Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa





Senator Grassley speaks with Jim Turbes from KWBG Boone and Gregory Norfleet from the West Branch Times

May 28, 2009

Senator Grassley speaks with Jim Turbes from KWBG Boone and Gregory Norfleet from the West Branch Times




            MAY 28, 2009


GRASSLEY STAFF:  The following is an unrehearsed interview with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley.  Participating in today's public affairs program are Jim Turbes with KWBG Radio in Boone and Gregory Norfleet with the West Branch Times in West Branch. 


            The first question will be from Jim Turbes. 


            QUESTION:  Senator, quite a bit of discussion this week regarding the president's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.  You've been through a number of confirmation hearings during your years in the Senate.  Do you find hearings like this becoming more politicized?  Is it good or bad? 


            GRASSLEY:  Thanks to both of you for participating


            It's bad from the standpoint that it's -- it's so much different the last 25 years than the previous 200 years.  You know, prior to Bork being nominated in '86 or '87 and defeated, it seemed like there was great deference to the president's choice.  He was elected.  He had a right to select who he wanted.  The only question was qualifications and acknowledge of the law and being dispassionate, having a reputation for being dispassionate as you approach judging whether it's the Constitution or whether it's the statute. 


            And, you know, since Bork, and more recently, Clarence Thomas, et cetera, you know, it's become much more controversial, longer hearings, more in-depth.  And, you know, the president kind of set a standard that is representative of that change of attitude.  And I'll read three sentences from a speech he gave on Alito.


            "There are some who believe the president, having won the election should have complete authority to appoint his nominee and the Senate should only example whether the justice is intellectually capable and an all-around good guy.  That once you get beyond intellect and personal character, there should be no further questions as to whether the judge should be confirmed. I disagree with the view," the president said, and then he went on -- well, he was senator when he said that. 


            He went on then to say that we should consider, in his words, a judge's philosophy, ideology and record. 


            So this changed the historical standard for confirmation.  It kind of encroaches on an executive prerogative.  I think it's unfortunate and it's got a polarizing effect that's unhealthy.  But the Senate is a body based on precedent.  And when this precedent is started back in Bork or Clarence Thomas, or more recently with Democrat opposition to Alito, you know, it's a precedent that everybody else is going to follow. 


            And so Sotomayor will get the same in-depth consideration and dissecting of record that Alito, Roberts, Thomas, and Bork got. 


            QUESTION:  Senator, there's been a lot of people who have compared our current economic difficulties to the Great Depression, and Iowa's only president, Herbert Hoover, has been mentioned in disparaging ways numerous time by both Republicans and Democrats. 


            What thoughts run through your mind when you hear folks talk like that? 


            GRASSLEY:  Well, first of all, if you look at his entire 90 years of life and look at almost 80 years after he was president, he's viewed entirely different than he was within the 25 years or maybe 15 years after he was president because he's seen as quite a humanitarian and as a good leader.  Maybe not as a good president, but as a good person and a good leader. 


            You know, I mean, his fights against starvation in Europe during two wars are just one example.  We honor him once a year when we give a Hoover-Wallace award to people in Des Moines.  And Senator Harkin and I recently got that award from the World Food Prize as an example. 


            So to answer your question, you know, you can learn a lot from mistakes he made as a president.  One, he increased the income tax just tremendously.  I mean, we would never consider increasing income taxes as much as he did in 1931 or '32 during a recession.  And it just made the recession worse.  He signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Bill, and the United States became protectionist, the world became protectionist.  It shut down world trade and probably contributed more than any other decision to the Great Depression becoming worldwide. 


            And the Great Depression is a part of the reason that Hitler rose to power and we lost 60 million people in World War II.  So we can learn from that.  But we can also fight back anybody that's saying this recession is bad as the 1930s because, you know, in the 1930s, there were 25 percent unemployment.  Today, it's 9 percent. 


            Back in those days, the recession went on until World War II.  It was a 10-year recession.  They think that this one's going to be a two-year recession and coming to a bottom right now.  So I think the comparison to Hoover to learn mistakes are legitimate.  It's not -- it's not legitimate to disparage all of Hoover's life, and it's not a true comparison to the 1930s, the problems that we have right now. 


            QUESTION:  Senator, staying with the economy just a moment, the president did speak recently a little optimistically about how we proceeding or how the economy and the recession is proceeding.  Again, we do seem to have kind of stabilized if we haven't reached that bottom.  Are you confident -- are you still watching very closely because you are watching our dollars there in Washington that we are making the kind of progress that needs to be made to bring us back to a more even footing? 


            GRASSLEY:  Well, before I answer your question, let me say that we've been through 11 recessions since World War II, and we've come out of every recession stronger than we went into it.  So recessions are very, very bad for people that lose jobs and are hurt by it, but the economy overall tends to be stronger when you get forced restructuring of the economy because of the recession. 


            And basically, there's good news and bad news.  Just this morning on television, you can see a report that there's, for the third or fourth week in a row, there's less people applying for unemployment compensation than before which may lead you to believe that, you know, we've hit bottom as far as layoffs are concerned.  Now, more people will be laid off but then maybe people are being called back. 


            And then you also get a statistic this morning that 12 percent of the people in this country are either being foreclosed on or behind on their payments for their house.  So good news and bad news, but I believe that economists surveyed within the last two or three days say that, in the third quarter, we're going turn around.  There's going to be some growth in the fourth quarter. 


            But we're going to be in a long trough of -- before we get a big rebound. 


            QUESTION:  Senator, John McCain's campaign manager and some columnists and pundits are saying that the Republican Party is extinct in certain areas of the country.  What are your thoughts on that?  And what do Republicans need to do to regain the White House, Senate, or the House? 


            GRASSLEY:  Yes.  Well, I think two things have to go on.  The first one I mention is the least urgent right now, but we need to get new members into our party.  That's got to start right now, but it's less important than the -- this one.  And that is that we've got to convince people that we stand for something, we have principle, and that we are going to stick by those principles once we get in power again. 


            And that's a lesson that should have been learned three years ago after the 2006 election, but it wasn't learned.  Is it being learned now?  I think so.  But we're in a -- we would have been better off if we had shown the people after the 2006 election that we were going to go fiscally conservative. 


            And mostly, it's convincing Republicans of who we are, not people to become Republicans.  And when we do that, I think we'll convince people who aren't Republicans to become Republicans. 


            STAFF:  Thank you, Jim and Gregory, participating in today's public affairs program.  This has been Senator Chuck Grassley reporting to the people of Iowa. 


            GRASSLEY:  Well, thank you all very much. 


            QUESTION:  Thank you, Senator. 


            QUESTION:  Thanks for your time.