Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina
GLENN: From Radio City in Midtown Manhattan, third most listened to show in all of America and Senator Jim DeMint. How did you stop your head from exploding last night, Senator?
SENATOR DeMINT: It was a frustrating time and I know the other senators were doing what they believed was right.
GLENN: I don't believe that.
SENATOR DeMINT: But --
GLENN: Hang on. Please help me because I'm holding onto any faith in people not being just entirely weasels in Washington. So help me out on this. How do you vote for a giant bailout and say, no, I can't do it, unless you put in my wool research pork. How do you do that? And sleep?
SENATOR DeMINT: Well, you've got me on that one because they have added a number of things mostly designed to get House votes because I honestly believe if you took the name off the top, the Senate could pass the Communist Manifesto. But it's not that their intentions are bad. It's the fact that their good intentions are misguided and they believe that we can do things through government that we shouldn't do and that's really what takes us down the road to socialism.
GLENN: How -- honestly is there any outrage in Washington, any number of people like you that are outraged and says, guys, if you want to pass a bailout bill, then pass one that is clean. I mean, I know you're against it, but if you want to pass one, how do you sleep at night when you've loaded it up with pork? I mean, you're selling your country, you're selling your vote for pork, on something that is supposed to be the biggest thing you've ever done in your life.
SENATOR DeMINT: I really did think it was shameless. I mean, votes on these tax cuts that I have supported and already voted on, they brought it back and made me vote on it again as part of this bill to try to pressure me to support the bailout. And we threw away all our freedom principles and free enterprise principles, we threw away all the principles of traditional legislation with no hearings and no debate and no amendments. We threw all this out and did something in a hurry and I tell you, I never in my life have I seen something big done in a hurry that was the right thing to do.
SENATOR DeMINT: So --
GLENN: Did you even have time to, people have time to read 453 pages of this bill and be able to make heads or tails of it before they voted?
SENATOR DeMINT: Well, I didn't have time personally to read it all. I had six staff members working on it and we produced a lot of materials that we disseminated to colleagues because a lot of them didn't know the junk that had been added into it. But it's hard at the pace they try to get these things done. The whole idea is to get it passed before people read it, and we loaded it on the Internet as soon as we got it and a lot of talk shows and bloggers start taking it apart and pointing it out, what was in it. But it's not a good legislative process and if it was the right thing to do, we would not have to do all these shortcuts.
GLENN: You are exactly right. What is the -- what are the phones like in congress today?
SENATOR DeMINT: Well, I'm getting a lot of positive response for holding firm, the speech I made, but actually we were looked at like scum as far as, you know, being in the Senate for not supporting the team and doing what we came here to do and take tough votes and so --
GLENN: Oh, wait a minute. You mean internal pressure?
SENATOR DeMINT: Well, yeah. I mean, it's just internal disdain really for those of us who are not willing to, you know, tow the line here in this great bipartisan victory.
GLENN: Now, is that disdain in your own party or disdain --
SENATOR DeMINT: Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, certainly it was. I mean, you know, our leadership supported it and, you know, again I believe they think they are doing the right thing in avoiding a catastrophe. So don't get me wrong. I'm not questioning their motives. I just believe that your principles are permanent. You don't throw them out when you have a crisis.
SENATOR DeMINT: Our default position should always be how do we make freedom work and keep government limited, but we threw that out and our first knee jerk reaction was to expand government and to ignore a lot of free enterprise principles that I know would work, and that's the biggest frustration of all here. We didn't give freedom a chance to work in this process and we continue the stranglehold of bad policies and laws on our free enterprise system and then we blame it when it doesn't work.
GLENN: Do you think that anybody is going to be able to stop this in the house?
SENATOR DeMINT: I don't think so, Glenn. At this point they have so intimidated and beat up the Republicans who held firm.
GLENN: Who did that? Who did that?
SENATOR DeMINT: Well, the national media. You know, even media normally that we would count on like Fox, it looks like Murdock got to those guys because they were looking in the camera and saying, you won't get your paycheck if these guys don't change their vote.
GLENN: Well, you know what? I mean, here's the thing. Senator, you may not get your paycheck. The markets may freeze up, the commercial paper market may freeze up, but you know what? There are principles here at stake as well, and nobody's talking -- everybody wants to scare monger on your paycheck. Okay, well, let's have that conversation and then let's have the conversation of, what are you doing to make sure that doesn't happen. I happen to believe that the commercial market, the commercial paper market is frozen and I don't think that is, you know, a bogus thing. But this doesn't mean that this is what you do. It doesn't mean that you sell your soul to the devil. And I really, truly believe that if you do this, if this passes, it is not -- look at the market today. The market is down almost 300 points. It should be up, shouldn't it? Shouldn't everybody be celebrating? This is not going to do anything. And then you guys are in real trouble and so are we.
