Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun
Morning Edition: May 6, 2003
Listen to an extended version of the interview.
BOB EDWARDS, host: What made you decide you wanted to run for president?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: I wanted to serve my country. I'd come back after having served as ambassador to New Zealand and found that I had real concerns about the direction in which this country was headed. And so I decided, after friends really encouraged me to get back into public life, that this office was the one that was most suited to the skills, if you will, that I've brought to public service. So that's why I'm running.
EDWARDS: You said the nation is on the wrong track.
MOSELEY BRAUN: Absolutely.
EDWARDS: What track is that?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, I mean, it's a track that leads us in the opposite direction that we ought to be going. This crowd has turned record surpluses into record deficits. We have gone into a war, an unelected president sending us into a war that the Congress frankly had no right, I believe, to authorize. We have misspent money, giving tax cuts to those who need it the least, cutting programs for those who need it the most. We're failing our children with education, we're failing our environment. They're pandering to fear and to hate and it's just all wrong. And I think this is one of those classic times when every American who cares about this country has a responsibility to step up and say, 'I'm going to do whatever I can do at whatever level I can do it.' And that was what really compelled me to engage. And I'm just delighted because the responses I've been getting from people have been very positive. I think Americans want to believe in this country again.
EDWARDS: You've described yourself as a peace dove and a budget hawk.
MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, that's a pretty good description. I think that we have a responsibility to make certain that we are fiscally responsible in order to assure, frankly, future generations don't have to pay our bills. I think that we have a responsibility to get this economy going. It's in the double dip of a recession that is being exacerbated or made worse by tax cuts again that didn't make a whole lot of sense while you're going off to a war that didn't make a whole lot of sense. So, I think that fiscal responsibility will give us the ability, not only to pay our bills on a pay-as-you-go basis, if you will, but also to build the foundations for a stronger future. I really think that's the key, part of the spiritual renewal that America needs to have, the notion that we really can have confidence in a better tomorrow. That's a major part of my message as a candidate for president.
EDWARDS: What changes would you make, what programs would you introduce?
MOSELEY BRAUN: I want to rebuild America. If we can rebuild Iraq, we can rebuild Illinois and Indiana and if we can do Baghdad, we can do Baltimore. I want to rebuild this country and I want to start with, on the one hand, a rebuilding of the physical America, the infrastructure. We can rebuild schools, we can... use the traditional stimulus for the economy, to get the economy going, to create jobs, to allow for wealth creation. We can explore new technologies that will allow us to lessen our dependence on foreign fuel, on foreign oil. There are a number of steps that we can take to reinvigorate and rebuild the economic and the physical infrastructure of our country and then to rebuild us, frankly, on a spiritual level. To me, that means getting back to the point where our Constitution means that you don't tap people's phones and poke into their e-mail and you don't arrest people and keep them hidden for a year and a half without charging them. Those are the kind of fundamentals that I think the American people have every right to expect. But also to rebuild our confidence in ourselves, the notion that we are a great country because of our leadership, not our military might. But because we stand for the right things in the world and that we can provide leadership by working with nations around the world on behalf of the kind of global challenges we face -- the AIDS pandemic, world poverty. We can do those things, we have the capacity because we are the greatest country in the world. I just think that the American people want to believe again. I'm here to take a message of hope.
EDWARDS: You opposed the war from the beginning.
MOSELEY BRAUN: Yes.
EDWARDS: How's it look to you now?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Same way. I'm glad, really all of us are really glad, the troops are back home. I think that the first issue is that these young men and women did what they were supposed to do. They followed orders. That's their job to be military types and go out and fight a war. The notion that we won the war against Iraq is like saying we won a war against Arizona. I mean, the fact of the matter is it's not that big of a country. Nobody, I don't think, had any notion that we would do anything but win it. But having said that, the question becomes again whether it was the right course, whether this unelected president had any right to send American men and women into harm's way. Particularly, in as much as we have yet to find the smoking WMD -- weapons of mass destruction. I don't know but that this was an exercise that could have been handled better with diplomacy, that could have been handled better with better judgments being made. Certainly the money that we will spend rebuilding from the damage that the havoc that's been created would be better spent rebuilding our cities, rebuilding our communities, rebuilding schools and getting the American economy running and the American people back to work again.
