Iowa Public Television

 

Rep. Jim Leach

posted on December 1, 2006

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Borg: CORPORATE MEMORY... IOWA'S SECOND DISTRICT CONGRESSMAN JIM LEACH PACKS HIS OFFICE, CLOSING THIRTY YEARS EXPERIENCE IN THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. A CONVERSATION WITH CONGRESSMAN JIM LEACH ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: WHEN THE NEW CONGRESS CONVENES NEXT MONTH, IOWA'S DELEGATION, LIKE MANY OTHER STATES, WILL HAVE A NEW LOOK. ACROSS THE STATES, DEMOCRATS ARE TAKING MANY CONGRESSIONAL SEATS CURRENTLY HELD BY REPUBLICANS. AMONG THE REPUBLICANS LEAVING, JIM LEACH OF IOWA CITY. SINCE 1976 HE HAS REPRESENTED PARTS OF EASTERN IOWA. THE EXACT AREA HAS CHANGED ABOUT EVERY TEN YEARS OR SO BECAUSE OF REDISTRICTING, AND CONGRESSMAN LEACH DURING THAT TIME MOVED FROM BETTENDORF IN THE FIRST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT TO IOWA CITY IN THE SECOND DISTRICT. BUT DURING THAT CONGRESSIONAL CAREER, CONGRESSMAN LEACH EARNED BIPARTISAN RESPECT FOR ARTICULATE LEADERSHIP IN BANKING AND IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS. WELCOME BACK TO 'IOWA PRESS.'

Leach: GOOD TO BE WITH YOU, DEAN.

Borg: AND TWO GENTLEMEN WHO OVER THE YEARS HAVE COVERED YOUR CAREER ARE ACROSS THE TABLE, AND YOU KNOW THEM WELL: 'DES MOINES REGISTER' POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND 'ASSOCIATED PRESS' SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: CONGRESSMAN, ONE OF THE THINGS WE LIKE TO DO ON THIS SHOW IS LOOK AHEAD. WE ALL KNOW WHAT'S HAPPENED IN THE PAST. WHAT WE DON'T KNOW IS WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE. SO LET'S TALK ABOUT THE NEXT STEP FOR CONGRESSMAN JIM LEACH. THERE'S BEEN SPECULATION OF A POSITION AT PRINCETON, IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT, AT THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA. WHAT'S THE NEXT STEP FOR YOU?

Leach: WELL, I'M NOT SURE. I FEEL VERY FORTUNATE THAT A NUMBER OF OFFERS HAVE BEEN COMING INTO MY OFFICE, AND SO I'M REVIEWING IT. I THINK THE LIKELIHOOD IS SOME PLACE IN ACADEMIA. THERE IS ALSO A DIPLOMATIC OPTION AND, FRANKLY, SEVERAL FOUNDATIONS HAVE ALSO APPROACHED ME. BUT I THINK I'D FEEL FOR COMFORTABLE IN A UNIVERSITY SETTING AT THIS TIME.

Glover: AND YOU HAVE OPTIONS WITHIN THE ACADEMIC SETTING?

Leach: YES. I'VE BEEN APPROACHED FROM A VARIETY OF UNIVERSITIES ON THE EAST COAST, FROM HARVARD AND PRINCETON AND GEORGETOWN TO BOSTON UNIVERSITY. AND THEN HERE IN IOWA, SEVERAL COLLEGES, AS WELL AS THE UNIVERSITY, HAVE APPROACHED ME FROM A TEACHING PERSPECTIVE.

Glover: AND THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA HAS BEEN A TEACHING SORT OF POSITION THERE.

Leach: ONE OF THE DEPARTMENTS HAS SUGGESTED THAT THAT MIGHT WELL BE AN OPTION.

Yepsen: IS THE PRESIDENCY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA AN OPTION? THERE'S JUST ALL KINDS OF TALK ABOUT THAT, CONGRESSMAN, AS YOU KNOW. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?

Leach: I THINK THAT'S HIGHLY UNLIKELY, DAVID. THE UNIVERSITY HAS SET UP A CRITERIA. THEY WANT SOMEONE WITH AN ACADEMIC ADMINISTRATIVE BACKGROUND, PARTICULARLY ONE, IF THEY CAN, IN THE HEALTH CARE ARENA.

Yepsen: AND DO YOU HAVE ANY TIME LINE FOR MAKING THIS DECISION?

