Sen. Sam Brownback, one of Congress's most prominent Catholics, said he would be "honored" to be considered as a vice presidential option for Sen. John McCain, though he hoped that the GOP nominee would hold a "robust discussion" on who to choose.
The remarks, which occurred Wednesday night at a book signing event in Washington D.C., were made roughly a week-and-a-half after McCain actively accepted the endorsement of Rev. John Hagee, a prominent evangelical leader known for his anti-Catholic rhetoric, such as calling the Catholic church the "great whore."
That endorsement has simmered but not erupted within the conservative religious community. And, in the days that followed, McCain was forced to issue two statements saying he did not agree with Hagee's positions. Brownback said the senator's second statement convinced him not to make political hay out of the issue.
"John McCain [was clear] in the second statement," said Brownback, "which is really what people should ask for and should see: There's just not going to be a bias here at all. And that clarifies it. I really think it's a topic really that's dealt with, over, and it's time to move on. But you needed that second piece on it, of being very clear that there is not going to be any sort of bias in my administration. Period."
If, indeed, Brownback is tapped to serve as McCain's VP, the Kansas senator tipped his hand, ever so slightly, about how he would approach the Democratic field. Brownback repudiated the comments of a fellow of congressional Republican who had suggested that an Obama victory in the 2008 election would be a boon for terrorists, calling them "inappropriate."
"Barack Obama is a loyal American," said Brownback when asked about the remarks Rep. Steve King made late last week. "I disagree with [Obama] on a number of policy issues. He is the most liberal member of the Senate by a vote grader but he is a loyal American and I don't think those comments are appropriate."
Despite his presidential campaign, which flamed out after the very first contest, and his limited national stature, Brownback represents an intriguing running mate for McCain. Political analysts have projected that, perhaps more than at any time in recent memory, the Democratic Party is primed to make inroads into religious community. Brownback, ostensibly, could help stem and even reverse that trend.
"The faith community is going to have a big impact on this falls election," he said, "and I think this is a huge problem mark for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, regardless of their rhetoric because the faith community does have core issues."
But there are obvious issues on which he and McCain have vast differences. And those were brought up during Wednesday night's address as well. McCain, for example, favors embryonic stem cell research as a means for finding cures to debilitating diseases, though he has recently been willing to listen to criticism of the practice.
"The dialogue is happening [to get him to change his mind]," said Brownback. "I can guarantee you that that's occurred. But I would doubt that he does [change his position]. Because that's one of the strengths of John as a candidate. Once the guy plants you know he is going to be there."