EDWARDS: So you don't feel President Bush deserves any credit for anything accomplished in Iraq?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, if you pick a fight with somebody that's smaller than you and you beat them, where's the honor in that? Does he deserve credit for winning the war? Well, better to have won it. It would have been really astonishing if we had not. But again, I just think it was a bad set of calls to begin with. I frankly don't think that, while they may pat themselves on the back for having beat Saddam Hussein -- who was a bad guy... we'd like to see bad guys out of power -- at the same time, I just don't think that this was a real sensible exercise of American authority in the world.
EDWARDS: Would you describe your campaign or your chances as a long shot?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, obviously I'm the only woman in the race. We've not had a woman president in this country. New Zealand, by the way, where I was ambassador, has had two women prime ministers -- one from either party. We've not gotten there in this country yet. So yes, I'm a long shot.
EDWARDS: But you took on a big challenge before in the Senate.
MOSELEY BRAUN: That's right... and won. People just want to hear some common sense... and I bring to bear the experience in local government and state government and national government -- I was the first woman in history on the Senate Finance Committee -- not to mention the diplomatic international experience. And so I bring a range of experiences to bear that I think make this a very doable job for me. I can articulate and actually provide some programmatic responses to the challenges and the issues that we face.
EDWARDS: Two of your opponents, John Edwards and John Kerry, have raised more than $7 million each. You've raised $72,000. Is this a fare measure of interest in your campaign?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, we just got started. As you may know, we just got started. But as my campaign chairman said, 'We're poor but we're proud.' I'm actually beating one of those gentlemen in the polls, which I think with a tenth of the money is not a bad thing. I think it does suggest that the American people really do want to listen to somebody who actually has some solutions, some answers, and gives them some hope. I believe that our message of rebuilding America is one that will resonate with the American people.
EDWARDS: You're ahead of Edwards? Really? What poll is that?
MOSELEY BRAUN: San Francisco.
EDWARDS: You're ahead of Edwards in San Francisco.
MOSELEY BRAUN: The poll that was published in the San Francisco Chronicle has me ahead.
EDWARDS: OK. Why aren't there more women running for president.
MOSELEY BRAUN: I can't answer that. I think because it's a hard row to hoe. This isn't beanbag. It's tough duty. I hope that more women will. If anything, our representative democracy should have the voices of women as much as of men, of working people as of gazillionaires. The fact is that the diversity in this political class serves the same interest as diversity in any arena, which is it stirs the competitive pot. It gives you a broader range of talent from which to draw. I just think that more and more women, as they begin to get into public office and into public life, will engage in a run for the highest office.
EDWARDS: Well, it's puzzling because they run for every other one.
MOSELEY BRAUN: It's a tough one. In large part, you touched on it, the money is daunting. Libby Dole, as you know, pulled out because of the money and it is a big challenge. But you have to get out and make the case and I believe that women have something to contribute. And frankly, being a woman I think gives me a slightly different take on a lot of the issues and on a lot of the solutions to the problems we face. Women have to be very results-oriented, very practical-minded, and approach things in terms of collaborations instead of competition. I think that I will bring that to this office.
EDWARDS: So why aren't more women's groups backing you?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, we just got started. I think they will. I'm meeting with some women's groups this morning. But I think they will. We're almost the last ones in. It's funny, it's partly because the campaign season started so early. My getting in in February, actually I hadn't really originally planned to do this until the fall, but it became abundantly clear that if we didn't engage in February, it might be too late. So we just jumped right in, even though we hadn't set up the structure. So we're building a boat while we're already in the water, but it's coming along nicely.
EDWARDS: Are the controversies from your Senate term proving to be baggage for your presidential campaign?
