November 7, 2005

Interview with the Gov

Yesterday, Governor Mark Warner was on C-SPAN's Q&A. It was a great interview. You can read the transcript here. Here are some excerpts:


LAMB: If you were to leave office today, you would leave with an 80 percent popularity rating. The poll I read just before this one came out was 74 percent of the Mason-Dixon poll, the highest of any governor they‘ve ever rated. How is this – how did you do this? I mean, they say you never can raise taxes and survive. So how did you do it?

WARNER: Well, Brian, you know, one of the things I found in Virginia is a little bit of truth goes a long way. We told the truth. We said, here you go, we put in place things that seem to rational to me as a former business guy but maybe weren‘t so rational in politics.

We put a requirement for a six-year financial plan. And I did 50 town hall meetings, I even went straight to the people and said, all right, here‘s where we have cut and now remember, we started with cuts, we didn‘t start on the revenue side. We started with cuts, then we went to reforms.

And then we said we‘ve got to end up with a way that says we can either lose our triple-A bond rating, not meet our minimum requirements to public schools, or we can end up with tax reform that‘s going to have us pay a little more.

Now Virginia is still a very low-tax state. We‘re somewhere between again – how you slice it dice it, between 38th and 41st in the nation in tax rate. But I think the reason why I‘ve got these approval ratings is not necessarily the tax reform plan, but I think it has been more the approach.

One, I‘ve got a very bipartisan administration. I remember when I got elected, about a third of my cabinet, a quarter of my cabinet was Republican. That made the Democrats mad because I wasn‘t putting just Democrats in. It made some of the hardcore on the Republicans mad because it was peeling off a lot of the moderates.

Most of what we‘ve tried to do in Virginia, whether it‘s our education reforms, our revitalization in our rural communities, hadn‘t been Democrat or Republican, it has been what is in Virginia‘s best interest?

And every time that we‘ve that appeal people in both parties have stepped up and we‘ve managed to work together. And the thing that I feel best about in Virginia, you know, those numbers may be ephemeral about whether they go up or down, but there‘s not a day that goes by that people don‘t come up to me and say, you know, Governor, I‘m proud of where Virginia is at now, or, I‘m proud of where Virginia is headed.

That‘s a very different feel than most folks would say about where our country is headed at this point. And I think that is because it has been about the state‘s interest first and not mine or the particular party.

People want government to deliver and they want it to do it efficiently and they like when actually your elected leaders don‘t spend all their time fighting each other.


LAMB: Where are you on the Iraq war?

WARNER: Where I am on the Iraq war is I think Democrats ought to spend less time re-fighting how we got into the war and more time figuring out where we go from here. I think the president has a responsibility as our commander-in-chief to be more forthcoming about his plan about how we finish.

But I think a couple of things. I think, number one, you know, I don‘t believe an arbitrary deadline should be set. I think we, regardless of whether we like how we got there, we need to finish the task.

Two, I think we need to continue to put pressure on the Shias and the Kurds to include the Sunnis so that we don‘t have a division in that country.

Three, I think we need to move more of the rebuilding resources into the hands of the Iraqis as opposed to the American contractors there where we‘re spending 30 cents on every dollar doing security for the outside contractors. The more we can get Iraqis actually involved in the reconstruction of their country, the more they‘re going to have a stake. And remember, this is a country that did function for 40 years.

And four, let me just – and this doesn‘t have as much to do with Iraq, but I think it‘s a debate that we need in this country. I mean, our American military – and Virginia has got the highest concentration of military of any state in the country, our military is so superior to everyone else in the world that we can take out the command and control functions of the bad guys so quickly, and that‘s good news, because it makes these conflicts very short, not just Iraq, Afghanistan, you know, Somalia, Bosnia, all of our recent incursions.

But one of the things that we have to grapple with is how do you reestablish civil authority? And on that piece our record has not been as good. And where is that role of reestablishing civil authority, turning on the water, turning on the power, whose job is that going to be?

The military understandably I think is reluctant to take on that role. But we‘ve got to have a discussion about that because what we‘re doing right now by not having that fully thought through and having this long deployment I see as commander-of-chief of our National Guard that unfortunately we are in many ways really harming our National Guards and Reserves because not only in terms of lack of equipment and training, but more importantly – or equally important, we‘re seeing these members, who are great patriots, serve and proud to serve in Iraq, but they‘re not re-upping.

Because if you‘re mid career, you know, you can be deployed once, but being deployed two and three times and having that in your future, you just can‘t do it. So we are going to have to have, I think, a real, honest debate in this country about the force structure of our military as well as how do we control these incursions after we take out the command and control of the bad guys?


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