CNN’s Rick Sanchez: Does the GOP ‘Have to Be Anti-Abortion’?

Rick Sanchez, CNN Anchor | NewsBusters.orgDuring a segment on Tuesday’s Newsroom program, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez asked South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford if the Republican needed to abandon its social conservative principles in order to be successful again:

"Do you have to be anti-abortion, because that's a very important, big topic in the South..?" Sanchez later asked the Republican governor, as well as talk show host Neal Boortz, "Can you be a fiscal Republican and a social conservative Republican at the same time without making one side mad..?"

Sanchez had both Sanford and Boortz on to discuss the upcoming Republican Governors’ Association meeting in Florida. The CNN anchor first brought up a recent New York Times article, with its accompanying exaggerated map, about conclusions that the Democratic Party might draw from the recent election: "You know, as you look at this map and you start to look at the South, there was some suggestion in that New York Times article, for example, that maybe Democrats are going to get from this that you know what, they can win in the future without the South."

Sanford replied, "I would just say, you know, I’m going to leave the Democratic strategy up to the Democrats. But, you know -- and this is the whole point of the Republican governors meeting here come the end of this week -- is where do we go next? And I think that our problems as a party are much bigger than simply being progressive or coming up with the right strategy....It goes to the core of what is the brand about."

The CNN anchor then brought up the abortion issue, and he initially botched the wording of the question, along with his subsequent point about the "gay rights" issue: "...[L]et me ask you a very specific question then -- do you need to continue to stand for abortion, do you need -- or abortion rights or do you have to -- let me rephrase that. Do you have to be anti-abortion, because that's a very important, big topic in the South, as is, you know, some of the other amendments for gay rights, for example? Those are two big issues in that area..."

Sanford answered by bringing up the necessity of focusing on both social and economic issues:

SANFORD: But I would just respectfully say you’re in the media and so you’re going to pick the most controversial of topics out there. I happen to believe, yes, that remains important, because I think that life begins at conception. But that’s a whole different story to what is very much on people’s minds right now, which is do we stand for, in fact, restraint on spending? I mean, if you look at this, you know, tsunami that's coming our way with regard to entitlement spending, does the Republican Party, in fact, stand for a restraint on spending or restraint on taxes? Does it stand for economic freedom? And you look at the list of bailouts and it looks like the auto companies are going to come next...and who knows who goes after that?

Sanchez then asked Boortz, "Can you be both, though? Can you be a fiscal Republican and a social conservative Republican at the same time without making one side mad, Neal Boortz?" The talk show host didn’t directly answer the question, but instead emphasized that the next Republican presidential candidate would be at the upcoming Republican governors’ meeting, and named a few possibilities, such as Sanford, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

The CNN anchor then returned to Sanford and asked him the same question. Sanford replied, "No, I don't think so. I mean this is the whole notion of a big tent. If you look at -- again, go back to Ronald Reagan....His was the big tent that included social conservatives. It included fiscal conservatives, and, for that matter, you know, defense hawks. So I think that you could have electoral sense -- success, but the key there is actually standing for something, and the problem of the Republican Party has been it has gotten incredibly cloudy as to what it does or doesn’t stand for."

The transcript of the relevant portion of the segment with both Boortz and Sanford, which began 42 minutes into the 3 pm Eastern hour of Tuesday’s Newsroom program:

RICK SANCHEZ: You know, as you look at this map and you start to look at the South, there was some suggestion in that New York Times article, for example, that maybe Democrats are going to get from this that you know what, they can win in the future without the South. So if the South wants to be, whatever word they want to use to describe them, let them be that way.

GOVERNOR MARK SANFORD: I would just say, you know, I’m going to leave the Democratic strategy up to the Democrats. But, you know -- and this is the whole point of the Republican governors meeting here come the end of this week -- is where do we go next? And I think that our problems as a party are much bigger than simply being progressive or coming up with the right strategy. All that we can be too cute by one half. It goes to the core of what is the brand about. If you think about Caterpillar or John Deere or Campbell’s Soup, or any of the big brands across time, they have succeeded because they stand for something. When you buy a John Deere tractor, you know you're going to get a John Deere tractor and it will do certain things.

