Interview with 1980 presidential candidate John B. Anderson

Oct. 13, former Independent presidential candidate and former U.S. Rep. John B. Anderson (R-16) formally endorsed the candidacy of Democrat Dick Auman in his race against incumbent U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16) Gen. John Borling (I).

Prior to the formal announcement of Anderson’s endorsement, Anderson and Auman sat down with with The Rock River Times’ Editor & Publisher Frank Schier for an in-depth discussion. The text of the interview with Anderson follows.

The interview with Auman will be featured in a future article, with equal space given to comments from the other candidates in the race, Manzullo and Borling.

Frank Schier (FS): Welcome back to Rockford. Glad to see you. If you don’t mind, Mr. Auman, we’d like to start with the Congressman and then we’ll switch to you.

Dick Auman (DA): Well, he’s the important one here. He’s the one people are going to vote for.

FS: Of course, in the 1980 presidential election…

John B. Anderson (JBA): I remember that one.

FS: You easily abandoned or split from the Republican Party.

JBA: Yes.

FS: And…

JBA: I’m a registered independent, as a matter of fact, in the state of Florida.

FS: I’m a known independent here, but you can’t register here, unfortunately (laughs), so we have affinity in that matter. But since the 1980s, you’ve been largely inactive in Rockford politics.

JBA: That’s true. I have never before in the 10 terms that have elapsed when that seat was held by others, I have never come in and formally lent my endorsement to a candidate—Republican or Democrat.

FS: And now it’s to a Democrat.

JBA: Now it is for a Democrat, and as he will tell you, and as you already know, it is not out of ties of close personal friendship. It is what I think is an even higher motivation—not to downgrade friendship—one of the most important human relationships that there are, but as I look back, I do not exaggerate when I say that I think the election that will be held in November to elect, as you well know, a full House and a third of the Senate, is more critical and is more consequential. It will be more consequential in its effects than any of those elections between ’80 and 2006—elections in which I have chosen not to have been engaged, at least for congressional candidates. I have endorsed other people over the years, obviously, and as recently as a month ago, I was up in the Twin Cities in Minneapolis, and campaigned for the independent’s party because I am still, as my registration indicates, an independent. A charming young woman, Tammy Lee—I don’t know whether she can make it or not.

FS: You used to be called, when you were in the Republican Party—people said that you were affiliated with the Rockefeller Republicans.

JBA: Yes, as a matter of fact, one of the proudest moments of my life was to bring Nelson Rockefeller out here in person to campaign for me when the Wagon Wheel was still in business and had not gone belly-up or whatever happened to it, I don’t know. And I had a fund-raising dinner, and my speaker was Nelson Rockefeller. And so I think, for that and many other reasons, I was formally identified, at least after the first couple of terms, when you were still feeling your way, as a Rockefeller-type Republican.

FS: That moniker now has largely fallen out of the lexicon, and now it’s usually referred to as moderate Republicans, where, of course, there were the Goldwater Republicans, which many people just—many people referred to as the standard conservatives. Now we have—uh—

JBA: Conscience of a Conservative—I even read the book once by O’Leary. (Editor’s note: The Rockford Public Library lists the author as Barry M. Goldwater.)

FS: Now we have a lot of people, particularly those that have been the old school—we might say, Edmund Burke Republicans.

JBA: Right. “I owe you the benefit not of following the party line but the benefit of my judgment. I will be influenced by my judgment of what is best for the commonwealth.” Yes, I think I still like that Burkian—that part of this philosophy, anyway.

FS: But many people are very disturbed within the Republican Party with the birth of what is called the neo-conservative—the neocons, and many people express “cons” and all of its implications and—what is your opinion of the neocon movement, and essentially many people’s sense of it?

JBA: Well, I have come here principally to extol the virtues of one Richard D. Auman, Democratic candidate for Congress, and I don’t want to stir up any hornets’ nests and make his life more difficult by drawing thunderbolts in his direction from whatever neocons may subsist around here. But the neo-conservatives, really, I think the term that comes most quickly to mind, are hardliners, where they really do take this very limited view of national authority, at least in the governance of domestic affairs and think the less government we have, the better off we are. Unfortunately, they don’t carry that over into the field of international affairs, where I think they would give the president vaunted power much beyond what the Constutition grants him in the area of foreign policy and foreign affairs.

