The America’s President Committee wants Indiana congressman Mike Pence to run for president. The group — which is made up of former Republican congressman Jim Ryun and Ralph Benko, a former Reagan-administration aide and author of the book The Websters’ Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World — has set up a new site, The Conservative Champion, dedicated to the concept of Pence for President. Benko spoke to NRO about the motivation behind the site.
NRO: Why Mike Pence?
BENKO: Mike Pence is extraordinary. He is across-the-board rock solid: He is pro-growth in a way I haven’t seen since Reagan-Kemp, he is staunchly pro-faith and a champion of social issues, and he showed courage under fire in fighting against the bailouts, the entitlements expansion, and TARP. He demonstrates impeccable integrity when tested.
NRO: Does he need to be drafted? He has seemed to court a national audience without you.
BENKO: This is not a draft movement. We are calling on him to run, and we are urging folks to go to TheConservativeChampion.org if they would like to see Mike Pence run for president.
NRO: What’s the difference between drafting and what you’re doing?
BENKO: Mr. Pence has reportedly said that he will decide whether or not to declare for the presidency by the end of this month. We believed we detected massive enthusiasm for his candidacy — not by polling or anything, just by things like informally asking rather a lot of very respected conservative leaders. We discovered that Pence was at the top of the list for the vast majority of them and near the top for the rest. We are merely making this small gesture to help surface what we think is a lot of latent excitement about Mike Pence so he can take it into account in making his decision.
NRO: Why shouldn’t he run for governor instead?
BENKO: Mike Pence is presidential, and his issues are presidential. America needs such a person now.
NRO: We’ve not had the best go here with a senator — do we really want a congressman for president?
BENKO: Congresspeople are very different in their disposition from senators.
NRO: You describe Congressman Pence as “extraordinary.” What exactly do you mean by that?
BENKO: Mike Pence is extraordinary in several ways. He courageously stood up against his own White House’s pressure to vote for the budget-busting Medicare expansion, the bailouts, and TARP. This demonstrates that notwithstanding his wonderfully courteous demeanor, he is a man of real courage, a leader who can withstand the most intense pressure and stand up for his conservative, humanitarian principles.
Here is another thing: While all conservatives are for the free market, we have different emphases. I admire those of our leaders who stand up for fiscal responsibility — cutting the budget without raising taxes — but I haven’t heard anyone else in the race singing the Reagan/Kemp song of economic growth–jobs–prosperity, which is something that speaks to the average voter like me. There are moral cases that can be made for the free market — and Pence makes them — but the most extraordinary thing about him is that he gets Reagan’s magic when it comes to the most powerful benefit of unleashing the free market: good jobs, lots of jobs, through economic growth. That’s bedrock.
A final example is that he is unflinching in standing up for social-values issues as a political as well as moral imperative. They are not just something he believes in — he speaks out boldly and fights for them. So he runs the table when it comes to the things that move a conservative like me.
NRO: Have you talked to Mike Pence about this?
BENKO: I have not talked to him about this effort.
NRO: What makes him “The Conservative Champion”? What makes him unique?
BENKO: Mike Pence is courageous for conservative policies and the Constitution across the board. He was Human Events’s “Conservative of the Year.” He was the choice of the Values Voter Summit. He seems to be unique in sharing the Reagan/Kemp economic-growth imperative: jobs and prosperity, and how to get us there.
NRO: Aren’t there others who could fit that description?
BENKO: There are many gifted aspirants for the presidency.
NRO: Then why did you feel the need to step out so early in support of someone who it isn’t even clear is considering running?
BENKO: America, and the world, is in a situation of possibly dire peril. I was inspired to help create a more potent call to Pence than just my own, not very interesting voice. And I know enough about Web advocacy to believe that this site might be a powerful way to invite the many people I inferred might feel the same way to add their voices.
NRO: Conservatives need someone who can win not only the Republican nomination but, of course, the general election. Are you convinced Pence can?#more#
BENKO: Yes, absolutely.
NRO: Why do you think so? How is he appealing to those outside a “Values Voters” kind of crowd?
BENKO: If you read his Detroit Economic Club speech, you will see how extraordinary he is in calling for a restoration of the Reagan formula for economic growth. I was probably the most junior member of the Kemp supply-side team. The economy was even worse in the 1970s, and our policy prescription restored robust growth — and the success of those policies inspired much of the world to adopt them and thus to grow prosperous. I listen to the many wonderful presidential aspirants the GOP is generating and I haven’t heard anything as inspiring as the Pence growth message since my dear old friend Jack Kemp left the arena.
NRO: Isn’t your draft movement just two former Washington insiders voicing their opinion?
BENKO: This is not a draft movement. The enthusiasm being triggered by our stepping forward this way is magnificent. That said, although I have had some Washington experience, I have never been a Washington insider.
NRO: What’s the magnificence?
BENKO: If Pence’s consistent and courageous stands for religious liberty, traditional marriage, the sanctity of life, prosperity for working people in a climate of economic growth, and true constitutional principles — very much including respect for the consent of the governed — and his bold calls, such as he made at Hillsdale, for restoring the idea that officials are representatives of the citizens rather than grandiose leaders, combined with his commitment that the American president not bow low to kings and dictators, are not magnificent, then I don’t know what the word “magnificent” means.
NRO: What is the Conservative Champion effort exactly? Who is it organized by? Will you be doing more than a website?
BENKO: I am coordinating, and I guess you could fairly say playing a significant role in organizing, this virtual gathering place. I anticipate that it might inspire people on the ground to add their voices, in their own ways, to this call for Mike Pence to declare for the presidency. I will do whatever is practical to empower them and amplify their voices, but this is not about me. In a way, it is not even about Mike Pence. It is about restoring the power of citizens over their politics and their government. I am just an agent, and not a particularly good one, but I believe in the principle that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this Earth. Let the people’s voices be heard.
NRO: Is there any connection to the tea-party movement?
BENKO: No. Former congressman Jim Ryun and myself, and many others, believe that Mike Pence is a true conservative champion. Although I am personally a member of the Tea Party Patriots, this is not a tea-party effort and is not connected to the tea-party movement. I do believe, however, that as tea partiers learn more about Mike Pence, they too will find that he aligns with their core principles of constitutional government and fiscal restraint. In my eyes, at least, there is nobody who exemplifies championship of human dignity better than Mike Pence. Which makes him the conservative champion.