Leach: I DON'T HAVE FIRM TIME LINES, BUT I HAVE NO DESIRE TO TAKE TIME OFF. AND SO THE CONGRESS WILL BE IN SESSION AT LEAST NEXT WEEK AND MAYBE ANOTHER WEEK, AND WE END JANUARY 2. AND SO IT WILL BE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY THEREAFTER, I'LL MAKE A JUDGMENT.

Borg: ARE ANY OF THESE OPPORTUNITIES IN ACADEMIA ADMINISTRATIVE, OR ARE THEY ALL ON FACULTY?

Leach: MOST TO DATE HAVE BEEN ON FACULTY. I'VE HAD SEVERAL HINTS AT ADMINISTRATIVE CIRCUMSTANCES.

Glover: AND WHAT IS ABOUT AN ACADEMIC OFFER THAT APPEALS TO YOU? IN THIS PORTION OF YOUR LIFE, WHY DOES ACADEMIA APPEAL TO YOU?

Leach: WELL, MIKE, I THINK YOU SAID SOMETHING ABOUT THE FUTURE A MINUTE AGO. I THINK THE FUTURE OF THIS COUNTRY IS A GENERATIONAL PHENOMENON. AND HOW ONE MOVES TO TRAIN A YOUNGER GROUP OF PEOPLE AND HOPEFULLY INSPIRE AND INSTILL WITH CERTAIN VALUES I THINK IS A PHENOMENAL CHALLENGE. BEYOND THAT, IF YOU THINK ABOUT AMERICA ITSELF, THERE ARE MANY TYPES OF COMPETITIVENESSES IN THE WORLD, AND ONE IS ACADEMIA. AND WE HAVE DEVELOPED AT THE UNIVERSITY LEVEL SOME REALLY STUNNINGLY REMARKABLE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT ARE BEING FOLLOWED AROUND THE WORLD. AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, THEY'RE BEING COPIED AND EXCELLED IN PLACES LIKE CHINA AND INDIA, FOR EXAMPLE IN ENGINEERING WHERE CHINA IS GOING TO GRADUATE TEN TIMES AS MANY ENGINEERS AS THE UNITED STATES NEXT YEAR.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, ANOTHER THING WE DO ON THIS PROGRAM IS TALK ABOUT THE NEWS OF THE DAY.

Leach: YES, OF COURSE.

Yepsen: IRAQ. THE IRAQ STUDY GROUP IS PREPARING ITS RECOMMENDATIONS. FROM WHAT YOU'VE HEARD ABOUT THOSE RECOMMENDATIONS, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THEM?

Leach: WELL, WE DON'T KNOW YET. I'VE NEVER KNOWN A STUDY GROUP TO HAVE AS REMARKABLE A DESIRE OF PEOPLE IN PUBLIC LIFE TO SAY WE WANT TO ACCEPT IT, OTHER THAN PERHAPS THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH. I'M NOT SURE YET HOW MUCH OOMPH THESE RECOMMENDATIONS ARE GOING TO HAVE. I DON'T KNOW IF THEY'RE GOING TO ASSESS WHAT'S GOING ON, AND I WOULD HOPE DRAW SOME LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE. IT LOOKS TODAY, IF YOU READ TODAY'S NEWSPAPER, THAT THEY MIGHT BE SUGGESTING THAT THERE WILL BE A DRAWDOWN MARGINALLY BY THE END OF NEXT YEAR, MEANING THAT A DRAWDOWN WILL OCCUR UNDER THIS PRESIDENCY RATHER THAN TURNING DECISION MAKING OVER TO THE NEXT. THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE A WISE TIME LINE. MY OWN SENSE IS THAT ALL OPTIONS ARE NEGATIVE. AND THEN YOU HAVE TO DRAW A DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHAT'S THE WORST OPTION. AND I THINK PROLONGING THIS CONFLICT, EXTENDING THE OCCUPATION IS FAR MORE DANGEROUS THAN DRAWING DOWN.

Yepsen: ALL RIGHT, ELABORATE ON THAT. MY QUESTION TO YOU ALWAYS ON THIS PROGRAM IS IRAQ, WHAT DO WE DO NOW. SEPARATE FROM WHAT STUDY GROUP HAS SUGGESTED, WHAT'S YOUR PRESCRIPTION RIGHT NOW?

