Steve Rauschenberger interview
Supplementary information to the Chicago Tribune  COLUMNS of   ERIC ZORN


State Senator Steve Rauschenberger (R- Elgin) was interviewed about his prospective U.S. Senate candidacy by television political show host and producer, Jeff Berkowitz, on "Public Affairs," on September 4, 2003. The show with Sen. Rauschenberger is airing in the suburbsthe week of Sep. 15, see airing schedule at the end of the transcript, below]. The Rauschenberger show will also air in the City of Chicago on Monday, Sept. 22 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV]. Partial Transcript supplied by Berkowitz.

Jeff Berkowitz: ?Steve, will you be a candidate for the United States Senate?

State Senator Steve Rauschenberger: I expect to be a candidate before the end of September.
Berkowitz: Maria Pappas is mentioned a lot [as a candidate] in the Democratic U. S. Senate Primary

Rauschenberger: Yet to commit.

Berkowitz: ?Do you think she will run?

Rauschenberger: I don't think so. I think she is flexing to see what kind of a response she gets, but I think she will be persuaded not to run.

Berkowitz: Somebody is going to make her an offer that she can't refuse, as they say?

Rauschenberger: Not that kind, but there are a lot of people who would like to persuade her that there are other paths to the future.

Berkowitz: like, "we'll make you State Treasurer"?
Rauschenberger: people are beginning to feel more comfortable about security in the United States, so right now the focus is really on where are we going [in the economy]? Are we recovering? Jobs are a critical issue in the state of Illinois, today.
Berkowitz: Is that a national issue, the level of unemployment in Illinois? Does that reflect where we are nationally-- the monetary and fiscal policies of the Federal Government-- or are there state policies that are causing unemployment in Illinois to be higher than you would like?

Rauschenberger: I think it is both. I will say the lion's share of our problem in the state of Illinois over the last five years has been that State Government is not very welcoming of business. We are a state that still has a lot of problems with frivolous lawsuits-- product liability lawsuits are frequently brought in jurisdictions in Illinois and that's a problem.

Berkowitz: So, tort reform would be helpful either on the national or state level? Madison County [Illinois] is sort of a friendly area for tort lawsuits?

Rauschenberger: East St. Louis, IL is where trial lawyers from across the country shop for Illinois juries. And, that's not healthy?

Berkowitz: That's not healthy for the business community [in Illinois]?

Rauschenberger: No, it chills. It is very difficult to attract companies to locate in Illinois. And, that hurts us from a jobs perspective.
Berkowitz: ?If you had been in the U. S. Senate, would you have supported those [President Bush] tax cuts [of 2001, 2003].

Rauschenberger: Yes, I would have.

Berkowitz: Completely, the whole program? Cuts in marginal [income tax] rates, acceleration of those cuts in 2003, proposed cuts in capital gains taxes (what actually went through was a reduction in the dividend tax). You would have supported [all of] that?

Rauschenberger: Yes.

Berkowitz: You would have supported removal of the marriage penalty [tax]?

Rauschenberger: Yes, I think that should have been first on the list.

Berkowitz: You would have supported tax cuts across the board? For low, middle and high income individuals?

Rauschenberger: Yes

Berkowitz: So, you depart from Nancy Skinner, who is a candidate in the Democratic primary [for the U. S. Senate nomination]? She said [on this show] "certainly no tax cuts for those with income over $330, 000 and probably not for those with [annual] income over $200, 000?" you would give those people tax cuts?

Rauschenberger: Yes. That is a clear difference between Republicans and Democrats. Tax policy is not meant for Democrats to surgically restructure society. Taxes are things that are levied to run government. It is not supposed to be a social policy tool?

Berkowitz: And, you think it would be helpful for the economy and Illinois to reduce unemployment, if we had those tax cuts?is that your argument?

