The first order of business for New Jersey delegates to next week’s Republican National Convention will be to vote on the party platform. It’s a conservative one, with planks endorsing traditional marriages between men and women and the right of employers to withhold health care services against their conscience. Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron sat down with a platform committee member, state Sen. Joe Pennacchio.
Aron: Senator, how was it serving on the platform committee?
Aron: The platform seems more conservative than Donald Trump. Is it?
Pennacchio: That’s to be determined. Donald Trump hasn’t been a public figure relative to politics. This is new to him, so let’s see how his policy is and then we’ll see if we can determine whether it’s more or less conservative to the platform.
Aron: It’s more conservative, some say, than the 2012 platform. What do you think?
Pennacchio: I think it’s just basically the same. There’s a lot of language, verbiage in 2012 that was carried over to the 2016 platform. But again, especially when it comes to homeland security issues, this is the issue going into this race so I think they just had to refine it and add some detail to it, Michael.
Aron: What was the biggest fight in the platform committee?
Pennacchio: Actually there weren’t any fights. There was very, very long and in fairness to the platform committee and the RNC it was a tedious job, but it was very, very transparent. My understanding that the 500 credentials given out to the press, the process was very, very open for everybody to see. Maybe we dealt with 300 amendments on the floor, and about 50 to 60 amendments on the subcommittee. As opposed to my friends, the Democrats, who have 15 people lock themselves up in a room and that was the extent of their platform committee. No transparency at all.
Aron: The platform seems very tough on gay people. It defines natural marriage as between a man and a woman and it seeks to overturn the Supreme Court decision upholding gay marriage. It endorses the idea of conversion therapy. It says children deserve to be raised by a mom and a dad. Is the Republican Party throwing out the welcome mat to gays or discriminating against them?
Pennacchio: I don’t think so.
Aron: You don’t think which?
Pennacchio: I don’t think that it’s anti-gay. There’s no homophobic issues on the platform committee. The conversion therapy, Michael, says parents have that ultimate right to choose the type of treatment that the child gets or doesn’t get.
Aron: But conversion therapy has been debunked. It’s not scientific.
Pennacchio: That may or may not be true, but you’re interjecting yourself between a parent and the treatment that a parent may choose, or not choose to have for their child.
Aron: So the party is gay friendly?
Pennacchio: The language that kept going back to me, because I know there was some interjection of trying to be specific with the LGBT community as dealing with all people. One of the issues was that we were looking at homeland terror as it applied in Orlando, so one specific group, and we were looking as some of the Christians and the women and some of the other groups that are being targeted by ISIS. I think the language was more inclusive than saying all are being targeted because we’re all human beings.
Aron: The platform mentions God. It says that legislation should be consistent with God-given natural rights. That the Bible should be taught in schools. Is that traditionally American — to mix politics and religion that way?
Pennacchio: We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created by their creator and have unalienable rights. There are people with higher pay grade, our founding fathers, that actually interjected God into our founding documents way before the platform in 2016.
Aron: How do you feel about the choice of Mike Pence as running mate?
Pennacchio: Good choice.
Pennacchio: Conservative, mollifies the base of the party. I think he’s a fighter. He’s a great governor and he brings that talent that he had, I think he was the fourth in leadership in Congress, and I think he’s just an all around good choice.
Aron: Would you have preferred Chris Christie?
Pennacchio: Oh, yeah. I know Chris many, many years. I, just on a personal level, I would have liked to see him get that close to the White House, but I have a feeling that my governor is going to be in the mix.
Aron: You think he’ll be in the Trump administration, if there is one?
Pennacchio: I hope so. Anybody that tries to judge what Donald Trump is or isn’t going to do is being disingenuous.
Aron: Are you happy with Trump at the moment?