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Transcript: Sen. Chambliss on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published November 30, 2008 / Fox News Sunday
This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace," November 30, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Almost a month after the election, the makeup of the Senate remains in flux with Democrats holding 58 seats and still pushing for a filibuster-proof majority of 60.
In Minnesota, there's a recount going on with Republican Senator Norm Coleman leading Al Franken by less than 300 votes. And in Georgia, a Tuesday runoff will determine the winner, because earlier this month, none of the candidates got 50 percent of the vote.
Joining us now from Atlanta is the Republican incumbent, Senator Saxby Chambliss. We should note we invited his opponent, Democrat Jim Martin, to join us, but his campaign turned us down.
Anyway, Senator Chambliss, we're very delighted to have you. With so much at stake, political heavyweights have been swarming to the state of Georgia over these last few weeks. And let's take a look. John McCain campaigned for you. Sarah Palin will be down there tomorrow. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton and Al Gore appeared with your opponent and Barack Obama made this radio ad.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: Jim supports my plan to cut middle class taxes, make sure every American has access to affordable health care, stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq, and get our economy moving again.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator — or President-elect Obama, of course, referring to your opponent, Jim Martin. Question, Senator, is this referendum in effect a runoff on President-elect Obama? If you support his policies, vote for Martin. If you want to block them, vote for you.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-GA.: Well, I don't think necessarily so.
As I've said all along, Chris, when President-elect Obama, who is our president-elect, and he is going to be our president come the end of January, when he's right and when he proposes initiatives that are in the best interests of Georgia, I'm going to be with him.
But when he wants to raise taxes on everybody, when he wants to tinker around with the Second Amendment, when he wants to do things that are not in the best interest of Georgians, then I'm not going to be with him.
But I don't think it's necessarily a referendum on him, per se.
WALLACE: But you have campaigned against the president-elect and the Democrats. I want to take a look at something you said a few days ago. "If the Minnesota race was lost and this race was lost, then they," meaning the Democrats, "will have a blank check. "
CHAMBLISS: That's exactly right. And Jim Martin, my opponent, is committed to doing everything that the president-elect wants him to do. And I'm simply not going to do that. You know, our government was based on a check and balance system: the administrative, legislative, judicial.
Within the legislative, we've always had a check and balance by design. And if we give him a blank check, then I think it will not be in the best interests of the country and I will continue to promote that over the next 72 hours.
WALLACE: Let's break down, Senator, the numbers in this race. On Election Day, you got 49.8 percent of the vote, just shy of the 50 percent you needed to win the seat outright. Jim Martin got 46.8 percent. During early voting for November 4th, back on Election Day, blacks cast 35 percent of the ballots.
Now in the early voting in the runoff with Mr. Obama no longer on the ballot, they make up 23 percent of the early voting. Isn't that a big advantage for you, Senator?
CHAMBLISS: Well, listen, I have never conceded one vote, and I've reached out to the African-American community from day one. I'll continue to do that. So I think the fact that at the end of the day, there was an African-American turnout of like 31 percent or 4 million votes and I actually got 49.98 percent. Getting very, very close to getting that 50 percent-plus-one. But what that shows is that there were an awful lot of African- Americans that voted for me. But, at the same time, you know, we're reaching out to all voters to try to make sure they return to the polls. I got more votes than Obama. I beat my Democratic opponent significantly on November the 4th, and if voters turn out again in the same ratios and in the same numbers, then, obviously, we'll win again.
WALLACE: Well, they clearly aren't going to turn out in the same numbers overall because this obviously is not a general election, there is no presidential election. There's just the Senate runoff, which leads a lot of people to say this is basically about turnout.
How many of your supporters you get out in a sharply diminished electorate as compared to how many voters Jim Martin turns out, and how do you counter the estimated 100 Obama field operatives who are apparently supporting Martin in this race?
CHAMBLISS: Well, it is about turnout. And I hand the Obama team credit. They did a great job on November 4th. We've also got a great ground game. We turned out on November 4th. And we have been working hard on the phones as well as on the ground, folks going door to door.
It has just been very humbling, Chris, to see the support that my team has garnered here. And I'm very, very proud of the fact that we have an operation on the ground that's going to be able to turn out the vote and that is what it's about.
I mean, runoffs always fall off from a general election and it's about getting our people back to the polls. And I think Republicans are going to turn out, independents are going to turn out and support us as well as conservative Democrats will support us.
