A Few Questions from Tracy Rowlett

Rowlett talkes to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison about writing a new chapter in her life.

Tracy Rowlett

If you believe the political rumor mill, Texans may soon be calling
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison Governor Kay Bailey Hutchison. Of course,
2006 is a long way off, but one thing is certain: we can now start
calling her “author.” As if raising two small children and holding one
of the most powerful positions on the planet weren’t enough, this month
her book American Heroines
(William Morrow, $24.95) hits stores. I sat down to talk to her about
her heroes, the presidential election, and all that chatter about the
Governor’s Mansion.

ROWLETT: You have just written a book about women and their accomplishments. Tell us how that came about. 
HUTCHISON:
I am very excited about the book. What I love about it is that we talk
about the role of women in our country. I profile 11 women in different
fields who really did break barriers for women in our country and
helped make it what it is: the strongest nation on earth.

ROWLETT: Do you have a special heroine among the women you researched?
HUTCHISON:
No. I have 11 of them. And frankly, I have at least 25 more. It was
hard to decide who would be the right person in each area, and I’m sure
some people will second-guess the ones I have selected because there
are so many. I tried to get women from different areas who broke
barriers, from Margaret Chase Smith in the United States Senate to
Amelia Earhart in aviation.  Then I followed up each pioneer with
some contemporary women who are still breaking barriers.  For
instance, after Amelia Earhart, I did astronaut Sally Ride. It was
interesting to see how the pioneer women had so little encouragement,
but they persevered and still broke barriers, and many times they
didn’t see their successes. But all the women that I profiled have that
strain of perseverance and courage, which has meant so much to our
country. That entrepreneurial spirit has contributed so much to our
democracy and our free enterprise system. 

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

ROWLETT: You have two adopted children.  Is it difficult to balance their needs with your Senate responsibilities?
HUTCHISON:

Clearly that is a problem. I don’t make as many out-of-town trips as I
used to, and I don’t do as many speeches on the banquet circuit. And
[my husband] Ray is a wonderful father and helps as much as he can.

ROWLETT:  Would family be one consideration that might influence whether you run for governor in 2006?
HUTCHISON:

Well, yes. And family will certainly be an important consideration when
it comes to my running for re-election to the Senate. That’s the
decision that concerns me first.

ROWLETT: But it’s no secret that you have considered running for governor…
HUTCHISON:

Yes. I thought about it seriously before the last election.  
I love Texas and have had a special interest in state government,
obviously, since I served in both the House there and as State
Treasurer. But when Phil Gramm decided to retire, I wanted to make sure
Texas would have someone with some experience  here to represent
us in the Senate. I think we have an excellent congressional 
delegation  now, so that will also be part of my decision as to
whether I will run for the Senate again.

ROWLETT: Have you had a positive response to the possibility that you might run for Governor?
HUTCHISON:

Yes. People have been very supportive all across the state. But, as I
say, I haven’t made that decision yet, and I have no timetable on
deciding what I will do.

ROWLETT: It was reported that relations were strained
between you and Governor Perry during the GOP Convention. What is your
relationship with him now?
HUTCHISON:
 We work very well
together when it comes to the needs of Texas. We communicate on
national and state needs, as I do with other state leaders like
Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and others.

ROWLETT:  On one of those key state issues, a judge recently
declared portions of the Texas school finance plan, or Robin Hood,
unconstitutional. What is your reaction?

HUTCHISON: I
think it is painfully obvious that Texas must come up with another way
to finance schools, to take the tax burden off property owners, and to
still guarantee a quality education for all Texas schoolchildren. 
It isn’t an easy task, but it has to be done.  You have to
determine the level of funding required for a quality education, and
what is the state’s share of that. And then you have to apply that
standard to every school district in Texas. Then you have to have
accountability from that district to assure that the money is going
into the classroom to achieve that standard. You can’t just throw money
at every school district without a standard to which they will be held
accountable.

ROWLETT: Nationally, this is one of the most contentious
presidential elections I’ve seen. And we seem to be getting bogged down
in things such as the candidates’ service records from decades ago,
while bigger things are not being discussed.  Do you have that
same reaction?