But the neocons are really a throwback to a much simpler era, in my humble judgment, when we lived in a more pastoral age, and life had not become what it is in the 21st century where we have growing. Unless government is the arbiter, we tend to see growing dividions by class, by economic group, between rich and poor, and the divide grows deeper, and it seems to me that they eschew any effort on the part of government to try to come in and heal that divide and to give us a more broadly representative kind of government that will tackle problems, be it in the field of health care, which I know Dick is very much interested in improving with a single-payer system. You know, that would pay everyone in that realm that they will talk about medical savings accounts with some appreciation because it will enable them to save taxes. I mean, they’re interested more in putting money into their own practice than they are in seeing it disbursed more widely for the benefit of that wider community that exists in a country like ours.

FS: Now many people go back…

JBA: Now if that’s a little vague, I apologize.

FS: That’s quite all right.

JBA: Off-the-cuff philosophizing is worth exactly what you pay for it.

FS: Exactly.

JBA: Nothing.

FS: But you point to the fact that they do tend to be a dividing force.

JBA: Yes, I think it has been. I think it has been a very divisive force, and I really believe that when we talk about the extreme polarization, to use the favorite noun that is employed, that they are polarizing and that we do have a much deeper cleft and a much deeper divide today in our country politically than we have seen in my lifetime.

FS: Now many people go back to what they say was the beginning of the neocon movement with Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago, and essentially, particularly Dr. Peter Stanlis here in town, who is a Burke scholar whom you may know, asserts that the neocons essentially in their approach, since they went first through the liberal factions and then came in essentially through William F. Buckley and the Republican Party, that their origins or earmarks and that their philosophy of division and class warfare has just been transferred into the modern society, modern jargon. Would you agree with that assessment?

JBA: Well, I will confess at the outset that I am not a deep student of Straussian philosophy. I know about as much about Strauss as youhave briefly outlined (laughs) and not a great deal more. Well, I don’t think that I want to fall into the part of suggesting that it’s Marxian in its genesis. That might be something that could be debated, I suppose, in scholarly circles. I’d just put it in much simpler terms. I think that the neoconservative

s used to talk about, you know, compassionate conservatism. I don’t find it very compassionate. I think that’s a misuse of the term if you’re going to use it as a modifier for the kind of conservativism that seems to be regnant in the political world today. It’s not very compassionate. It’s not terribly concerned. About the people who work three jobs a day and barely eke out an existence in the wealthiest nation in the world. So I would put it, I guess, in more elemental terms, of a loss of social responsibility, of the loss of feeling that we are our brother’s keeper, and particularly for Christian conservatives, which are an important element in the group that you were just describing. I read my Bible and as I read it, we are supposed to share one another’s burdens. We are to be concerned for the poor and share with them. That’s lacking in much that I see in their philosophy today.

FS: One thing this gentleman is going to deal with if he gets elected is going to be the aftermath of 9/11 and the war on terror, subsequent Patriot Act. There has been—many people say—essentially, carry forth that the neocons essentially had the Patriot Act written and in the drawer. It wasn’t read by most congressmen before the bill was originally passed—that there are great concerns in many parts of the country as to the culpability and preparedness of this current administration for the 9/11 incident and the general tenor of the real war on terror is, many peple say it’s fear—a war of fear that is being waged on the American populace by this particular group and this administration. And that congressmen, senators, leaders in general have been afraid to speak up against this administration for what many people see as almost a totalitarian approach with its eavesdropping, its entering into the line of torture, which the United States has never been officially involved in before. How do you think the future congressman, perhaps, should deal with those things if he’s going to meet that wall of apprehension, that wall of hesitation, that wall of fear that public officials seem to be under nowadays instead of addressing the truth?

