘s taking place. We pronounced it a genocide ahead of it actually being a genocide.
I mean, we were trying to do a number of things to stop this one from being the next Rwanda. And I think we‘ve had mixed results to-date. I am glad we got actively engaged in Darfur before it did become fully the next Rwanda.
But the response has still not been completely effective. But part of that is built off Rwanda. And I was in Rwanda this last trip. And, Brian, you go into to a museum that -- their holocaust museum. They have got a room full of skulls and femur bones.
And many of these have -- they are cracked skulls where people beat them with clubs or bullet holes through the skulls or baby skulls. It is graphic, it is horrific, and we should all be saying, never again, and then trying to figure out what it is, the practical steps to the effect of those words, never again.
But we can do it. And I would argue we have done more in Darfur than we have in other places, but we still haven‘t gotten the response effective.
LAMB: At one time I remember reading, there were 120,000 people in jail in Rwanda waiting trial after the massacre over there. What did you find this time?
BROWNBACK: You still have a number people that it hasn‘t been resolved. And they have got a process where they call it justice and reconciliation process where they are trying process more people through a separate court.
This is 11 years after their genocide took place. And it‘s happening and it looks like it‘s being effective. And I found it quite an effective operating culture given only 11 years ago they had nearly a million killed in about a three-week time period.
And people are still around that participated in both sides. It‘s pretty amazing that they are operational. But it moves through slow. But you do need both. You need justice to occur and then you have to have a reconciliation in the process, because otherwise then you just set it up for the next time around, for this group to take advantage of another group, it‘s going to happen.
LAMB: One of the things I -- when I read this story about you going over there with Dick Durbin, I wanted to ask you about that. You know, we see Dick Durbin on the floor, he‘s one of the leaders of the Democratic Party, combative against the president or the Republicans.
What happens when the two of you just go off on one of these trips? What‘s the relationship like?
BROWNBACK: It‘s good because we both really care about what is taking place in Africa. And so you know that there are these partisan differences that exist. And they certainly do, and we disagree on fundamental issues.
But on Africa we both want to see something take place. And I think there‘s this real chance to do that. I found that‘s actually where I‘ve had some of the most -- the biggest legislative successes is to find that series of topics where there is not a lot of political capital to be gained on either side.
But both sides have a passion and a care to deal with it so that you can actually get something done. So Paul Wellstone and I got to a bill, the first bill in the Senate on dealing with sex trafficking, human trafficking.
A big topic now, when we got it through, people were just starting to see the magnitude of this human trafficking taking place, Paul from the left, me from the right. And it has been landmark piece of human rights legislation.
But the key thing is to look for those pieces and those places. And it can be done. And that‘s what I‘m looking with with Dick Durbin -- Senator Durbin on issues on Africa..
LAMB: Let‘s go back running for president. When did you start the process of even thinking about it?
BROWNBACK: It has been probably a year-and-half ago of considering it, making some initial contacts with individuals. And I say no final decision has been made yet, although the things to start to move more rapidly coming into the next year.
LAMB: Have you term-limited yourself?
BROWNBACK: Yes. I am personally term-limited. I did that when I first ran for the U.S. Senate.
LAMB: 2010 no more, no matter what, you are not going to run again.
BROWNBACK: I stated at that point. I stated when I first ran for the U.S. Senate that I would run for two full terms. You may recall Bob Dole resigned. I ran for his seat. Was elected in ‘96, re-elected in ‘98. At that point in time I had stated I believe in terms limits, two full terms. So I was just re-elected in 2004 for my second full term.
LAMB: So what does someone like you do if you want to think about running for president? How big a group do you have working on it right now?
BROWNBACK: It‘s not a huge group. And it‘s -- but it is expanding. And you start creating a network of individuals and groups across the country to talk with, to hopefully be motivated and engaged and say that this is the type of person that I want to be president of the United States.
LAMB: How much money have you raised?
BROWNBACK: I don‘t know the exact numbers, where we are to-date. And none of it is raised for a presidential race to-date, simply because I‘m not a candidate for president. But people do and we do raise money into the leadership PAC and work through and I work through and with that.
LAMB: How many places have you gone where it‘s related to the possibility that you will run for president already?
BROWNBACK: Well, I have been in Iowa five times, been to New Hampshire a couple of times, South Carolina. And then traveling a number of different places across the country, and particularly early primary states. Because as you know it‘s not a national race initially.
It‘s a three-state race initially. And that balloons past that point. But, you know, to-date most of these presidential races have been decided in those early primary states.
LAMB: So what‘s the first thing you want an audience to know about you right out of the box? Say you are making your presentation, what do you want them to know?
