Interviews — December 3, 2011 8:20 pm

A Conversation with Buddy Roemer

By

Buddy Roemer ’64 is a former Louisiana Governor and representative to the US House of Representatives. He is currently making news with his campaign for President as a candidate in the Republican primaries, setting himself apart by focusing on campaign finance reform and refusing to accept any donation over $100.

HPR: So, to put it simply, what’s the current plan?

BR: Well, we’re boots on the ground in New Hampshire running in the primary, January 10th, and we’re trying to qualify for matching funds in 20 states and we’re very close, so we’re spending time doing that, and then finally, we are looking at how to reach independent minded voters. People who don’t belong to either party. I mean, we’re clear in the Republican party that we’re going after the moderates there. But we’re trying to add to that, and appeal to, independent minded voter because our issues of corruption in politics is impactful to independent minded voters

HPR: I know that you’ve had a history of running from behind, including your gubernatorial race back in 1987. How do these experiences contribute to what steps you plan on taking to the future?

BR: Well, they keep you calm. You know, you don’t overreact, and you look at the people in the race. I mean, you have Herman Cain at two percent, and then he moves to thirty percent. You have Michelle Bachmann at two percent, and then she’s at 27 percent. You have Rick Perry at 0 percent, and then he’s at 32 percent. You’ve had New Gingrich go from four percent to fourteen percent. I mean, Republicans have not picked their leader yet, and it’s going to be volatile. You have to be patient, consistent, and begin to frame the race in the best interest of those who vote. That is a political system that helps to create jobs and is not institutionally corrupt. However, our system is corrupt. Big checks come before people’s needs, small businesses, and fair trade with China. We are a corrupt society at the top in terms of politics. More and more people don’t vote anymore. More and more people play the spectator and let the big boys run the country. Well, they can’t run the country, because they don’t know the country enough.

HPR: A lot of people note that when the media begin to back a candidate, the candidate goes a lot farther. Do you foresee this as part of your strategy, and if not, what do you feel you can do to bypass it?

BR: Well, I saw debates as a way to bypass media control. I thought debates were a way for a free person to freely express their views and show the connection of those views with solving our problems. But I was wrong. I failed to realize that the debates were controlled by the media. So I thought you could avoid media control by being in the debates and expressing your views, and the people could make up their own minds. But as it turns out, apparently the media controls the debates. I have not been invited to a single debate, and there’s been 9 or 10 nationally publicized debates. I’ve been to a debate or two in New Hampshire where there’s just 3 or 4 candidates, and I do very well there. But no national debates, and I’m scratching my head as to why. I’m the only candidate running who’s been a congressman and a governor. That’s the sort of the experience that could be valuable in a presentation to the American people, as I am the one with actual experience on how to build jobs. I deeply believe that Washington has been the capital of corruption, and then only an independent, free-to-lead president could turn this country around. I thought a debate would be the perfect forum for that, to contrast myself from the other candidates. They can ask me where I get my money from. I get my money from thousands of Americans who give me an average of $60 each. Then I can ask them where they get their money. And they don’t want to answer that. Mitt Romney doesn’t want to say, “Well, a friend of mine gave me a million dollars, which she did.” I mean, Jon Huntsman doesn’t want to say “Well, I formed an organization so that my billionaire father can give me as much money as I want. And I don’t have to tell you about it.” Newt Gingrich can say, “I’ve got a PAC with 9 people who gave 300,000 each, and I don’t have to report it.” This is why debates are important for me, yet I haven’t been asked to go to a single one, and it has been the most disappointing thing in this campaign.

HPR: So, if not through these media debates, what channels do you feel will improve your publicity?

BR: That’s a good question, yet I don’t have a good answer. We are exploring a variety of possibilities, and we have to keep centered on our mission. Our mission is to turn America in the right direction, with jobs and we feel it can only be done by standing up to corruption. And the people we need to win are independent minded voters who are Democrats, who are Republicans, and who are Independents. WE need to keep focus on that, and we’re trying to find ways to be a proud Republican, but to be a prouder American and reach across all parties and all peoples and say, “We can do this together”.

HPR: You’ve made huge splashes in the national media with your support for the occupy movement. Where do you see this movement headed and where do you see your campaign in relation to this movement?

BR: We’re going to keep talking. I went down to Wall Street and listened. I mean, I run because of my experiences in Louisiana with corruption, and I was able to see how much good we were able to do by throwing the corruption out. I see the same potential in Washington. I see in the occupy movement an acknowledgement of my issue. I mean, we were saying, “We can smell it”. Something is wrong with America, it is not healthy when the average bank CEO makes a thousand times more than the average bank clerk. They can smell it, and if they would go to Washington DC, the smell is even worse. They’re saying, “Something’s wrong with America and it is somewhere between Wall Street and Washington DC.” So I went to tell them that I heard them, to explain what I was trying to do to change it, to congratulate them on their involvement. I can remember the civil rights marches back when I grew up in the South, and young people changed the country back then. I remember the Vietnam march when I was at Harvard. Thus, I have a sense of history. Some people at Occupy Wall Street think the answer is a bigger government. No, the answer is a better, non-corrupt government. It needs to be filled with justice. That’s why I went to occupy Wall Street. That is why I am running.

HPR: What executive authority do you feel you would use to effect change if you are elected president?

BR:Well, by doing what you say you’ll do. Now that’s change. I mean, by actually running for office this way, now that’s change. By actually holding congress accountable for their actions, for their institutionally corrupt activities, for refusing to sign, in fact, veto, any bill that didn’t bring more reform or make America bill. By submitting as my first bill, campaign reform, and asking them to join me and create jobs in America. I have no ego here. I will work hard to present the power of reform. I will work hard to present the power of fair trade, rather than free trade. I will do everything I can to bring reform to a corrupt system, and then give the credit to others.

HPR: Looking at a specific aspect of your platform, you’ve taken a strong environmentalist stance in an age where many feel that working on the environment will hurt economic revival. How do you plan on balancing environmentalism and making it economical?

BR:There’s the word: Balance. There is no balance now. There were 81,000 pages in the federal registry of comments in the last year alone in regulations for small businesses. Regulations of small business costs small businesses more than taxes did. On all of these environmental matters, we need balance. Some conservatives say, “Do away with the EPA”. I don’t. Some liberals say, “Well, EPA needs to be stronger and we need to rely on green fuel” I don’t. We can’t do that for the next 20 years. It’s not practical. What I want are incremental improvements. Let’s go from oil to natural gas. Natural gas has 20% of the carbon footprint of oil. We would’ve improved our environmental emission of carbon by 400%. Build from the center. That’s how you build a nation, from the center. It can’t be exclusive to either Republicans or Democrats. That is the way the Presidents try to do it, and it is wrong. It needs to be America.

Photos courtesy of The Times-Picayune/Grant Therkildsen and ElectionTracker.com. This interview has been edited and condensed.

  • Reddoor2

    Just watched Buddy talk to aspiring law students at Harvard.  Talk is available via appletv and roku podcast at Harvard Law.  I’m absolutely convinced Buddy Roemer knows what it’s going to take to get this nation back on it’s feet, and I believe he has the skills to do it.  Please watch, and I think you’ll agree that it is time for an independent candidate to get money out of politics and power back to the people.

custom writing