Marsha Blackburn on Hillary, Spending, Immigration and Fred Thompson

As a trailblazer in her own right, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) was not impressed with Hillary Clinton’s crybaby performance following the most recent Democratic presidential debates.

Blackburn, the first woman to represent Tennessee’s 23rd Senate district — and since 2002 holder of Tennessee’s Seventh Congressional District seat — knows well the self-restraint and stamina required for a woman to run a successful campaign amidst a male-dominated profession.

Blackburn said she was surprised by Clinton’s negative response to heavy criticism from opponents and noted that “part of the discretion of serving in leadership is…knowing when to bite your tongue.”

For Clinton, whose lead has diminished by 10 points according to a CNN poll, this would have been prime time for such judgment. Political strategists and pundits contend the significant backlash towards Clinton ensued because she is the clear frontrunner — a typical pattern for any election.

Blackburn agreed women are often treated differently than men but that she has approached campaigns by saying “I am the most qualified person for the job” rather than promoting a breakthroughs based on gender.

Clinton — in an effort to repair the damage from a performance rife with evasive answers on the issue of driver’s licenses for illegal aliens —  rushed to issue a campaign commercial condemning her rivals for a supposed “the politics of pile on.” This promptly backfired when media analysts accused her of breaking out the gender card.

While this is the first U.S. presidential election that a woman has a real chance to win, Blackburn believes that campaigning on the gender difference only harms the campaign.

Blackburn, communications chairman for the Republican Study Committee, recognizes that, while gender is a factor due to public perception, it’s not something to focus on.

“For women to achieve as men achieve, we have to realize we have to be smarter, think faster, work harder,” said Blackburn. “A term that I use a lot is — leadership is not as it appears, but as it performs.”

She said that while leadership can be assigned, the action required to lead is earned — and when it comes to “piling on” — she said, “sometimes you have to hold your tongue and work your way through it.”

Blackburn overcame critics and has now served as an Assistant Majority Whip in the 108th and 109th Congress as well as a Deputy Whip for the 110th Congress. Carrying her state on a conservative platform of low taxes, privatized healthcare, border security and the free market, Blackburn is currently working on legislation to balance the federal books by proposing across the board cuts.

She sees spending and social security as critical issues not being handled properly.

“The American people want to see federal spending reduced,” said Blackburn. “On issues with social security and these long-term commitments and liabilities and entitlements that we have, we have to take the…long term view on that.”

Blackburn is currently co-sponsoring a social security bill that will take the social security surplus offline every year, secure the funds and use it to meet needs later on.

Blackburn’s district is staunchly conservative and lines up well with the Fred Thompson 2008 presidential candidacy. Blackburn said Thompson is an “all time favorite public servant” in Tennessee and residents “love and respect” him. She said Tennessee is “looking for someone who understands that national security means we have to win in this fight against terrorists.”

Part of that fight is the struggle against illegal immigration, which Blackburn has taken on as centerpiece issue. She currently co-sponsors two bills — the SAVE Act and the Clear Act. The SAVE Act emphasizes enforcing the laws via US employers and stepping up border security while the CLEAR Act  addresses the criminal alien population by speeding up the process of arrest and deportation for those individuals.

“The American people…do not want to see benefits given to illegal immigrants, they do not want illegal immigrants to be made a protected class…and they definitely do not want them to have a driver’s license,” said Blackburn, referencing New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s recent move to approve driver’s licenses for illegal aliens.

Blackburn also weighed in on the vote this week on criminal contempt proceedings against Harriet Miers, the controversial former White House counsel and Josh Bolton, White House Chief of Staff, for their failure to respond to a subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee last year as part of an investigation of the US Attorney firings.

“We have to realize that they [attorneys] serve at the pleasure of the President,” Blackburn said, noting that when Bill Clinton was in office he removed and replaced every attorney though the media fuss was minimal then. “While some may not have liked the process, we do have to respect the fact that this is a presidential prerogative.”

Blackburn’s Communications Director Matt Lambert said two issues consistently surface with constituents: government spending and immigration. Blackburn maintained those two issues were part of the many concerns she is acting on right now including privatized healthcare, alternatives to No Child Left Behind, piracy protection, identity theft and online sexual predators.