By Daniel Strauss - 06/03/13 10:54 PM EDT
Former Sen. John Danforth’s (R-Mo.) life after Congress involves lobbying, exercising and watching the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues, a team in which he has a minority stake.
Danforth, who served nearly 20 years in the Senate, is an ordained Episcopal priest who was known for his opposition to abortion rights and the death penalty during his nearly 20-year Senate career.
In an interview with The Hill, Danforth talked about his love for the Blues, his disappointment on election night, how he misses legislation and why he thinks the Transportation Security Administration should allow small knives to be carried on planes.
The following is an edited version of that conversation.
Q: What do you miss the most about being in Congress?
When you’re out of Congress, you still have ideas but nobody seems very interested in them anymore.
Q: What do you do in the evenings now that you no longer have to attend late-night votes?
Sometimes I read books. Sometimes I watch movies on TV — Netflix-type stuff. Sometimes I play bridge. Sometimes I watch the Cardinals play on TV or the Blues play ice hockey.
Q: Are you excited about the Cardinals this year?
This year, they’ve had so many injuries at spring training that it’s a little bit discouraging, but I’ve always gotten a lot of fun out of them.
Q: What did you do on Election Night 2012?
I went to a friend’s house and watched TV and pouted.
Q: What’s your guilty pleasure?
I keep in shape. I exercise every day. We have a place in the Ozarks and spend a lot of time there. And I like to go horseback riding and fly-fishing.
Q: Describe your life post- Congress in one word?
Enjoyable. I very much enjoyed being in the Senate. I did like it. I was not one of these guys who tried to convince people how miserable I was, because I liked it. But I got out when I wanted to.
Q: What is one thing about politics today that you wish had been happening when you were in office?
Oh, I think it’s the opposite. When I was there, you could legislate. I don’t think you [can] anymore. I don’t know what those guys are doing … I mean, if you had an idea you could put it in legislative form. You could form coalitions to support it and you could work it through the Senate and the House and conference committee and get it passed. You could legislate. And that was very much fun. I enjoyed it a lot. I had a friend of mine who’s still in the Senate told me not too long ago that we don’t do anything.
Q: You’re ordained clergy, what do you think of Pope Francis? Were you hoping for an American pope?
Cardinal [Tim] Dolan is St. Louis’s, and so I was rooting for him of course, and I’ve known him for a little bit and like him a lot. So I was hoping for Cardinal Dolan, but what I’ve heard of Pope Francis I think that’s just a wonderful gift not just for the Catholic Church but the world at large.
(Editor’s note: Tim Dolan is the archbishop of New York. He was formerly auxiliary bishop of St. Louis.)
Q: Transportation was one of your signature topics during your time in Congress. What is your take of whether the TSA should allow knives on airplanes?
Because I tend to carry a small knife and I’ve had many of them confiscated by the TSA when I forgot to not leave them in my pocket. But I think it’s ridiculous that someone is going to hijack a plane with a 2-inch blade.
Q: Do you call it Reagan Airport or National?
I don’t know. I probably call it either. I don’t get excited. It’s like Missouri, Missourah, I don’t care.
Q: You were considered a possible vice presidential candidate in 2000. What was your reaction when Mitt Romney picked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate last year? What would you have said to the other short-listers like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)?
I don’t know. It’s such a personal choice of the presidential nominee. It’s whomever he wants, someone he’s comfortable with. I mean people really don’t vote for a vice president. It’s a matter of chemistry and it’s a matter of what the emphasis the presidential candidate wants to have in the presidential campaign. So I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a big deal.
Q: You were one of Clarence Thomas’s biggest advocates for the Supreme Court. Do you regret using your influence to help get him confirmed? What do you think of his tenure and rulings? Are the two of you still in touch?
We are still in touch. I am very, very fond of him and very proud of him. I have never set myself up as an expert on his opinions because I know him as a human being and a friend, and I think he’s a very good person. It’s remarkable how people who follow him on the courts think so highly of him, and I get that from sources that are very unexpected. I’ve also had a law school dean tell me that he thinks that he’s a very productive justice, and he writes very interesting and strong opinions, and that he makes a real contribution to the courts. I’ve gotten this from various sources from people who are court watchers or close to the court. I think he is not only just a marvelous human being, but I think he’s been a very good justice.
Q: How will the St. Louis Blues do next season?
They’ll be in the playoffs and do better than last year. My son-in-law is the owner of the Blues and I’ve got a minority stake so I’m a little bit biased, but I think they’re going to do well.