Rauschenberger: Yes, and we are already beginning to see the results, but
Berkowitz: Generally, you would like to see lower tariffs on all sides: You are not somebody who sits here and says, as many Democrats [and some Republicans] do, that free trade is one thing, but they say you have countries, like China and other countries in Asia, that may not have the same standards as the United States, environmental, labor, and so forth, and they say they want those standards to change, or they don't want trade to occur. You would disagree with that?

Rauschenberger: I would disagree with that. The same people who want to use tax policy to tell other people how they ought to live-- or what they ought to keep of their earnings-- want to kind of rule the world with their vision of how other countries ought to govern their own sovereignty. American companies can compete in a free and open marketplace with the best the Chinese can offer despite their low wages.

Berkowitz: Whether or not they have standards, or not?

Rauschenberger: It is their responsibility to establish standards. Not ours.
Berkowitz: ?the [Jack Ryan] concept of getting other [free market, free world] countries in Asia to participate in their national defense, would you--

Rauschenberger: I agree with Jack [Ryan] on that. But, I don't agree with Jack's argument that our troops stationed in South Korea should be mercenaries, and that we ought to be looking for southeastern Asian countries that--

Berkowitz: But no, his [Jack Ryan's] point is that if we are bearing that cost to keep those troops there, we shouldn't be paying completely for those troops. Somebody else should be sharing that cost.

Rauschenberger: It depends on why they are there. I mean, they are there in our interests?
Rauschenberger: If you are going to be a sovereign government, and you are going to have a sovereign armed forces, you cannot expect the other countries of the world - I mean that is fundamentally what the second War [the recent and current War] in Iraq is about--whether we have freedom of motion, freedom of action with our military, or whether we are responsible to the coalitions?

Berkowitz: What is the Iraq War about? Was that about removing WMD, or was it about something else?

Rauschenberger: I think it was a war about removing an unstable regime that threatened world peace.

Berkowitz: So, it was about regime change. It really wasn't about WMD, is that what you are saying?

Rauschenberger: Well, that is my impression, I mean--

Berkowitz: So, if we never find WMD, given that the United States has brought about regime change, you would say that has been a successful military effort.

Rauschenberger: I think absolutely--I think for 98% of the Iraqi people, it has been a successful operation.

Berkowitz: ?Is the United States safer as a result of the War than it was six months ago?

Rauschenberger: Unquestionably. Unquestionably.

Berkowitz: And the reason why we are safer is?

Rauschenberger: Because we have made it clear that we are going to take the War on Terrorism to people who are sponsoring terrorists, who are supporting terrorists, and who are training terrorists.
Berkowitz: ?would you say that you are a social conservative?

Rauschenberger: Yes, for the most part. I am a 2nd Amendment supporter. I believe in people's right to bear arms. I am Pro-Life--I feel very strongly that it is the government's responsibility to protect those who can't protect themselves.

Berkowitz: ?you would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned?

Rauschenberger: I don't think Roe v. Wade was good constitutional law?

Berkowitz: Conceptually, would you like to see it illegal for a woman to have an abortion?

Rauschenberger: I don't think that abortion on demand is good public policy. I don't believe in abortion. There are times for the life of the mother or in extraordinary circumstances when it needs to probably be available, but I certainly don't support the current system and--

Berkowitz: ?if the life of the mother were at issue, then you would certainly support an abortion?

Rauschenberger: Absolutely.

Berkowitz: What about the exceptions for rape and incest?

Rauschenberger: Generally, I would support those [exceptions].

Berkowitz: So, you would make those allowances?

Rauschenberger: Right.

Berkowitz: Would you support the notion of a constitutional amendment to change the law of abortion:

Rauschenberger: Yes, if we can't get the federal courts to review Roe v. Wade, then the appropriate thing is to make a public policy decision through a constitutional amendment?

Berkowitz: ?I think [candidate] Jack Ryan has said he is reluctant, and he wants to move slowly with respect to amending the United States Constitution. You would disagree with Jack on that, with respect to this issue that we are talking about--abortion?

Rauschenberger: we certainly have spent more than thirty years in discourse on the question of "life" and the right to an abortion. This is not one of those issues that people need to study. People feel pretty strongly about it.

