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Scott Brown interview transcript

Massachusetts' new senator talks about his campaign, the issues -- and signing a supporter's head

Scott Brown (John Tlumacki / Globe Staff)
January 28, 2010

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Senator-elect Scott Brown sat down with Boston Globe reporters Matt Viser and Eric Moskowitz in his State House office for a half-hour interview. Here is an edited transcript of the interview, with questions italicized and Brown's responses following.

Barbara Walters, Jay Leno -- all this attention. What is the psychology of it like?

"I try not to think about it. I try to just be myself. Like today I got up, I rode the bike for an hour, watched TV, read the newspapers, you know, and then spent a little time with the dogs, got them all settled up, gave Gail a kiss and went to the gym, did a swim, and then I came in here, I've been meeting with you guys, I'm going to caucus -- the only different thing is, I'm doing Leno. So yeah it's certainly humbling, and I'm honored out of all this -- I've been honored. And everybody's been so wonderful. Even people who didn't vote for me. The thing that's been different about this election that I think is important for people to know, I get letters from people with checks in them from people who didn't vote for me. It says you know 'I didn't vote for you, [but I] love your race, you did a great job and I think you need a good start so here's a check.' I'm like wow, OK so people have been very, very gracious even if they didn't vote for me, cause they appreciate the good race we ran, how it was classy, it was above board, it was issues oriented, it was fun, and it was energizing. And it really uplifted everybody, not only in Massachusetts but throughout the country and some parts of the world. Just that whole feel of a guy, a regular guy can make a difference and go up against the machine and win. And that underdog thing, they really -- it just really -- they feel it, I feel their energy, I'm feeding off their energy."

How do you maintain that energy, when there's a feeling that you've shaken up the national political landscape? Can you maintain it?

"I just try -- I just -- exactly. I get up and do my things I've always done for the last 30 years. I go to the same -- I go to the restaurant, I get the same breakfast, the only thing different is now it's the Scott Brown Special. It's still the same thing I've always ordered. OK, they can change the name and fluff it up but -- I still go to the Y, I still wear my junky clothes, and I still, probably my gym locker still smells. And so I just try to be myself and I find that's the best thing to do, because when people try to change it gets -- it gets a little bit, uh, people see right through it."

On the Brown brigade website, there are suggestions for a Scott Brown flag, that your election is bigger than D Day, that you are a beacon of light. [Brown laughs.] "Anything else? Jeez. Well, it's certainly -- that's what I'm talking about, the enthusiasm has just been so wonderful and people have been so, I don't want to say cute, but they've been really just fun, they've been having fun, you know, making up these kind of interesting suggestions and I haven't been on the Brown Brigade [website] in a -- I haven't been on, even when we had the site I only just checked to make sure it was working, I'm not involved with it. But I certainly appreciate their kind thoughts."

You've won offices at a number of levels, and each time I'm sure came in with the expectations of voters. This is on a much different scale, but can you draw from that? And how do you fulfill them, when so many are watching, and have such expectations?

"They are. There's -- it's a lot of pressure, to be everything to everybody, and all I've been telling people is you know I'm a regular guy, I'm Scott Brown from Wrentham. I drive a truck. And I'm just like they are, and I'm hopeful that they don't put such high expectations that I let them down. So I'm just asking people to be patient, let me get a business card first, let me get my office staff established, give me a month to just make sure I can do everything that they want me to do -- and then, then they can start to judge me."

In terms of that, is there a piece of legislation you want to file first? "Yeah, I'm gonna sign on to Judd Gregg's bill, the one that they didn't pass. If I was there it may have passed, I would have spoken on it certainly, I may have even given my maiden speech on it, because I think it's kind of a BRAC type of bill, to do a top to bottom review and see how you can get a line on spending [which] I think is very, very important. And I'm gonna focus on you know military, veterans and education issues. I mean those are the things I've always been kinda drawn to. Issues about disability. Those are probably the four areas."

Have you been in touch with the White House, or set up meetings with them? "I've spoken with the president, the vice president -- Senator Kerry called me yesterday. Everyone's been just really -- I wish I could say they're jerks but everyone's been great. Every single person top to bottom every single person I've spoken to is so excited to have me there, now maybe behind the scenes they don't feel that way, but I haven't gotten one unusual vibe from anybody, nobody at all. And I'm a pretty good judge of you know vibes and you know like tension and stuff."

Is that strange, to get a friendly, nonpartisan reception? "Yeah, it's refreshing. People have told me who are down there that there's a whole new way of thinking now that people know that if they keep doing things like they are they're vulnerable in the next election. And maybe that's gonna make them say you know what? OK, we had the 60-40 thing -- they're almost relieved that there's not the 60-40 thing anymore because now they can kinda just -- they don't have to all be 60 and all be 40 -- now once in a while you can be 60, once in a while you can be 40, so it's a little different."