JBA: Well, I certainly think that as I look at the record of this administration and its unwillingness to acknowledge that even in the field of protecting the nation and even in the field of assuring our common defense, there is a doctrine that is central to our constitutional system, and that is the doctrine of separation of powers. And the vesting clause of Article II of the Constitution that vests the executive power in the president is nevertheless subject to a series of checks and balances that the framers wisely wrote into the Constitution. And it is not a blanket grant of authority to any president, be he Democrat, be he Republican, or someday, praise the Lord, maybe even we’ll get an independent president—the Constitution doesn’t confide in him, if you observe the separation of powers doctrine, total power. There are checks and balances that are provided for. You were supposed to have one department of government check and balance the power of another. And what’s wrong with the philosophy, I think, of the current administration, is they don’t want to submit to any checks. They don’t want to submit to any rule that says there ought to be a balance.

FS: Has it indicated its position as a check and balance?

JBA: I think they have. I think they’ve taken the position that in the name of fighting a war against terrorism, that they can exert just about any authority in the name of fighting that war against terror that the president sees fit to employ. And I simply don’t agree. I reviewed over the one blockbuster decision of the last term of court, the one before the one that began the first Monday in October, Hamden vs. Rumsfeld, where they made it clear that the way the administration was proceeding to set up military commissions and to employ and use rules of evidence that have never been authorized by the Congress, that they were just totally off base.

FS: Congress just turned around and essentially gave Rumsfeld what he wanted.

JBA: Well, no, not quite. Not quite.

FS: A large section…

JBA: Mr. Rumsfeld has a tendency to overly generously interpret any grant of authority that is made by Congress. To me, that decision made it pretty clear that the president has to get authority from Congress to establish these tribunals and that he cannot rewrite the rules of evidence, and they certainly made it clear that Common Article III of the Geneva Convention is one that can’t be unilaterally rewritten by this administration or any other administration. We’re a signatory to an international treaty, and under the Constitution, that’s the supreme law of the land, along with the laws that Congress passes. So I think we’re seeing a pullback, thanks to the Supreme Court in this doctrine of unrestricted presidential power. But the reason I’m out here and campaigning when I could be home playing with the grandchildren and otherwise resting these weary old bones, is that it’s critical that we have a Congress that realizes its independence, that it is a coequal branch of this government and that they read that opinion the way I read it, that they have every right to impose the rules and regulations with respect to how those commissions are conducted and the rules of evidence that they employ—that’s not up to the president. That’s up to the legislative and then the interpretion of the judicial branch as well. So we need a Congress that is going to be willing to assert its independence of this extraordinary and, I think, misbegotten doctrine that executive power in a war against terrorism is supreme. And it really is not bound by these doctrines that I’ve talked about, separated powers and so forth, so we need a change. We are not going to get that unless we have a change in the composition of both the House and the Senate.

FS: How would you recommend to Mr. Auman the guarding of Congress’ war powers? Within the war of Iraq, many people have now seen the complete fallacy of the arguments that were presented for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Many people would say outright lies.

JBA: Yes.

FS: I certainly would. And how many people have also said that essentially—excuse me, I’m a little off-color here, but President Clinton was impeached over lies about oral sex in the Oval Office, but this president has lied about a much more serious matter—going to war, and if a Democratic House comes in, should it be considered articles of impeachment?

JBA: No, I would at this moment say that the first order of business is articles of impeachment because I go back to the time—or the point that I made just 5 minutes or less ago—that we have seen this extreme polarization of politics to the point where people are hardly on speaking terms. And I think that even though I totally disagree with going to war in Iraq, I publicly demonstrated and spoke on “Young Circle” in Hollywood, Fla., in February of 2003 against going to war, and my particular injunction at that time was, “Don’t adopt the president’s notion that he has the authority to use a pre-emptive strike.” I don’t see his power to declare war. That’s in Congress, and it cannot be sublegated under some new doctrine that says the president, by issuing an order, a military order for pre-emptive strike, can erase completely the requirement of the Constitution that it’s Congress that shall declare war.