BROWNBACK: I‘m an honest straight-shooter is the first thing. That I think it‘s important for people to believe that this is an honorable, honest man. I may look at you and say, I disagree with this policy issue or I disagree with that one, but you want to first and foremost to say, OK, this is an honest, honorable man.
LAMB: Are there people you know in this town and running president aren‘t honest and aren‘t honorable?
BROWNBACK: No, I wouldn‘t say -- I have not met people -- not met very many people at all in the public policy arena here that I don‘t think have a good heart for the topic. It doesn‘t mean I agree with them. And I think they can have a good heart and their head be going in the wrong direction, that they are not solving the problem.
But I find very few people in the policy arena that don‘t have a good heart themselves, that they are not -- they are trying to do what they believe is a good and honorable thing.
LAMB: What do you say to the cynics that say this is the best Congress money can buy?
BROWNBACK: Well, I would disagree with it completely. I really would. And money does influence the system. I don‘t deny that. I think it does. But that the idea that people are bought and sold based on topics I just don‘t -- I don‘t find, I think it‘s repugnant as an idea.
There area cases where this has taken place, there is no doubt about it. But I just -- I don‘t find it in the rank-and-file individuals that are involved. And you can look at the system and you can say, OK, what‘s the solution to it then? Let‘s take all the private money out of the system and do public financing.
But in cases where they have done public financing or in the presidential race, that hasn‘t removed the influence of money in the system. And you‘re not going to get all the money out of the system in any respect.
I think what you need to have is good, honest, open reporting on a real-time basis. Let people see what is taking place and then have people articulate positions.
LAMB: Recently Byron Dorgan supposedly sent back $67,000 he got from Jack Abramoff. I saw a story somewhere you have -- Jack Abramoff organization or somehow gave you about $42,000, is that accurate?
BROWNBACK: No, it was about $6,000, if I remember the number correctly. And don‘t hold me to that, because I don‘t remember exactly, but I think that‘s about what it was.
LAMB: Did you send that money back?
BROWNBACK: We gave it to charity.
BROWNBACK: I have done this on a couple of different occasions where there has been an individual where there was questionable motives involved and maybe even questionable sourcing of the funding, even though everything that we did was legal in the system.
And I just want to remove any sort of appearance of impropriety, and so that‘s why I have just done this as a practical matter.
LAMB: Any concern that his case will unravel and be negative for the Republicans in this town?
BROWNBACK: I suppose it could, but I mean, he freely gave to both sides. And as you mentioned, Byron Dorgan is a Democrat. He gave to other Democrats. He gave to Republicans. His idea was to try to influence the policy system, it wasn‘t -- necessarily I think favor one party over the other.
LAMB: So how do you raise money if you are a potential candidate for president? How do you do it? Do you ask them yourself for money?
BROWNBACK: I do that on occasion.
LAMB: What are they going to -- what do you tell them they are going get besides you being honest?
BROWNBACK: I don‘t tell them they are going to get anything other than the type of policy issues and the type of government that I have tried to deliver to-date in the 10-plus years that I have been in the Congress and the Senate.
LAMB: What is your number one issue?
BROWNBACK: What I -- my number one issue is to renew the society and renew the culture. And you could look at that right there and say, well, you are not going to raise much money off of that basis.
But to me that is the beauty of it is you say, look, this is what I‘m about. I think we have got to rebuild families in this country. I think we have to get a culture that‘s more civil, that‘s more uplifting and supportive of those families.
And then when people buy into that and say, you know what, I agree with that, then they sent funds and they are not looking for anything personally, they are just saying, you know, this guys has got my same heart. He looks at this country and says, at the very base of what needs to take place in this nation is we have got to get our basic institutions right again.
LAMB: But isn‘t that what we have had for five years with a Republican House, Senate, and White House?
BROWNBACK: I think you have seen a push towards those sorts of things.
LAMB: Why hasn‘t it happened then?
BROWNBACK: It‘s a long process to get these things to occur, Brian. And you have seen it as an observer of this system. The system is meant to thwart most legislative objectives. It is meant to slow things down.
You have got to get an agreement on the overall set of issues. You have really -- what Lincoln said I think is true, is America moves by establishing a common thought. Well, it can take years to establish the common thought.
And I think you are starting to see some of this taking place in what the Republicans have gotten done. You have seen the life debate come forward, move forward more aggressively. It has been sitting for a lot of years.
You are seeing it progress and move on forward. I think you are seeing some of the other issues, marriage, come up, which not much of anything had been discussed on it for a number of years, but these do take a lot of time.
LAMB: Let‘s say for the moment you are president. You are in the White House. What kind of a family will we see in the Brownback family? Who is your wife? Where did you meet her? What is she like?
