EDITOR'S NOTE: '10 QUESTIONS' is a new feature that will run periodically. It will feature prominent officials from a variety of different fields - from area and national politcians, to local civic leaders and public figures. It is independent of the 2012 Election. Today: Minnesota's senior U.S. Senator, DFLer Amy Klobuchar.
What spurred you to get into politics?
"It was when my daughter was born; she was very sick and it was back when they had that 24-hour rule in place that a mom and a baby could only stay for 24 hours in a hospital. They kicked me out - 'you're 24 hours are up!' I went and testified at the Legislature, and Minnesota became one of the first states to adopt the 48-hour hospital stay. That really was a galvanizing thing for me to see, one, that you can get something done; and two, how people can abuse things and you have to stand up for others."
If you were a Minnesota legislator, how would you have voted on the Vikings stadium?
"I would've looked at the whole bill, but I was generally supportive of moving forward so the Vikings wouldn't move and making sure the public got the best deal it could. I am generally supportive of the new Vikings stadium and didn't want to lose the Vikings."
Obviously Klobuchar wasn't involved in the Vikings stadium issue and never saw the bill, but given her roots and background, I thought it would be interesting to get her opinion. Sometimes, hypothetical questions are the most interesting ones. Plus, she wrote a book about the H.H.H. Metrodome and the state's 10-year political battle leading up to the Dome becoming a reality.
Why has partisanship seemingly reached a new level in Washington?
"The irritating thing is what you see on TV is the worst of the worst. The fact is there are people who work together all the time, that's what I do. I've gotten a number of bills passed that are bipartisan. It's really trying to find that common ground. We need more people to cross the aisle to conquer our debt and to do some of the many things we need to do. There's a group of 45 of us who have said we want to reduce the debt in a balanced way - half Democrats, half Republicans. We get together every month to talk about it. I think courage in Washington in the next year is not going to be people who stand alone, courage is going to be whether or not you are willing to stand next to someone you don't always agree with for the betterment of this country."
Women's roles in politics have increased during the last decade or so. What kind of impact does that have?
"I think it's good to have a mix of people representing you, and we have now 17 out of 100 senators are women - at least they don't call it the Sweet 16 anymore. Women have some significant leadership roles in the Senate now, too. If you don't have that mix I don't think it's as easy to get things done. I think women tend to be a little more in the mainstream. It's really interesting, because we work together really well."
What was it like growing up the daughter of a popular and well-respected journalist in Minnesota?
(Jim Klobuchar wrote for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis for three decades and is the author of the book "Knights and Knaves of Autumn: 40 Years of Pro Football and the Minnesota Vikings.")
"My dad has always been a character; he's still waiting for the Vikings to win a Super Bowl. Growing up was amazing because he loved his job, and I would learn a lot from him about the world. We had an interesting life growing up. He and (former Vikings coach) Norm Van Brocklin once got in a fist fight in our living room. Bud Grant would call and I would answer 'Klobuchar residence, Amy speaking,' and this voice would go, 'Jim!' He would never even ask for him. It wasn't a total normal life growing up but he taught me a lot. He is a great dad."
What are some of the key pieces of the 2012 farm bill?
"I think first of all making sure there is some kind of safety net in place is really important because we had to make cuts because we're acknowledging we need to reduce our debt. We've cut $23 billion from the farm bill and we have gone from direct payments to more of a form of crop insurance. I think that is something supported by most of the farmers in Minnesota. Secondly, the disaster program's been important to us with some of the recent flooding and tornadoes. Third, keeping some of the energy programs is important, with biodiesel and ethanol. Fourth, I've worked really hard on opening markets for our producers, whether it's beef, or pork or turkey. Dairy has been probably the biggest challenge over the last few years with prices being volatile. We also want to keep conservation programs in Minnesota; we're the fifth biggest user of them in the country."
What's your position on gay marriage?
(A same-sex marriage amendment will be on the November ballot in Minnesota as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, which would define marriage in the Minnesota Constitution as between one man and one woman).
"I don't think that we should have that amendment. I think it's real important to have the church be able to decide whether or not they will do it. You have to differentiate between that and then allowing it from a civil standpoint. In other words, you can have gay marriage, but no single church is going to have to do it. The freedom of religion trumps that. The church should be able to decide not to do it. Minnesota should not have an amendment like this because I think it's divisive. We should be focusing on other things like the economy."
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
"Five years from now I hope I'm still a senator. It's humbling to represent our state. Our state is so active. Our economy's doing a little better than the rest of the country and I feel there's a lot of things I can do working with our businesses. Our state has a proud tradition of people doing good things and getting things done, and that's what I've been trying to do."
Ever think of getting into politics at the state level?
"No. I just really like what I'm doing right now. We've had a lot of turnover, bringing different people in. I think someone who wants to stay in for at least another term is an important thing."
How do you think the Democrats will do nationally in November?
"I don't have a crystal ball, but I think we have a lot of strong candidates across the country. I also think people want to get people in there that are willing to get things done and do things in a balanced way. I think we have a lot of candidates who will do that."