Friday, February 02, 2007

Brownback speaks, pounds pulpit in Columbia

Analysis by Corey Hutchins

“I’m down with the brown.”

That’s what one S.C. Republican operative campaigning for the Kansas senator, said in the buffet line prior to GOP presidential hopeful Sam Brownback’s luncheon speech Friday, Feb. 2 at the fairgrounds in Columbia.

The banquet room was packed with folks awaiting the senator’s announcement, which when it finally came sounded more like a sermon than the average campaign speech. For their part, members in attendance peppered Brownback’s more religious quips with the obligatory “amen.”

Knowing full well he was in the midst of a Republican stronghold and not an event at the Politically Correct Police Academy, Brownback opened his speech with anecdotes of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, calling him a “good man.” (Brownback spoke about Thurmond for three minutes before identifying himself or declaring his candidacy.)

From then on, the Midwest farm boy talked of how we can’t let God be run out of the public and how the United States needs to end cancer in the next 10 years. Reverting back to his days on the farm, Brownback pulled a piece of cloth from his pocket proclaiming that half of it was made with cotton and the other half corn. He used his prop to push for the use of ethanol and covered his “grass to gas” idea.

“I’m not talking about marijuana,” he joked.

While the senator insisted he did not have plants in the audience, those who asked questions following the speech lobbed them like helium balloons, which Brownback swung at as if with a road sign.

Abortion: “I will help to end abortion in America.”

“Amen,” said members of the crowd. “Amen.”

War: We’re in a “poorly named war” (war on terror) with a militant, fascist Islam and “we have to win.” He also does not think the troop surge is the right way to go.

Illegal immigration: “I supported the fence,” he said, and he wants Social Security to work together with the INS.

“Amen,” they said. “Amen.”

Healthcare: He’s for price transparency, for medical information being private and expansion of health savings accounts.

The last question, which Brownback said he feared would be a high-inside fastball, came out more like a knuckleball, both unexpected and tricky. How will the senator deal with the issue of gang activity in America? Brownback stared down the knuckleball and scanned the dugout for his favorite bat, the old standby, the one with the grips worn down until it shone like sun on a wheat field. The senator smiled and swung away.

“Have to involve faith,” he said.

“Amen,” they said. “Amen.”