Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Interview with Congressman Bartlett (R) Maryland (6th district) on 10/20/2005

Buede: Good afternoon Congressman Bartlett.

Bartlett: Good afternoon.

Buede: Its a pleasure to speak with you. As you may know I am a constituent of yours in the 6th district in Maryland. I started a political blog recently and am happy to get a chance to interview you for that blog.

Bartlett: OK

Buede: I asked Lisa Wright in advance if I could record the interview and she said that was alright.

Bartlett: Oh yeah, that's fine.

Buede: OK, I guess we'll just kick off with the first question. Question one is regarding the issue of life. I see that you support Constitutional amendments to protect the flag from desecration, and to define marriage as between one man and one woman and you also support laws or bills that will become laws hopefully to protect humans at all stages of life from conception. Do you believe that the Supreme Court would accept such a law, or just rule the law unconstitutional based on its previous statements in Roe regarding the beginning of person hood?

Bartlett: No I don't believe that the Court equated Roe vs. Wade with taking life. I believe that the Justices were sufficiently ignorant of what the embryo and the fetus is – that they really didn't equate that with taking a life. Had they, they would never have passed Roe vs. Wade.

Buede: OK I agree. Do you think that a Constitutional amendment though, defining "person," a person as beginning at conception, would be more final in so far as it wouldn't just be a law that could be overturned by a later Congress or ruled unconstitutional by the Court?

Bartlett: Again, I'm in support of a Constitutional amendment defining what a person is. I think that the sanctity of life, respect for that, is one of the things that has made us such a unique country. I think we put at risk who we are if we continue to violate that.

Buede: That's great. Moving on now to the second question. This has to do with your interpretation of the Constitutional limits on Federal power, and how that affects your votes as a Congressman. As, and I quote, “ a conservative who wants to help restore the limited federal government envisioned and established in the Constitution”, which is from your bio, can you explain which parts of the Constitution you look to to derive the authority the Federal Government exercises when it involves itself in issues such as, and I have a couple of the bills from your site at the House that it looks like you're supporting, and just wondering where you get that from the Constitution. Here's one : “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should affirm its commitment to a policy of discouraging alcohol use among underage students by ending all alcohol advertising during radio and television broadcasts of collegiate sporting events.” I've got three more, I'll just read them off to you.

Bartlett: That's interesting. That of course is none of the Federal Government's business, thats apple pie and motherhood and you know what harm could be be done and if money was going to be involved in it, if regulation was going to be involved in it, then I think that's clearly unconstitutional because I think that's a prerogative of the states. I don't believe that Article 1, Section 8(1) in anyway anticipated that the Federal Government would be involved in that kind of activity. But that's simply an expression of concern on the part of the Congress and I did not see it inappropriate in that form.

Buede: That's great. How about H. RES. 215(2) which I have the summary here: “Recognizing the need to move the Nation's current health care delivery system toward a defined contribution system.”

Bartlett: Again, our whole involvement in health care, except for our military, is unconstitutional. I tend to be somewhat pragmatic, and that is that if what we're doing is not further violating the Constitution, that is the changes we're going to make, do not further violate the Constitution or move us to a less violation of the Constitution then I'm likely to support it. I try to avoid making the perfect the enemy of the good and yeah, our whole involvement in health care, except for the military health care, is clearly unconstitutional. If we think we need to do that, then we need to amend the Constitution.

Buede: How about H.R.226(3), which is, “To strengthen and expand scientific and technological education capabilities of associate-degree-granting colleges through the establishment of partnership arrangements with bachelor-degree-granting institutions?”

Bartlett: Now again, the whole education thing, I think, is patently unconstitutional and again this was a bill that I think did not make the violation of the Constitution worse and I'm likely, on a pragmatic basis, to support things that are not moving us further in the wrong direction. I thought this was one of those, but that doesn't in any way negate my concern that most of what we spend money on in the Congress, all of our philanthropy, all of our health care, all of our education except – all of our health care except military, and all of our education except military education, I think is patently unconstitutional.

Buede: I don't even need to read the last one. On to the 3rd question. The third subject I want to talk to you about is our political system. Your bio reads, “'I'm not interested in politics,' says Dr. Bartlett. 'I'm interested in my country.'” So transcending the usual partisan party lines, can you name any Democrats or third party candidates in the last 20 years, that you could have, or did support for President, or any other major federal office?

Bartlett: Oh, on the other side?

Buede: Yes.