How do you fit into that calculation, and the pressure to vote the Republican line. "I already spoke to the leaders, I already spoke to them, and the whip. I told them, I said, 'With all due respect I really don't know a lot of you people and you don't know me, but maybe that's good because I'm gonna vote how I want to vote. But I'll be respectful and I'll tell you why and how and you can certainly let me know your thoughts and maybe I'm missing something, but I'm gonna just vote how I feel is important to vote. And they were cool, they said, 'OK, do whatever you want. You could probably do whatever you want right about now, Scott, so that's OK.' So they were very respectful, and they understand, they understand that all eyes are on me."

Is there a lot to absorb?

"Hard to say, because like I said I don't even have a business card, and I know that I'm gonna have a big staff -- I've always been kind of a sponge, you tell me stuff, you let me read stuff, I'm a very good, fast reader, I can usually take things in, so the first couple of weeks it'll be on the bike, in the plane, eating dinner, just reading, reading, reading, absorbing, absorbing."

Where are you with your staff?

"We're good. In Boston right now we're almost fully staffed, in Boston. We have about 27-28 positions in Washington, we've got maybe a quarter of them filled."

27-28 total?

"In Boston, in DC. I've got about 7 or 8 here."

What's a full complement?

"That'll be a full staff."

We heard you may be hiring one or two from Kennedy's office?

"Yeah, yeah."

Is that an olive branch gesture?

"I just go -- I don't care who they are as long as they're good people and they'll be trustworthy and loyal and they'll do their jobs, I don't care. Kennedy had some of the best people in the country and I'm honored to have some of them and I have the best immigration person in the country, and--"

Is it Elizabeth-?

"It's uh, it's Emily, uh, what's Emily's last name? I just call her Em, so. And I have it all written down. I don't even know my own name right now." [The staffer is Emily Winterson, the late Senator Kennedy's immigration liaison.]

Is there another? Two from EMK staff?

"You have to check with Beth -- Beth Lindstrom's handling all that. But we're looking for people form all over, regardless of who they work for, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, we want the best people who want to have an exciting opportunity.

"We have over 1,800 applications, resumes. It's phenomenal.

"We have 33 openings and we've probably hired a little under half of those."

Are you taking Kirk's office?

"We're gonna take that temporarily. It's gonna be totally redone. It hasn't been updated in decades. So we have a budget that they allot, and they haven't used, and we're gonna -- we're working on all that, just modernizing it. A lot of the new technology."

So it's the same office actually that Kennedy used?

"We can have any space we want really, but we're gonna stay there for the time being."

I understand you talked to Vicki?

"The first call I made, the first call on election night."

Have you talked since?

"Oh I spoke to Patrick [Kennedy, Edward Kennedy's son], he was exceedingly gracious, he was the first one I met in DC, actually, aside from Senator McCain. And Joe Kennedy called, we had a great conversation, I said I'd like to meet him someday. I enjoy his commercials. There have been more of them lately." [Brown was referring to former congressman Joesph Kennedy, Edward Kennedy's nephew, not the third-party candidate who ran in the Senate race.]

When did you talk?

"Oh, about a week ago. I shouldn't say a week ago because it's only been a week. But it seems like a week ago. Probably 4 days ago. They were all wonderful, Vicki especially. I was like, 'My, I can't believe she's being so nice.' But she's always been nice. I've met these people, and I've met Patrick -- Patrick was Jimmy's roommate at Providence. I've never met Joe, but I've met Vicki many, many times at functions and so forth."

What's that like? Is it heady to take these calls and meet these people?

"No, it's not heady because they're just people. And I'm just a person -- we're just people. Yeah we have titles but we're just people and you know you have to have a sense of humor and you have to be a little bit -- you have to be a little able to laugh at yourself and laugh at others, and one of the things I think is wrong with Washington is they don't, they don't kinda lighten up a little bit, and just have a laugh. Like the president last night I actually thought he was at his best when he said, 'Hey, you guys didn't stand up on that one,' and everyone laughed and you could tell he was genuinely having fun. And as I did with my speech, with my daughters' comment, I was just having fun, and they said, 'Oh, Dad's back!' Because that's how we are, we're a very close knit family, and so you need to have a sense of humor. It's, it's, it's, it's so fast, I haven't had really time to stop and think about it, and I have a good wife and two pretty opinionated kids, if I start to get out of line they say, 'Dad, you're being a jerk.' I'm serious, they'll say that in a second."

