Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Illinois’ former Governor Jim Edgar: McCain-Palin? Yes, that’s the ticket.

Jeff Berkowitz: …people say that Sarah Palin energizes the base of the Republican Party. Do you agree and …what is it about her that energizes the base, if it does.

Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar (R-Charleston, 1990-1998): …Energy just kind of comes out of her…I don’t think it is an ideology thing, although… some from the far right might say, “Gee, this is good.” Republicans I have talked to, particularly women Republicans, who were for McCain, who are not ideologues-- they maybe weren’t enthusiastic [before], they’re enthusiastic, now…. I’ve learned a long time ago that in Illinois politics if you can get the Republican women motivated, you’re going to win.

Jeff Berkowitz: …one issue is…you’re known as a moderate Republican, you’re pro-choice; McCain is pro-life, Sara Pelin is pro-life; do you have any trouble with that? Do you think any of the pro-choice women in the Party have any trouble with that?

Gov. Jim Edgar: I don’t think any of the women in the Party-- there’s no doubt there are some women that have--that’s their No. 1 issue. My No. 1 issue, I want a President who can be the Commander-in-Chief. Senator McCain and I disagree on that [abortion]; we probably disagree on some other issues, but to me the most important quality in a President is who can lead this nation- particularly when we are dealing with our adversaries—and I believe John McCain is the best candidate to do that and to me that’s what this campaign is all about. That’s why I think you see moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans, while we disagree on certain, maybe domestic issues occasionally, the key issue to me is defending this nation and providing strong leadership in the world and in the war against terrorism and again John McCain is by far the best qualified to lead this nation.

Jeff Berkowitz: Is that because of his twenty-five years in the military, obviously going through what almost everybody else has not gone through—being a POW in Hanoi and surviving that—another quarter of a century in the Congress, so which is it, the military career, the congressional career-- what is it that gives you confidence in John McCain as a Commander-in-Chief?

Gov. Jim Edgar: the combination…his time as a prisoner of war showed a type of character that—you can’t make up. That’s the kind of character, that’s the kind of strength that you need in the White House…also, his willingness during this last primary campaign to put it all out there--on the line--when he supported the Surge when even many Republicans were beginning to wonder: shouldn’t we just kind of gracefully try to get out of Iraq…I think the American people, as the people of Illinois, appreciate [what you are doing], even if they don’t agree with you, if they think you are doing what you think is right…I think that is the type of leadership they are looking for and that’s why I think John McCain will be successful in November.

Jeff Berkowitz: Are you concerned that the American people might be concerned, notwithstanding all of what you just said about John McCain, even if they agree with you a thousand per cent on that, then they take a look at Sarah Palin—yes, she is spunky; yes, she has executive experience as Governor of Alaska, but people ask what does she know about foreign policy, what does she know about Iran, Iraq and Russia—and can she get up to speed on that in sixty days; if something happened to John McCain in the early days of his Presidency, she would be the President. You think the American people, knowing what they know now, can get comfortable with Sarah Palin as President of the United States?

Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar: I think that is a legitimate concern. Anytime somebody is kind of new on the scene, you’ve got to scratch under the surface and see-- are they more than just kind of a pretty face or an articulate speaker. Is there really some substance there? Now, to me, the greatest President in the history of this country was Abraham Lincoln. He probably had the weakest resume, almost, of anybody. And, what he did was he was able to grow. And, he had to grow quickly as a leader in time of war. So, I have always felt if you’ve got the character, if you’ve got the ability—then you can grow in this office, be it President or Vice-President. Now, we’ll have to see. As this campaign develops, I’m sure people in the media are going to keep a very close eye on Sarah Palin, but [based] on what I’ve seen so far, I feel comfortable that she’ll grow very quickly and will be a strong right hand to President McCain. She brings some strength to this ticket: her knowledge of state government, local government and executive experience to balance [McCain’s] experience on the international scene. I think that is a good combination-- and I think they both can learn from each other. And again, just watching what she has been able to do in a short period of time on the local and state scene in Alaska, I’m sure she’ll be able to grow and do a super job, being President McCain’s right hand person.
The above is a partial transcript of a video interview conducted on September 4, 2008[the last evening of the Republican Party Convention in St. Paul, MN; the interview was conducted in the Xcel Energy Center, just off the Convention floor]. The video interview will air on a forthcoming Public Affairs show and perhaps on the Illinois Channel, as well. The above is part 1 of a two-part column on McCain-Palin being published in the Chicago Daily Observer.
Jeff Berkowitz is host and producer of “Public Affairs,” a weekly political interview show airing in the Chicago metro area and in Aurora on Comcast and on CANTV and also often on the Illinois Channel. You can also watch the shows here and here. and read Berkowitz’s commentary, analysis, reporting, partial transcripts and airing schedules of his Public Affairs show here. Berkowitz, who reported from the Democratic Party Convention in Denver, Colorado and from the Republican Party Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota for the Chicago Daily Observer ("CDO"), is now filing supplemental Convention related columns with the CDO, and they appear first there. You can contact Berkowitz at