At 79 years old, former U.S. Senator Hank Brown is full of vigor and happy to share the wisdom of his experience. Photo by Freda Miklin
BY FREDA MIKLIN
Eighty dedicated members of the Arapahoe County Republican Breakfast Club came out to Maggiano’s DTC at 7:30 a.m. on June 5 to listen to former U.S. Senator Hank Brown, elder statesman of the Republican party in Colorado. Brown was introduced by another well-known Republican, John Andrews, former state senate president, as the U.S. senator who “helped seat the great [U.S. Supreme Court] Justice Clarence Thomas.”
Brown opened with a story about Bill Bennett, who served as education secretary under President Ronald Reagan. Interviewed at the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, Bennett was asked to compare President Trump to President Reagan. Brown quoted Bennett as saying, “Different times call for different leaders. Sometimes you need Mother Teresa and sometimes you need Dirty Harry.”
Moving on to philosophical distinctions, Brown told his audience that the foundation of the Democratic party is to take from working people and give to people who don’t work. He said that Republicans “care about people, of course,” but are less inclined to spend working people’s money.” He said, “If someone has a right to your money, isn’t that the same as slavery?”
“Republicans,” Brown said, “believe you not only have a right to produce income, you have a right to consume it yourself.”
Before 1930, Brown told the audience, the government never spent more than 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Today that number is 40 percent. “Former Arapahoe County Republican Chair Rich Sokol raised the point, “Government spending of 40 percent of our economy has grown consistently under both Democratic and Republican presidents.”
Brown answered, “There is a world of difference between how Democrats and Republicans vote on spending. As you look at efforts to control spending, every single time it’s the Republicans that lead the way.”
Brown addressed the issue of how to take people out of poverty. He said, “Look around the world. Per capita income goes up when you privatize the economy—allow people a fair share of what they produce. That’s what motivates people.”
“You can run up tremendous deficits by telling people everything is free,” he said.
Brown believes that there is “overwhelming support for moving funding decisions out of Washington, D.C.” to states and local government.
Brown predicted a landslide for Republicans in 2020. He attributed the success of the Democrats in 2018 to “billionaires who inherited all their money,” asserting that “the huge Democratic turnout came from unlimited funds provided by Democratic billionaires.”
“What do you think about [U.S. Senator Michael] Bennet and [former Colorado Governor John] Hickenlooper coming out strong against socialism?” an audience member asked.
Brown replied, “Hickenlooper didn’t come out against socialism. He came out against running a campaign on socialism.”
Asked to ‘take us back to 1991, the Clarence Thomas hearings,” Brown recounted his experience. “Thomas had a stellar academic and judicial record. [Former U.S. Senator] Joe Biden kept delaying the hearing to find people to smear [Thomas]. Anita Hill had worked for him at different places and continued to call him after she no longer worked for him. I spoke to her the weekend before she testified. When she went through incidents, it seemed like she was reading a legal brief.”
Brown was asked if he had advice for new University of Colorado President Mark Kennedy. He said that, with an elected board of regents, it’s important to spend significant time with each of them so that they feel like they have a personal relationship with him. He also recommended that Kennedy, “enforce the policy prohibiting discrimination based on viewpoint,” because “some departments only have one [political] party represented.”
He also recommended that Kennedy, “look at money spent out of student fees for political activity.”
Before being elected to the United States Senate, where he served one term (1990-1996), Brown, who holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Colorado, served in the United States Navy in Vietnam, state senate and the U.S. House. After leaving government service, he moved on to higher education, first as president of the University of Northern Colorado (1998-2002), then as president of the University of Colorado (2005-2007). In the three years between those two assignments, Brown was president and CEO of the Daniels Fund.
Distinguished elected officials who came to listen to Sen. Brown included state Sen. Jack Tate, state Rep. Rod Bockenfeld, and from local city councils, Wynn Shaw, of Lone Tree and Marsha Berzins and Johnny Watson of Aurora.
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