What do you make, or what do they make, of the attention your daughters are getting?

"Well, you read today in the Herald, some crazy guy, you know, who was allegedly breaking into an office and said he had a date with my daughter. And well, first of all, that's not true, things couldn't be more untrue, she's been with somebody -- contrary to what I said -- for over a year and a half. That's what was so funny, because we know -- and so, you know, stuff like that, we've notified the appropriate authorities at the schools to make sure that they're aware of what's going on. And Ayla's always been in the spotlight through sports and through 'Idol' and she loves people, and Arianna -- through her equestrian and her sports and her being just a good kid, but they are aware, they're aware -- we're all aware of our surroundings. But everyone's been really wonderful. I mean, I get boxes every day of wonderful letters from throughout the world. Just people -- I have a stack over there I haven't even read. I've had a thousand e-mails one day. People all over the world just saying, Congratulations, thanks, thanks for giving us hope, thanks for making it fun. I had people in Haiti, you know, on top of a building, EMTs of mine, getting the short wave call and then just jumping up and down on the top of a roof in Haiti. And people in Mexico, that I just ran into, they said, 'Yeah, it's bigger than the Super Bowl -- the Super Bowl -- I mean the football game. They had 50 people; we had 200 people around, they were all cheering you.' So those types of things were fun to hear."

You pride yourself on being a multitasker, but you can begin to answer all that mail and e-mail?

"I did already. I already answered them. And the letters, obviously, I open them, I read them, and then I give them to a staff person to respond, but I sign them all and personalize them. If somebody's gonna take the time to write me a letter or write me an e-mail I'm gonna do my very best to write them back. It may not be today but it will definitely be within a couple of days. That's what makes our office so good. When we get e-mails or phone calls, I pick up the phone and call them up. I don't e-mail them back, I don't write them, I call them. And that's what's gonna set us apart from every other office down there. We're so psyched. We're gonna have a constituent office second to none. That's our no 1 priority."

Was there anything last night in the president's State of the Union speech that you liked?

"Yeah, I thought his, uh, looking at the approach on nuclear power, solar, hydro, limited drilling, I agree with that, I'm not in favor of his cap and trade proposal because I think it's a job killer. Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, those areas, I made a list of actually -- let me see -- yeah, there was … uh, all right, let's see here. [He goes to his desk and comes back with his legal pad.] Yep, putting the earmarks on-line I thought was good, Afghanistan, troops, defense, I have spending I thought was a good first step but I would want him to be bolder because we can't wait until 2011. We need to do it now, because that gives a whole nother year of spending, and the way they're spending it's too much. I like the fact that he's doing a top to bottom review of some agencies. You need to do a top to bottom review of every agency, and you need to do a freeze immediately and you need to have across the board tax cuts and payroll tax reductions immediately, not just targeted tax cuts, that's what will do it. ..So we're gonna find common ground on things."

Can you find common ground on health care?

"I have to see what's there. You know, if it's gonna be the raising taxes and cutting of Medicare and all that stuff, the backroom deals, then no. But the fact that he's gonna now -- because of my election -- he's now, whether it's by choice or because he sees what's going on, meeting with the Republicans on a bimonthly basis or whatever, a weekly basis, the fact that now Republicans are gonna have to come to the table and he challenged them to come up with some good ideas -- I think that's good. That's what we did here. We did it bipartisan. With 2 people who voted against it. That's unheard of, so."

Congressional Republicans from New England haven't had the easiest time the last few years balancing the desires of their voters back home, the national party in Washington, etc. Do you draw any lessons from them?

"I'm not too familiar with what they've done because I've been so focused on doing my job here in the state Senate. I just read peripherally what they've gone through. I don't know any of them personally so it really didn't matter. I know who I am and what makes me tick and what I think resonated with the voters, so I'm gonna continue to maybe be a different kind of person down there, than what's down there now. And maybe it'll catch on. I understand there's all these workshops around, 'who's the next Scott Brown?' and all this stuff, and it's 5-600 people showing up, so if we've stimulated, you know, people thinking about being involved, then that's great. That's perfect. That's like the ultimate compliment, is -- that I've stimulated people's interest again in democracy. I mean, how good is that?"

What about now being the guy national Republicans see as being a star able to help them?

