Six months ago The Weekly Standard did a feature article on Sam Brownback entitled Mr. Compassionate Conservative. It’s an interesting and still relevant profile of the principled conservative Republican. Since Blogs 4 Brownback was not up and running at the time of its publication, I thought it would be good at some point to make reference to it. The time is now.
The article is fairly lengthy and I will only have a few excerpts here. So read the whole thing. It’s quite good. The opening is a doozy:
Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas considers a run for president. So why is he spending a night in prison?
No, he’s not a jailbird. Read on. Here’s a taste of his prison visit:
Wearing a blue shirt and red tie, Sam Brownback, Kansas’s senior senator, soon steps to the front. He begins speaking with an ease that suggests he has been here before, which he has, three times.
“So good to see you guys, and so good to see this program,” says Brownback, who moves quickly to his main points. The country spent the ’80s and ’90s building more prisons and incarcerating more criminals, he says, noting that “we needed to do that.” But now the U.S. prison population exceeds two million, “the biggest number we’ve ever had.” Once released, most go back to “the old group”–to the “bad company that corrupts good morals,” he says, using a passage from the first letter to the Corinthians. Many are rearrested and wind up back in prison. Brownback mentions a Justice Department finding that almost two-thirds of those released from prison are rearrested within three years. He says he’d like to see that number, the recidivism rate, cut in half over the next five years.
And who wouldn’t support this goal?
The senator talks about how to achieve that goal by pointing to the program his audience knows well. IFI and other prerelease programs, says Brownback, can help inmates break their “bondage” to the past and prepare for a new life with people who can “pull you up, and not down.” He also discusses his Second Chance Act, which would authorize $40 million to help newly released prisoners with housing, drug treatment, counseling, job training, and education. Brownback says reducing the recidivism rate is not only about turning around the lives of those who have committed crimes but also about “breaking the generational curse . . . so that it doesn’t go to your kids and grandkids.”
This is an important issue for our society today. Brownback is one of the few speaking out about this and actually leading the charge.
At one point he brings up “another topic I’ve been working on,” namely “how the welfare system actually penalizes [poor] people for getting married.” Brownback finds this perverse, since studies show that if you get married and stay married, you are less likely to remain poor. Brownback mentions the hearings he’s held on this topic, and how he’d like to eliminate from federal law what he calls “the disincentives” to marriage. The session ends with more than a dozen men crowding around Brownback, praying. And Brownback’s visit has only just begun.
Another important issue that touches not only the incarcerated but the working poor. He’s on a roll. And this is just the beginning. A few paragraphs later:
Brownback didn’t use his speech to offer a complete inventory of the people he thinks Americans should be reaching out to. But interviews with Brownback leave little doubt that it is a long list. It includes “the unborn,” meaning the roughly 25 percent of the unborn who are aborted in the United States. And people who are physically and mentally disabled. And poor immigrants, including those here illegally. [Ed Note: this is an issue that many supposed Christians berate Sam Brownback for.] And people overseas who are persecuted for their political and religious beliefs; who are discriminated against and killed because of their race or ethnicity; who are sold into slavery; who are stricken with malaria and AIDS.
That’s Sam’s brilliant and compassionate “Whole Life” message. And what is the basis of this?
His focus on compassion comes, he says, from his Christian faith–specifically from the Second Great Commandment, which is to love your neighbor as yourself. “I have that up on my office wall, on a page, framed,” he says.
Love thy neighbor as thyself. Many Christians seem to forget this. Sam Brownback does not. He has a daily reminder posted on his office wall.
Indeed, Brownback thinks the country is changing in a way that would make it more responsive to a more compassion-driven GOP. Since the mid-1990s, the nation has been undergoing what he calls “an awakening.”
Amen! And it demonstrates Sam’s hope for the future. A glorious future he would like to lead us to. And now for a little something on Sam’s conservative street cred:
Brownback, who will turn 50 in September, has executive and legislative experience, and is well versed on national security issues. Thoughtful and well respected in both parties, he is politically shrewd and a proven vote getter. Of importance especially to Republican primary voters, he is a committed tax cutter and free trader. He has supported the war on terrorism and championed the cause of human rights and democracy abroad. Outspoken in behalf of the need to appoint judicial conservatives, he was one of the first Republican senators to question the merits of the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers. Few Republican politicians are as close as Brownback is to leading religious conservatives, a key part of the Republican coalition. Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, says of Brownback, “Many have the right voting records, but he has leadership.” It’s not a stretch to think that the Kansas Republican could appeal to conservative voters in the nearby Iowa caucuses, which will kick off the 2008 primary season.
And unlike Romney, Brownback supported Reagan:
In 1979, Brownback enrolled in the law school at the University of Kansas. In 1980, he again volunteered for Reagan. “I just thought Reagan got it right,” he says. “Here was finally somebody who made a whole lot of sense to me, who understood the difference between right and wrong, and who was willing to stand up for what’s right.” He recalls when he first heard about Reagan’s famous 1983 speech in which the president described the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” Brownback says he was out in a field on a tractor, the news coming over the radio. “I was beating on the dashboard, saying, ‘That’s right. That’s right.’ And then I heard commentators saying this was dangerous, that it was a bad move to call the Soviet Union an evil empire. But that’s what it was.”
More and more:
Faith-based programs are decidedly among those Brownback expects to produce measurable results. For example, a program like Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative must reduce the recidivism rate. A study of IFI at a Texas prison indicated that it had cut the rate considerably.
Which faith-based programs are constitutional is another outstanding question, underscored two days after Brownback’s visit to Ellsworth when a federal judge in Iowa found a similar IFI program in that state to violate the First Amendment’s ban on establishing religion.
It works, but the church-state wall advocates don’t seem to care. They simply hate religion. A pity.
There’s so much more in the article, I plead with you to read it all. I think that reading and forwarding the Weekly Standard article to friends and family would really help to shore up support for the principled conservative Republican that Sam Brownback really is.
Hat Tip: Catholics for Senator Brownback.