Lisa J. Tolda / Special to the Sun
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | 2 a.m.
WHERE SHE CHANGEDAngle softened her rhetoric on phasing out Social Security and retreated from statements about people exercising “Second Amendment remedies” if conservatives don’t prevail this year.
WHERE SHE DIDN'TAngle held firm in opposing extension of unemployment benefits. She also restated her opposition to abortion, saying government should not have gotten involved in the issue.
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In her first mainstream media interview since winning the Republican nomination in the U.S. Senate race, former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle softened her rhetoric on “phasing out” Social Security and fearing the electorate would take up arms if conservatives didn’t win at the ballot box.
But on other issues, such as abortion and her belief that unemployment benefits deter the jobless from applying for work, she stridently defended herself amid criticism from her Democratic rival, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, that her views are “wacky” and “dangerous.”
In a raucous 30-minute interview on “Face to Face With Jon Ralston,” Angle was pressed to explain the positions she took during the Republican primary to a general election audience, as well as to a cadre of political observers waiting to see how much she will change now that she faces a major Democrat for the first time in her political career.
Only once did she flatly admit her pre-primary language was too strong, when asked to explain her comments that the citizenry will resort to “Second Amendment remedies” — referring to the right to bear arms — if conservatives didn’t win this election.
“I admit it was a little strong to say,” she said. “That’s why I changed my rhetoric to ‘defeat Harry Reid.’ ”
She also appeared to moderate her belief that the Social Security program should be “phased out.” Far from advocating an end to the program, she said existing benefits should be protected, more money should be put into the system and, in the future, younger workers should be given the choice between a “personal account” and Social Security benefits.
But when it came to one of the most severe problems facing Nevada, the 14 percent unemployment rate that is higher than any other state’s, Angle stuck to her view that unemployment benefits should no longer be extended.
Instead, she said jobs exist that those on benefits should be taking.
“They keep extending unemployment benefits to the point where people are afraid to go out and get a job because the job doesn’t pay as much as the benefit,” Angle said. “There are jobs that do exist.”
Unemployment benefits should be reworked to supplement lower wages, rather than being eliminated once a job is found, she argued.
She vehemently restated her view that a “system of entitlements” has “spoiled our citizenry.”
Angle also worked to stay true to her core conservative beliefs on social issues. She said the separation of church and state is a doctrine meant to “protect the church” and that elected officials should “bring our values to the political system.” She sidestepped her comments from the 1990s that the separation of church and state is an “unconstitutional doctrine.”
After the interview Reid spokesman Jon Summer commented, “For someone who talks so much about the Constitution, you would think she would actually know what is in it. It’s shocking to hear her say that the separation of church and state isn’t part of the Constitution, when it is laid out in the First Amendment.”
The interview itself was significant because while Angle has been available to conservative talk shows, she has been viewed as evading mainstream news organizations.
When Ralston challenged her comments to a Reno conservative talk show host that abortion should not be available even in the case of rape or incest, Angle said she values life.
“You want government to go and tell a 13-year-old child who’s been raped by her father she has to have that baby?” Ralston asked.
“I didn’t say that,” she said. “I always say that I value life.”
She went further to say she believes government should stay out of the issue of abortion, but it decided to insert its control after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
“The government decided to get involved in this, not me,” she said. “I’m just defending my position.”
When she was in the Legislature, Angle repeatedly sponsored a bill that would require the “dissemination of information concerning the scientific link between induced abortion and increased rate of breast cancer.”
Concerning Yucca Mountain, Angle said she believes the state should abandon its decades-old fight to keep the federal government from burying the nation’s most radioactive waste 90 miles outside of Las Vegas.
“We need to make lemonade out of lemons,” she said, arguing jobs could be created by accepting the waste.
Throughout the interview, Angle tried to pivot to attacking Reid, blaming him for the high unemployment rate, expanding the federal deficit and bailing out big businesses.
“We’re nitpicking on all of these little topics that Harry Reid has thrown out there,” she said. “I would like to see Harry Reid come into this studio and have a real debate on the issues. And the issues to me are the high unemployment, the high foreclosure rate and the high bankruptcy rate.”