Berkowitz: It has been studied a lot?

Rauschenberger: And, the process to amend the U. S. Constitution is, by definition, a pretty slow and deliberative process. So, maybe that's what Jack means. Jack is new to public policy.

Berkowitz: Well, we'll see, we [hope to] have him [Jack Ryan] on our show, sometime, and he can explain to our viewers what he means. But, he is getting out there on some views, and so people are starting to use that as a benchmark. Maybe, as you get out there, people will use [Senator] Rauschenberger as a benchmark and Jim Oberweis [next week's guest] as a benchmark?

Rauschenberger: It is a very exciting field. Seven high quality candidates on the Republican side.
Berkowitz: Let's go to guns. You said you favor the 2nd Amendment. That's nice, most people say they favor things in the Constitution. What does it mean? [For example], would you like to see the Brady bill repealed?

Rauschenberger: There are parts of the Brady bill that I think have been effective. But, in general, the use of federal laws which restrict "law abiding" citizens' rights to own guns, I don't agree with.

Berkowitz: But, the Brady bill, in part, one of the main things it does, as I understand it, is it requires background checks. So, if somebody goes to buy a gun, they do a background check--if you are an ex-con [convicted felon], you are not legally permitted to buy a gun. Would you disagree with that part of the Brady bill.

Rauschenberger: No, but there is a better way to do that. I would favor a much better FOID card system, because you can really solve that problem with an instant check--the three day waiting period and the length of time in the Brady bill--

Berkowitz: So, you would want to have a national instant check?

Rauschenberger: I think we would be better off with a program like that--

Berkowitz: But, the concept of trying to keep guns out of the hands of--

Rauschenberger: Nobody wants felons or people with mental problems to have guns?

Berkowitz: Assault weapons, there is a ban on assault weapons, would you favor that ban on assault weapons if you were a United State Senator?

Rauschenberger: If you could define assault weapons appropriately, I have no problem with banning the Thompson sub machine gun, mortars--

Berkowitz: [How about] "weapons where you pull the trigger once and it keeps shooting"--is that a pretty good definition of assault weapon?

Rauschenberger: No, unfortunately, it is not. The fundamental problem is that you can buy a semi-automatic weapon and go down to the basement and turn it into a fully automatic weapon with a few tools.

Berkowitz: ?but the point is--do you have problems with trying to ban the sale of fully automatic weapons?

Rauschenberger: No.

Berkowitz: ? that concept does not trouble you.

Rauschenberger: No, here is my problem?the problem is not in the definition of the weapon; it is in the enforcement of the law?no gun ever shot anybody without somebody pulling the trigger. We need to get to the point where we understand that it is the criminal that is the problem because you can kill just as effectively with a knife, an automobile or a baseball bat?it is about crime, it is not about weapons.

Berkowitz: So, in a sense you are saying that the emphasis is in the wrong direction?

Rauschenberger: Absolutely.

Berkowitz: But, you are not somebody who opposes the notion of national gun control?

Rauschenberger: Generally, I do.

Berkowitz: You would like to see it done on the state level?

Rauschenberger: : Yes, I think we do a better job on the state level. I mean, if you look at the Constitution, it is pretty effective and clear. I don't have any problem with national background checks and things that are done to facilitate and protect from people who shouldn't have weapons getting a hold of them.
Berkowitz: On the issue of Gay rights? we had Senate Bill 101 in the State, it didn't pass?

Rauschenberger: I don't support Senate Bill 101.

Berkowitz: And the reason?

Rauschenberger: Well, I don't think you should have special rights based on preferences.

Berkowitz: And, special rights means if somebody is gay, somebody is lesbian?say the law said there would be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with respect to those two categories [of individuals] in employment or housing, somebody goes to a job, they are working there and somebody fires them because they found out they are gay.

Rauschenberger: That is a very long hypothetical. Let's put it this way.

Berkowitz: Isn't that what Senate Bill 101 is trying to deal with?