HUTCHISON: Oh, it is just awful. We need
to have a discourse on the war on terrorism, our economy, jobs, trade,
Social Security reform, tax reform. And what we are hearing is
nitpicking about somebody’s record 30 or 35 years ago.   It’s
time to move on and ask:  What would you do in the next four years
for our country?  

ROWLETT: Do you think we have become bogged down in Iraq?
HUTCHISON:

I certainly think there have been unacceptable occurrences in Iraq
since we got to Baghdad. We have had more insurgents. We’ve had tougher
opponents than we expected, and there is no question about that. But we
have made a judgment, and we have got to see this through. Talking
about how we got here is less relevant than what we are going to do to
assure stability in Iraq so that we can have a democratic election so
that they can have their own leaders survive in a stable atmosphere.

ROWLETT: You mentioned terrorism, and the 9/11 Commission
was critical of Congress. Is our national security being held hostage
by politics right now?
HUTCHISON:
No, our national security is
not.  We have had to make some serious changes in intelligence
gathering since 9/11.  We are trying to put into law many of the
changes we have already made.  But we had a bifurcated system of
intelligence gathering that had prevented us from putting everything
together into one grid so that we could see what was happening. Now we
are sharing that information and I think that we have thwarted several
potential terrorist attacks in our country because we’re doing a better
job. So I don’t think we are being held hostage by politics. There is
nothing that the Department of Defense has asked us to do that we
haven’t done. Nothing. 

ROWLETT: Do you see Iraq as the thorniest problem for the president and his re-election?
HUTCHISON:

Two issues will be the deciding factors in the election. First, the war
on terrorism. I think people will be looking at who they want to be the
commander in chief to take us through the next four years of combating
terrorism. It’s a war like we have never known before. And, of course,
I believe we need a commander in chief who is resolute and focused. And
I think that’s George Bush. I think the other factor is the economy:
Who will be able to create a level playing field for businesses to be
able to grow and prosper and create good jobs in America?

ROWLETT: Critics have said the far-right is taking over your party. Is it?
HUTCHISON:

The Republican Party is made up of conservatives from the right through
the middle.   But I think mainstream conservatives make up
the bulk of the Republican Party, people who have always stood for
things like smaller, more efficient government, low-taxes, compassion
for the needy, and delivering services in an efficient way. And I think
we are a strong national defense party that believes America must be
strong and committed to our national security.

ROWLETT: You know Senator Kerry. Would you say he would be soft on national security?
HUTCHISON:
Senator Kerry has not been a strong and reliable supporter of our
national security. In the Senate, his votes have been very unfocused
and changeable.

ROWLETT: Congress recently allowed the ban on assault weapons to expire. What is your position on that?
HUTCHISON:

The kinds of assault weapons that are automatic will continue to be
banned.  Weapons where the trigger must be pulled each time are
the weapons that are used by hunters and recreational shooters. But
automatic weapons are banned, and they will be.

ROWLETT: Senator, some conservatives in your party have
criticized you because you broke with President Bush over his
nomination to the federal bench in Arkansas. Can you explain your vote
against Leon Holmes?
HUTCHISON:
Yes. It had nothing to do with
abortion, which is what some groups tried to make it. It was not an
abortion issue and had nothing to do with that. What concerned  me
about this particular nominee were things he had written and said about
the role of women. And as a United States senator giving a
lifetime  appointment, I could not vote for someone I thought
might not treat women the same in the courtroom as men. I read
everything, and I talked to him. But I was not convinced that he thinks
women are equal in our society.

ROWLETT: Do you think there are still barriers against women in our country?
HUTCHISON:

With the exception of a woman president, we have seen women be very
successful throughout our society, and in every field. I think the
barriers are down, and in the future, women will be judged by their
accomplishments and not just whether they were pioneers in their field.

ROWLETT: Do you think we will see a woman as President in our lifetime?
HUTCHISON:
 I do. I definitely do.

Photos: Rowlett: Tom Hussey; Hutchison: Tadd Myers

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