"I don't owe anybody anything, first of all, I don't know a lot of those people. And the only reason -- I've known Senator McCain for six-seven-six years now, and he was the only one, aside from Governor Romney, who helped me. When I went down there I couldn't even get an audience with anyone else. And he -- we sat down for about a half an hour, he looked me in the eye, we talked about our families, and he said, 'You know what? I got a good feeling about you, and I'm gonna vote -- what can I do to help?' I said, 'I need an endorsement.' He said, 'Done.' 'Any financial support you can get?' He said, 'Well, let me think about it.' And the next day I got a check, $5,000. Which was the maximum, and I was honored. I offered to do the robocall, he didn't ask me, I offered to go out there and do an event for him, because first of all I think he's a great American, but he's the type of person -- I would look at him to be someone as my mentor, you know someone who I could go to -- honest, straightforward, no holds barred, you know looking for advice. Someone who's a maverick. When I think of 'maverick,' I think of 'Top Gun,' and then I think of him. And how he's just been, sacrificed so much for our country. Who better as a role model for me? That's just my personal opinion. Now others may have different opinions but that's how I feel."

So he's your role model in Washington?

"Yeah, Lieberman, McCain, those type of anti-establishment -- there will be times when I'm gonna vote with the Republicans, and there will be times when I'm gonna vote for -- with the Democrats. That's how it's been here, and it's not gonna change."

I see you have a copy of 'Team of Rivals' here, and I know you also loved the John Adams series on HBO—

"I love that series. It's the best -- the best series, the best shows I've ever seen, ever, in my life. I loved them."

Along those lines, past and present, who are your political role models? "Well first of all, I haven't read that book, I'm looking forward to it. I said it during the debate, and during that thing when Dan Rea said, 'Give me one person,' well, I can't give you one person. You know, different decades. Obviously JFK, everyone -- he was, everybody's president. Ronald Reagan, what he did with the Iron Curtain. You know, President Bush in terms of what he did after 9/11, in terms of our security. I didn't agree with hardly anything on what he did on domestic fiscal issues. And you know Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman."

Romney gave you early financial and public support. What's your relationship like with him?

"He's changed, he's changed. You know, he's actually -- before he was an outsider coming in and he was, you know, kind of, you know, stiff. But he's actually, like, funny, he's like -- when he was at my events he was cracking jokes, when we were on the bus -- I was like, who is this guy? He's really kind of, I think, settled into his role kind of being the elder statesman of the party and everything he went through as president. It's kind of, and once again it's my opinion but he's really a different guy than I knew when he was here, and I certainly appreciate everything he did for me. And it wasn't a lot, he was just there as the initial -- you know, 'here's a check, go get em!' And that says a lot, you know, when I signed my contract with the team, you know -- I worried about, how am I gonna pay for this? And he was one of the first guys that helped me towards that obligation. And I remember those people who took a chance."

Every candidate thinks he has a chance, but did you honestly ever think you'd be here?

"I don't want to seem arrogant. And Felix [Browne, a Brown campaign adviser] will back this up, but I told them when I met the Shawmut Group, I said, 'I'm gonna win this race, and let me tell you why, because there's an anger out there that I've never, ever sensed. There's something going on that's kind of viral out -- out and about -- maybe not in the cities but out in the suburbs people are getting tired of what's happening here in Massachusetts, the 3 speakers, 3 senators, tax and spend, taxes, taxes, taxes, lack of attention [and] accountability to detail, and then you throw in what's happening nationally with the health care, the cap and trade, all these things -- people are really getting, like, anxiety. They're like really worried about whether they're gonna be able to stay in their homes. I said, I said, I'm right on all the issues. This is what I've believed since I was 18 years old, and old enough to vote -- I don't even have to think about my answers. During the campaign, it was a relatively easy campaign in terms of issues. It was a lot of work obviously, I don't want to say it wasn't and I don't want to seem like it was a gimme, but I just had this sense. Felix, right? And now after I won I looked at Peter Flaherty -- and who I have a lot of respect for -- I said, 'I tooolllldddd yoooouuu!' [And Flaherty said,] 'I know, I know, I know, I know.'"

Sometimes campaign start slowly but build momentum in a year. You said you knew you could win, but what--

"What do I attribute it to?"

What do you attribute it to, but also, what did you make of speaking to five people or so at Universal Plastics one month and then addressing crowds of thousands, with scores of reporters, the next month?

"No no, I think -- see, while the Democrats were campaigning, I was out actually securing votes, and the message was the same, I've never changed. I think the Kennedy ad obviously, it brought national recognition, like, 'Whoah! OK, who's this guy who -- he's got a lot of guts to do that. Whoah.' So that kinda started it, and then the other turning point, I think, was probably, if I could pinpointed it, it was probably the debate. And the fact that it was a very strong showing, and then immediately the negative ads started to really turn people off big time. And so those three things I think really led up to the final push -- and then, 'it's not the Kennedy seat.' That line resonated all over the world."

Did you prepare to say that line in the debate?