Leach: I THINK AN ABSOLUTE HASTY WITHDRAWAL OBVIOUSLY HAS A LOT OF DOWN SIDES, BUT A STEADY DRAWDOWN COMMENCING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE I THINK MAKES SENSE. WE HAVE TO REALIZE THE OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF IRAQI PEOPLE WANT US TO DRAW DOWN WITH A TIME FRAME. OVER 60 PERCENT, ACCORDING TO PUBLIC OPINION POLLS, THINK IT'S CORRECT TO SHOOT AMERICANS. AND WE'VE TIPPED FROM BEING A LIBERATING FORCE TO AN OCCUPYING FORCE, AND OCCUPATION IS NOT WANTED IN THE MUSLIM WORLD. IT HAS CONSEQUENCES IN IRAQ. IT HAS CONSEQUENCES OUTSIDE OF IRAQ. AND OUTSIDE OF IRAQ INCLUDES THE UNITED STATES.

Yepsen: AND DOES THE COUNTRY HAVE TO BE PARTITIONED?

Leach: IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE. I THINK THAT WOULD BE AN UNFORTUNATE RESULT, BUT IT'S ONE THAT IS GRADUALLY HAPPENING AT THE MOMENT. AND IT IS QUITE CONCEIVABLE THAT THAT WILL BE THE RESULT.

Borg: WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE TO PRESIDENT BUSH RIGHT NOW? WHAT WOULD IT BE? AND I GO BACK TO WHEN YOU SAID YOU DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH OOMPH IS GOING TO BE IN THESE STUDY GROUP RECOMMENDATIONS. AND BY THAT, DID YOU MEAN HOW PROFOUNDLY CREATIVE THEY'RE GOING TO BE IN THE OPTIONS OR WHETHER OR NOT THEY'LL HAVE OOMPH, IMPACT, AND ACCEPTANCE WITH THE ADMINISTRATION? SO WHAT --

Leach: SURE. MY SENSE IS BECAUSE THEY MADE A DECISION THAT THEY WANT TO BE UNANIMOUS, THAT THAT HAS TAKEN OUT SOME OF THE STRONGER RECOMMENDATIONS. BECAUSE THEY WANT THE ADMINISTRATION TO READ THEM, THEY'VE WEAKENED WHAT MAY BE RECOMMENDATIONS, BUT WE DON'T KNOW YET. YOU JUST GET THAT BY OSMOSIS, AND SO WE'LL HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE. BUT I WILL TELL YOU THAT THE KEY RECOMMENDATION APPEARS TO BE, ALTHOUGH NOT OF THESE TERMS, THAT THEY WANT THIS LARGELY RESOLVED IN THIS ADMINISTRATION'S TIME FRAME, THAT IS BY THIS ADMINISTRATION, MEANING BY THE END OF NEXT YEAR. BEYOND THAT, IT'S HARD TO KNOW WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO SAY.

Glover: LOOKING BACK, IS IRAQ BUSH'S LEGACY?

Leach: THERE'S NO DOUBT THAT THAT IS THE KEY PART OF IT. NOW, THE ADMINISTRATION IS DEFINING THIS AS A WAR ON TERRORISM, WHICH IS WIDER THAN SIMPLY IRAQ. BUT I THINK, LIKE VIETNAM WAS THE LEGACY OF LYNDON JOHNSON, EVEN THOUGH MANY OTHER THINGS OCCURRED AND RICHARD NIXON EVEN THOUGH MANY OTHER THINGS OCCURRED, IRAQ WILL BE THE PRINCIPAL LEGACY OF THIS ADMINISTRATION.

Glover: AND YOU'VE BEEN AROUND WASHINGTON FOR A LONG TIME. YOU'RE KNOWN AS SOMEONE WHO THINKS ABOUT THINGS. I'D LIKE YOU TO STEP BACK FOR A SECOND AND LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE. AFTER THE TERRORIST ATTACKS ON SEPTEMBER 11, THIS COUNTRY WAS UNITED BEHIND THIS PRESIDENT, AND HE HAD A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO PULL THIS COUNTRY TOGETHER. WHAT HAPPENED?

Leach: WELL, I THINK THERE WAS A UNITY IN THIS COUNTRY, AND THERE WAS A GENERAL INTERNATIONAL SYMPATHY FOR WHAT OCCURRED IN THE UNITED STATES. PART OF IT WAS I THINK WE TOOK ON THE RHETORIC OF MILITARY INSTEAD OF THE RHETORIC OF DEALING WITH A VERY PRECISE SET OF ISSUES. AND THEN WE DETERMINED TO ENGAGE A COUNTRY THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11, THAT BEING IRAQ. THERE IS GENERAL CONSENSUS IN THIS COUNTRY AND ABROAD THAT INTERVENING IN AFGHANISTAN WHERE THE PLOTTING OCCURRED MADE SENSE. IRAQ IS A PROBLEM COUNTRY AND EVERYBODY HAS LONG KNOWN IT. BUT IT DIDN'T SEEM TO FIT THE 9/11 SCENARIO QUITE THE WAY SOME MIGHT HAVE SUSPECTED.