WALLACE: Let's talk about some of the issues in this campaign. And we want to run a clip from an ad from your opponent, Jim Martin. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: Listen to Saxby Chambliss.
CHAMBLISS: We may not be in a recession. I don't know what that term means.
UNKNOWN: Saxby Chambliss doesn't understand what a recession means?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Your opponent, Jim Martin, says that you voted for the Bush policies that got us into this mess and he notes that you voted for the $700 billion bailout in September. He voted against it.
CHAMBLISS: Well, he says he would have voted against it. Of course, the guy that he's joined at the hip with, President-elect Obama, voted for it. You know, that clip is interesting. That was about four seconds out of a 40-minute speech I gave that morning which, incidentally, when I made that statement, I was quoting Alan Greenspan, who I have a lot more confidence in than I do Mr. Martin's judgment on the economy.
WALLACE: But, Senator, may I just bring you up on that? Because that quote, when you said, "I don't know if we're in a recession, I don't know what that means," you said that in July of this year. And in fact, in April of this year, several months before, Alan Greenspan had said we're headed into a recession.
CHAMBLISS: Yes, well, you know, there was a real question about what is the definition of a recession. A recession, Chris, if you'll remember, it was supposed to be two consecutive months of negative GDP, and at that point in time we hadn't seen that.
But, you know, economists disagree on the technical definition of recession, and obviously that's what I was talking about. But the fact is here's what I did know, and this is what I said then and what I continue to say now. People in Georgia are hurting. We've had — we're the fifth — number five state in foreclosures.
We have folks who are losing their jobs. And what I want to do is make sure that we put Georgians back to work. Those that are working, we keep their jobs. And we've got to have policies in place that will do that. That's exactly what I was talking about then and what I continue to talk about now.
WALLACE: But Senator Chambliss, the Martin camp says that you have been far too trusting of Treasury Secretary Paulson and the bailout, which you voted for. And they point out to what you said, and we're going to put it up on the screen, a couple of weeks ago.
You said: "If the smart people in the financial community think this is the best way to go, I think we have to respect that. I do trust folks who deal with these issues on a daily basis like folks in the financial community."
Senator, after everything we've seen in the last month or so, do you still trust Wall Street and would you still vote for the financial bailout?
CHAMBLISS: Well, I didn't say I trust Wall Street. I said people in the financial community. And I think Hank Paulson is a smart guy. And I listen to what he says. But he's not the only one I listen to. Listen, I talk to dozens and dozens of bankers in Georgia, both from small community banks to big banks.
I talk to business people who were seeing their lines of credit pulled and were starting to have to — or having to lay people off. Those are the kinds people that I listen to to make sure that we put policies in place that are going to free up this credit market, going to ease this crunch that we find ourselves in.
And you know, there comes a point in time from a military standpoint, you trust your military leadership. From a business standpoint, you have to trust business leaders. And, sure, I listen to those folks and, sure, I've based my opinions on what they've said.
WALLACE: Senator, we've got about a minute left. And I just want to ask you, summing up, in terms of the overall scope of this race, what do you think the effect will be if Democrats win in Georgia on Tuesday, win in the recount in Minnesota, and achieve their filibuster-proof majority?
CHAMBLISS: Well, I think what you're going to see is an awful lot of liberal judges, activist judges going on the bench. I think you're going to see a universal health care plan that will take away the right of people to choose their physician that they want to go receive treatment from.
You're going to see an economic stimulus like you won't believe, and it's going to all be put on the back of taxpayers. The ones in place now needs the opportunity to work. You're going to see the automobile industry receive a huge blank check just to fill in their cash flow needs.
And, you know, it's just not the kind of situation that I think Georgians know Americans want to see happening in Washington.
WALLACE: And real briefly, Senator, are you saying that if you get that 41st Republican vote, you can stop all of that?
CHAMBLISS: I don't know that we will be able to stop all of it, but Georgians are going to be able to count on my vote to do what's right for them, Chris. And Americans are going to be able to count on my vote to do what's right for them.
And I hope that we can shape legislation to the point to where it's better or if need be that we'd be able to stop some of the legislation that's not in the best interest of Georgians and Americans.
WALLACE: Senator Chambliss, we want to thank you so much for talking with us today. And we'll see how things turn out on Tuesday night. Thanks again, sir.
CHAMBLISS: Thanks, Chris. Good to be with you.
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THIS SUNDAY: Chris will sit down for an exclusive interview with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).