“Anti-war outsider” Vilsack on CNBC

Ex-Governor Tom Vilsack was a guest on CNBC’s Kudlow and Company this afternoon.  In the teaser Larry Kudlow read at 4:35 p.m. (Iowa time), Kudlow asked this:  "Can a self-proclaimed anti-war outsider win the Democratic presidential nomination?"

In the show’s "Sunday Unspun" segment right before Vilsack, Frank Newport focused on Vilsack’s claim on CNN (on Sunday) that Americans want "outsiders" as president.  There was a buzzer and a blazing red WRONG was "stamped" on the screen after they played that Vilsack video clip. 

Frank Newport cited national polls showing current and former Washington, DC insiders like Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barak Obama and even Al Gore are the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.  "We just don’t find any strong evidence to support Governor Vilsack’s assertion that the public is dramatically looking for outsiders at this point," Newport concluded.  The show went to commercial after this, then came back for the chat with Vilsack.

With the graphic "Vilsack the Contender" stretched across the bottom of the screen, Kudlow first asked Vilsack for a one-word answer to this question, posed on a day when the wind chill is below zero in Iowa and people in Washington, DC think it’s cold there:  "Do you still believe in global warming?"

Vilsack answered:  "Absolutely."

The show went to commercial, and when it came back CNBC producers played clips from Clinton, Edwards and Obama talking about the war in Iraq.

"Well, I’ll tell ya kids, they are all scrambling to the left," Kudlow began.  "That’s the big three 2008 Democratic contenders.  They’re out in full-force this weekend outlining their anti-war positions and some anti-business, anti-growth positions.  The question is can a self-proclaimed outsider who’s taking a big anti-war position now capture the Democratic presidential nomination.  Now joining us is presidential hopeful Tom Vilsack.  He’s the former Democratic governor of Iowa.   

"Mr. Vilsack, I have followed your career. I actually watched your announement speech on C-SPAN.  I always regarded you as a moderate Democrat, pro-growth, pro-business, pro-national security and then I read your speech before the DNC and you sounded so far to the left, sir.  What’s going on?".

Vilsack:  "Well, I don’t think so Larry.  Not at all.  Clearly, we have a different idea on the war.  I think our military operations did what they were asked to do.  They got rid of Saddam Hussein and they gave the Iraqis a great opportunity to build a nation but we can’t make them take advantage of that opportunity.

"It is clear it’s a civil war. We need to get our troops out of the middle of that civil war.  We need to place responsibility to end the civil war where it belongs — on the Iraqis."

Kudlow:  "Well, I appreciate your point of view and I respect it and I’m sure it’s well-thought-out but I just want to ask you, in terms of the public debate right now, you’re taking a defunding position…That is really out there on the left.  That’s the McGovernite position.  That’s the old Vietnam position of 1974, ’75.  Is that where a Midwestern moderate should be in this race?  You sound like everybody else."

Vilsack:  "Well, Larry, I don’t agree with that characterization.  I think it’s the right and moral position to take given the fact that we have been there for four years, given the fact that we’ve created this opportunity and given the folk that most military experts do not believe a surge, do not believe additional troops or capping troops is going to work. The reality is we have to give the Iraqis the responsibility to take matters into their own hands and determine whether or not they want a nation and if so, what type of nation they want. It is only a matter of time.  We’ll continue to see a continued escalation of this war. We have to get out of the middle of it so that folks can finally resolve it for themselves. It’s a political issue, not a military issue."

Kudlow:  "Alright.  Over the weekend, we heard Mrs. Clinton at this DNC meeting say that she would confiscate energy profits, confiscate oil profits, which I think sends a chilling mesage to all of American business, frankly.  We also heard Mr. Edwards on Meet the Press with Tim Russert talk about raising taxes.  Now, again, I come back.  My original take and vision on you is that you’re a Midwestern moderate Democrat who is pro-busienss and pro-growth. What do you think about confiscating profits?  What do you think about raising taxes?"

