Conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly came to Oklahoma last week to give a contemporary assessment of the national policy scene in which she has been a significant “player” for more than 50 years.
In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Schlafly decried federal involvement in public education, assessed the 2012 Republican presidential field, defended the Electoral College and gave a short list of conservative leaders she has long admired.
Schlafly said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was mistaken in sending a “Race to the Top” grant submission to the U.S. Department of Education. Schlafly said, “It's a bribe, pure and simple." It's a bribe to do what the federal government wants you to do.
“Remember that the federal government didn't get involved in education funding until Ike, President [Dwight David] Eisenhower. The amount of money has gone from zero to a total of $2 trillion over the years. And yet, it hasn't helped the public schools. The federal involvement has been a total failure. In essence, we have lost all of that money.
“The reasons given for federal money and control, and it's the same in this case, are to raise test scores and 'close the gap' between wealthier kids and poorer kids. That's what the advocates always say. But it hasn't worked.
“State and local control of education have to be restored. In some ways this should not be difficult in comparison to some issues. It's only 10 percent of all the money spent in public education, and most businesses have taken much worse total cuts than that in the Recession.
“It's time to be clear-eyed and stop letting the federal government dictate education policy to the states. There's no better time than now.”
Schlafly has known and worked with most leading American conservatives for decades, and played a legendary role in the 1960s and 1970s drive to Republican power that laid the framework for the modern conservative movement. Asked if she had a personal favorite for the Grand Old party's 2012 presidential nominee, and for impressions about the field of candidates, she replied, “I haven't made a decision yet. I was hopeful for [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry but he seems to wrong on some issues and has faded in the debates.
“I must say that I am actually not surprised that Herman Cain has impressed so many people. He is a plain-talking man and he is speaking plain language to plain people. It is working. I am surprised that [former Sen. Rick] Santorum hasn't gained some ground because he has handled himself so well in the debates.
“As for [U.S. Rep.] Michelle Bachman, I think she has been the best at handling, or pushing back, at the press. She handles the issue well and seems to be more knowledgeable and better informed than most. I also think she does well at talking about the financial mess we're in.”
Schlafly did not comment on the rest of the Republican field, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
A constitutional analyst and author of detailed critiques of American jurisprudence, Mrs. Schlafly discussed with CapitolBeatOK her opposition to advocacy from both ends of the spectrum for a constitutional convention that would operate under provisions in Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
Explaining she believes this is a “terrible idea,” Schlafly detailed her objections:
“I have attended at least 15 Republican national conventions. I've seen just about every political trick you can imagine. Crooked deals, deals for illegal jobs, bribes, power plays by convention chairmen or rules makers to throw out delegates and to throw out rules.
“I must say that anybody who thinks you can control what comes up at a constitutional convention is not living in the real world.” Schlafly said the chairmanship of any “Con Con” would be critical, but in any case she opposed the idea.
She continued, “I was interested to see that one of our best conservative attorneys general, Ken Cuccinelli [from the Commonweath of Virginia] and one of the smartest left-wing law professors, Laurence Tribe [of Harvard], actually agree on this. They had a sort of dry-run for a 'Con Con' at Harvard two weeks ago and the participants couldn't agree on anything at all.
“Now these demonstrators in New York and around the country say they're going to have a 'convention' on July 4. These people would march right in and ruin our Constitution.”
Asked to reflect on another percolating neo-populist idea, Schlafly contended, “I think the drive for a national popular vote, to displace the Electoral College, is a terrible idea. It is essentially vote stealing on a massive scale, to say that electors should vote for the person who wins the national popular vote rather than the person who wins their state.
“That is an interesting effort. The advocates have a lot of money and they have highly paid lobbyists showing up all over the country, going into the different states to work for this agenda. I do not know who is behind this effort, but I must say I suspect George Soros.
“Bottom line, if this idea had been in effect in the year 2000, Al Gore rather than George W. Bush would have been our president.”
In the closing years of a high-impact career in the public eye, Schlafly also reflected on those she has most admired in the last half-century. She said, “I don't really have any heroes except George Washington, who was a truly great man and an incredible leader. However, I certainly believe I have witnessed three high caliber men, great leaders, in my career: Robert A. Taft, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
“I feel to save our country we've got to have grass roots conservative control of the Republican party. The next president will be either a Republican or a Democrat. The feminists dominate the Democratic party. So, I urge people to be involved in the structure of the Republican party so we can have a real conservative candidate for president to assure this man in the office now is a one-term president.”