So I’ve stated out on the record publicly and in many, many talks that I’ve given ever since, my belief that this is really a war that was illegal from its inception. I do not, and of course, we were warned in his speech at West Point, in the summer of 2002 when he put out his national security directive late in that same year, that this was the path that he was going to follow. And, unfortunately, he didn’t have the kind of opposition in Congress to obstruct, I think, the misguided policy that he then proceeded to carry out. But going back to
your question—if we get five down, that will simply end up in a great debate and take off our minds the fact that we ought, in more orderly fashion, proceed in the remaining two years of this particular president’s term, to re-establish the authority of Congress, and there are many ways that they can do that. They have the power of appropriation—and if they want to differ with what Mr. Rumsfeld is doing in running the Department of Defense, they ought to do it through legislative language in the authorization bill for the Department of Defense. There are other ways of dealing with a president who has over-reached, as I think this president has, than proceeding to impeachment. He can’t run again, and we’ll leave it to the good sense of the voters in the next presidential election to decide whether any presidential candidate, in view of the record that Bush has made, should be entrusted with the powers of that office. He is going to have to certainly run on a different platform than the one that Bush carried out during, particularly, his second term. But I’m not for getting off into that particular fight because I think there are better ways of readjusting what ought to be the proper balances that should exist in a constitutional form of government like ours.

FS: Well, considering the war of Iraq, considering the Foley-Hastert debacle that’s going on right now, as you see it, a third of the Senate is up and the House as well, how do you see this election going as you’re actually traveling more of the country than most of us are right now? What are you gathering?

JBA: Well, I went to the West Coast last weekend. I was in Seattle-Tacoma, but I was campaigning for Amendment 3. Nobody here ever heard of Amendment 3, an amendment to a home rule charter of Pierce County, Wash. Why on earth would I do that? Well, I am the chairman of the board of a nonprofit called Fair Voting, and one of our big campaign efforts, we’re interested in, electoral reform, reforming the electoral process, is—we have a number of programs; go to the Web site and you can read all about them. I won’t take the rest of the afternoon to do that. But one of our programs is to encourage instant runoff voting, where the voters can rank-order the candidates. And if your first choice doesn’t win, the ballot counters will eliminate the candidate with the fewest number of votes, but those ballots will be held for a recount in an effort to see who does get 51 percent of the vote. It’s based on the premise that that officer elected to government of any kind, he ought to have a majority vote. He shouldn’t be elected by plurality. A majority ought to have indicated that they are not opposed to his holding that office. So you go back and recount the votes and count the second choice, and if they gave someone the 51 percent of the vote, we could declare that election over and the person elected. It’s used now in San Francisco, it’s used in Berkeley, it was used to elect the mayor of Burlington recently, where they had 15 candidates, and it worked beautifully. They found out who a majority of the people wanted.

FS: Burlington, Vt.?

JBA: Burlington, Vt., yes. And it’s going to be voted on in Minneapolis, where I campaigned two weeks ago for a young lady for Congress who is an independent, Tammy Lee. So I’m very interested in election reform. And so that’s why I went out to Pierce County.

FS: We’ve been very interested for about the last five or six years in electronic voting. And we largely hold—I don’t know if you are familiar with the Web site

JBA: No, I’m not. But now that you’ve mentioned it—that is official descriptive—blackbox—

FS: The most telling, of course, being the Ohio debacle in the last presidential race where it was essentially the president of Diebold, who had the majority voting machines in Ohio, said, “We will deliver Ohio for George Bush. I am going to do everything in my power—”

JBA: “—to see George Bush is elected.” Yes, I have read that a number of times.

FS: OK. And we have asserted for quite some time that every computer can be hacked. Recently, there has been a study, I think, that was done by the computer scientist at Johns Hopkins who went in and showed that they—give them 2 minutes alone with the computer with the box, and they can essentially switch it so that—

JBA: I read that story.

FS: Every other vote goes. And our opinion is that essentially, there’s no safeguard that can, even with a paper receipt, that a paper trail that should be put into these. We say that you should go back to the paper ballot and just—although—

JBA: Look at the voting—electronic voting equipment.

