I watched This Week with Christiane Amanpour and I could swear she's sleepwalking through this interview. Is there anything close to a pointed question here? Is there some reason this mush-mouthed faux "patriot," this enemy of democracy, goes unchallenged?
AMANPOUR: Yunji, thanks so much for being with us there in New Orleans and keeping an eye on that.
Labor Day is the traditional kickoff of the campaign season, so get ready for a flurry of activity. There's a debate on Wednesday. And tomorrow, the leading Republican presidential candidates take center stage at a South Carolina forum, hosted by the state's powerful senator, Jim DeMint. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was planning to skip the event, but he changed his mind when Rick Perry surged ahead in the polls. Senator DeMint, of course, is a major force behind the Tea Party movement. His endorsement is one of the major prizes of 2012. And he joins me now from Clemson, South Carolina. Senator, thank you for being with us.
DEMINT: Christiane, it's great to be with you. And we're really looking forward to this forum, because it's set up in a very different style. Instead of the typical debate, with lots of candidates on stage, each candidate gets to spend 21 minutes on the stage by themselves to define themselves in their own terms. So I think folks all over the country will find it very interesting.
Translation: We're not going to let anything happen like that last one, where Chris Wallace surprised us all by asking tough questions. Goddamnit, we're Republicans, we're supposed to protect each other! That's why we came up with this beauty pageant format.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you then for your view on the latest entrant into the race, and that is Texas Governor Rick Perry. Earlier this summer, you said you didn't know enough about him. Now can you tell me your views since he's been in the race and there's been a lot said by him over the last couple of weeks?
DEMINT: Well, I'm excited about our field. I think the more people find out about the Republican candidates, the more strengths they see. I think that's why a lot of people have hesitated to jump in. And it's good to give people a choice. So I'm glad Governor Perry jumped in. But I'm going to withhold any endorsement or support for several months. It's really important to me to see how these candidates respond to the big issues of the day. I want to see not only their policy proposals, particularly as it relates to jobs, but I want to see how they respond to recommendations from this super-committee and what Congress is doing towards balancing the budget and other issues like that. That's going to play out over the next couple of months.
But this forum's going to be very helpful to me and others, because instead of forcing them to answer my questions, we are going to encourage them to define the issues on their own terms. This will give us a little bit deeper understanding on how they view the Constitution and their role as president.
AMANPOUR: Senator, I know you want to withhold an endorsement, but I do want to press you, because Rick Perry is the front-runner at the moment. And I want to know -- and particularly he's quite beloved of the Tea Party movement, of which you're a major force. What can you tell me? How do you feel, for instance, about his endorsement of Al Gore back in 1988, of his praising Hillary Clinton's and the Clinton health care plan? What do you feel about those stances?
DEMINT: Well, I want to find out more about him, obviously, but we know people change. Reagan was a Democrat. And I want to look at what the governor's done as governor of Texas, just as I'm going to try to dig into a lot of the issues, past, present and future policy proposals of all the candidates.
But I want to give them all a little room to change. I know I've changed some positions I had 10 years ago, because the country's in a very different situation. So I'm going to listen and look and do my -- do my homework. And I'm not counting any of them out at this point.
Translation: I don't care if we nominate a piece of lumber, I'm 100% behind them!
AMANPOUR: What about Governor Perry's stance on Social Security? In his book, which is now being pored over, as you can imagine, he basically called Social Security like a bad disease and a big failure. Do you think that is going to haunt him on the campaign trail?
DEMINT: Well, I want to hear him explain his views on that. I've developed a lot of reform proposals myself and been accused of trying to destroy Social Security, when the whole point was to try to save it. I think most people know that Social Security is bankrupt. And I believe the governor probably feels as I do: We need to keep our promises to seniors and offer better choices to younger workers. But I want to hear him explain these things on his own terms. And so I think we'll learn a lot about that and other issues on Monday.
Lying old coot. Oops, did I just write that? It doesn't matter who gets the nomination, they're all going after Social Security.
AMANPOUR: Well, just quickly to wrap up Governor Perry, do you like what you've seen so far? Is he the presumed front-runner for you?
DEMINT: Well, there are things I certainly like, just like I do with all the candidates. Like I said before, I see some good things, some strengths in a lot of the candidates. And the ones -- we're having -- we've got the top runners or the top tier there on Monday. So I'm not making any real judgments, but there are things I like about all of them.
AMANPOUR: Now, you're being very cagey, Senator. Let me ask you about Governor Mitt Romney, who did earn your endorsement the last time he ran. He's having a lot of trouble with the Tea Party right now. He's decided to come to your forum, where he was going to skip it. Where do you think he needs to go in order to get Tea Party support? Do you think he'll get it?
DEMINT: Well, the Tea Party's being thrown around a lot today, but for everyone who calls him a Tea Party -- themselves a Tea Party member, there are hundreds of people who have the same concerns about our spending and our debt. We know over 70 percent of Americans want to balance the budget.
So it's not one, small group. What it is, is just thousands of groups around the country who are concerned about the future of our country. I think it's one of the best things that's happened to our country and to politics, because there's a broad cross-section of Americans involved in citizen activism today. And some are called Tea Party; some are not.
Some of us are called Democrats, and we'll be working hard to stop you, Jim.
But all the candidates are going to have to appeal to this new grassroots movement. And that's really what I'm looking for. I'm not trying to anoint any candidate. I'm looking at which one really catches the attention and inspires the average American, who has gotten involved with politics and the political process. So that's key to me. Any of these candidates are going to have to appeal to those Americans who are unified, particularly around fiscal issues.
AMANPOUR: Talking about fiscal issues, President Obama is going to be making a big speech towards a joint session of Congress this week. Do you expect him to make any proposals that will win Republican support?
DEMINT: Well, I'm, frankly, very tired of speeches. I don't want to be disrespectful to the president, but what I want to see is something in writing and that the Congressional Budget Office tells us what it's going to cost so that we can not only read it ourselves, but the American people can read it. Speeches, we've found, are not very similar to the actual legislation. So I'm pretty frustrated with the speech idea. And, frankly, the things that have been leaking out of the White House, none of them are like what I've been hearing from businesses all over the country. You know, extending unemployment, cutting payroll taxes, offering tax credits when you hire someone, I haven't heard one business say things like this. What they want is some certainty. They want the regulators off their back. They want the National Labor Relations Board to stop pushing the union agenda and try to help companies that create jobs. So I don't think the president is going to come out with things that are really going to create jobs. I'm afraid it's just pandering to his base. But if he'll send a written proposal, I'll give it every chance, in -- but I'm not interested in his speech right now. And as the Congressional Budget Office said, we can't score a speech. We can't tell him what it's going to cost or what it's going to do.
AMANPOUR: Senator DeMint, thank you so much for joining us from South Carolina.
Must. Hit. Head. On. Wall. Oh Christiane, I had such hopes for you, and I do see the occasional glimmer of what could be. Why would you let a weasel like Jim DeMint string together one lie after another and go unchallenged? As recently as this week, businesses were saying regulations aren't the problem with the economy. And Republican extremists are the only people trying to keep the NLRB from doing their job.
Not to mention that his only real goal is to keep Obama from being reelected. How about asking him about that?