BROWNBACK: Well, I have a lovely wife named Mary, we met in law school, Mary Stauffer. She is trained as a lawyer. She is smarter than I am, which she reminds of on a regular basis. We have five children. They are ages 19 to 7.
They -- it‘s a wonderful family setting, not without our share of problems, like everybody else has in the world.
LAMB: Where do they live?
BROWNBACK: They live in Topeka. So I commute back and forth to Washington.
LAMB: Any of those adopted?
BROWNBACK: Two of my children are adopted, yes.
LAMB: And when did you adopt them, where are they from?
BROWNBACK: We adopted them maybe about six years ago, one from Guatemala and one from China. And they look like twins and they act like twins.
LAMB: Why did you adopt?
BROWNBACK: We wanted to have more children and we couldn‘t do it ourselves. And I had been traveling a fair amount around the world and had seen many orphanages of thousands of kids that needed a good home.
And we were happy to -- and plus after that then we have helped other people adopt. And it has been one of the joyous works that both my wife and I are involved in to see a family come together with an adoption.
LAMB: How did you adopt?
BROWNBACK: Went through normal process in both countries, in Guatemala and China there is an official set-up system, and you have to get through home interviews here. You have to submit a series of papers. And went through that regular process.
LAMB: So what does your wife Mary think of you running for president?
BROWNBACK: Well, it‘s a tough issue. She has not been one that sought the public limelight. She has been very supportive of the work that I have done and very interested. But you know, it‘s one of those things that she looks at it as quite a daunting task, as do I.
LAMB: Will she participate?
BROWNBACK: Oh yes, she will participate.
LAMB: What about the kids?
BROWNBACK: To the degree that they want to. The older ones more than the younger ones. But you know, it won‘t be anything we will force upon them. But I think that they will probably be willing to participate.
LAMB: As you know, there have only been two senators in the history that went right from the Senate to the presidency. You wouldn‘t go right from -- I guess you would too. You have 2008 because you don‘t get out until 2010.
Don‘t those statistics kind of push you back on something like this?
BROWNBACK: Well, they tell me it‘s about time for it to happen again. And why not? And particularly in a very global environment that we are in today, the Senate, many of us involved in a number of foreign policy issues should get a better basis to be able to deal with foreign policy issues, and having built many of those relationships with people in various countries than you do from a governorship, which is more typically where people come from.
We deal with lots -- we deal with federal issues all the time, used to building coalitions in the Congress to be able to get things done, recognizing where the hot buttons are and where the landmines are, and the personalities are, that either can make things happen or not happen.
I think a person coming out of the Senate can be a very effective president.
LAMB: One of the first things that President Bush did when he either ran or became president was to tell the media that he doesn‘t read them or watch them. What is you attitude about that?
BROWNBACK: Oh, I read the media and I watch it. But I also recognize that there is a fair number of people in the media that have an agenda. So…
LAMB: What is wrong with that?
BROWNBACK: Well, I guess I was raised around the idea that the media just reports the news and lets the people decide what it should be. I will end up reading the newspaper from the left and the right and out of that try to get a picture of the news.
LAMB: So you were a broadcaster where?
BROWNBACK: At K-State. I was -- there was a radio station on the campus, it was a public radio station, so I was a farm broadcaster with them going through college and then for one year after college. Loved it, it was great fun doing radio.
LAMB: Did you ever think it would be a career?
BROWNBACK: I did. I thought about doing radio as a career. I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun. But then decided against it and decided, you know, I would rather do other things involved in various fields.
LAMB: What did your parents do and are they still alive?
BROWNBACK: Both of my parents are still alive and they farm. My dad still farms full-time. My brother farms with him. I have got another brother who is a veterinarian. And then my sister lives out in Utah and works as a county inspector.
LAMB: What is farming mean today to your family? How big is the farm? What kind of farm is it?
BROWNBACK: Well, it‘s a full-time family farm operation. I think between my dad and brother they probably operate about 2,000 acres. My dad doesn‘t operate any livestock anymore, but my brother does run cattle.
And they, you know, support their families off of the agricultural business. It‘s a tough business. It‘s a commodity business. It has thin margins associated with it. So, you know, year-in year-out they have got always watch and maintain as much as they can a low debt, because one year you may get a hit and another year you get hit.
Weather factors, market factors, it‘s one -- it has taught me prudence in economics, in personal economics, you just don‘t try to get too exposed out there, because you just don‘t know when things are going to move against you.
LAMB: How much money does the taxpayer now spend on the farm every year?
BROWNBACK: On an average family farm?