Bartlett: Oh, I've got some very good friends across the aisle. I hope they stay in Congress. If they were... Because I think Republicans are more likely to move us in the right direction, although one couldn't argue that very strongly from recent behavior of Republicans, but because generally I think Republicans are more likely to lead us in the right direction, I would probably support an opponent of these very good friends of mine on the other side who are doing a very good job. But you know, as long as we're going to have a majority without defeating them, I'm happy to see them here.

Buede: Who are some of those members?

Bartlett: The two I'm thinking of are Jim Marshall and Gene Taylor. From what? Georgia & Mississippi.

Buede: What criteria do you believe should be used to determine whether third party candidates should be admitted into presidential and/or congressional debates?

Bartlett: Well, if they clearly are going to only be incidental candidates, that simply clogs the debates and makes them less meaningful, there should be some minimal threshold, I don't think it has to be very high, because a minimal threshold, where you have a really good candidate supporting really good ideas could become a major candidate, and could in fact become a Ross Perot kind of candidate, that except for a screwy wedding, could win the next election. I think that threshold ought to be pretty low, but it can't be incidental candidates that no one believes, except their handful of followers, have any chance of becoming President.

Buede: Would you... I think the threshold now for potential candidates is that 15 % polling in the national poll...

Bartlett: I thought it was 5% -- but I'm not even sure that needs to be that high.

Buede: How about if they were on the ballot in enough states that if they won...

Bartlett: I haven't had time to think about what would be a reasonable threshold, but there really needs to be a reasonable threshold. I think that now probably, a fair percentage of Americans are not happy with either political party.

Buede: That's probably a true statement. I'm glad we have time for some more questions. How about #4, which is, “What are the three most important issues you believe we face as a nation?

Bartlett: Oh, three most important issues? The first one is energy. That is going to be a crisis that transcends all others and if you are focusing on something else to the exclusion of energy, you are majoring in minors.

Bartlett: The second big challenge we face is to wage this so called “war on terror,” which by the way, is a pretty stupid name, because that's like waging war on blitzkrieg. You can't wage war on blitzkrieg, you're waging war on an enemy that's using a strategy. We're waging war on something, but it can't be terror, because terror is the equivalent of blitzkrieg. We must be very careful in that we don't violate the civil rights that I think have made us a distinctive nation, and one of the reasons that this one person out of 22 in the world is so lucky as to have a fourth of all the good things in the world. I think that's the second big challenge we face.

Bartlett: The third challenge we face is that we cannot continue to run the enormous twin deficits, the trade deficit and the budget deficit. Were we any other country than the United States, we would have been belly up before this with these enormous twin deficits. And even being who we are, we can't survive this forever.

Bartlett: So those are the big challenges we face: energy first, and make sure that we don't violate our respect for our civil liberties because, that will destroy who we are, and then thirdly, we have got to turn around these enormous deficits.

Buede: Did you have any issues with the Patriot Act?

Bartlett: I have a lot of issues with the Patriot Act. I regretted that I voted for the first one(4) and I voted against the second one.

Buede: Are there any specific problems?

Bartlett: No, its just that the general notion that you can infringe on traditional civil liberties in order to catch another terrorist or two. Was it Thomas Jefferson who first said, “If you value security more than liberty at the end of the day you deserve neither?” I think maybe Benjamin Franklin or Jefferson, I can't think who first said it, and I think that Churchill kind of paraphrased it “If you value your security more than liberty, at the end of the day you will have neither.”

Buede: Do you have time for another question?

Bartlett: Oh sure, one more.

Buede: The next one is regarding US military presence overseas. Do you believe the US should maintain its military presence in countries like Germany, England and Japan?

Bartlett: Because we have such an enormous economy, because we are so dependent on trade with other nations, we cannot close the door as Russia clearly could, and live happily ever after because they have everything that life could desire. They have all the energy they need, they have all the raw materials they need. We have neither of those by the way, and we have got to trade or we can't continue to exist and we need some presence overseas to make sure that we have access to the essentials that we need. I would doubt that we need troops in 100 and some countries, which is where we have them now. And I think that consistent with our need for these trade materials which are only available from overseas, that we need to keep as many of our troops home as possible, and I think that we could probably bring a great deal of them home and still make sure that we are securing access to the materials that we need.

Buede: I'll let you go, I know you're really busy, and I want to thank you...

Bartlett: Ok, thanks a lot, thanks for doing this!

Buede: Alright.

Bartlett: Bye.

(1) The Constitution
(2) H. RES. 215
(3) H.R. 226
(4) First Patriot Act

To learn more about Congressman Bartlett, you can read his bio at: