Jim Rubens told WMUR’s James Pindell last May that he wanted a “temporary truce” within the GOP on social issues during the 2014 campaigns. He sat down with me last week to elaborate on that, the day after he announced that he’s seeking the GOP nomination to replace Jeanne Shaheen in the U.S. Senate.
Rubens is straightforward about his main issues: jobs, government spending, and what he calls “trust crises” that have undermined public faith in elected leaders. But what about that “truce” remark? What does he have to say to and about New Hampshire’s pro-life voters?
On the life issues, and how he helped shape the NHGOP platform
Rubens spoke carefully about Roe v. Wade, pausing frequently to choose the right word. Whatever his views on the life issues, they’re not canned.
“On the life issue, we have Roe v. Wade. That’s been in constitutional law for a long time. Does it resolve the differences between people who would be called pro-life and pro-choice? It doesn’t. But it’s constitutional law, and because of the stare decisis doctrine, respected by the Roberts court, it’s unlikely that that will be changed. It’s unlikely there will be a constitutional amendment. Even a highly popular constitutional amendment, for example, is very, very difficult to get passed. Because of that, I’m proposing that Republicans focus on issues that we can agree upon, that are vitally necessary, that deal with the country’s serious challenges that we face right now – challenges as big as anything we’ve faced since World War II and the Great Depression.”
Debates on the life issues are not new to him. He served in the state senate while Shaheen was there, and in 2000, he chaired the NHGOP’s platform committee. His enthusiasm for the collaborative process is evident. “We dealt with that issue [in 2000]. We had hearings all over the state, and that platform was a breakthrough. We had actual concrete examples of what Republicans support, not conceptual statements but actual statements such as ‘we oppose partial-birth abortion, we support parental notification.’ I chaired that process, I shepherded that process, reaching agreement.
“Did everyone agree with all those things in that platform? No, but we [had] a good degree of agreement. And that platform has been used in the decade-plus since then by things like the House Republican Alliance to measure whether people are voting consistently with the body of Republican goals. Not just the principles that are loose, but actual specific goals.
“I agree with those elements of the platform, I shepherded it into being, and I believe it’s led to New Hampshire laws becoming more consistent with the views that reflect this difficult tension between the poles of opinion on that issue. And I believe it’s moved New Hampshire toward the position of life, consistent with Roe v. Wade, consistent with the views of the people of this state. So that’s what I mean by truce. I mean by truce that these things [Roe] are laws, they’re not going to change, and if you spend a lot of energy fighting each other on them, we end up being less able to deal with Obamacare, for example.”
On Shaheen: “She is as aggressively pro-choice as you can get.”
So does he think Shaheen will go along with a truce in the general election? His answer was swift, if not direct. “She is as aggressively pro-choice as you can get. Her position is different from mine. People have a wide range of opinions, but there’s a body of Americans that inhabit someplace between Jeanne Shaheen’s position and a place of banning all abortions under every circumstance. Her position is outside of that place that Americans have mostly come to terms where if there’s a situation for example which is beyond viability, unless there’s a threat for the life or health of the mother, Americans oppose that kind of abortion. And I agree with that position, personally.”
On the definition of marriage: in NH, “a settled issue”
Rubens commented briefly on New Hampshire’s law recognizing same-sex marriages. “Gay marriage is an issue that’s important. There was a vote on that here in the [NH] House [spring 2012], a very Republican House, and the House voted 2-1 to keep gay marriage. It was one of those unusual circumstances where it wasn’t a court decision, it was an actual legislature. I respect the House. It’s the people’s House. And that vote tells me that at least in New Hampshire, that issue is a settled issue. I’m not proposing that Republicans re-litigate the issue.”
His experience leading a coalition against a NH casino, and how expanded gambling is a life issue
I worked with the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, founded and led by Rubens, that has prevailed against casino interests for nine years. Most recently, a casino bill was killed in the New Hampshire House this year by a surprising margin, despite support from Governor Hassan.
“People have known me for fighting gambling. Two conclusions I ask voters to draw from that.
“Number one, I did work with a lot of Democrats. We couldn’t have won without Democrats. [Casino proponents] did not expect that because they had all the forces on their side. This is in the Republican party platform, and sometimes the only way to get a Republican platform item is to have some Democrats voting for it. [Beating] this industry nine years in a row is not magic. It’s a lot of skill. It’s finding a way to communicate different people. Bridge-building is a process of finding a way to that common ground around a goal. I’m really good at doing that, and I want to bring that talent to the United States Senate. It’s winning – not just fighting, but winning. Moving conservative issues into the win column.
“Second thing about this issue is, it is a life issue also that motivates me. As we know, gambling casinos create addiction. Some folks in our coalition don’t buy into that thing, but it’s a fact. Among those people who become addicted, it’s as addictive as crack cocaine. … It would create an additional 1000 suicides in NH if one casino were put in in Salem. And that’s a life issue. And that motivates me.”
Obamacare: “a train wreck”
I asked Rubens about the HHS mandate within Obamacare and its threat to religious liberty. He preferred to talk about Obamacare in general. In his announcement the day before our interview, he said he favored repealing Obamacare “and replacing it with something better.” When we spoke, he said he is preparing fuller policy proposals, but he was happy to outline his broad vision for health care.
“To get Obamacare stopped, even if we had a more Republican Senate, and a Republican president, is going to require bringing the public along with us. And we know Obamacare is a train wreck. It’s a jobs disaster, it’s a health care disaster, it raises the cost of health care, it does nothing to improve the quality of health care. 20 million people are still uninsured; it doesn’t even fix the problem it purports to fix. Republicans can take huge high ground in persuading Americans about Obamacare. I don’t believe we’ll do it until we come back with something better, and it is definitely feasible to come back with something better.
“Republicans would have a way better chance of terminating it in all of its awfulness if we come up with a [way] to solve the problems, reduce the cost of health care, drive up quality.” He criticized the current “disease-management-based system.” “We can look at models around the country that have worked. And Obamacare is not that model. Obamacare reduces choices.”
Libertarians within the GOP: “amazing energy”
I asked him about the role of libertarian voters in the GOP, the so-called “liberty Republicans.”
“We can unite. We have the liberty Republicans, we have traditional social conservatives, we have mainstream people and moderates, we have the quote-unquote Establishment. We agree on a lot, these different parts of the party. We are the only party that’s going to fix the nation’s problems. Democrats are bankrupting the country; they are the ones that gave us Obamacare. If Republicans, including the libertarian part, the social conservative part, don’t unite, there is no one to fix the country’s problems. Democrats are not going to do this. We have to do the lifting. We have to get the votes. But we can do this if we unite. And the libertarian part brings some amazing energy into our party right now. They’re reminding us of the importance of the Constitution. If we come together, we can reduce the size of government. We can reduce bureaucracy. We can make the government fit within the revenues that it has instead of killing the currency as we’re doing.”
“Let me at her.”
Rubens spoke at length about challenging and complex issues he worked on as a state senator, ranging from school choice to electricity competition. Jeanne Shaheen was part of all those debates, first as a state senator and then as governor. He hasn’t forgotten her State House days.
“I can take her on, because I know who she is. I’ve worked with her, I have fought her on issues in the state senate, I have seen her go into back rooms and be instructed by lobbyists how to vote. I watched it happen. It is not representing the people. It is not doing the people’s work in the state of NH. I have fought her on issue after issue after issue. I know where she comes from, I know how to defeat her. Let me at her.”