Vilsack:  "As a governor I balanced eight consecutive budgets.  We had tax relief every year I was governor so it can be done.  It’s a matter of making sure that you’ve got fiscal discipline and that you’re responsible in how you approach the budget.  Let me say this about energy:  it is the single-most important issue that this country faces in terms of its long-term stability.  It’s an issue that cuts across and creates an innovative and creative economy, that can expand the middle class.  It’s an issue that will allow us to have healthier communities.  It’s an issue that will allow us to reclaim the moral high ground on issues involving climate change and most importantly of all, perhaps Larry, it’s the issue that can affect our national security.  We’ll no longer be funding both sides of the global insurgency that we’re facing and it is a tremendous opportunity for growth and potential in this country but we have to be bold.  We have to have the courage to create significant change in the way we use energy and the way in which we produce it."

Kudlow:  "Do we have to have a goernment-driven solution, Mr. Vilsack?  In other words, I agree with a lot of the things you just said but I note that we’ve tried these big government planning solutions in the past — Richard Nixon tried it, couldn’t do it.  Jimmy Carter tried it, couldn’t do it.  I jsut don’t.  What about markets?  Markets work.  Prices are high, consumption falls off, production increases, people start seeking renewable fuels.  Big corporations like Wal-Mart order flourescent lightbulbs and you know smaller, more efficient truckers, that kind of thing. John Dorr, the great venture capitalist has said that private enterprise and technology can do it. Where do you come out on that?  Government or technology?"

Vilsack:  "Well, I think it’s a partnership. I think it’s a public/private partnership.  That’s certainly what we did in Iowa when we built a renewable fuel industry that’s now number one in the nation. We didn’t essentially mandate things.  We created a market opportunity and incentive for people to purchase renewable fuel.  They did.  We then began to build more facilities, put more people to work and raised incomes in our state. I believe that same thing can happen across the country, but it is important and necessary for us to have a comprehensive plan, a comprehensive plan that focused on conservation, on creating a renewable fuel and energy industry and also trying to figure out ways to use creatively the materials that we’ve used in the past to produce our power so that we are less reliant on foreign oil.  There’s no question the future of oil is not particularly good when you look at China and India.  Scarce resources.  More expensive extraction.  It is not the way to go, long-term, for this country. There’s enormous opportunity in other forms."

Kudlow:  "Well, I’m assuming your favorite renewable is corn ethanol and I just want to ask you:  there’s a story in the Wall Street Journal the other day that said the United States — this is only after a couple of years of this experiment — we are actually now importing ethanol already which strikes me as a step in the wrong direction."

Vilsack:  "Well, Larry, first of all don’t assume that I necessarily think corn is the answer. I think it was a great way to start the conversation but in the long run there is not enough corn and we do not want to create a competition between food, fiber and fuel.  Biomass is an opportunity for us.  You’ll begin to see Iowa take a leadership position in the Midwest, a leadership posiotion in that.  That’s the kind of public/private partnership we need.  We need to encourage the research and development of alternatives to corn.  We also need to take a look at the tariffs in terms of Brazil.  We need to reduce and ultimately eliminate those tarrifs, bring the Brazilian ethanol into this country, create a demand for E85, put pressure on Detroit to create more flexible-fuel vehicles and you’re going to see a growing economy and a less dependent oil economy."

Kudlow:  "Well, I think getting rid of the tariffs is very pro-growth. One last one, sir.  We appreciate your coming on very, very much.  There’s a bill in the congress that’s going to be in both houses that’s going to have some bipartisan support — $18 billion reduction in farm subsidies in order to pave the way for a world-wide free-trade agreement.  Your thoughts on that."

Vilsack:  "Well, I do think we have to change the way in which we approach farm subsidies.  Rather than subsidizing commodity production we need to subsidize conservation."

The show’s theme music started playing and Kudlow thanked Vilsack for the interview — and told the audience former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will be on the show on Wednesday. .

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.