Ben Johnson

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‘Life is precious’: Former Sen. Bob Smith seeks old seat against ‘pro-choice’ Republicans, Democrat

Ben Johnson
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MERRIMACK, NH, February 6, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – For 18 years in Washington, he was one of the most outspoken pro-life legislators on Capitol Hill – authoring the original partial-birth abortion ban, introducing the Human Life Amendment, and earning a spotless pro-life voting record. But as he re-enters the political fray, he is watching much of the Republican Party line up behind a “pro-choice” challenger who voted to preserve Planned Parenthood funding.

That has to be hard for former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith. The two-term U.S. senator, who also served six years in the House, has returned to his native New Hampshire to seek his old seat, now held by pro-abortion Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. And he knows exactly what sets him apart from his potential competitors.

“I bring 18 years of a 100 percent pro-life record in the House and the United States Senate,” Smith told LifeSiteNews. When he introduced the Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “I think we only had two sponsors – myself and Jesse Helms,” he said. “But I did that and the partial birth ban” – initially another lonely fight. He introduced legislation to ban the sale of human body parts cultivated by abortion. “Just about every effort that we could find on the life issue was pretty much me leading the way. So, that's what I bring to the table.”

“When you have a 100 percent voting record out of thousands of votes, that's pretty good,” the soft-spoken man said.

Private moments that cemented his support for life

His pro-life views were cemented by his childhood experience of growing up without a father, a naval pilot killed in a training exercise after returning home from combat in 1945. His grandfather had lost all the rest of his children to complications from epilepsy in their teens or early 20s. His wife, the senator's grandmother, died at 47 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

“I remember talking to my grandfather. He said, 'I lost my wife. I lost four of my kids. I have one kid who makes it through all of those health crises, and he is killed at the age of 30 after serving his country,'” Smith told LifeSiteNews. “And he had tears in his eyes, he said, 'Life is very special. Don't ever forget how special life is.'”

That belief was reinforced in office, as he saw abortion survivor Gianna Jessen speak, and heard firsthand testimonies of how abortionists allowed babies born alive to be thrown in the trash. It often moved him to tears, he said.

So did his experience as a longtime board member of CareNet Pregnancy Center in Concord, New Hampshire, where he sometimes met children who were born because of that group's outreach to young women.

But Smith, who entered Congress in 1985 and served in the Senate from 1991 to 2003, is not content to talk about his past accomplishments.

ObamaCare is the top Issue

Bob Smith believes Washington desperately needs reform – starting with ObamaCare, which he considers the top issue in the race. Sen. Shaheen voted for the Affordable Care Act, repeating President Obama's claim that those who like their health insurance will be able to keep it under ObamaCare, a claim that Politifact called the lie of the year.

Now, she says, if citizens want to keep their coverage, they can simply “pay more.”

“If you really talk about a war on women, a war on women is when you tell them they can't have the doctor they want, or they lose their health insurance,” Smith told LifeSiteNews. “That's a war on women – and men.”

No to marriage redefinition and 'special privileges'

Smith told LifeSiteNews he opposes gay “marriage” but says he has compassion for his gay friends. “We can respect their privacy and their rights under the Constitution but we do not have to redefine marriage to include a gay relationship. We can leave it the way it is,” he said, “that under our society and under our Biblical traditions and Judeo-Christian principles a marriage is between a man and a woman.”

He offered no apologies for voting against “hate crimes” legislation or bills that would make it easier for homosexuals to sue for alleged workplace “discrimination.”

“I don't see why we have to give special privileges” to any group, he said.

That traditional view clashes with the ideology of some of Barack Obama's more radical appointees, whom Smith said are too far-left to deserve a seat in government.

Activist judges

“I don't believe just because Obama's president, every judge he appoints should be defeated,” Smith told LifeSiteNews. “He's going to get some of his judges and some of his appointments, as he should. But there are some who are activist judges who should not, in my view, be appointed to the courts.”