SENATOR DeMINT: Our job in congress shouldn't be to make the market go up or down, but I just want to kind of amplify a point you were just making because it's not right to tell a soldier to go fight for freedom that you may lose your life when at home we're afraid to fight for freedom because we could lose a paycheck and we're just not thinking long term here because no one, even Paulson is saying this is more than just a short-term fix, a Band-Aid. This doesn't do anything to actually encourage our economy to get back on track by cutting some taxes and taking the regulations off. So I just think we're all mixed up in Washington. We don't know, as I said before, we don't know where freedom ends and socialism begins and where good intentions run into bad policy.
GLENN: So Senator, help me out on this. You just said -- and if you would repeat that for me, make sure I have it right. You just said that Paulson has not said that this is anything but a short-term fix, that -- I mean, is anyone telling you that this will work?
SENATOR DeMINT: Oh, they're saying that it will loosen up the credit market some, but structurally it doesn't do anything to actually encourage more economic activity, although if credit is there, obviously the economy works better. But they are still saying there are other things we're going to have to do. But, you know, it's been hard to get the good information out of the administration and this creating a panic tells me that they don't know what they're doing. They're hoping this will work, you know, and almost anything would work a little better with $700 billion running around, but I think the long-term implications, and I mean long-term, may be only a few months as the world markets are going to see the size of the American debt and our inability to pay it and that's going to begin to really erode the whole foundation of our economics.
GLENN: Senator, I have somebody who is working with the Paulson team, in the room with the Paulson team. I may have better information than you have.
SENATOR DeMINT: Oh, I'm sure you do because I hadn't been in the room. Once I said this was not the way to go, I was uninvited back.
GLENN: Well, I have people who are contacting me who are in that room and they are all saying -- the message is the same that they hope this works to slow it down. Nobody thinks that this thing is going to stop anything. It's just going to slow down what they believe is a collapse.
SENATOR DeMINT: Well, we have to have a correction.
SENATOR DeMINT: And that's what -- you know, Richard Shelby, who's the ranking guy on banking, you wouldn't have thought he would come out on opposed leadership but until you let the market correct itself, we're not going to be able to rebuild it. And by artificially trying to hold up the values of homes once they've been overpriced and values of securities once they've been overpriced, we're just putting it off and we're spending a lot of money putting it off and so I just think we've got to realize that the government can't run the markets, we've got to let this correction take place. It's going to be painful. People will -- we've already lost value, anybody who's tried to work and save has lost something in this process and they should be angry at the government because it was the government that basically caused this. But we can't stop this from happening. But you're right. All we can do is maybe soften the fall so that when we hit bottom, it's not as painful. But I think all we do is stretch out the pain.
GLENN: Well, that's what -- we're doing the same thing that we did in 1933 and this is why the Depression was over in three years in the rest of the world and it took us ten to get out.
SENATOR DeMINT: Yeah.
GLENN: Because the government did this.
SENATOR DeMINT: Yeah, I'm just afraid that, you know, the Fed's policy and the congressional policy got us into this and it's the same type of thinking that's taking us deeper.
GLENN: But what kind of leadership did John McCain show on this? I mean, here's a guy who is against all kinds of earmarks and in the most important bill, we're told, of what could be in any senator's career, it's loaded with pork. It was intentionally loaded with pork and yet he votes for it. And he doesn't take a stand and say this is totally dishonorable.
SENATOR DeMINT: Well, don't get me wrong. I'm going to support McCain because the choice is really between socialism and a hope for freedom here, but I think John missed an opportunity to separate himself --
GLENN: Big time.
SENATOR DeMINT: -- from Bush on this and actually played into the Democrats' hand where Obama looked like he was above the fray and McCain looked like he was part of the Bush team.
GLENN: So do phone calls make any difference at this point? Should people be calling their House members?
