Have you changed since 1994 when you declared you were part of the “Republican shock troops”?
I don't know if I would use those terms, but I've changed - that would be true. My policy positions have not. But, what I emphasize has changed. I'm still an economic conservative, pro-growth, limited government. I'm still a social conservative. But, in '95, I had a melanoma. We dealt with that. But, mentally, it was a big shock on my system. And it did change me. It made me look at the end of life.
And when I did, I wasn't happy with the way I was living life then, no matter how long or few my days were is I just, I thought, you know, oh, I'm just, I'm mean, I'm judgmental, and I don't like that.
And so, it was a real--it was a tough period. It was a great period. It was one I thank God for. I don't want to go back through it, but it did change me.
And it made me look and say what is it that I can do to help people? Or if God needs a politician, what would he do? And you quickly surmise, well, he would obviously be very interested in the poor and the downtrodden. He would obviously be interested in trying to help people and in building relationships with other people. And these are things you don't have to do a lot of searching to say that they're there. And unfortunately, in the world, there's a lot of people that are in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. And we live in the most powerful nation in the history of mankind. We're in a position to help.
With the recent announcements of Elizabeth Edwards' return of cancer and Tony Snow's return of cancer, how does that impact you? What does it make you think or feel?
Well, it makes me feel a lot for them, as I can, in some degree, identify, even though mine is a very simple one and you excise it and, if you catch it early on, the prognosis is quite good.
But, it also makes me think of the mental journey that they're on right now because cancer's very much a disease that hits you in the head because you just don't know what else is going on in this body. It makes me pray for them, and I do, with them going through this.
It also doubles my effort to eliminate deaths by cancer in 10 years, which I Co-Chair the Cancer Caucus here. A number of us have been pushing this. This is a--this is something we could actually do, and take a moon shot at. And it would be an enormous burst of freedom.
It's the leading cause of fear in America today, is that you'll get cancer, and for good cause. One out of two men and one out of three women will get cancer in America. I'm like wow.
Why is it that more Republicans aren't perceived to share that same compassion?
I don't know. I think it's clearly the way forward for the party and for the country. I think it's the way forward for us globally, for a President to travel Africa and listen, and say, what is it we can do to help?
And they'll tell you real quick. You know, it'll be malaria, thank you for the AIDS for work. Very appreciative in Africa that malaria--we got 65 percent of our children having malaria. We need clean water. You know, it'd be pretty basic things that most Americans would say, I hear you. And it would make us better in the process.
I don't know, but, it seems that, clearly, the way forward for the party to keep from having a shrinking base is to really engage this compassionate conservative, or I refer to it as a bleeding heart conservative ideology, which has a huge following in the country.