Glover: SO IT WAS JUST A FUNDAMENTAL MISTAKE TO GO THERE?

Leach: IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE THAT THIS WILL GO DOWN AS ONE OF THE GREAT BLUNDERS IN AMERICAN HISTORY AND POSSIBLY THE LARGEST. I PERSONALLY THINK IT IS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT THAN THE VIETNAM SITUATION AND WITH FAR GREATER CONSEQUENCES FOR THE LONG TERM.

Yepsen: SO WHAT DO WE DO NOW ABOUT SOME OF THE WORLD'S OTHER HOT SPOTS, SPECIFICALLY IRAN AND NORTH KOREA?

Leach: WELL, ONE, WE HAVE TO COME TO GRIPS WITH THE NOTION OF DO YOU TALK TO THESE PEOPLE DIRECTLY, AND MY PERSONAL VIEW IS ABSOLUTELY. AND A SECOND ISSUE IS HOW YOU ORCHESTRATE OTHER PEOPLE. ARE WE THE -- NOT ONLY THE ONLY SUPERPOWER, WE'RE THE ONLY SUPER DIPLOMAT. AND I THINK WE'VE GOT TO THINK THAT THROUGH AND REACH OUT TO OTHERS IN WAYS THAT WE HAVEN'T TO DATE. THERE ARE NO EASY ANSWERS. I HAPPEN TO THINK NORTH KOREA IS UNBELIEVABLY DANGEROUS IF WE DON'T DEAL WITH IT IN THE RIGHT WAY, BUT UNBELIEVABLY MANAGEABLE IF WE DO.

Glover: LET'S LOOK AHEAD AT THE NEXT CONGRESS THAT'S COMING UP. ARGUABLY THE NEXT CONGRESS IS GOING TO BE EVEN MORE PARTISAN, EVEN MORE DIVIDED THAN THE LAST CONGRESS. YOUR PARTY IS GOING TO BE IN THE MINORITY. A LOT OF MODERATE LAWMAKERS LOST, AND A LOT OF LIBERAL CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATES WON. ARE YOU GLAD YOU'RE NOT THERE?

Leach: WELL, YOU NEVER WANT TO LOSE BUT, ON THE OTHER HAND, I THINK I'M PROBABLY THE LEAST DISAPPOINTED OF ANYONE THAT I DIDN'T COME OUT ON THE WINNING SIDE OF THIS AGENDA AS AN INDIVIDUAL. THE TWO PARTIES ARE MIRRORS OF EACH OTHER RIGHT NOW. THEY'RE GOVERNED IN CONGRESS BY THE EDGES. THE VAST MAJORITY OF DEMOCRATS, THE VAST MAJORITY OF REPUBLICANS IN THE BODY POLITIC ARE TOWARDS THE CENTER. A REPUBLICAN WILL BE RIGHT OF CENTER, A DEMOCRAT LEFT OF CENTER ON MANY ISSUES, BUT THEY WON'T BE AT THE EDGES. AND SO YOU'VE GOT AN EDGE DOMINATION IN CONGRESS THAT IS QUITE UNIQUE AND UNREFLECTIVE OF THE AMERICAN PUBLIC. I PERSONALLY THINK THAT THE NEW CONGRESS IS LIKELY TO GET OFF TO A GOOD START, AND THEN WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THAT, WE DON'T KNOW. I URGE MY COLLEAGUES TO GIVE NANCY PELOSI A CHANCE AND TO NOT PLAY THE ROLE OF SIMPLY OPPOSING WHATEVER THE MAJORITY -- NEW MAJORITY PARTY SUSPECTS. AND LIKEWISE, I THINK THE MAJORITY PARTY HAS TO BE VERY CAREFUL OF NOT SIMPLY OPPOSING EVERYTHING THE ADMINISTRATION STANDS FOR. WE'RE ALL IN THIS BOAT TOGETHER, AND SOMEHOW WE'VE GOT TO WORK THINGS OUT.

Glover: WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT THAT? A LOT OF THE GAINS THAT DEMOCRATS MADE IN THIS LAST ELECTION WAS MODERATES WHO WON IN SWING OR REPUBLICAN DISTRICTS, BUT THE LEADERSHIP THAT YOU MENTIONED IS LIBERAL. HOW DO YOU SOLVE THAT PROBLEM?

