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GOP 2012 Contender Roemer Decries Free Trade, DC Political Corruption

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2011-10-17-Buddy_Roemer.jpgRepublican 2012 Presidential candidate Buddy Roemer ramped up his reform message Oct. 13 with the kind of protectionist and anti-Wall Street language not usually heard from his party peers, much less bankers.

In a 30-minute interview on Washington Update, the public affairs radio show I co-host, Roemer sharply criticized the U.S. free trade bills with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that Congress passed this week with wide Republican support and President Obama's encouragement.

Roemer, a Harvard MBA degree-holder, called the agreements bad for the U.S. economy and workforce, and typical of what he's been calling corrupt special interest control of Washington. Also, he has criticized the Obama jobs proposal, which failed to survive a Senate cloture vote this week.

It's that kind of free-swinging commentary along with his varied record that prompts me to share these comments here. After all, lots of candidates are giving lots of interviews.

But Roemer is the only one this cycle who, for example, has been both a governor and a congressman -- and more important is pounding at many of his own party's standard positions as well as the opposition's, but isn't included in the TV debates.

Roemer described how he made the decision with his family to return to politics for the Presidential race "because our country is in trouble."

The former Louisiana governor and four-term congressman said he became a Republican when 97% of that state's office holders were Democrats, leading to what he called "corrupt" one-party rule. He later became a businessman, leading a bank that he describes as highly successful with an innovative, community-based strategy.

He is now based in New Hampshire much of the time, preparing for its primary. He said he decided at the beginning of the race to forgo any contributions over $100 and all political action committee (PAC) donations from corporations, unions, etc. He is the only prominent Presidential candidate from either major party to make such a pledge.

Organizers of Republican TV debates have excluded him from that exposure for what he describes as vague and oft-shifting reasons. Roemer, a recent guest on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, tries to see humor in what he calls a "Catch 22": Some pollsters exclude him from their surveys, whose results are then used by TV debate organizers as a basis for debate exclusion.

Even so, he says he is committed to his reform strategy. He finds encouragement in GOP rival Herman Cain's rise from 3% in poll support this summer to become the top-rated GOP choice in a poll announced Oct. 13 by the Wall Street Journal. On the radio show, Roemer addressed many issues during his 30-minute interview beginning at 17 minutes past the hour. The live show is now on the archive of the MTL business radio network that my co-host Scott Draughon founded nearly decade ago.

Roemer said earlier this week that his goal in traveling from his New Hampshire campaign headquarters to New York City this week to support the "Occupy Wall Street" protest was "to listen to, and to speak with, my fellow Americans who are fed up as I am with the corruption that is occurring before our very-own eyes."

Roemer served in Congress from 1981-1988 and was Louisiana's Governor from 1988-1992. Since leaving public office, he has been CEO of Business First Bank.

"Wall Street continues to be a major player in the corrupt game of politics," Roemer said about his trip to New York. "They did not create the problem or the game. They are just making it permanent and worse. Our President and Congress like to pat themselves on the back for supposedly 'regulating' Wall Street. Yet a week later they take their money at $35,000 a plate."

"I was born," he says, "just not yesterday."

"Americans ought to unite together," he continues, "and demand an end to the corruption and greed that poisons our political and financial systems; Tea Partiers; and Occupiers; Democrats and Republicans -- for this Movement is an American movement and is not going away."

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