He has held the line before, opposing the nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, “because she was very much an activist for the American Civil Liberties Union.” He was one of only three senators to vote against the nomination.

He also took to the Senate floor to successfully oppose Bill Clinton's nomination of Henry Foster as surgeon general, to replace the controversial Jocelyn Elders. Foster had performed abortions and, observers said, misled senators about how many abortions he had carried out. Smith memorably described the gruesome procedure Foster performed on the Senate floor.

Smith said his idea of a good appointee, especially a judge, is one who strictly follows the Constitution, rather than private ideology. “I remember speaking directly to Clarence Thomas one time, saying, 'It's nice to have a pro-life judge on the court.' He said, 'It doesn't really matter what my personal beliefs are. What really matters is what the Constitution says, and there's nothing in the Constitution that provides for abortion. Therefore, we must respect the right to life unless and until it's defined differently.'”

“I respect him for that,” Smith said. “I think he's been a great judge, because of the fact that he stays with the Constitution.”

If elected, Smith could play an important role in holding the line on Obama's appointments and changing Senate leadership.

'We could be the 51st vote'

Political insiders say that this year every race is pivotal, as Republicans hope to take back the U.S. Senate in 2014. The GOP hopes to capitalize on President Obama's falling poll numbers and widespread dissatisfaction with ObamaCare to recapture Congress.

Political analyst Dick Morris has said New Hampshire is one state where Republicans “have a pretty good shot” to win.

“The best of” the seats not considered certain Republican pick-ups “is probably New Hampshire, where Jeanne Sheehan is running for reelection,” Morris said. “Bob Smith, the former Senator ... could offer Shaheen a really tough fight.”

“We could be the 51st vote that throws Harry Reid out of the majority leader's chair,” Smith told LifeSiteNews.

The national Republican Party is trying to re-engage its grassroots supporters, especially those in the pro-life movement, in hopes that a massive turnout will result in another landslide midterm election comparable to 2010. However, in New Hampshire, the Republican establishment appears to be distancing itself from the party's pro-life base and holding out for another former senator, one who supports abortion-on-demand.

Republican challenger(s) support abortion

To win in November, Smith must first win the the September 9 Republican primary. But the big money, and political powers, have their heart set on another former U.S. senator – Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

Brown, who won a special election following the death of Ted Kennedy, describes himself as “pro-choice,” a fact that did not cost him the support of many pro-life organizations. Early in his career, he received numerous 100 percent voting scores from the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. For example, as a state senator, Brown voted in favor of a measure barring pro-life protesters from coming within 35 feet of an abortion facility, a law being appealed to the Supreme Court. NARAL rated his two years in the Senate as “mixed.”

As a U.S. senator, Scott Brown joined John McCain to end the ban on abortion on military bases in the case of rape. That amendment, which President Obama signed into law, was introduced by Brown's potential opponent – Jeanne Shaheen.

Brown also defended federal funding of Planned Parenthood, which, with state and local funds, amounted to more than half-a-billion dollars in 2012. He called the 2012 Republican Party platform's strong pro-life language “a mistake,” and was one of a handful of Republicans to support the Obama administration's repeal of the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy, allowing open homosexuals to serve in the military.

“He's not pro-life. He's not pro-gun. He's a big taxer,” Smith told LifeSiteNews. “He has a lot of things going that way that will hurt him in the race.”

Nonetheless, national media and Republican Party power brokers are waiting in anticipation for Brown to announce his candidacy.

Smith said if Brown enters the race, their contrast will provide “a demarcation line between some of the Establishment who don't really care what the guy believes in as long as he has an 'R' next to his name.”

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In addition to Brown, Smith faces conservative activist Karen Testerman and former State Sen. Jim Rubens. Rubens, a Brooklyn native who grew up on a commune, is “pro-choice” on abortion and supports same-sex “marriage.” (Smith charitably referred to Rubens as “a nice man” but “not strong on the life issue.”) Testerman is strongly pro-life. Smith says his edge over Testerman is his record.