"No, no. The trigger -- I had said it before, in passing. Yeah, I had said it before, but I didn't plan like, 'OK, how can I work this in?' But just when I was backstage speaking to him [David Gergen], he didn't like really even know who I was. It was like, 'Yeah, I'm here.' 'Yeah, OK, thanks Scott, good to meet you.' I was kinda like, 'I'm the nominee for the United States Senate!' And then when he was like, I just felt that he was like, he didn't know about me, he didn't know a lot about the issues, and everyone, everyone always says, it's the Kennedy seat, Kennedy seat, Kennedy seat, and I'm like it's not, it's not, it's not. So that's it, it just kind of came out. I had used it before but not at length. I didn't say it much."

Are there other specific legislative issues coming up that you'd like to work on, beyond Gregg's bill?

"It would be a lot of -- it would be, without knowing what's on tap, because it's -- the [midterm] election's coming up, it's kind of an even year election cycle, things to do with education and choice in education and also dealing with our fiscal realities and trying to create jobs. Those are the three areas I would focus on. And military issues. Like I said, I don't know what's on tap yet, we have the budget, and we have the appropriations bill coming up too, so that's why I'm meeting with the governor, that's why I met with the mayor, to see what issues they have that are important."

Freshmen typically get crummy assignments. Does your new fame and status change that?

"Yeah. Yeah, I have some advantages that others wouldn't have. Um. Yeah, I'm gonna use those advantages respectfully and very tact—like we've basically, you're the first people we've really met today, we haven't been out campaigning. I mean, I could be everywhere, and in 24 hours a day, we've made a point to just, you know, work on the issues that -- I need staff, I need to learn the issues, it's nice to be speaking to everybody but I have a job to do. Heh. And we've done it by meeting with the inner city leaders, with the mayor [of Boston], with the governor, and trying to reach out across the aisle to the delegation, and those are things that are very, very important now."

Out on the trail, when people asked you to sign their snowboards, high school yearbooks--

"I even signed a guy's head. Heheh. That was the -- that was probably the best. The guy bends over, he's like, 'Will you sign my head?' I'm like, 'You're kidding me, right?' He says, 'No, no I really want you to sign my head.' I'm like, 'Okkkaaayyyy.' That was funny."

Is there one moment from the trail that will stay with you?

"It's just been every time I've showed up to a rally I was just amazed, and so was the governor -- and Cellucci and Romney, they were like, 'Whoah!' I mean, they had never seen anything, even in the presidential runs -- like, 'Whoah! This is really interesting.' It was a -- it was a fun race. This whole experience has been fun. If you can convey anything to your readers, say, 'It's been fun, and I'm so honored to have been part of it, and I can't believe I'm here, but I'm gonna do my very best to just be the best senator for all the people, cause the election is over."

On immigration, you sounded excited about the aide you hired. Is that a big issue for you?

"It's huge, it's huge now, especially with Haiti. It's huge, it's the no. 1 issue affecting -- that will affect my office, and I have the best person in place to handle it. And I'm so honored -- I'm just like overwhelmed, I almost, like, you know, cried when she said yes, she'll stay. Especially, you know, there are a lot of single kids, kids that are being adopted, people -- Americans and citizens that are still there trying to get home, they're not getting help with the embassy. When I met with the ministers, they actually gave us some names which we forwarded off to try to find out the status. So yeah, immigration is important, but my policy hasn't changed with regard to how we deal with the immigration issue. It's just a question of, we have to immediately provide the resources to process these people quicker. It's immoral to let them wait in line so long. If we can find money for the banks, we can find money to process people through immigration quickly."

Are there any questions we didn't ask that you'd like to address?

"You didn't ask my favorite color."

What is the wristband?

Corporal Xiarhos from, he's down in Dunstable I think, Barnstable, Dunstable area, his dad gave me this. [It's a metal band inscribed with the name of Nicholas Xiarhos, who was killed in Afghanistan in July, and whose father gave it to Brown when he was in Hyannis/Barnstable on the last weekend of the campaign.] So I've been wearing this, he was killed in Afghanistan. So I've got a lot of neat memorabilia from people."

You got that on the Cape last week?

"Yeah. And I have Ayla's bracelet still. [He fingers a blue rubber wristband.] From her first record. Yeah that's about all the jewelry I wear, ring and this. Pretty basic."

You've had a few nicknames over the years: Deuce in high school, 41…

"Deuce, and Downtown Scotty Brown, and now 41."

Is there one you hope sticks?

"Forty-one's pretty -- yeah, I'm, uh, hoping they know me by Scott. You know? Just Scott. Scott from Wrentham, who drives a truck."