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Alan Keyes' Run for Illinois Senate Seat

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Aug. 30, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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CHRIS WALLACE, GUEST HOST: Since accepting the Illinois Republican Party's invitation to run for the U.S. Senate, Alan Keyes has made news with his views on abortion, gun control, and reparations for the descendants of slaves. But are these the sorts of headlines that will help Republicans or hurt them?

And we're joined now by the man who has taken on the tall task of trying to beat rising Democratic star Barack Obama, the GOP candidate himself, former Ambassador Alan Keyes.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome.

FORMER AMB. ALAN KEYES: Hi!.

WALLACE: Good to have you with us tonight.

KEYES: Good to be here.

WALLACE: Before we get to some of the issues that Steve Brown just raised in the pierce, you told me there's some news the Democrats are trying to get you off the ballot?

KEYES: Well, I haven't confirmed that but that's what I was told as I was walking in.

WALLACE: And how are they going to do that?

KEYES: I wouldn't have the faintest idea. What I think it indicates though, is they desperately afraid of a substantive challenge to someone who they've hyped up but who doesn't really have the substance, the abilities, the experience, the competence or the self-confidence to really deal with this race or with the U.S. Senate. And so I guess, I'm not surprised that they're desperate to get out from under a situation where he faces a real challenge.

WALLACE: All right. You have always been known, win or lose, as a politician of principle. Now some critics are saying you're just a politician. Let's take a look at some of the points that Steve Brown brought up. One of them this decision to -- you're no longer against the department -- or abolishing the Department of Agriculture, a top-heavy bureaucracy, money-wasting. Just a coincidence that you've had this change of mind now that you're running in a farm state?

KEYES: Oh, not at all. What changed was that the Clinton administration was voted out. We had a Republican president and a Republican Congress; they have taken steps to streamline the bureaucracy, to introduce incentives into programs. Instead of farmers farming the bureaucracy, we now allow them to farm the land.

One takes account of changed circumstances in one's views. And the most important changed circumstances is that a Republican Congress and a Republican president have had a chance to improve the operation of the department. And to serve the farmers in a way that allows them to be effective and efficient. While still getting the kind of support that allows them to have a predictable environment in which to work.

WALLACE: All right. You opposed and you were very vocal about it, Hillary Clinton running for the Senate in New York. And you described it as a matter of principle, that she was undermining the importance of states and the federalist system, correct?

KEYES: Exactly.

WALLACE: Aren't you doing exactly the same thing?

KEYES: Absolutely not. The people of Illinois made an independent judgment. Alan Keyes was not a first lady intimidating people into supporting his personal ambition. I had no interest in or desire to run in Illinois until the people of Illinois decided...

WALLACE: There were plenty of Democratic politicians who invited Hillary Clinton into New York.

KEYES: Let me finish. Let me finish. I had no interest whatsoever in this. It was not part of my agenda; I did not go shopping around the country to see what states would accept me. So personal ambition had nothing to do with it.

But there is a key issue of federal principle when you have a candidate like Barack Obama, who rejects the principles of our national union, rejects the Declaration, and is willing to say that he should sit in the seat from Illinois, which is the last of Lincoln when he rejects the statesmanship of Lincoln? No. That would in fact be a damaging blow to true federalism and we shouldn't allow it to happen.

WALLACE: You really think the descendants of slaves should not have to pay federal taxes for two generations?

KEYES: I don't know why one would say that with incredulity. We have been trying to repair the objective damage done by slavery for generations. And each time that the American people have made the attempt; they have failed. Especially in the great society programs where this argument was used for the programs, for affirmative action and so forth. And instead of making the situation better...

WALLACE: Which you oppose. Which you oppose.

KEYES: No, I did not oppose affirmative action. See the problem with all this...

WALLACE: You did not oppose affirmative action?

KEYES: I have never opposed it. My formulation has always been I support affirmative action and oppose quotas. But in the news media, I think, through laziness or ignorance, you never get it right. You do not report accurately the views that are stated, especially when a careful and serious argument is involved.

And in the case of reparations, I have made clear all along: I oppose extortion; I oppose the idea you can pay for injustice with money. But we all accept the notion that damage was done and damage should be repaired. That was at the heart of the affirmative action rationale under Nixon. It was at the heart of the rationale for the great society programs. What I have proposed is an effective approach to that that would work instead of doing greater harm. That would provide incentives to work, to save, to invest...

WALLACE: We have limited time, Mr. Ambassador. Let me just ask you about two of the more distinguished citizens from Illinois: Michael Jordan (search), Oprah Winfrey (search). They shouldn't have to pay any federal income taxes?

KEYES: It seems to me that people who are complaining about the fact that some rich black Americans would completely control their own money, ought to remember that Oprah Winfreys and Michael Jordans were lynched and suppressed in droves during the course of slavery and segregation.

The black community did not have a chance to build up the wealth base, to build up the banks, to build up in the sectors that they would have controlled, like entertainment, like in the restaurant industry.

They didn't have a chance to build up a legacy that was then passed from generation to generation, because their legacy was assaulted and destroyed. So a little time, in which they were relieved of the burden of supporting the public wheel, so that they could heal and repair themselves, not taking money from anybody else.

But through their own labor and their own work and their own enterprise, could heal the wounds that have been done in the course of history, that's a Republican and conservative approach to a problem that has not yet been solved.

WALLACE: We've got about 30 seconds left so keep that in mind in mind if you will, Mr. Ambassador.

Latest polls, you're down about 40 points, sound about right?

KEYES: The phony polls where they won't even release the sampling data that they used? I think it's quite clear that the media is attempting to manipulate and influence the outcome of the election. And that's one of the reasons these polls are so destructive of the quality of our electoral process.

WALLACE: And if you get shellacked?

KEYES: Get shellacked? That's not even on the table. As a matter of fact, the Democrats are running so scared and my opponent has been running scared since I stepped into the race, I think it's just the opposite. We are building up the kind of momentum that has struck fear into the heart of both Obama and the Democrats in Illinois.

WALLACE: Mr. Ambassador, we have to leave it there.

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