Leach: WELL, IT'S AN AWKWARD SITUATION FOR MANY DIFFERENT REASONS. THE VAST MAJORITY OF DISTRICTS IN AMERICA ARE UNCOMPETITIVE, AND SO YOU'VE GOT -- AND ABOUT HALF ARE HELD BY DEMOCRATS, HALF BY REPUBLICANS. YOU HAVE A PRIMARY PROCESS THAT LEANS TOWARDS REWARDING LIBERALS ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE, CONSERVATIVES ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE, I MEAN VERY LIBERAL AND VERY CONSERVATIVE. AND THEN THERE'S VERY LITTLE INSTINCT TO COMPROMISE. AND SO I THINK PERSONALLY, IF YOU ASK ME WHAT REFORMS ARE NEEDED, I THINK WE'VE GOT TO HAVE CAMPAIGN REFORM. THAT'S VERY SERIOUS, VERY COMPREHENSIVE. GET THE MONEY OUT OF POLITICS. AND YOU'VE GOT TO GET AN EFFORT TO REBUILD THE PRIMARY PROCESS. IT'S IN THE PRIMARIES THAT CANDIDATES ARE CHOSEN AND PLATFORMS ESTABLISHED. AND SO THE BROADER YOU CAN MAKE THE PRIMARY PARTICIPATION, THE MORE IMPORTANT MECHANISM YOU HAVE TO GETTING THE VAST MAJORITY OF AMERICANS MORE ENERGIZED AND REPRESENTED.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, WILL YOU ELABORATE ON THOSE TWO THINGS FOR ME? SPECIFICALLY, START WITH CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. WHAT SHOULD BE THE ELEMENTS OF A CAMPAIGN FINANCE SYSTEM THAT'S CONSTITUTIONAL?

Leach: WELL, THERE ARE DIFFICULTIES ON HOW YOU APPROACH THE CONSTITUTION BECAUSE THE COURT INTERPRETS IT, BUT I WOULD, FRANKLY, ELIMINATE POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES. I'D GO TO SMALL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS MATCHED BY FEDERAL FUNDS. IN ADDITION, BASED ON SUPREME COURT RULINGS, THE MOST IMPORTANT BEING 'BUCKLEY VERSUS VALEO,' THE COURT HAS HELD THAT YOU CANNOT PUT A LIMIT ON WHAT CANDIDATES PUT IN THEIR OWN CAMPAIGNS. AND I THINK WE'RE MOVING INTO A POLARIZED WORLD OF WEALTH WHERE THE VERY, VERY WELL TO DO ARE GOING TO BE PUTTING IN NOT A FEW THOUSAND BUT TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS INTO CAMPAIGNS. AND I THINK YOU HAVE TO HAVE IT LITERALLY UNDER THIS COURT A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT THAT SAYS THE CONGRESS CAN PUT LIMITS IN WHAT A CANDIDATE CAN PUT IN THEIR CAMPAIGNS AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL, THE STATES CAN PUT LIMITS AT THE STATE.

Yepsen: IS PUBLIC FUNDING OF ELECTIONS AN OPTION?

Leach: PUBLIC FUNDING IS A CREDIBLE OPTION. MY PERSONAL PREFERENCE, HOWEVER, WOULD BE TO GO TO PARTIAL PUBLIC FUNDING AND TO HAVE SMALL CONTRIBUTIONS MATCHED AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL UP TO A GIVEN POINT.

Yepsen: AND WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT REFORMING THE PRIMARY PROCESS, THAT'S SOMETHING THE INDIVIDUAL STATES DO. DO YOU HAVE A RECOMMENDATION TO THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE HERE FOR THINGS THAT IOWA NEEDS TO DO IN THIS PRIMARY PROCESS?

Leach: THE PRIMARY PROCESS IS AN ENERGIZING THING. IT'S NOT INSTITUTIONAL. YOU'VE GOT TO GET PEOPLE INVOLVED. FROM IOWA'S PERSPECTIVE, WE'VE DONE A PRETTY GOOD JOB ON HOW WE DO COMPETITIVE DISTRICTING. IN FACT, IT'S A MODEL FOR THE COUNTRY. IN IOWA, BECAUSE OF OUR CAUCUSES, BECAUSE OF OUR LEADERSHIP AT THE PRESIDENTIAL PROCESS LEVEL, WE DO HAVE A LOT OF ENERGY. I'M NOT A HUNDRED PERCENT COMMITTED TO CAUCUSES, HOWEVER, DAVID, WHICH LIMIT PARTICIPATION. MY PREFERENCE IS I WOULD RATHER HAVE IOWA HAVE A PRIMARY THAN A CAUCUS.