LAMB: No, basically -- but what‘s the -- how many billions of dollars do we underwrite farming in the country now?
BROWNBACK: It‘s a substantial amount. But I couldn‘t peg the number right now. And it‘s through a number of different programs. I mean, we have loan programs, you have direct payment programs, you have got conservation reserve programs.
And I‘m not sure what the total number is. Many of those, as you know, are being negotiated in international trade agreements right now because a number of developed countries around the world heavily support and in many cases protect their agriculture.
So what we have tried to do is to keep our farmers in a competitive basis with these other developed countries. But at the end of the day, I think it would wise and good for us to negotiate those support levels down.
But I think it has to be done on a global basis. I don‘t think the United States can say, OK, we are just going to go off of this and let other countries take advantage of us. I don‘t think that would be wise to our farmers.
LAMB: Are you a reader?
LAMB: What is the latest book you have read that you would like to recommend?
BROWNBACK: Gosh, I have been reading a number of books. I‘m reading a book right now on Robert E. Lee, he‘s an interesting historical figure and would be seen as controversial by a number. But fascinating figure.
I just was looking and reading a number of Martin Luther King‘s key speeches, "A Call to Conscience," which I would highly recommend to individuals, because he really saw the nation personally to a time when it would be color-blind, where it would be young children of all races playing together.
And when he gave those words, that was certainly not the nation we were in. But he saw a time when this was coming. Very inspirational to look at now, given the time period that he said those things in.
LAMB: You are a well-known conservative and the first thing that comes to mind when I hear you talking about it, why are you so interested in people of color and that problem as a conservative? Because conservatives, as you know, are not known to be whatever -- what you are looking at, known to be that interested in the civil rights business.
BROWNBACK: Well, maybe not. But I believe in reconciliation. And I think it‘s one of the key things that we really need in this country. And how do you become reconciled other than to know each other and then to go to the other person and to try to be reconciled.
So to me it‘s one of the key -- you might call it an intangible, but clearly one that still rubs in this society. I worked with John Lewis -- Congressman John Lewis, one of the leading civil rights leaders, and we were able to get through an African-American Museum of History and Culture that the Smithsonian is now planning.
And it will be on the Mall. It will be a fabulous contribution telling the history of a race of people, but I also thing it will be a museum of reconciliation, you know, that as you go through it, you will look at it and hopefully many people will say, never again.
And that that will lead to this process of reconciling. And that has really been my interest in the very basics of race relation issues.
LAMB: Can you remember when you first got interested in race and why?
BROWNBACK: It has been just -- it has been in the time period that I have been in Congress primarily. And the reason of it was it is just so palpable and can feel it. I remember going, when I first went into the United States Senate, and visiting the Native American tribes in my state, we have four set reservations.
And I don‘t know how the Native Americans voted. My guess is they probably voted for the other candidate because many times they will vote Democrat. But I‘m the senator for all Kansas, so I want to go and visit.
And then I went to Haskell -- Indian university, Haskell University, it‘s a Native American four-year college in Lawrence, Kansas. And you could feel this many times just a depth of resentment that‘s there. And I -- it was a foreign feeling to me.
I thought, what is this? And yet, you know, as you would dig into it, it was -- you know, look, this was done to us, this happened, this happened. I haven‘t heard anything about any of it. And it sits there as a fist right in the stomach.
And those things, you can do a lot of different programs, but until you deal with this issue, you are not going to deal with reconciliation.
LAMB: If you were president, what would you do about it?
BROWNBACK: I would reach out, but I think for us, and I have got a bill in now, we passed it through the Indian Affairs Subcommittee, it‘s an official apology to Native Americans for what took place.
It doesn‘t deal with any property issues. It doesn‘t deal with any financial issues. But it says in the breaking of treaties, and we cite several examples, we cite several policies where we tried to change or wipe out Native American culture, that this was wrong.
We should not have done it. We acknowledge that it was wrong, we ask for forgiveness.
LAMB: Do they want that?
BROWNBACK: Yes. The Native American Indian Congress just voted in support of this. Now many will say, and they will say quickly, that‘s insufficient. But I would say, you know, that is then the basis you can build a new relationship off of, once you look and you say, these things happened, and this was wrong, and we acknowledge it and we apologize for it.
Then you can start to build the new relationship, but until you do that, you are just -- you are not going to be able to a new -- it‘s like somebody that does something to you and was wrong. And then they try to say, hey, let‘s go do another deal here. Let‘s go do this, let‘s go do that.
You are always sitting in the back of your mind, or even in the front of your mind going, I don‘t trust this guy because he did this. But if he were to come to you and say, you know, Brian, I did this to you two years ago, five years, it was wrong, I should not have, I apologize for it. I acknowledge it was wrong and I apologize for it.
