Michigan GOP Leader Throws Hat in Ring for RNC Chairmanship
December 9, 2008Saul Anuzis describes his life story as "The American Dream." His Lithuanian parents and grandparents received the Righteous Among the Nations award from Israel's Yad Vashem holocaust museum for helping people escape the Jewish ghetto during World War II.
After the war, his family moved to the United States where a Catholic priest gave his father a set of 19 books on how to become an electrician. After learning to read and speak English at the same time, his father worked for 32 years as a skilled tradesman and was a United Auto Workers member at the Fleetwood Fisher Body Plant in Detroit, Mich.
Anuzis, who calls himself “an unabashed Reagan conservative with strong opinions about the role of government,” said he got hooked on politics while studying economics at the University of Michigan.
He sat down with CNSNews.com to talk about his vision for the Republican Party and how he would help rebuild it if he wins the chairmanship.
CNSNews.com: Did you support the legislation passed by the state of Michigan banning same-sex unions?
CNSNews.com: The 2008 Republican Party Platform supports a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Do you support that?
CNSNews.com: On the sanctity of life, the Republican Party Platform says: “Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental, individual right to life that cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.”
Do you agree with that?
Anuzis: Yes, I’ve supported that since I was a candidate for state representative in the ‘80s.
CNSNews.com: Do you support the overturning of Roe v. Wade (the U.S. Supreme Court 1973 ruling that legalized abortion)?
Anuzis: Well, obviously that would be a step toward that.
CNSNews.com: In the presidential election, some people who describe themselves as pro-life voted for Barack Obama, who is strongly pro-abortion. Many of them said the Republicans have been in (the White House) for eight years and nothing has been done to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Anuzis: First of all, you are never going to legislate the issue of abortion and morality. Basically, what you have to do is establish a social norm and educate the people as to why it’s right or wrong. I think the people that voted for Obama that happen to be pro-life, that wasn’t a determinative issue for them. This is not something that is going to happen tomorrow. This is not something that’s going to happen quickly. This is a long-term process. This has been a long-term battle, and I think it will continue to be a battle years down the line. I think you have to educate people year by year, election by election.
CNSNews.com: Reagan and, most recently, John McCain supported eliminating the Department of Education. Do you agree?
Anuzis: I would support eliminating the Department of Transportation. I think that that is a classic example of how federalism could go to work immediately, and we could save a tremendous amount of money on the national level. I would argue right now most states are net losers when it comes to the Department of Transportation. What happens now is Michigan sends … we only get back 60 to 90 cents of every dollar we send to Washington. Part of the problem is A, they take a piece off the top and redistribute the wealth somewhere else; B, probably the biggest percentage of earmarks are for special transportation projects; and C, it probably has more lobbyists working for transportation projects than anything else, except probably taxes. I think you would eliminate a huge amount of earmarks, a huge amount of lobbyists and have more money for roads and maintenance in the states.
CNSNews.com: Under George W. Bush, his No Child Left Behind program increased spending by the Department of Education. Did you support his No Child Left Behind policy?
Anuzis: I did not. I didn’t like the idea that A, the federal government played a role in that and that we didn’t fund it. Part of the problem is, politically, is that if you actually make a proposal and you don’t fund it you have a bad proposal by definition. Obviously, it didn’t have a chance to work even if it could have worked. This is a program that if you go back to the states, most states would agree that it did not work. It was not properly funded and has caused problems. I think … it sounded like something good helping kids, but instead it created a bureaucracy that has not worked and has failed.
CNSNews.com: The Republican group rebuildtheparty.com has a 10 point plan to rebuild the party, with the No. 1 priority being using the Internet as a tool. Do you agree?
Anuzis: Well, yes, for a couple reasons. Pew Research did a study … that 72 percent of the American people get most their information on the Internet. So we have to be effective if we are going to compete and reach out to people who are looking at the Internet. Especially if you look at the younger constituency, they almost exclusively get their information on the Internet. Using new technologies is what rebuildtheparty.com is talking about doing. We’ve got to reach out and use the technologies that are necessary to allow us to reach the voters that we are trying to get to.
