Former Nevada state Rep. Sharron Angle, the Republican nominee going up against Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, had a raucous interview last night with Jon Ralston, one of the top political reporters in the state. As we previously reported, Angle backed away from her controversial comments about “Second Amendment remedies” to government overreach — but there were plenty of fun exchanges on other issues, too.
Overall, besides her very awkward backdown on having possibly encouraged violent revolution, Angle put in a competent performance. Ralston approached the job in the classic form of a Tim Russert-style interview, seeking to nail the candidate down on a lot of her statements that could get her in hot water. But Angle never broke down or admitted any kind of defeat or even contradiction, presenting a kind and gentle face for the voters.One thing that could potentially get Angle in trouble came at the very end of the interview: Her open embrace of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site, something that most Nevada politicians of both parties fight tooth and nail to delay and stop. When Ralston asked Angle whether she was willing to “gamble” on not having any nuclear waste accidents there, in light of how most people thought offshore drilling was safe until the current BP oil spill disaster, Angle stuck to her guns.
Angle said that there’s been nuclear waste disposal in the area since 1954. “You know, this is a long time. 1954, without incident, is a pretty good track record,” said Angle.
“Let’s get back to the potential that Harry Reid has actually destroyed, by demonizing the nuclear energy industry. There is a pot of money out there,” Angle said, also adding: “We need to make some lemonade out of some lemons here, and we have a perfect opportunity right now, in this economic climate, to create jobs.”
On the big issue of Social Security, Ralston played back Angle’s past statements that the privatization of Social Security is “not up for grabs,” with the question being how to work out the timeline and implementation. Angle stated solidly that all Social Security benefits should be there for seniors who have paid into the system and that money should be paid back into the trust fund, rather than taken out. And she even said that the system should remain for people who want it, under a partial privatization that would maintain a government role. Though she did cite Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) roadmap as an example of the kind of proposals are out there — and which actually calls for the slashing of entitlement programs — she nevertheless promised no benefit cuts at all.
“If we are going to go to a personalized account, then there can be this choice, and many people will have this choice,” said Angle. “If you’ve read Paul Ryan’s roadmap, you know that there is a choice that gives them the bottom line, which is Social Security — they can choose that — or they can choose to personalize. But no matter whether they choose the personalized account of Social Security, or what we have now, the bottom line is that we can’t keep raiding and pillaging like Harry Reid has been doing for years and year and years.”
Early on, Ralston challenged Angle on her pronouncements that government does not create jobs, at the same time as she accuses Reid and the Democrats of ruining the job market.
“You’re saying he hasn’t brought any jobs back to this state, Assemblywoman?” said Ralston. “Harry Reid has created all kind of jobs through – you see these press conferences all the time. Local government, state government. Who brought those jobs back? You’re not gonna give him credit for that?”
“Not much, because government doesn’t really create jobs. And a Census part-time job is not a job. People want a job that really has benefits, that has a future, that really is something that they can count on to pay their mortgage.”
On unemployment benefits, Angle voiced an interesting proposal — saying that she would have voted against the further extension of unemployment benefits, but also apparently saying that social benefits should continue, at a lower rate, for people who found low-paying jobs. Ralston challenged Angle on past statements about unemployment having “spoiled” the workforce, and whether she was implying that unemployed people are lazy and should have their benefits cut in order to force them to work.
“What I’m implying is there are some jobs out there that are available, because they have to enter at a lower grade, and they cannot keep their unemployment, they have to make a choice now,” said Angle. “We’re making them make a choice between unemployment benefits and going back to work, and working up through the ranks of that job, and actually building up a good wage again, and building up some seniority in that job. And what we need to do is make that unemployment go down, not just completely remove the safety net, while they go out and go to work.”
Ralston then decided to pull one over on Angle. He asked her whether she supported a proposal in the Senate to provide billions of dollars in incentives for small businesses to hire people. He did not mention any information about who was pushing the bill. Angle responded: “Well I think that’s where the incentive should go, is to small businesses, yes. Because we know they are the engine that drives the job force.”
“We have made history tonight,” Ralston declared. “Because Sharron Angle just expressed support for a Harry Reid bill. How can I top that?”
Interestingly, the subject of political attacks against Angle’s apparent policy links to the Church of Scientology, and to a prison drug rehab program, came up from Angle herself. During a discussion of the separation of church and state, Angle said: “You know, I will stand strong to defend people even if I don’t agree with them. And that’s why I think the Scientology thing is on pretty slippery slopes, because whenever you criticize someone’s religion, what you’re saying is that they somehow don’t fit in.”
“Are you a Scientologist?” Ralston asked. “Are you revealing that tonight?”
“No, I’m not,” said Angle. “I’m defending their right to be – their freedom of religion.”
Ralston then had to cut to a commercial break, but said to the camera: “I didn’t bring up Scientology – she did. I wasn’t even planning on it.”