SENATOR DeMINT: Oh, gosh yeah. I think there are going to be some who are still on the fence. I don't think we have much chance to stop it, but I didn't think we could stop it earlier in the week. But I think if people just call and they say, listen, I know we're going to have some pain but let's not put it off. Let's do it now and instead of spend all this money. You know, the government is now one of the biggest businesses in our country in buying and selling assets based on what the Senate passed. But so, yeah, I think the e-mails, the anger phone calls, letters could make a difference at this point because one of the aces in the hole we have is there are some Democrats who don't like the tax stuff that's been put in to get Republicans and they've thrown in some earmarks for the Democrats, but this thing could come unglued if a few of the Republicans hold firm because Nancy Pelosi is still saying Republicans have to deliver, you know, more votes than they did before and if we don't, she's not going to make her people walk the plank. I think she's going to work this hard because she was embarrassed last time.
GLENN: Oh, they can't introduce it again and have it fail, can they?
SENATOR DeMINT: No, they can't. But I would just encourage people to call more than ever, e-mail more than ever, tell those Republicans who I think were heroic earlier in the week to hold firm.
GLENN: And the Democrats as well that didn't vote for it.
SENATOR DeMINT: Yeah. And there are some Blue Dog Democrats who just --
GLENN: There were 96 Democrats that didn't vote for it in the House.
SENATOR DeMINT: Right.
GLENN: I mean, that's an astounding number.
SENATOR DeMINT: But if people in congress think the people outside are mad with November right around the corner, it could make a difference because courage is not exactly the hallmark of congressional service.
GLENN: I'm going to do a fundraiser. I'm going to raise spines for all these weasels in Washington. I really am. I think we just need to have spine transplants left and right, either that or send Petraeus up on the hill. Senator --
SENATOR DeMINT: It is an interesting situation where you have 90% of the American people, or at least those who are calling saying don't do this, don't do this but then you've got, you know, 90% of the people inside congress and the media and the Wall Street guys saying we have to do it or the world's coming to an end. So it's a real interesting decision by members of congress.
GLENN: What do you say to the idea that this is just payback for all of the election money that everybody has received and all of the votes that have been purchased, you know, through these hedge funds and banks and everything else over the years?
SENATOR DeMINT: Well, I don't think any -- very few members of congress are going to vote because they've gotten a campaign contribution one way or another. I just, that's hardly ever a factor. But, you know, friendships and networks do make a difference and if I have a group of bankers call me from South Carolina and say, DeMint, you've got to do something, I mean, that does have an impact on me. And you know, I agree we have to do something, but I don't like the idea we have to do something even if it's wrong.
GLENN: Are you getting calls from friends and bankers saying, Jim, what are you doing to me? You're killing me?
SENATOR DeMINT: Oh, yeah, I've gotten those calls, but I've also gotten calls from banks and Realtors that have said, "Jim, you are doing the right thing, hold on." But most of our calls just from, you know, average people in South Carolina, and we've gotten hundreds if not thousands by now from around the country just saying you're doing the right thing, just keep fighting.
GLENN: Do you think that the average person understands what's in the balance here? Do you think that the average person who is just like, "No bailout," or do you think the average person is saying "No bailout" or "This isn't the right bailout" or "This isn't the right way to do it and I understand how bad things really could be"?
SENATOR DeMINT: Well, I think the average American and probably most members of congress do not know the severity of the problem that the government has gotten us into. Most of that goes back to our huge national debt and the implications long term that are much bigger than what we've been talking about. But I think the Americans instinctively know that something stinks here.
SENATOR DeMINT: And that we can't solve it with the government who tried to clean up after Katrina. They just don't trust this government to be able to do what they say they're going to do and so even if they thought what they said was right, they wouldn't believe the government could do it.
GLENN: You are exactly right. You are exactly right. Is there anyone on the Hill that is talking at all about if we do this and we lose our credit rating, if we lose our credit rating and we can't get loans or we have to really increase our interest rate, we're doomed. I mean, you don't pull out of that one.
SENATOR DeMINT: I think it's a Catch-22 in effect because some -- I believe if we don't do this and our credit rating's going to go down because then China and other countries aren't going to lend us any money.
SENATOR DeMINT: The problem is if we do it and borrow all this money to do it, our credit rating's going to go down anyway.
SENATOR DeMINT: So it's like are we going to pay the price of our mistakes now or are we going to amplify them and kick it down the road and pay it later.
GLENN: Unfortunately usually in Washington they kick it down the road. Senator Jim DeMint, thank you so much, sir, and keep up the fight.
SENATOR DeMINT: We will. Same to you.
GLENN: Appreciate it. Bye-bye. Please call your House member today and write them and tell all of your friends call and be informed. One way or another, you agree or disagree, call them. Call them.