Then past that point you can start to build a new relationship. It doesn‘t mean you will get it done, but at least now you can.
LAMB: Was the Iraq war worth a half a trillion dollars up to this point?
BROWNBACK: Well, we have got the election taking place, we are taping, today. I think so. And it‘s not the dollar amount to me, it‘s the human life. That‘s the real price tag, over 2,000 Americans, of our finest, and many Iraqis, that‘s the one that to me I really drive the question off of.
But you have a country now that is beginning to move forward in freedom. You have got a people that are far more free than they were under Saddam Hussein. He had run out 17 percent of his own population. He had committed many mass murders in that nation that you are going to see coming further to trial.
I was chairing the Middle East Subcommittee at the time, and we were holding hearings about Iraq, and he had run out nearly 17 percent of his own population, out of the country and killed many more.
And some of the stories, Brian, are horrific examples. The Marsh Arabs in the south, he had shut all the water off from them to try to just starve them out of a habitat they had lived in for a thousand years.
This was a ruthless man and who had done ruthless things to his people. Plus, on top of that, at the time, the information we had was he had chemical and biological weapons, was working on nuclear weapons, and he had terrorists operating on his soil.
And many of us, at that point in time, when we made the decision, were concerned he was going to cross the two.
LAMB: Any time during this war that you have said, this has been a mistake?
BROWNBACK: No. Not that I have said it has been a mistake. I believe we have made mistakes, but not that the war was a mistake.
LAMB: Like what?
BROWNBACK: I think we should have gotten Iraqi leadership in much sooner than what took place. The general and our administration of the country I think we should have done like Afghanistan, had an Iraqi leader from the very outset or as soon thereafter as possible.
And remember, in Afghanistan, you had an international committee that met in Bonn or somewhere that picked an Afghan leader, that said we need somebody, an Afghan. And then we had this Loya Jurga process that affirmed a person. But you had Afghan leadership. I think we should have had Iraqi leadership earlier.
LAMB: When Republicans were in the minority, the thing you would hear most from them is we need a balanced budget. You don‘t hear that anymore.
BROWNBACK: You hear it from me.
LAMB: But as you know, we don‘t -- I mean, we have a president that hasn‘t vetoed one bill. And as far as the eye can see, you have deficits coming in and you know what our debt is, it‘s over, what, close to $8 trillion. How important is that to you if you were to run for president?
BROWNBACK: It is important to me. And I would also add on top of that we had three balanced budgets while I have been in the Congress, and prior to that, you have to go back to when Eisenhower was president where you had any balanced.
And I realize President Clinton takes credit for this, but you know the spending has to come from the House and the Senate, it has to originate in the House. If you are going to do this and if you are going to balance the budget, it has to be the Congress.
And the Congress actually did it. And we are going to get back to a balance. And we will do it the same way this time as we did it last time, get the country growing. You have got to get the country growing. And we have got a nice growth rate taking place. We were up over 4 percent this last quarter. That‘s excellent growth rates for this country.
And then you have to restrain your growth of federal spending. And that‘s the part we haven‘t stepped up to yet, but you‘re starting to see the political impetus to be able to do that.
On top of this, Brian, I think what -- we spend in total enough money, but we spend it in places that it is not high priority, in many cases, even wasted. So one of the things that I put forward, and we have got a bill, about 25 co-sponsors, is to use the BRAC process, the military base closing commission process, been the only effective way we‘ve found to be able to eliminate military bases.
The bill we have got in with 25 co-sponsors applies that process to the rest of government. So you do a commission, look at all of government, recommend places that be eliminated, send it to the president. He has to say yes or no. Sent it to the Congress, one vote, up or down, unamendable, whether you accept eliminating all 116 programs or whatever the number is, or whether you vote to keep them.
And that‘s how we could start to reprioritize, which is really what we need to do.
LAMB: Isn‘t this in effect saying you can‘t do your job?
BROWNBACK: I think it‘s a recognition of political reality. How many military bases did we close prior to the BRAC process? And the rule -- the way the place works, unfortunately, is the specific controls over the general.
I have got a military base and there is not a set-up process and you are going to close my military base because it‘s a lower priority? Now you have challenged me and I‘m going to do everything I can to stop that.
And my specific energy is going to control -- in many cases, the general is saying, well, you know, I think we ought to close it but it‘s not worth all that fight to me, let‘s just go on. And that‘s what happened for years on military bases. It‘s what happens in the rest of government spending.
So we need to change the system, and that‘s what I‘m calling for.
LAMB: If you had been president for the last five years, would you have used a veto?
