Tim Scott offers views on his life, race, GOP
COLUMBIA — Before Gov. Nikki Haley formally announced his appointment to the U.S. Senate, Tim Scott met with The Post and Courier in Haley’s office Monday morning. The interview and some answers have been condensed for space.
Q: You’re going to be the first African-American to serve in the Senate from the South since Reconstruction. What does that mean to you?
Scott: “You know I think it’s a great day for South Carolina. It speaks to the evolution of South Carolina. I think our state is amazing. It speaks so well of the citizens. You think of it from my perspective, it’s never been a racial quotient, it’s been ‘Does this candidate match my values, and is he right on my issues?’ When I first got elected in 1995 to county council, those were the questions asked then, those are the questions asked now. No one actually says, ‘Tim, because or in spite of you being black, here’s what I’m gonna do.’ So the cool thing has always been for the last 18 years as an elected official, South Carolinians have treated me based on what I do and what I say.”
Q: How do you think you’ve risen so quickly from the Statehouse to the U.S. Senate?
Scott: “As an imperfect vessel, the (Lord’s) been able to make a way when there seemed to be very little way. And so I credit the Good Lord with a lot of the opportunities I’ve had. They also tell me that preparation meets opportunity, and so what I try to do all the time is just keep working hard. And you just never know what door opens.”
Q: How closely do you plan to follow in Jim DeMint’s footsteps politically?
Scott: “I hope to consistently do what I’ve done in the House, which is be a compassionate conservative with a record that reflects a conservative perspective.”
Q: After the shooting on Friday in Connecticut, do you feel it’s time for some kind of change to the nation’s gun laws?
Scott: “I think the first thing that you do is realize today, two kids are gonna have funerals. I think when we jump to conclusions without pausing to pray and to reflect, sometimes our conclusions are flawed. So instead of jumping into the gun-law challenge, I think we should stop today to pray for the victims, pray for their families. And at the same time we should recognize the fact that Connecticut has some of the strongest gun laws in the country. So we probably need to have a balanced approach. There are certainly some challenges within the individual that need to be addressed.”
Q: The governor referenced your upbringing and you growing up with a single mother, and I understand that you weren’t a great student initially. Have you been thinking about that at all, how far you’ve risen from where you came from?
Scott: “You know I’ve thought about the fact that in many ways, I feel like I’m living my mother’s American dream. Flunking out of high school as a freshman basically ... Most people would have just said forget it, this is a high-risk kid, an at-risk kid, and it’s over. But my mother stuck with me.”
Q: You mentioned that race has not been a big part of how you view your job and your rise in politics. One of the things that a lot of people have looked at after the presidential election is the idea that the Republican Party needs to diversify and start reaching out to minorities. Do you think that was a lesson that needed to be taken from the election result?
Scott: “I think the future for our party is very bright. The fact of the matter is while diversity seems to be an issue because America is changing, the reality of it is how we deliver, how we market our message is probably as important as any other ingredient for success and our future. I truly believe that America is still a center-right nation, and so the goal for us is to market in new territories, new lands, new places. And as we do that, I think people will understand our message. It will gain traction. And fresh faces — it doesn’t really matter what complexion that face is, it doesn’t matter the gender — but fresh faces that authentically understand and have lived the message I think will resonate very well with the American people.”