Q&A with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., spoke during the morning session Tuesday of the 64th annual Southern Legislative Conference in Charleston, where he defended the Obama administration's handling of the economy, stressed the economic benefits of expanding tourism and said he hopes to publish his memoirs some time next year. Clyburn, who turned 70 last month, has been in Congress since 1992. He sat for a question-and-answer session with Post and Courier reporter Schuyler Kropf. His comments are edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Is President Barack Obama getting enough credit for keeping the economy afloat at a time when his poll numbers are plummeting?

A: As I said to the president, up until this point Harry Truman is my favorite president. I'll never forget because I was old enough to remember -- Harry Truman was a pretty unpopular guy because he bit the bullet on some things that the country did not want to come to grips with.

Sure he does (deserve more credit). Will he get it? Nah. It took people 40 years to look back and see Truman was a great president. He left office almost in shame. But everybody said, "But for Truman, what would have happened to Europe?" Not to mention what would happen to this country.

Q: Looking at the president's travel, it looks like he's been pressing his case in the "blue" states, such as Ohio and Michigan. Are you trying to get him to South Carolina, which gave him a huge bounce during primary season?

A: Yes. I've talked to him about that. The president and I have talked about how I see things, how I see South Carolina.

The president went to Georgia Monday, and (Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes) went to another part of the state. I think one of the mistakes we continue to make, especially as Democrats, is we buy in, too often, to the conventional wisdom. This stuff of 'not being seen with the president' is just crazy. The technology we have today, anybody can make you be seen with the president anytime they want to, and they do.

Q: All signs this November point to a Republican resurgence at the polls. What are the best-case and worse-case scenarios for Democrats this fall, including in the House?

A: The best-case scenario is for us to pick up seats. The worst-case scenario is for us to lose control. I don't think either one of those things will take place. I think tradition will prevail. We'll lose seats, but we won't lose control.

Q: The Internet was at the forefront of two big stories last month, the leaking of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan, and the intentionally skewed video that altered the position of former Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod. Where is technology taking the country?

A: You have to take the bitter with the sweet, I guess. It's amazing how much I rely on those old adages as I go through life and the older I get. Technology is one of the greatest things that every happened, current technology, and it's also one of the worst. All of us bear the responsibility of being professionals about this.

Q: Given the course of events in Orangeburg, do you support South Carolina State University beginning construction on the James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center complex amid the many unanswered questions about millions of state and federal dollars tied to it?

A: Absolutely. The position is you shouldn't build it because questions are being raised as to why you didn't build it 10 years ago. It's a Catch-22. The money has been sitting there all this time because there are people in this administration in Columbia that's been stopping it.