Yepsen: AND I HAVE ONE OTHER PROCEDURAL QUESTION FOR YOU, CONGRESSMAN. OUR SYSTEM OF REDISTRICTING, WE HAVE THIS NONPARTISAN SYSTEM OF DRAWING CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT LINES. MOST OTHER STATES DON'T. DOESN'T THAT PUT IOWA AT A DISADVANTAGE? I MEAN IT STRIKES ME THAT WE HAVE THIS GOOD GOVERNMENT SYSTEM IN IOWA AND YET OTHER STATES ARE PROTECTING INCUMBENTS. AND THAT ENABLES THEIR INCUMBENTS TO HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF SENIORITY, AND YET WE HAVE A SYSTEM THAT EXPOSES OUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO DEFEAT. ONE OF THE REASONS YOU LOST WAS A DISTRICT THAT BECAME DRAMATICALLY MORE DEMOCRATIC. CONGRESSMAN SMITH IN 1994 LOST BECAUSE HIS DISTRICT BECAME A LOT MORE REPUBLICAN. DO WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY WE DRAW CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS?

Leach: DEFINITELY NOT. THE COMPETITION IS GOOD. WE'VE GOT TO ADVERTISE IT TO THE COUNTRY. AND OUR MODEL IS ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT. IT CAN BE TWEAKED SLIGHTLY, BUT I WOULD KEEP IT.

Glover: AND WE'VE TALKED ABOUT THE PRESIDENT AND HIS TENURE AND WHERE THINGS MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE GONE WRONG. LET'S TALK ABOUT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. YOU HAD THE WHITE HOUSE. YOU HAD BOTH CHAMBERS OF CONGRESS. YOU HAD THE MAJORITY OF GOVERNORSHIPS. WHERE DID THE PARTY GO WRONG? WHAT HAPPENED?

Leach: WELL, THERE WERE SOME ISSUES THAT WE WENT WRONG ON, BUT IT'S MY SENSE THAT POLITICAL PARTIES WHEN THEY'RE IN POWER FOR A WHILE DO GET A LITTLE ARROGANT. AND THE MAJORITY PARTIES ALSO ARE A LITTLE BIT VULNERABLE TO CONFLICTS OF INTEREST. WE HAD FOUR OR FIVE MAJOR INDICTMENTS THIS YEAR, THAT IS THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY PLAYED A ROLE IN A NUMBER OF CASES. AND THERE WERE A COUPLE DEMOCRATIC TOO, BUT DISPROPORTIONATELY REPUBLICAN. THEY'RE THE MAJORITY PARTY. THESE WERE IN EACH CASE ABSOLUTELY INDEFENSIBLE SITUATIONS. IN ADDITION, I ALWAYS FELT THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WAS THE PARTY OF EARMARKS AND LOGROLLING, WHATEVER. THE REPUBLICANS OUTEARMARKED THE DEMOCRATS, AND THE PUBLIC DIDN'T LIKE IT. AND I THINK THE PUBLIC WAS SAYING THERE OUGHT TO BE SOME ACCOUNTABILITY HERE. AND SO I THINK REPUBLICANS WERE CHASTENED AND HOPEFULLY WILL LEARN THEIR LESSON, AND HOPEFULLY THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WILL SEE THE NEED FOR SOME GREATER RESTRAINT.

Glover: HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT LEAVING THE PARTY?

Leach: NOT IN A SERIOUS WAY. I MEAN THOSE OPTIONS ARE PRESENTED TO ONE AT VARIOUS POINTS IN TIME, BUT I'VE NEVER SERIOUSLY REVIEWED THEM.

Yepsen: AS YOU LOOK BACK AT YOUR OWN CAMPAIGN EFFORT, DID YOU DO ANYTHING WRONG?

Leach: I WOULD NOT DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY. I'M ABSOLUTELY CONFIDENT I COULD HAVE DONE THINGS TO PREVAIL IN THE ELECTION, BUT I DON'T CHOOSE TO DO THEM AND I WOULDN'T.

Yepsen: WHY NOT?