But foes say his record could also prove a sticking point for the man who left office in 2003.

Mistakes, he's made a few

To win, voters will have to forgive a few mistakes he has made, Smith acknowledged. The biggest, he said, was writing a letter in 2004 to John Kerry hoping that George W. Bush lost the election.

Although Smith challenged Bush in the presidential primaries in 1999, and flirted with joining the Constitution Party, he ultimately supported Bush and campaigned for him in New Hampshire, helping him narrowly win an election in which every vote counted.

In return, he said, “President Bush and Karl Rove directly promised me they would support me if” John E. Sununu, the son of the former White House Chief of Staff, “challenged me” in the 2002 Republican primary. “But they didn't. In fact, behind the scenes, they helped Sununu,” who defeated Jeanne Shaheen. (Shaheen won their next face-off in 2008.)

When Bush and Rove broke their promise, “I got angry,” Smith said. The letter, he said, was "stupid," a huge “mistake.”

He said he and John Kerry agree on “nothing. I don't agree with him on life. We had big fights over the POW issue.” Their voting records would bear that out. However, he said, he and Kerry had a good personal relationship, including Kerry's attendance at the funeral of Smith's mother.

He hopes voters will remember his record, not a letter written in anger. “I hope when I get to meet the Lord, He can say, 'Well, Bob, you made some mistakes over here, but these [good deeds] can make up for it.'”

Many have said without President Bush's second term excesses, the Republican Party would not have lost control of Congress – and many committed pro-life seats would not have changed hands. “If you continue to place your politics above your principles, the American people will soon figure it out and banish you from power,” Smith writes on his campaign website. In Bush's second term, “scandals, arrogance prevailed, debt and spending rose, government grew larger, we did nothing to secure our borders, and the Rove strategy of division and special interest politics failed miserably, causing us to lose the House and Senate and finally the White House in 2008.”

While he supported the war in Afghanistan and voted for Iraq, he believes Bush made a mistake by getting bogged fown with a misguided ideology. “I don't like nation-building,” Smith said. “Trying to impose democracy is a mistake.”

“I wanted to see spending cut, and it was not,” he said. “I think the American people want to see that reversed with more liberties, and more freedoms, and going back to some of the moral values that built our great nation, and preserving the family structure.”

Smith briefly tested that message twice more, in 2004 and 2010, after moving to Florida – something his political opponents say prove that he is finished politically. Smith disagrees.

“Those 'primaries' in Florida were not serious” runs, Smith told LifeSiteNews. “People asked me to consider” running for office. “If you spend or raise $5,000 you're required by federal law to file, but we never really” went forward with a full-fledged campaign.

This time it's different, he said.

Not ashamed of his views or his faith

His New Hampshire run has already earned scathing pieces in liberal news outlets like The Daily Beast and Think Progress. “I wear that as a badge of honor,” Smith told LifeSiteNews. “I'm pleased to take arrows from that group.”

He has never been ashamed of his convictions or his Roman Catholic faith. “I have a priest friend in Louisiana who says a daily Mass for me, which means more than I can possibly put into words,” Smith said. “I mean, the fact that he would mention me in his daily Mass every single day, that is really very powerful.”

Running a political campaign will require more than prayer, though. Securing enough campaign contributions is “critical” to his success, Smith said.

“Being a grassroots kind of guy and not part of the political Establishment, I'm not a wealthy guy, so I can't give my own money,” Smith told LifeSiteNews. “I have to depend on donations.”

He encourages people to give up a cup of coffee a month and send $25 to his campaign. “Every little bit helps, and everything is gratefully and respectfully accepted,” he said. “We aren't wasting anything.”

With months to go, and political players lining up behind Brown, he has no time to waste, either.

For more information, visit BobSmithForUSSenate.com.



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