CNBC "Squawk Box" Interview with Senator Bob Corker

Aug 27, 2012



BECKY QUICK: Wait a second. I hear someone in the background. Who might that be? Is that Senator Corker?

Are you here, Senator Corker?

JOE KERNEN: Oh, my God.

SENATOR BOB CORKER (R-TN): Thank you so much. I feel a little made fun of, but I'm glad to be here.

MR. KERNEN: Oh, no. I'm -- Senator, you know how much I love you. Look, you're one of the most reasonable, plainspoken people down there. And don't say that that southern accent, the way that you do it -- that's part of it. That's part of the whole charm.

SEN. CORKER: (Laughs.)

MR. KERNEN: And I try and use that.

SEN. CORKER: It builds a lot of trust. Yeah, that's right.

MR. KERNEN: Yeah. And it deflects -- you know, it makes you a lot more -- you know, both sides are able to listen to those dulcet tones more than, you know, some of that other.

But let's -- you got him. Let's hear him, and you'll see what I mean.

MS. QUICK: You know, Senator, you are there at the GOP convention. And I wonder, from your perspective, what's most important for the perspective of what should be happening at this convention? Should you be trying to make sure that you bring out the tea party people, who maybe were a little reluctant beforehand to support Mitt Romney, or is this more about appealing to the independent voters who are out there watching, still trying to decide who they're voting for?

SEN. CORKER: So a couple of things. I do think that the convention is going to be a good opportunity for people to know Mitt Romney. And I think that while they trust him as it relates to economic issues, they haven't had an opportunity to get to know him like I have and like many of you have.

I was with him out in Park City not long ago at some events, and truly, between he and his wife Ann, the way that they are, you almost feel like when you walk away that you're a lesser human being. I mean, this is an outstanding family that has done a lot in their lifetime. And I think they are the kind of folks that people will admire in that office.

The second thing that I'd say is, look, you know, usually when you come to a convention like this -- John's been to many -- you know, the team wants their person to win because that's what they do. Republicans want a Republican president. Democrats want a Democratic president.

In this case, I think what you're feeling is people are very concerned about the country. So it's a little different than the norm. This is probably -- this has to be the most important race since 1980. And I think people sense that. So it's more than just wanting their home team to win. It's about tremendous concern for the direction of the country, which I share, by the way. I'm very concerned about where we are.

I do believe that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan absolutely are most able to take us where we need to go. And so I'm very excited about this team. And as I've mentioned to you before, I think the pick of Ryan cements the fact that the president -- that Governor Romney is going to take on the tough issues that this nation needs to deal with. And that ought to give Americans a lot of confidence that this is going to be a truly remarkable presidency if they're elected.

MR. KERNEN: Senator, where do you think we stand? You look at the history of the country and you think of, you know, some of the things that we used to think about. At the turn of the century we had 8 percent government spending as a percent of GDP, at the turn of the -- you know, 1901, whenever it was. And we're at, you know, 25 now and headed to 40 if we don't -- if we don't change.

But where are we as a country? Do you think you still have the majority of people in this country voting for individualism and self-sufficiency and not a collectivist --


MR. KERNEN: -- viewpoint? I'm just -- I'm wondering whether we have, you know, passed the point where you can get a majority of people to sort of vote against a bigger public safety net. And that's what we're -- the other side is appealing to that. You know, and it may be, you know, counterproductive, a lot of these things. And we see what's playing out in Europe. I mean, sooner or later, it doesn't help. If public safety nets run out of money, that doesn't help anyone. But we don't --

SEN. CORKER: That's right.

MR. KERNEN: You know, we're in this period now, with all this income disparity, where this is the grand question that we have right now. And I don't know what you feel the American people are going to do at this point.

SEN. CORKER: Well, you know, that's a discussion that is -- you know, that's the kind of discussion we have in the hallways of Congress all the time. Have we moved beyond that point? And that's why I think it's very important in this week and for the next several weeks for Mitt Romney to let people know who he is, so the likability factor changes.

And then we have a real discussion about whether we're going to move back down to where we've been since -- for the last 40 years, the post-entitlement period, we've spent about 20.6 percent of our economy on the federal government. As you've mentioned, we're moving in a very different and dangerous direction. And what the president has been doing is creating sort of this make-believe that we can continue down this path forever and there really aren't tough choices to make.

What Romney and Ryan have to appeal to is the generations of Americans who know that this country is great because people have had to make tough choices for those coming behind them. That's what they have to appeal to. I still believe that's the America that we have.

And I think people understand you cannot continue down this make-believe path where everybody or more than 50 percent of the people in this country are benefiting from transfer checks from those who are productive. So that's really the choice in this race, in my opinion. And I think it's, again, the biggest race we've had since 1980.


MS. QUICK: Senator -- hold on just a second, John.

Senator, can I tell you about some breaking news? Hudson City Bancorp is being acquired.

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