A Bulletin Exclusive Q and A
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, is the Republican Minority Leader in the United States Senate. A political powerbroker, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in Washington. The Bulletin recently caught up with Sen. McConnell and asked him about the presidential race, the energy crisis and the state of the GOP.
TB: Many Republicans are all too aware of the party’s significant losses in the 2006 elections, when the GOP lost control of both the House and Senate. Has the catalyst occurred to reverse that negative trend and get the party back on track?
SM: Well, yes, because this election is about the future, not the past. It’s about the kind of change John McCain thinks is best for the country versus Barack Obama’s kind of change. Almost every election is about the future, and this one is no different. Sen. McCain is well positioned, as an independent Republican, to carry Pennsylvania, and if the Republican candidate for president carries Pennsylvania, he’s going to win. So we’re enthusiastic about this campaign, we’re looking forward to the future, and we’re talking about the issue of change – and the kind of change that is being advocated by both sides.
TB: In what way?
SM: What Barack Obama represents is what the Democrats in Washington want to do all the time: more taxation, more regulation, and more litigation. If left to their own devices, they would turn America into France, when even the French are having second thoughts. Is that the kind of change America wants? I think not.
TB: Some in the GOP camp are jumpy because the Republicans lost three special elections this year. What happened in those cases, and should the results be cause for concern?
SM: Well, Senator McCain was not at the top of the ticket. And remember, these were special elections with relatively low turnouts. Certainly they were not happy results for the Republican Party, but in November, you’re going to have a very high turnout. The stakes are big, and the presidential candidates are on the ballot. So it will be a very different environment than it was back then.
TB: As you are aware, energy is one of the most important issues this election. Given your role as a Republican leader, what is your party’s plan to address high fuel costs, and what is the GOP energy policy moving forward?
SM: The answer is very clear. Gas prices have gone up way over a dollar a gallon since the Democrat majority took over in Washington. Our energy package would make a positive difference in the near future, because it would change the futures market and the outlook about America. It entails opening up ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) and the Outer Continental Shelf to states who want to have it opened ¬– and many do, but right now, they are denied permission (by the federal government). We need to build new refineries and eliminate the moratorium on oil shale, all of which has been denied by this Congress.
TB: Why the reluctance by Congress?
SM: They do not want to exploit the resources we have here at home. Most Americans don’t realize that we’re the third largest oil-producing nation in the world. We shouldn’t be left with our only option being to beg to the Saudis, the number one oil producer, and the Russians, the number two oil producer. We ought to exploit our resources here at home. We can do more on the conservation side. We raised the corporate average of fuel economy, and sometime in the not too distant future, we’re going to be plugging in our cars. All of that is important, but we need to open up more domestic production. We need to deal with this problem ourselves, rather than being held hostage by these foreigners who, in many instances, wish us ill.
TB: Last question. You have stated your belief that Senator McCain will win the White House. How do you think the rest of the GOP ticket will fare, specifically the Senate?
SM: We have a lot of challenges in the Senate because we have 23 members up, and the Democrats only have 12. Our goal is to stay roughly where we are, and I think we have a good chance of doing that.