I’ve had trouble this summer keeping up with my commitment, stated back when I started this blog, to let you know about meetings the editorial board has with newsmakers and other guests — although I have reported the main ones. I did mention Gresham Barrett the other day, and today I’ll catch up by telling you about Sen. Jim DeMint’s meeting with us back on Tuesday. (And by the way, the picture is not from our meeting. It’s an AP photo of the senator talking about bringing a new nuclear power facility to the Savannah River Site during a press conference in Aiken a week earlier.)
It was fairly uneventful — Lee Bandy, who was there as an observer representing the newsroom, didn’t write anything live off of it — but there were a few items of interest worth sharing:
- First, he was fairly proud of having held the federal highway bill’s gargantuan total down to something close to what the White House had wanted, while managing to help South Carolina out in some significant ways. Since Cindi Scoppe is going to address that S.C. impact in the paper in the next few days, I’ll leave elaboration on that point to her.
- Rest assured, Gov. Sanford — this is one Republican who is not coming after your job. Rather than criticize the governor’s performance on ecodevo, or complain that he’s hard to work with in that area, Sen. DeMint said, "We work well with him." He added that "I feel we’re poised for incredible growth in the state." Besides, "We’re not easy to reach, either."
- He said he thought it strange that Majority Leader Bill Frist, who generally keeps a low profile on issues and works for consensus within the caucus, should choose to get out in front on stem cells, of all things. He also noted that folks keep defining the issue inaccurately: "The issue isn’t whether we do research; it’s whether the federal government pays for it." Good point, that.
- It was good to hear him say that he’s learned a lot from traveling to the world’s hot spots and learning about foreign affairs. "You’re expected as a senator to be involved with that," he said. I’m glad he realizes that now. Last year, when I asked him to talk about America’s role in the world, he sort of blinked and said something along the lines of, "You mean, besides trade?"
- He talked for a while about his health plan, which he said stresses "individual ownership" and portability. But the most interesting thing he said on the subject — and somehow we got onto another subject before following up with questions (something I need to do the next time I talk to him) — was this: "We’ve got to go there (meaning something like his plan), or we’re going to go to national health care relatively soon, because where we are is not going to work." At this morning’s board meeting, we were discussing that, and sort of kicking ourselves that we didn’t get him to elaborate.
- Scared me no end by suggesting it would be possible to draw down U.S. troops somewhat in 2006. I continue to believe that would be suicidal; we need to go the other way, if anything.
I’ve been getting comments from anti-war folks upset because in my Wednesday column I said that withdrawing from Iraq now would be like "spitting on the graves of the 1,800 who have already given their lives." Well, I stand by that statement, and I add a corollary: If Republicans pull us out of Iraq in order to help themselves get re-elected, they’ll be doing something even worse than that.