SANCHEZ: Well, let me ask you a very specific question then -- do you need to continue to stand for abortion, do you need -- or abortion rights or do you have to -- let me rephrase that. Do you have to be anti-abortion, because that's a very important, big topic in the South, as is, you know, some of the other amendments for gay rights, for example? Those are two big issues in that area...

SANFORD: Right.

SANCHEZ: And you’ve moved away from those.

SANFORD: But I would just respectfully say you’re in the media and so you’re going to pick the most controversial of topics out there. I happen to believe, yes, that remains important, because I think that life begins at conception. But that’s a whole different story to what is very much on people’s minds right now, which is do we stand for, in fact, restraint on spending? I mean, if you look at this, you know, tsunami that's coming our way with regard to entitlement spending, does the Republican Party, in fact, stand for a restraint on spending or restraint on taxes? Does it stand for economic freedom? And you look at the list of bailouts and it looks like the auto companies are going to come next...

SANCHEZ: Can you...

SANFORD: ...and who knows who goes after that?

SANCHEZ: Can you be both, though? Can you be a fiscal Republican and a social conservative Republican at the same time without making one side mad, Neal Boortz? And then to the governor.

BOORTZ: Well, I think one thing here is that that governors’ meeting in Miami, in that group -- and I don't know how many -- Governor Sanford, I don't know how many Republican governors there are. I should.

SANFORD: There are 21 and 19 of them will be here.

BOORTZ: The Republicans’ next candidate for president is going to be at that meeting in Miami. It's going to come from some governor. It could be Mark Sanford. It could be...

SANCHEZ: It very well could be Mark Sanford.

BOORTZ: It could be Rick Perry. Bobby Jindal is a real rising star.

SANCHEZ: Charlie Crist.

BOORTZ: Charlie Crist. So tread lightly down there, because your next senatorial -- or your next presidential candidate is coming from there. All -- you know, also, Rick Perry.

SANCHEZ: But you -- I mean...

BOORTZ: Unless...

SANCHEZ: If -- you're not a Republican, but if you were to tag yourself in that area...

BOORTZ: Yeah.

SANCHEZ: ...you’d be the fiscal kind, right? You're not a social...

BOORTZ: I'm a social -- I’m pretty much a social liberal. I'm a fiscal conservative.

SANCHEZ: A fiscal conservative.

BOORTZ: And if I had to pick a Republican candidate right now...

SANCHEZ: It wouldn’t be Sarah Palin, then?

BOORTZ: No, it wouldn't be. It would be Mike Huckabee.

SANCHEZ: Mike Huckabee.

BOORTZ: Yeah.

SANCHEZ: If...

BOORTZ: And I'm going to be with him this weekend at a fair tax rally, by the way, Governor Sanford.

SANCHEZ: But Governor Sanford, do you have to make a choice? Answer the question, if you would, sir. Do you have to choose either fiscal responsibility or...

SANFORD: No, I don't think so. I mean this is the whole notion of a big tent. If you look at -- again, go back to Ronald Reagan. His was not exactly a dying flower from the standpoint of electoral success. His was the big tent that included social conservatives. It included fiscal conservatives, and, for that matter, you know, defense hawks. So I think that you could have electoral sense -- success, but the key there is actually standing for something, and the problem of the Republican Party has been it has gotten incredibly cloudy as to what it does or doesn’t stand for.

SANCHEZ: Governor...

SANFORD: The bailouts are doing that. The spending is doing that -- a variety of problems that we're going to talk about come the end of this week.

SANCHEZ: Mark Sanford joining us from Miami, getting ready for that big GOP association meeting today -- Governors’ Association meeting. We'll be covering it tomorrow, as well. Thank you, sir, for talking the time to talk to us.

SANFORD: It's sure a pleasure.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center