UGA Libraries Logo

Interview with Saxby Chambliss, November 28, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:32 - Early life

Play segment

Partial Transcript: If we may, just to begin with, tell me about your childhood, your upbringing, what made you you?

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss speaks about how his childhood affected his value system and eventually, his political outlook. He also tells of his experience at the University of Georgia in the mid-1960s, and how the connections he made there aided his later political career.

Keywords: Benson's Bakery; Bogart, Georgia; Ed Benson; Howard Benson; University of Tennessee School of Law; Vince Dooley; fraternities

00:08:09 - Living in South Georgia

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What brought you back to Georgia, to south Georgia?

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss details what life was like in south Georgia--specifically in Colquitt County, where he moved after finishing law school. He notes that on the local level, the Democrats reigned supreme, with most offices not even having Republican opposition.

Keywords: Bainbridge, Georgia; Cairo, Georgia; Charles Floyd Hatcher; Colquitt County, Georgia; Democratic Party; Moultrie, Georgia; Republican Party; Thomasville, Georgia; Tifton, Georgia; agriculture; city councilman; county commissioner; legal practice; school board

00:13:58 - 1992 and 1994 Congressional elections

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So how did you make that transition from de facto Democrat, supporting Democratic office-seekers, office-holders, to an active member of the Republican Party of Georgia?

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss discusses what factors convinced him to run as a Republican for Congress in 1992, in which he lost in the primary election to Bob Cunningham. Chambliss then recalls running again for Congress in 1994, this time winning both the primary and general election, attributing his success to the general pro-Republican sentiment during that election.

Keywords: 1992 redistricting; 8th Congressional District; Alec Poitevint; Bob Cunningham; Contract with America; Fred Cooper; GOPAC; Georgia Republican Party; Newt Gingrich; Ronald Reagan; Roy Rowland; business community; campaigning; conservatism; national Republican Party; national debt; national politics; primary election; wave election

00:23:39 - Service in Congress

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What were the dynamics of the Georgia delegation at that time, the Republican delegation?

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss covers his service in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2002, speaking of working with both Republicans and Democrats from Georgia to pass legislation. He lists the areas he focused on, including agriculture, national defense, and national intelligence.

Keywords: 8th Congressional District; Al-Qaeda; Bob Barr; CIA; Charlie Norwood; Cynthia McKinney; Dennis Hostert; FBI; Farm Bill; Jack Kingston; John Lewis; John Linder; Mac Collins; Nathan Deal; Sanford Bishop; Valdosta, Georgia; homeland security; intelligence committee; terrorism

00:30:51 - National security and intelligence

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Before we move on to your later political career, I just want to--what's your assessment of the outlook regarding national security, terrorism.

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss describes his roles on the committees or subcommittees dealing with national security and intelligence in both the House and the Senate. He recounts the shakeup that the September 11th terrorist attacks made on the functions of those committees, elevating their positions to vital importance.

Keywords: Al-Qaeda; Dennis Hastert; ISIS; Jane Harman; Russia; USA-PATRIOT Act

00:38:16 - Running for U.S. Senate

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Looking back--moving back to partisan politics, 2001, 2002 rolls around, and you were the victim of some reapportionment shenanigans.

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss elaborates on why he chose to run for Senate in 2002, noting that the main impetus was being redistricted into Jack Kingston's district. Chambliss mentions that running in a primary against Bob Irvin did not impact his decision to run; he was solely focused on the general election.

Keywords: Bill Frist; George W. Bush; Jane Harman; Max Cleland; Newt Gingrich; Paul Coverdell; September 11th attacks; Tom Perdue; agriculture community

00:48:25 - Running against Max Cleland / 2002 gubernatorial race

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You already mentioned that you perceived and the party perceived Senator Cleland as a vulnerable incumbent.

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss explains that Max Cleland's liberal-leaning voting record made his senate seat vulnerable for a Republican to win, stating that his own conservative philosophy would be more appealing to voters. Chambliss also recalls campaigning with and for Sonny Perdue's 2002 gubernatorial campaign, which Chambliss believes led to both his and Perdue's campaigns victories.

Keywords: "Georgia values"; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Bainbridge, Georgia; George W. Bush; Karl Rove; Roy Barnes; TV ads; Tom Daschle; Tom Perdue; party switching

00:56:47 - Miller and Isakson

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Tell me about your two Senate colleagues that you served with during your time in the Senate--Zell Miller and Johnny Isakson.

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss reminisces about his time serving in the Senate with Democrat Zell Miller and Republican Johnny Isakson. He then contrasts serving as a senator and as a representative, stressing the greater responsibility that comes with being a senator.

Keywords: Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; George W. Bush administration; Karl Rove; State of the Union Address; University of Georgia; agriculture; committee chair; conservatism; defense industry; executive appointments; judicial appointments; national security; senior senator; treaties

01:04:59 - Gang of Six / Immigration reform

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Looking back on it, what do you think your key, your top accomplishments as a U.S. senator were during your twelve years there?

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss discusses forming the bipartisan "Gang of Six" in the Senate to tackle the growing national debt and issues of government spending. He then comments on immigration, believing that comprehensive immigration reform is nearly impossible in the modern system; instead, such issues, he says, will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Keywords: 2008 financial crisis; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival; Mark Warner; Medicare; Simpson-Bowles Commission; Social Security; border security; economic growth; entitlement reform; sequestration; tax reform

01:13:16 - Bipartisanship / Georgia Republican Party

Play segment

Partial Transcript: When you decided not to seek reelection in 2014, how had the Senate changed since you first got there in 2003 as opposed to when you left in January 2015?

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss laments the decrease in bipartisan efforts in both chambers of Congress in recent years, giving an anecdote about when Ted Kennedy, as the ranking member on Chambliss's subcommittee, approached him to discuss areas for cooperation. He also analyzes how the Republican Party in Georgia grew to be the majority party, which Chambliss attributes to Ronald Reagan's conservative philosophy convincing Georgia voters to begin voting Republican down-ballot.

Keywords: Bob Dole; Donald Trump; Georgia Democrats; Robert Byrd; Second Amendment; Senate Judiciary Committee; compromise; factionalism; individual rights; minority outreach; national Republican Party; national security; partisanship; young voters

01:22:17 - Donald Trump's presidency

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Since you brought up President Trump--you were referring to Ronald Reagan and the principles of Ronald Reagan--there are some discrepancies between the incumbent president and Ronald Reagan's philosophies.

Segment Synopsis: Chambliss compares and contrasts Donald Trump's presidency with those of Ronald Reagan and both Bushes, concluding that Donald Trump is mainly holding true to conservative principles in the realms of tax cuts, government regulation, and judicial appointments. He says Trump's biggest departure from previous Republican candidates is not in his policies but rather in his utilization of social media.

Keywords: 2008 presidential election; 2016 presidential election; Affordable Care Act; Barack Obama; Harry Reid; John McCain; Mitt Romney; Neil Gorsuch; cloture; economic protectionism; fiscal responsibility; free trade; globalism; immigration; intelligence community