CNSNews.com: Do you think it’s the No. 1 priority?
Anuzis: It is one of the leading priorities. I’m not sure I would call it No. 1, because I think No. 1 is going to be rebuilding our brand and our image. I think it will be one of the No. 1 tools we’ll use to reach our goals, which will be to rebuild the party and win elections again.
CNSNews.com: Did you support George W. Bush’s Medicare prescription plan?
Anuzis: No, I did not. That was the largest expansion of the federal government we’ve ever had. Again, a well-intended program that was not well-implemented, let alone well thought out. Any kind of welfare program is usually temporary and meant to help somebody who can’t help themselves. We’re creating entitlement programs and a welfare state, which I think is one of the most uncompassionate things we can do because we’ve created dependency on the federal government.
CNSNews.com: How does the Republican Party regain its standing as the party that wants to cut taxes and take care of the middle class?
Anuzis: I think that is one of the fundamental issues. It is the middle class that we’re losing. It’s the Reagan Democrats and the independent voters that we are losing. I think that these people vote on issues and personalities that obviously matter, but they don’t vote for the party. The middle class that we are losing is the suburban voter, is the single mom, is the working-class American. And they are looking at how to keep more of what they earn … how do they make sure they have a job? The No. 1 issue for these voters is employment. When we are in a recession today, looking at it worsening, the middle class, the Reagan Democrat, the voters that made us the majority party originally are all scared about their jobs. And so I think until we start talking about the opportunity society, about growth, about how we create jobs in the future, we’re not going to win elections.
CNSNews.com: Did you support the comprehensive immigration reform proposed during the Bush administration?
CNSNews.com: What should Republicans stand for in terms of immigration reform?
Anuzis: I think there has to be a series of steps. I think we have to A, change the tone and the rhetoric. You take a look at what Barry Goldwater did versus what Ronald Reagan did. They ran on the same issues but the rhetoric was different. I think that really does matter how we present things. B, I think we’ve got to secure our borders before we can deal with any kind of reform. Then we have to rationally address policies. Today, as an example, it is easier for someone to get in (to the U.S.) to clean your house or pick fruits than it is for the guy who comes in to get his Ph.D, who is one of the brightest nuclear physicists – 60 days after his VISA expires we send him home, instead of keeping the brightest and best in the world, which is how I think this country first came to be. I think those basically yearning for freedom and the opportunity came to America to be free and made us the great entrepreneurial country that we are. Now we chase those people away and take the low labor people. That’s a very backwards policy.
CNSNews.com: What about the 12 million who are here illegally?
Anuzis: That’s probably the toughest question to deal with. I think we have to come up with some type of rational policy that does not give them amnesty, does not make them citizens. I oppose citizenship for someone who breaks the law. If the first step for citizenship is breaking the law, then what does that say about citizenship? That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to chase them out and put them on a bus and send them home, but we have to deal with this. The idea that now there are 2 million people who actually have criminal records in this country that we haven’t done anything with, I think that’s just outrageous. Granted, over the past 12 months, we’ve seen mass increases in the deportation of criminals. But we have to make it very clear. We’re talking about the criminal element that we’re talking about getting rid of. I understand people came here for their families and we have to be compassionate about that. But that doesn’t mean you give them citizenship. That doesn’t mean you give them all the rights and privileges of being an American. But those people who are breaking the law? Those people should be shipped out and dropped off behind the fence from Day One. You read about the murders, you read about the robberies – those are people who are illegally here. That’s the kind of people who don’t want. We don’t want them emptying their prisons and sending them our way. And, unfortunately, that’s happened.
CNSNews.com: What is the first thing you would do as the new chairman of the Republican National Committee?
Anuzis: I have to say there are two things I would do. First, I would do a top-to-bottom operational analysis of what the RNC currently does, the staffing that’s involved and the other consultants that are there. Basically, take a look at what is there, what we need to do, what should we improve and what we should do differently. Number two, I would sit down with the House and Senate and the Republican Governors Association and say how are we going to work together to come up with a united message on what Republicans stand for and what our message is going to be to the American people?