MOSELEY BRAUN: No, as a matter of fact we are asking for the matching funds. You have to raise $250 from 20 people in 20 states. We're asking for $311.28 instead of $250 because that's the amount of money that the Federal Election Commission found wasn't accounted for properly in my last Senate campaign. So, in spite of all the noise, I've never been fined, sanctioned, anything, just absolutely vindicated on every front. That's a good thing. I think people have been very understanding. Once they know the truth of it they go, 'Oh yea, we get it.' So I just keep on pushing.
EDWARDS: And the visit with the Nigerian dictator...
MOSELEY BRAUN: Same thing, same thing. Went to a funeral. (Laughs). It was a lot of noise and hype. Remember how much money was put in to beat me. At the time, it was the most expensive race in Illinois history and in the country, per capita. They put in a lotta, lotta, lotta money to just beat me up and leave me bloodied around the nose. But I went off to paradise. I was ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. I came back home and the people said we want you to stand. And I only lost really by less than 2 percent of the vote. It was 1 percent of the vote in Illinois. So a lot of people actually saw through what was going on and they are encouraging me to do this.
EDWARDS: Are you in the race to dilute the support of Al Sharpton among black voters?
MOSELEY BRAUN: I'm in the race to dilute the support for every candidate among black voters. (Laughs). I hope to have black, white, male, female, progressives, people who believe in... conservatives who want a balanced budget. I want people who believe in my message and where I am on issues to support me. I'm not taking on or doing this to take on any particular candidate. Except that I'm in the competition and I hope that my support will be drawn from a broad swath of Democratic primary voters in the various states. But no, I'm not targeting any specific candidate.
EDWARDS: Whether it's your intention or not, it does have that effect...
MOSELEY BRAUN: I hope no more than John Edwards dilutes Joe Lieberman's vote, or Dick Gephardt dilutes John Kerry's vote. We are all Democrats vying for the nomination.... I've always had an inclusive approach to politics. I don't start off with the black voters over here and the Hispanic voters over there and dividing people up into constituencies. I think, frankly, that's been the reason I've won. Illinois has less than a 12 percent black population and I won with 55 percent of the vote. That's something to celebrate, I think. Your listeners may not know that I'm African American. We should clarify that. (Laughs).
EDWARDS: We'll mention that...
MOSELEY BRAUN: And female, too. But people voted for me because of what I stand for and what I believe in and what I do. I'm a results-oriented person and my Senate record shows that. I was very productive as a senator for my state.
EDWARDS: You've said you're going to make a final decision in the fall, so how far along are you in the process?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, again, it's going to depend on what kind of traction we get in terms of this campaign. So far, the responses have been very positive. I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far...
EDWARDS: Who or what has encouraged you?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Endorsements. I don't have a list in front of me right now, Bob. But people who've endorsed my candidacy, groups who have said they're delighted that I'm bringing a voice that wouldn't otherwise be heard to the debate, that I'm speaking for a lot of people who get ignored in the process. And not to mention old supporters from my days in state government and local government and the Senate. So I've been encouraged in that regard. We're beginning... I just yesterday hired a fund-raiser. We're getting this boat built, if you will, while we're in the water already. But so far, with the responses I've gotten they've been positive. Of course, we won't really know until people start voting on... the candidates. At this point, [I] believe I will be in it for the long haul. This is not a symbolic race. I really am running to win and unless something really bad happens, I'll be in here for the primaries.
EDWARDS: Do you think you're treated differently as a woman than other candidates are treated?
MOSELEY BRAUN: No, not so far. No. I think there's... if anything I went through the hazing -- that's what a friend of mine called it -- I went through that when I was senator. So far, I've been treated, I think, the same in the sense that I've been given an opportunity to be heard. Now, I haven't been on the big television shows and the like because... again, I think, the campaign is so new. The other guys have been out for a year in some cases. But I think that as time goes on we will engage. I'm used to people not paying me a whole lot of attention and underestimating me and, frankly, for me a big challenge is to have people believe that I can be the president of the United States. That a woman who is also African American can guide the ship of state. I think that getting to that point will accomplish the kind of transformation that we need to rebuild this country and to get this country restored... to a sense of its own goodness and its own greatness in a constructive and positive way.
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