Rauschenberger: No, well?I don't know what some of the proponents are trying to deal with.

Berkowitz: No, but the law itself, it says it is trying to bar discrimination based on--

Rauschenberger: Sexual preference

Berkowitz: No, sexual orientation.

Rauschenberger: Which can be defined quite broadly. I think there are 24 separate definitions--

Berkowitz: But you said you are opposed to it [that bill]?I streamlined it--I gave you an example-- if we could keep it narrow, talking about the examples I gave and if we banned discrimination in those [two] instances, would you still be against the law?

Rauschenberger: Probably, what it comes down to, you have a lot of choices in America, and that is a healthy thing, you can choose to be a lot of things--life style choices should not obligate other people to accommodate you, we are an at will free employment country- I mean your employer should be able to make decisions about who they hire to represent them to do things.

Berkowitz: So you want employers to be able to fire people if they want to do so because that person is homosexual. You want the law to allow that?

Rauschenberger: No, they have the rights that anybody else has.

Berkowitz: They do now. The question is--people want laws to prevent that, and you are saying you oppose those laws.

Rauschenberger: I am against carving out special protections under our Human Rights Act for preferences and choices. I don't think people who drive Volvos, people who--

Berkowitz: You would not want to have same sex marriage. Is that right?

Rauschenberger: No. I think marriage is an institution that is designed to be between a man and a woman. I support the President's view on that.

Berkowitz: I want to go to education. You would support school vouchers? If you were a United States Senator, you would like to see school choice [vouchers] in Washington, DC. [The U. S. House passed, by a margin of two votes, school vouchers for Washington, DC on Sep. 5].

Rauschenberger: : Yes

Berkowitz: And, if you could, would you like to promote school choice in the City of Chicago?

Rauschenberger: Yes, I voted three different times to support voucher--

Berkowitz: Nationally, would you like to promote it. Would you like to use the arm of the federal government to promote school choice, school vouchers in local school districts?

Rauschenberger: Thoughtfully and carefully, as long as the federal government is willing to provide some of the funding. One thing I am not comfortable with are federal mandates out of [Washington,] DC.

Berkowitz: Are you comfortable with No Child Left Behind?

Rauschenberger: No, that is a work in progress. It is a giraffe with an elephant's body.

Berkowitz: Right. The whole idea [of No Child Left Behind] is to give choice within the public school system. It [the legislation] said that recently 270,000 students in the City of Chicago [Chicago Public School system] would be eligible for choice. Of course, about 20,000 students applied [knowing that hardly anyone was going to be allowed to transfer to another school] and they [the CPS] are going to have only 1,000 students transfer [within the public schools] out of a total of 438,000 students [in the CPS]. Legislation brought to you courtesy of [Senator] Ted Kennedy and [President] George W. Bush. Not one of George W. Bush's proudest moments, would you say?

Rauschenberger: No, and if you take a look at what was done with "No Child Left Behind" in Texas, it worked. You can't take the vision of Ted Kennedy and merge it to the public policy of George Bush and come out with anything that works.

Berkowitz: Kind of a lumpy horse.
State Senator Steve Rauschenberger (R- Elgin), interviewed on "Public Affairs," September 4, 2003
For six years, Jeff Berkowitz has hosted and produced, "Public Affairs," a cable television show airing (a) weekly throughout the City of Chicago on Ch. 21 (Every Monday night at 8:30 p.m.) and (b) in 34 North Shore, Northwest and West suburbs on Comcast Cable. See, below, for the suburban airing schedule.

The suburban edition of "Public Affairs" airs three times each week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:30 p.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 19 in Winnetka, Bannockburn, Deerfield, Ft. Sheridan, Glencoe, Highland Park, Highwood, Kenilworth, Lincolnshire and Riverwoods.

The suburban edition also is broadcast every Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 19 in Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northfield, Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Wilmette and every Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 35 in Arlington Heights, Bartlett, Glenview, Golf, Des Plaines, Hanover Park, Mt. Prospect, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg, Skokie, Streamwood and Wheeling.