Leach: I THINK IN AMERICA, IT MATTERS HOW YOU DO THINGS AND HOW ONE RUNS AN ELECTION IS A VERY IMPORTANT THING. LET ME GIVE AN EXAMPLE, DAVID. EVERY ELECTION TODAY, THE INSIDERS TALK ABOUT HOW DO YOU RAISE THE NEGATIVES OF YOUR OPPONENT. I'VE NEVER DONE THAT AND DON'T WANT TO. EVERY ELECTION IS ABOUT HOW YOU MANIPULATE MONEY. I'VE NEVER DONE THAT. AND I WOULD RATHER RUN AN ELECTION THE RIGHT WAY AND LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MIGHT THAN RUN IT THE WAY THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE DO IT AND PREVAIL. WINNING IS NOT THE GOAL. THE ONLY GREAT WINNER IN A DEMOCRATIC ELECTION SHOULD BE THE PUBLIC, NOT THE CANDIDATE.

Glover: AT THE END OF THE DAY, WAS IT JUST A DEMOCRATIC YEAR?

Leach: I THINK THERE WERE A NUMBER OF SUBTLETIES THAT GO BEYOND THAT, BUT CERTAINLY THE ARGUMENT THAT THERE SHOULD BE GREATER CHECKS IN THE EXECUTIVE WAS THE MAJOR REASON FOR A SHIFT TOWARDS THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE. BUT THERE ARE OTHER ISSUES AS WELL.

Glover: WELL, SUCH AS?

Leach: WELL, I THINK IT'S POSSIBLE AS A MODERATE THAT YOU TAKE ON LIABILITIES. I MEAN, FOR EXAMPLE, I'M AN ADVOCATE OF STEM CELL RESEARCH. A NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN MY PARTY ARE NOT. THERE WERE PEOPLE THAT WERE VERY UPSET WITH MY BRINGING A BILL BEFORE THE CONGRESS THAT PREVAILED AT THE END ON REINING IN INTERNET GAMBLING. AND THE CASINO INTERESTS IN THIS COUNTRY ARE VERY, VERY POWERFUL.

Borg: DO YOU THINK THAT WAS A FACTOR IN YOUR DEFEAT?

Leach: THERE IS A GROUP THAT IS CLAIMING THAT AND ALSO -- THAT IS, IN CLAIMING THAT THEY HAVE A POST-ELECTION POLL THAT INDICATED IT.

Yepsen: OH, I DIDN'T KNOW. NONE OF US SAW THAT PRIOR TO THE ELECTION. SOME OF US COVERING THESE CAMPAIGNS, WE DIDN'T SEE THE POKER PLAYERS ALLIANCE DOING A HATCHET JOB ON JIM LEACH.

Leach: IT'S WHERE YOU DO IT, DAVID. SEE, THERE ARE PUBLIC ISSUES AND THEN THERE ARE PRIVATE. MANY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN ELECTIONS TODAY ARE, WHETHER THEY BE INTERNET ORIENTED OR VERY QUIET AND UNDER THE RADAR AND ARE NOT REPORTED AND NOT SEEN.

Borg: WHAT YOU'RE SAYING IS THAT THOSE INTERNET INFLUENCES COULD HAVE REACHED POKER PLAYERS IN THE SECOND DISTRICT; IS THAT IT?

Leach: WELL, THAT IS WHAT IS BEING CLAIMED BY THE POKER ALLIANCE.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, I WANT TO GO BACK TO SOME OF THE ISSUES FACING THE COUNTRY IN THE BRIEF TIME WE HAVE REMAINING. THE NATIONAL BUDGET DEFICIT, IT SEEMS TO BE OUT OF CONTROL. AND THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS THAT HAS UPSET A LOT OF CONSERVATIVES. WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?

Leach: WELL, BUDGET DEFICITS ARE TWO THINGS. YOU REIN IN SPENDING OR YOU INCREASE YOUR REVENUE, AND SO YOU HAVE TO THINK THAT THROUGH. NOW, ACTUALLY THE LAST CONGRESS OR TWO ARE THE FIRST CONGRESSES IN THIRTY OR FORTY YEARS THAT HAVE LITERALLY RESTRAINED AND HELD LESS THAN THE PRIOR YEAR WHAT'S CALLED THE DISCRETIONARY BUDGET. HOWEVER, THE NATIONAL DEFENSE BUDGET AND THE HOMELAND SECURITY BUDGET HAS SKYROCKETED AND ENTITLEMENTS HAVE GROWN. AND SO THOSE THREE AREAS ARE THE ONLY THREE AREAS THAT HAVE REALLY GROWN. AND SO IF YOU WANT TO REIN IN SPENDING IN A VERY SERIOUS WAY, YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH YOUR NATIONAL DEFENSE POLICY. IT IS WHAT IS CAUSING THE REAL INCREASE. I MEAN THE NEWS TODAY IS A $100-BILLION REQUEST COMING FORTH, WHICH IS PRETTY HARD TO DENY WHEN YOU HAVE TROOPS IN THE FIELD. IT'S THE POLICIES THAT PUT THEM THERE THAT CAUSE SOME OF THESE COSTS.