BROWNBACK: Yes. And I think it would be important to do it. But I want to add that caveat to it. I think the president has been wise on not and instead working within the process, because you have got a Republican House, Senate, and presidency.
And if you get these two fighting back and forth, and we have seen this at the state level, if you have got a Republican or a Democrat governor fighting with a congress or legislature of their same party, it‘s a house divided and that doesn‘t long stand.
So I think the president has looked at this, said, I want to try to keep working this process forward. And I think that‘s wise. Now we are at a point, though, if the spending isn‘t restrained, I think the president really does need to use that veto pen.
LAMB: What do you say to folks watching this town for the last couple of years that say you had a Republican House, a Republican Senate, a Republican president, and there has been very little investigation going on between the House, Senate, and the White House, as there used to be when it was split, that maybe we would be better off if we had a split government?
BROWNBACK: I think there has been a lot of investigation…
BROWNBACK: … taking place. You have certainly got the Abramoff situation being investigated on the Native Americans. You have got Scooter Libby is being prosecuted…
LAMB: But not by the Congress.
BROWNBACK: But he is being investigated. I mean, I think that‘s -- you know, we had the independent counsel act for a long period of time, and then that was allowed to lapse because a number of people here said, this is an incredible monster that spends tens of millions of dollars on a case maybe like -- well, some of them in the past that then people settle out on a minor charge later on.
They are saying, well, wait a minute, this isn‘t the way it ought to operate. I think there has been quite a bit of investigation that has taken place.
LAMB: With the intelligence information that came in before the war, with -- you know, you look at all the things that have not been investigated.
BROWNBACK: What about the 9/11 Commission and what they did?
LAMB: What about it?
BROWNBACK: Well, I mean, there is an independent group that has done investigation.
LAMB: Yes, but it‘s not the Congress, again.
BROWNBACK: No, but it is -- again, it was an entity set up by the Congress that has done that.
LAMB: But they would say -- the 9/11 Commission, that Congress didn‘t put into law what they found as being wrong.
BROWNBACK: Not everything that they found, but we have put a lot of things into law that they did find. And on the intelligence. Brian, you were around this town at that point in time. The U.S. intelligence system said Saddam had chemical and biological and was working on nuclear.
But they weren‘t the only ones. The British intelligence said that. The Israeli intelligence said that. The Russian intelligence said that. So it‘s not as if, OK, this was a big cover-up by President Bush or a big cover-up by the intelligence community here, this was the global intelligence community basically saying this is what we honestly believe this guy has.
And we haven‘t found it.
LAMB: When you go back to the conservative state of Kansas and talk to your constituents, what are they telling you that they don‘t like what is going on here, if anything?
BROWNBACK: Wasteful spending. You get a lot of immigration issues being raised nowadays.
LAMB: What do they think is wasteful spending?
BROWNBACK: Bridge to nowhere. You could get any number of difference items. And some people would cite even some of the natural disasters, that yes, we ought to help out, but this level given the deficit that we are in right now.
LAMB: What do you think of the system of earmarks where we have gone to what, 16,000 above -- didn‘t used to have almost any in the old days?
BROWNBACK: Yes. It‘s too much.
LAMB: How do you stop it?
LAMB: Or should you stop it?
BROWNBACK: Yes. That‘s part of what I argue is you have got to go systems approaches. And I would much rather see us go to a BRAC across-the-board for all of government. I think that is a very worthy battle that at the end of the day what you will see take place is the same we see in the military.
We have eliminated nearly a hundred military bases, and then you concentrate your resources on fewer places that are of higher value. I think you will see that taking place throughout the government. We will start to concentrate our resources in fewer places of higher value, which is really what we need to take -- have take place around here.
LAMB: Go back to something that you did back in the early ‘90s, and that was become a White House fellow. It was the first time we met.
LAMB: I remember interviewing you when you were a White House fellow. First of all, what is it?
BROWNBACK: It‘s a program started in the Johnson era, and it‘s to bring young people, generally somewhere between 10 and 20, that are young in their careers, this was for folks, oh, usually in their mid 20s to early 30s, and give them a one-year experience at a high level in the U.S. government.
I worked at the U.S. Trade Representative‘s Office for the number two person there. And then weekly seminars, one or two a week where you will go in and meet with a cabinet level official, meet with the CEO of a corporation. And it‘s this chance for a farm kid from Kansas to -- that‘s used to seeing these planes flying over ahead and wondering how people made these decisions, to see how these decisions are actually made.
LAMB: What year were you a White House fellow?
BROWNBACK: Ninety to ‘91.
LAMB: Who was the man or woman you worked for as -- the second person in the trade office?