FS: No. I just say get rid of the electronic voting. And it sounds—uh—rather—uh—I’m trying to think of the anti-technology word—

JBA: Luddite?

FS: Luddite.

JBA: Kill the machines!

FS: Yeah, rather Luddite, but many people just say that, you know, there’s just too sophisticated—

JBA: I haven’t come to a hard and fast conclusion. I’m not as sophisticated elementally as I wish I were. A sealed vote is about as complicated as—oh, well, I can get on the computer and do a few things. Read the good blogs and make my day that way. But I don’t know. I respect your concern and I—hopefully, this argument has been run by me before. I have to be honest, as I always try to be. I have not reached the same conclusion that you have at this point that electronic voting is inherently so dangerous, and hopelessly capable of infiltration and all the rest, that it will never work, that again, that we should get rid of all machines. But I will happily subscribe to any number of protective measures that I would like to see employed in counting the votes in this next election. So put a reasonable proposal before me.

I’m not giving up entirely on electronic voting. I don’t own any stock in any companies.

FS: I really wish you would go take a look at the

JBA: I will do that.

FS: We started investigating it when we—where the punch cards—

JBA: You obviously spent more hours looking at that stuff than I have.

FS: Yeah.

JBA: Write it down.

FS: Sure. I’d be glad to.

JBA: I don’t trust my memory.

FS: I don’t drust mine, either. As I like to say, I have a good memory—it’s just short. It’s—

JBA: Oh, yeah, I can write it on there. blackbox

FS: She really does the best job of putting the expose’ on it. But we knew—there’s been time and time again in elections here in the Gorski-Syverson election, which, for the County Board chairman, there were definite electronic irregularities in that. Gorski protested it. But—

JBA:Was that here in Winnebago County?

FS: Yes, it was.

JBA: Oh, I hadn’t even heard about that.

FS: Yeah, and Gorski protested it, and of course, Logli and the commissioner just shuffled it off as—

JBA: Was it reallay close?

FS: It was real close, and also, too, just the patterns of voting which you’ll see—the original book—

JBA: That’s all on the Web site?

FS: Right. And another one, if you could write down Votescam, was the original book where this was first detected in Florida.

JBA: Is that a Web site or a book?

FS: That’s a book—Votescam.

JBA: S-C-A-M, scam.

FS: Yes, sir.

JBA: Who was the author, you know?

FS: Off the top of my head, I cannot remember.

JBA: Oh, well, I can Google it and find out.

FS: Yeah, but in any case, we’d like to get to Mr. Auman. But I definitely thank you for your time. As a segue here, could you give us—and he [St

aff Writer Stuart R. Wahlin] is going to take over—we’re going to both work with Mr. Auman a little bit here. What is your view of Manzullo’s record in the House right now in the approach that he has taken in his last—

JBA: Well, I’m not out here—this is not some kind of personal vendetta that I have against the Republican Party or even Mr. Manzullo. I think that a fair comment would be that his record represents the down-the-line adherence to a very conservative position and certainly one that in no way could be considered to be to oppose some of the things that I have been talking about, the fact that the president is conducting the war as if it were an executive enterprise to which the Congress is free to make contributions in the form of money and appropriation bills, but thank you kindly, we’ll do without any other effort on your part to assert your constitutional responsibility. So he’s a reason why we need a new Congress—his down-the-line support of the policies and the programs that have brought us to this point where any poll you look at shows that a majority of the American people feel that they were misled—that there were not weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That there was no immediate concern that they would ever be there. A majority of people feel that way. And a majority of them are concerned that the war against terror is not being conducted with the tactics and with the kind of targets that will assure us greater protection and greater safety, that it’s being mismanaged. So to the extent that he represents just in very general terms that part of the Congress that has not been willing to hold up its hand and say, “Stop! We want to call a halt to the course that we are now on and find a better solution there, a better way”—that’s why I’m here. That’s why I think that replacing him with Dick Auman would give us in one of the 435 districts, and hopefully in many others, and other contests, men and women who are willing to stand for a new approach and new ideas in preserving and protecting the security of this country.

FS: Thank you.

From the Oct. 18-24, 2006, issue

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