Glover: LOOK BACK OVER YOUR CAREER A LITTLE BIT. I'D LIKE TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT WHAT YOU'D LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR AND WHAT YOU THINK YOUR MOST SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENT WAS. YOU WERE IN CONGRESS FOR THIRTY YEARS. YOU WERE INVOLVED IN A LOT OF THINGS. WHAT DOES JIM LEACH WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?

Leach: WELL, I DON'T WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR ANYTHING SPECIFIC. I MEAN I THINK IT'S A LITTLE BIT AS A REPORTER; YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR A BODY OF EFFORT AND THE WAY YOU GO ABOUT BEING A REPORTER. YOU WANT TO BE KNOWN AS SOMEONE THAT WAS FAIR MINDED AND BALANCED AND DECENT. NOW, THERE ARE SPECIFIC LEGISLATIVE MARKERS THAT YOU ALSO IDENTIFY WITH. AND OF THE TYPE THAT I IDENTIFY WITH, A COMPREHENSIVE REFORM OF THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM IS A BILL THAT I'M QUITE PROUD OF. I'M PROBABLY MORE PROUD OF LEGISLATION THAT CAUSED DEBT RELIEF FOR THE POOREST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD, LEGISLATION THAT CREATED AN INTERNATIONAL AIDS TRUST FUND, WHICH I CONSIDER TO BE THE SEMINAL HEALTH CARE ISSUE OF OUR TIME. AND ODDLY ENOUGH, DISEASE CONTROL MAY WELL BE THE GREATEST FOREIGN POLICY ISSUE. IF YOU GET AVIAN FLU THAT TAKES OFF, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE DOZENS OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AROUND THE EARTH THAT ARE GOING TO BE AFFECTED. AND SO THESE ARE AREAS OF SIGNIFICANCE TO ME. BUT I COME BACK TO -- LET ME MAKE THE ANALOGY TO YOU. I MEAN YOU MIGHT HAVE A STORY OR TWO THAT YOU REMEMBER IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU BROKE OR PROVIDED A PROFOUND PERSPECTIVE TO, BUT BASICALLY IT'S A BODY OF EFFORT AND HOW YOU INTERRELATE WITH YOUR CONSTITUENTS, YOUR READERS, YOUR STORIES. WERE YOU FAIR TO THE LEGISLATURE? WERE YOU -- YOU KNOW, HOW DID YOU RELATE?

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, AS YOU LOOK AT THE COUNTRY'S PROBLEMS -- WE'VE TALKED A LOT ABOUT SOME OF THEM HERE TODAY -- WHAT ARE THE ONES WE'RE NOT PAYING ENOUGH ATTENTION TO?

Borg: WE'VE ONLY GOT ABOUT TEN SECONDS.

Yepsen: OH, I'M SORRY.

Leach: THE BIGGEST ONE IS DISEASE CONTROL. IT, EVEN MORE THAN WAR AND PEACE, COULD CAUSE THE GREATEST NUMBER OF LOSS OF LIFE.

Borg: THANK YOU, CONGRESSMAN LEACH, FOR TAKING TIME TO BE WITH US TODAY. ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS,' WE'LL GET COMMENTS FROM TWO MEN WHO HAVE BEEN IN WASHINGTON CHECKING OUT THEIR NEW OFFICES THERE AND THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES IN CONGRESS. WATERLOO ATTORNEY BRUCE BRALEY TAKES THE FIRST DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL SEAT, AND CORNELL COLLEGE POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR DAVE LOEBSACK WILL BE REPRESENTING THE SECOND DISTRICT SEAT NOW HELD BY CONGRESSMAN LEACH. 'IOWA PRESS' NEXT WEEKEND, USUAL TIMES: 7:30 FRIDAY; IF YOU MISS IT THEN, CATCH THE REPEAT 11:30 SUNDAY MORNING. I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH AS WE QUESTION IOWA'S TWO NEW MEMBERS OF CONGRESS. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.


Tags: Iowa politics