BROWNBACK: Julius Katz, he was longtime trade negotiator, was a real -- a 30-year trade negotiator, real wizard on how these international trade negotiating agreements work. And it was a great opportunity to work with him. He has since passed away.
LAMB: By the time you got to the application for the White House fellow, you had been eighth grade president, you had been president of one of your grades in high school, student body president. You had gone to law school, got your law degree. And so -- you were also president of Future Farmers of America, what year did you do that?
BROWNBACK: Seventy-four-‘75, at Kansas, then I was national office, I wasn‘t president, ‘76-‘77
LAMB: But the White House fellowship, what, there are 3,000 applicants?
BROWNBACK: I don‘t know. There is quite a few applicants to it. And it‘s a fabulous program. For anybody watching here, I would recommend, if they are in that age range, to apply for it, because it‘s excellent.
LAMB: What were you doing when applied?
BROWNBACK: I was secretary of agriculture for Kansas.
LAMB: Why did you apply? Whose idea was it?
BROWNBACK: One of my law professors had been a White House fellow earlier. She is now a circuit court judge, and she had talked about it, and I listen to that…
LAMB: What‘s her name?
BROWNBACK: Deanell Tacha. A wonderful lady. And she had talked about it. And then a friend of mine that I got to know later as a White House fellow a couple of years ahead of me, and it just really intrigued me.
LAMB: Who was that?
BROWNBACK: Jeff Colyer, he‘s a physician in the Kansas City area.
LAMB: So how did you go about getting selected?
BROWNBACK: It‘s a formal process. You apply. There‘s a paper cut, whether you make the cut. Then you have a regional set of interviews. And they select a certain number from each region to go to a national interview. And then you do a national interview process. And they have a national board that is selected by the president at that time.
Karl Rove was on my selection board at the national level at that point in time, years before he was Karl Rove.
LAMB: Do you remember what you learned most from being a White House fellow?
BROWNBACK: I guess what struck me the most during the process was just how these big systems make decisions. And at the end of the day a big system is a bunch of people. And so you are looking at how do people make decisions that are in these big systems?
And that was the thing that really struck me, because for years I had just -- I had been a recipient out in the middle of the country and looking and wondering how do they make these sometimes what I thought were crazy decisions.
And the decision-making process is what it really struck me at that time. And it also struck me, too, just how wonderful this nation is. It is a big nation of a lot of people of great energy and high ideals.
We disagree and we have a very noisy democracy, but you got to see a bigger picture of it. And this is great place.
LAMB: You know, when you‘re out there looking to run for president, it seemed like a couple of things will be important. Your organization, but often, when you stand up in front of a crowd in Iowa or New Hampshire and you give a talk, that‘s going to be the first impression they have of you.
What do you do when you stand up in front of an audience on purpose to introduce yourself to these audiences?
BROWNBACK: I tell them a little bit in a light manner, really, about who I am. I try to make it enjoyable and fun. I think it‘s important that they first know how much you care before they care how much you know. And then I try to show that I do care what‘s taking place in this country by the issues that I have been involved in.
But I try to do a personal introduction of a bit of a light nature. I think a lot of people, politics is too heavy for them, so they like it to be a little more jovial and enjoyable initially.
LAMB: What did you used to do that you don‘t do anymore in front of audiences, if anything?
BROWNBACK: I used to try to tell a lot more jokes, and then I -- you just get in trouble with those, so you use humor to your own expense as much as you can, and past that, just move on forward.
LAMB: Would you have a group of people in your life or a person in your life that would you consider a mentor?
BROWNBACK: I‘ve had a number of different mentors at different points in time. And each kind of seemingly for a particular phase in life, and in different phases of life.
LAMB: Who are they?
BROWNBACK: You know, political mentors for me here at an earlier phase when I first went into the Senate would be a guy like Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett. I thought they covered, in my looking at the policy field, well the economic and the social agenda, which to me needed to both track well together.
I have studied historians‘ writing and looked there for inspiration. There is an unknown British parliamentarian by William Wilberforce -- the name of William Wilberforce, ended the slave trade, that I have studied and looked at and how did he do that? And work in an era of pre-Victorian England?
So, you know, it‘s an amalgam of looking and studying individuals, seeking thought and guidance and then people in the Congress that you trust on various topics. Henry Hyde has been one of the great thoughtful people on social issues through that time.
And then you get different people that really pursue a particular strand. And then you can look at them and get guidance from them.
LAMB: Anybody in school? Any professor along the way?
BROWNBACK: When I was an undergrad, a professor by the name of Barry Flinchbaugh was very influential to me as an economics -- agriculture economics professor in particular. But talked a lot about policy issues.
