EDITOR'S NOTE: As the 2012 GOP presidential field shapes up, The Post and Courier will seek to talk one on one with each contender. Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer is one of the first Republicans to jump in. He has formed an exploratory committee and talks as if he has made up his mind. He is making a media tour through South Carolina this week and sat down Wednesday with reporter Robert Behre.
Q: The field seems to be taking shape far more slowly this time around than four years ago. How is that affecting the contest?
A: "I've thought about it often. I don't know. I've never explored running for president before. I've thought about it for 20 years. I don't like our system. I think it's corrupt. I think influence is bought. Tax bills are written with money. GE (General Electric) makes $14 billion and doesn't pay a penny in taxes. It's not right."
Q: What do you feel sets you apart from the field?
A: "(Accepting no more than) One hundred dollars (from a single donor) is my issue. ... Right now the current law allows (presidential candidates) to take $2,500 (in campaign contributions) per cycle. I don't play any game like that. With me, it's $100 total for the election. No one else has ever done that, so we'll see how it works. But I'll tell you what makes it possible -- the Internet."
Q: You campaigned for John McCain for president the last time around. How would you compare or contrast yourself with him?
A: "Younger, hair not quite as gray. ... In a lot of ways John and I are alike. We believe foreign policy ought to be robust. ... John and I always got along even when we disagreed, but I'm a little bit different in a fundamental thing. I presented to John four years ago the $100 (max campaign donation) issue. ... They gave it a lot of thought, and I hate to tell your readers this, but some experts, including John, didn't think it was possible."
Q: Are we doing the right thing in Libya?
A: "I think it's dangerous and too little, too late. I hate to get back to John McCain, but I listen to John on foreign policy issues. ... Now the president has information that you and I don't have, so I'm going to honor him in foreign policy and stop at the water's edge. So I'm not being critical. I will make the observation that his moves in Libya have been late, late, late, and that makes them more dangerous. ... Our foreign policy is flatfooted in terms of trade, in terms of the use of our Marines, in terms of our military expenses."
Q: What do you make of the tea party's influence?
A: "The tea party won the election in November and the Republicans took over the House and every businessman in America said, 'Whew! Gridlock!' That's what turned the economy around. The president can't take any credit for it. ... It was the tea party that did it. I'm a tea party guy at heart."
Q: You've been described in The New York Times as an "outspoken sharp-edged irritant" to members of your own party. Does that description fit?
A: "I'm a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. Teddy said this: He asked Republicans, 'Are we going to be a party of plain people? Or are we going to be a party of privileged people?' That issue is alive today. I will challenge Republicans on it, then I will challenge our president."