Roger Wicker Interview

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2008

No regrets over ‘no’ vote, says senator

(Editor’s note: The Panolian interviewed Roger Wicker, the Republican incumbent who holds one of Mississippi’s two U.S. Senate seats, prior to the November 4 election.)

By Billy Davis

The Panolian: From your vantage point on the campaign trail, are Mississippians still angry over the financial crisis on Wall Street and the $850 billion bailout?

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Wicker: Mississippians are angry about the bailout and they don’t believe it’s working. Neither do I. As each day passes, I’m more and more comfortable with my “no” vote along with Senator (Thad) Cochran’s vote against the bailout.

The Panolian: Do you believe the anger is bipartisan, meaning Mississippians are angry at you and everybody else in Washington? They’re not angry at a particular party or person but they’re saying, “We’re mad at all of you over this financial crisis.”

Wicker: I think voters are disappointed at what they see as a big-government approach. Our country is facing troubling times and I believe I share the opinion of most Mississippians that it’s going to take conservative free-market principles to get America back on track.

The Panolian: As a self-described conservative, are you concerned about the federal government over-reaching in response to the financial crisis?

Wicker: Yes I am. And I’m concerned about the federal government taking more and more money out of the pocketbooks of people who are working hard. That’s why I think the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 should be made permanent. We should cut taxes on capital gains, which is a way to create more jobs in the United States and not send them overseas.

The Panolian: I believe when you were talking about “overreaching” you’re referring to taxpayers’ money being used for the bailout. I’m also talking about the federal government buying a stake in private banks, and now this week the auto industry is asking for some bailout money.

Wicker: That’s the problem with bailouts. They send the wrong signal the next time a problem comes along, that the almighty federal government is going to step in again. The idea of the government taking an ownership position in banks and other corporations sounds a lot like the failed socialist experiment in Western Europe.

The Panolian: In your opinion, what makes you a “conservative” senator rather than a “moderate” or a “liberal” senator?

Wicker: I’m pro-life. I’m pro-Second Amendment. I’m for lower taxes with a record to prove it. And you don’t have to take my word for it. I have a lifetime rating of 95 percent from the American Conservative Union. So by any standard you care to use I’m a mainstream Mississippi conservative, much like Senator Thad Cochran.

Not only that, but I’m going to go back to Washington, if the voters allow me to do so, and put conservative leadership back in power. And that’s the difference between me and Ronnie Musgrove. He has promised to put the liberal leadership in power, like Senator Harry Reid and Senator Dick Durbin.

The Panolian: And those senators you mentioned are considered liberal senators?

Wicker: They are very – it’s probably the most liberal leadership the Senate has ever had. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Majority Leaders Harry Reid of Nevada are very left wing. There’s just no way around it – if Mr. Musgrove is elected, he will vote for that leadership to be in charge of the Senate.

The Panolian: Senator John McCain, in his last presidential debate, railed against spending in Washington, especially earmarks. How does your conservative stance compare with federal spending and the money you’ve brought to Mississippi?

Wicker: This is an area where I disagree with many people in my party. I have voted for earmark reform and that includes shining more light on the process to make earmarks more transparent. But I would cite a number of things that I’ve done for Panola County that have created jobs.

I’m continuing to work with local leadership in Panola County to make sure that a very small percentage of the federal budget is directed by the elected representatives of the people rather than some nameless, faceless bureaucrat in Washington who never has to return home and face an election.

The Panolian: You told campaign supporters in Batesville that Democrats in the Senate are very close to a filibuster-proof majority, which is 60 senators. If the Democrats get the 60-seat majority, and Sen. Obama wins the White House, what legislation do you foresee being introduced in the first term?

Wicker: I foresee legislation to make amnesty easier for illegal immigrants, legislation to enact tax increases and follow through on Senator Obama’s “share the wealth” agenda.

A specific piece of legislation, which Mr. Musgrove and I differ on, is the Employee Free Choice Act. It would do away with the right to a secret ballot in union elections. If enacted, it would result in the biggest wave of union expansion in half a century in the United States. It would send jobs overseas by the hundreds of thousands.

I have already voted against that bill once and am absolutely opposed to it. And Ronnie Musgrove would vote for it.

The Panolian: You’ve described Senator Obama as having one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate, and other partisan and non-partisan sources have reached that same conclusion. If that’s true, why can’t the Republican Party better communicate his record and move more “Reagan Democrats” into your camp by Election Day?

Wicker: I’m hoping in the final days of the election that they’ll be able to. I heard on the radio today that the nightly tracking poll from Gallup now shows a two-point race, with Obama 49 and McCain 47. That is within the margin of error, and it may be that the message is finally getting through.

The polls that have been taken have been taken over time from a random sample of people who weren’t ready to vote. Now people are beginning to focus on the race, and I feel it has become much closer.

The Panolian: Why do you believe Senator McCain has been trailing Senator Obama in the polls?

Wicker: I think he’s being outspent 4 to 1. Senator Obama said he would take public financing and limit his spending, and instead he broke his promise and is spending an absolutely obscene amount of money. And that has helped him in the opinion polls. Now that Senator McCain has been more competitive in the last days of the campaign, we see the race tightening.