A guy who has since passed away by the name of Chet Peters that was vice president for student affairs, was a real leadership development person. And he was leadership development from the inside.
It was, you have got to get the heart right to be a good leader. And he was deep inspiration.
LAMB: Favor time in history you like to read about?
BROWNBACK: You know, I like to read present history more than any other period of time because I just -- it is what we have. You can look into the past, it will never come back. You can look into the future, but you are always moving towards it. What you have got is the present. So I like reading really as much as anything about this time frame.
I mean, personal studies, I have liked reading about the Civil War time period, particularly where it was so formative in shaping my state. And then I have enjoyed British history because I think the Brits have a lot to teach us in where they went through with their country and its growth and what its impact has been around the world.
LAMB: Favorite newspaper columnist?
BROWNBACK: You know, I‘ve got several that I enjoy. I enjoy George Will. I enjoy Nick Kristoff, of thoughtful comments that…
LAMB: Because he writes a lot about Africa?
BROWNBACK: It‘s a lot about international issues. And while he comes at it generally from a left perspective, again, I think his heart is good about it. And so he brings out a perspective that I enjoy.
George Will has been a strong conservative thinker for a long period of time.
LAMB: What do you think about the anti-Sam Brownback blog by somebody named "KansasNate" who I guess is a student? Do you follow it?
BROWNBACK: I don‘t. I‘m not…
LAMB: Did you know it existed?
BROWNBACK: No. I presume there would be ones out there but I didn‘t know about it.
LAMB: What do you think of the redstate.org, I think it is, that suggests you would be a great running mate for Rudolph Giuliani? Have you seen that?
BROWNBACK: I have not seen that one either. I follow some of the redstate.org, but I haven‘t seen that particular one.
LAMB: What do you think when you just hear that?
BROWNBACK: I‘m in this to put forward a series of ideas. And I really think on the selection of a president you have got to get the man or woman message and moment all come together. And that happened on Ronald Reagan. I believe it happened on George Bush. I just -- I think those things just have to all line up. And I believe I‘m the right person. I think I have the right message. And I think the moment is moving in our way.
LAMB: How important is the Ames Straw Poll of 2007?
BROWNBACK: It‘s an important straw poll.
BROWNBACK: The last couple of cycles that has been one that has either -- that has kind of narrowed the field. It has done some of the pre-sorting before going into the Iowa Caucuses.
LAMB: Are you aiming toward that?
BROWNBACK: That will be one thing that we will look at to be critically organized at that point in time.
LAMB: What would be the time frame you would have to announce?
BROWNBACK: I‘m not sure on that, Brian. I know a number of people are talking about not until after the midterm election this next year. I don‘t know that I have that luxury to wait that period of time, because your Ames Straw Poll is less than a year out after that point in time.
And some people have a bigger name ID than I do, whether it be Rudy Giuliani or John McCain. So I think I have to make up in organization and effort what others have through name ID.
LAMB: Well, there are a lot of folks in the Senate thinking about running for president. As you know, John McCain, Rick Santorum‘s name comes up from time to time, and many others. Do you all talk among yourselves, Chuck Hagel, do you talk among yourselves about who is going to run and when?
BROWNBACK: Some, but not often. And it‘s one of those things that if you have set up the meeting, that will happen, but if it‘s just on a casual basis, that‘s a rarity to happen. You know, I think it‘s things that, in the Senate, often people are -- they are operating an individual organizational structure. And the structure of the Senate generally plays to the individual rather than the group. And so people operate individually by and large.
LAMB: What do you say to those, and I see it written several times, that you are the "Irish soap" of the Republican candidates, the 99.99 percent pure conservative?
BROWNBACK: Well, I take it as a compliment…
LAMB: Have you seen that?
BROWNBACK: I have not seen that? I generally think Ronald Reagan had the view right, that you need to be both economic and social conservative and a strong military, and that that‘s the general theme of what Americans want to see and need to see to move and progress the country forward.
And we have made a lot of progress on that agenda -- that set of agenda items. We‘ve lowered taxes from being nearly 90 percent income tax rates down to a much more respectable level. We need to get to a flat tax.
We have had a strong military build-up and a robust foreign policy that I think has produced results. The area I think we have really lacked is we have not made progress particularly on the social agenda.
LAMB: If you didn‘t run for president or if you did and lost and then 2010 came around and you didn‘t run again, what would you do?
BROWNBACK: I don‘t know. I have five wonderful children. I have a lovely wife. I‘m sure God would provide something.
LAMB: Senator Sam Brownback, we are out of time, thank you very much.
BROWNBACK: Thank you, Brian.