I always tell people it would be easy to defend the president because he always goes to his left, Thune, R-S.D., told the questioner, 2011 Boys State Gov. Jack Gordon. Thune, who was on the basketball team at Murdo High School, though, he said he hasn't yet had the opportunity to play Obama. In all seriousness, though, I think the president's got a pretty good game.
Thune answered questions from Boys Staters following a brief talk at the Johnson Fine Arts Center at Northern State University. He flew to Aberdeen after speaking Thursday morning to Girls State delegates in Vermillion.
Before talking about basketball, Thune was asked by another Boys Stater about rumors that he could be Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's pick as a running mate.
Thune said that decision is made by one person, and he's not privy to any of the deliberations. He likes Romney and would look forward to working with a president who really does want to solve this country's problems, he said. Though Thune is happy with his current job, a person should always want to be able to serve in the best way possible, he said. He's not closing any doors, he said, but I'm certainly not looking for that job.
Thune, who attended Boys State in 1978, was asked for an example of an issue he's been involved in that really benefited South Dakota.
He talked about efforts to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base open in western South Dakota. That move benefited not just western South Dakota, but the whole state, he said. He also said he's working on his third Farm Bill.
Another young man asked Thune what he's done to alleviate the partisanship in Washington, D.C. The senator said the nation is facing some major problems, such as a $15 trillion deficit. Some think the problem is that the government spends too much. Others think the nation doesn't tax enough, he said.
But, Thune said, it's important to maintain a civil tone in talking to people with different political ideas and not to attack them. He also thinks arguments are more successful if you rely on facts rather than emotion.
A Boys Stater asked Thune about possible cuts in support for the National Guard. There are some proposals to reduce funding for the National Guard, Thune said. There's a lot of budgeting pressure in Washington now, and many agencies are looking to make cuts. It is Thune's theory that, on its first pass-through, the military took a pretty good whack at the National Guard's budget. The way things look now, the nation's military is due to take a major cut at the end of his year, he said. He hopes the cuts will instead be distributed across broader areas of the budget.
Thune said he's a big believer in national security. If you don't get that right, he said, the rest is just conversation.
In addition, Thune gave advice to the Boys Staters on how to provide leadership and service later in life.
One of the keys, he said, is a commitment to a life of character.
There's an old saying that when all the looks and charm are gone, all that's left is character, he said.