In Their Own Words
An interview with Bob Casey, Jr., Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
Born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, Jr., 45, was elected Auditor General of Pennsylvania in 1996 and re-elected in 2000. In 2002, he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor, a position his father held 1987Ė1995. In 2004, Bob Casey was elected State Treasurer.
Casey is one of three Democratic candidates running for U.S. Senate. He currently has the biggest campaign war chest and the best chance, at least at this point in the campaign, of winning the primary and facing Rick Santorum in the general election next fall. The following are excerpts from interview with Treasurer Casey that took place on September 2, 2005.
PJV: What do you say to Pennsylvania Democrats who may support you on a variety of issues, but who are also staunchly pro-choice?
BC: I ask them to look at my record. Iíve always been a strong advocate for programs and policies that make life better for women before and after giving birth. As U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, I will work hard to protect important programs like WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and Head Start. Iíve also been a strong supporter of family planning and will continue the fight to keep it funded when I get to Washington. Thatís why Iíve enjoyed the support of pro-choice and pro-life people every time Iíve run for office in Pennsylvania. If there is one thing that brings people together on this issue itís the need to reduce the number of abortions Ė the number of unwanted pregnancies and crisis pregnancies. I think thatís something people on both sides of the issue agree on.
PJV: On the level of rhetoric, you wouldnít think they agreed on anything?
BC: Itís very unfortunate the way people on both sides of this issue have been demonized. I think pro-life and pro-choice supporters have more in common than they realize.
PJV: Do you support the so-called "abstinence plus" approach to sex education that stresses abstinence but also includes information on birth control?
BC: I think thatís a good approach. Kids need to know about birth control, but not from Washington. I believe that local school districts must have the flexibility to implement sex education programs that are appropriate for their communities.
PJV: Do you think Americans have a Constitutional right to privacy?
BC: Most Americans people recognize that right to some degree or another, and I think that some privacy-related court decisions, such as Griswold (which recognized the right of marital privacy and struck down a law forbidding the sale of contraceptives to married couples), are correct. But let me add that I do draw a line. The right to privacy does not trump the right of the unborn.
PJV: What about gay marriage?
BC: I donít support gay marriage, but I also donít support a constitutional amendment banning it. That would be tremendously divisive. However, I do support same sex unions that would give gay couples all the rights, privileges and protections of marriage.
PJV: What about Intelligent Design? Should it be taught in public schools as a valid scientific alternative to evolution?
BC: I think that science should be taught in science class and religion in religion class. Intelligent Design is an idea best suited to a class on religion or taught at home.
PJV: In 2003, Sen. Santorum said that President Kennedy's vow to separate his faith from his policies was wrong, that it has caused "much harm in America." As a Catholic and a politician, whatís your response to that statement?
BC: Thereís a difference between saying your faith has a positive impact on your life and informs your decisions, and saying that it dictates every policy decision you make.
PJV: Is that how you can oppose abortion and support funding for birth control?
BC: Yes. Because itís about tolerance. Itís the way people of different faiths Ė and people of no faith for that matter Ė can have a positive impact on society. That kind of tolerance is the underpinning of our commonwealth. William Penn came here to found "a tolerant settlement."
PJV: Would you characterize Rick Santorum as intolerant?
BC: Sen. Santorum has been far too focused on what I would call a very intolerant ideology. Itís a very aggressive and divisive kind of partisanship that gets in the way of focusing on Pennsylvaniaís priorities, like affordable healthcare. I think people are ready for a change. They want someone who is focused on their problems, not on some ideological agenda.
PJV: In 2004, the emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that federal funds earmarked for improvements to the levees "Öhave been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq..." What is your response to that statement and how would you characterize the administrationís response to Hurricane Katrina?
BC: A lot of questions need to be answered about the response. Questions about timing, FEMA and the level of support. We need a thorough review of the entire matter. We need to make sure the president appoints a commission to conduct an exhaustive review, a 9/11-type commission.
PJV: Do you think the Bush administration deceived the American public in the run up to the war in Iraq?
BC: A lot of Americans feel we were deceived and there is evidence to back up that feeling. I donít think we were intentionally mislead, but thereís no question that at best, we experienced a colossal intelligence failure. We didnít have a plan to win the peace. We listened too much to Pentagon and not enough to the State Department about the kind of challenges were likely to face. But whatís important now is to focus on where we are currently, and clearly there are problems with the way the administration is conducting the war: the lack of enough troops, the lack of sufficient armor, the failure to train enough Iraqi troops so we can bring our own troops, who have fought heroically, home. Unfortunately, Sen. Santorum has not been asking any tough questions. Leading Republicans, like Senators Hagel and McCain, have raised legitimate questions about the conduct of this war. But Sen. Santorum is the third ranking Republican in the Senate. He represents the state that has the biggest National Guard contingent over there, the state that ranks fourth in the number of casualties. Yet he hasnít been able to muster one word of criticism. Maybe he doesnít have the independence to ask the tough questions.
PJV: Many Jewish Republicans regard Sen. Santorum as a good friend of Israel. What is your position on our countryís relationship with the State of Israel?
BC: No senator will be as vigilant or as supportive as me in maintaining and strengthening our special relationship, our unshakeable bond with Israel. And that support must take a variety of forms. We need to continue our military and economic support of Israel. We need to take a tough stand on Iranís pursuit of nuclear arms. We need to ensure that laws like the Syria Accountability Act are enforced. And we need to keep working together. I believe that when Israel and the U.S. are working together it prevents the spread of terrorism.
PJV: How would you characterize the Bush administrations approach to the Israel-Arab conflict?
BC: I think itís generally been good. Theyíve supported Sharon and thatís important, especially during the Gaza disengagement. I think Sharon has shown a lot of people what it really means to be strong, to be strong on the battlefield and strong as a politician.
PJV: Have you ever visited Israel?
BC: Iím happy to tell you that Iíll be making my first visit there this November. Iím really looking forward to it.
Interview by Charles Smolover.