By Jack Minch
LEOMINSTER -- Former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown sounded presidential while talking about national and international affairs, but rebuked suggestions he is ready to make a run for the White House during an appearance at the North Central Chamber of Commerce's "Good Morning Breakfast" on Friday.
The partisanship of national politics is hurting the country and politicians need to improve their work effort, he said.
"While some of you may not agree with all my votes, I did my research and I have no regrets," said Brown, a Republican.
While Brown said he is not done with public service, for the time being he is traveling nationally and internationally to promote bipartisanship on issues such as national security and job creation, he said.
"I'm going to continue to bring my message around the country," Brown said.
The Wrentham resident is scheduled to appear in New Hampshire today and is leaving for Japan on Oct. 12 for an 11-day tour of the country at the request of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
When a chamber member floated the idea that Brown would run for governor, Brown, who is also a former state senator, said he is supporting Charlie Baker.
The state government has been wracked with scandal including public housing, the Probation Department and the treasury, so it needs a Republican to provide checks and balances, Brown said.
Discussing the international stage, Brown said Syria is a complicated issue that has gotten worse since he was in office.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Brown said he queried members of the military two years ago about surgical military strikes in Syria before members of al-Qaida infiltrated the rebel forces. There were already 10,000 casualties in the war but since then the numbers have exploded, said Brown.
"Here we are over 100,000 and using gas," Brown said. "It's a mess."
A missile strike now would be dangerous because the Syrian government has stockpiled its chemical weapons in residential areas, he said.
Although Brown did not mention him by name, he strongly criticized newly-elected U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for voting "present" on President Barack Obama's use-of-force resolution against Syria.
"You don't vote 'present,'" Brown said.
Brown also objected to the federal government's response to the IRS scandal in which conservative nonprofits were targeted.
"Did any heads roll? No," he said. "Transferred and promoted."
The military needs to step up its efforts to help returning veterans, said Brown, who is a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard. Along with the common sense of isolation soldiers feel after discharge, they are often battling mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.
Brown said he met a veteran who lost all his limbs in combat yet still had difficulty getting help from the Veterans Administration.
"Can you imagine the guy who walks in saying, 'I'm not quite feeling right,'" he said.
The Veterans Administration is taking too long to file claims and is only using a small fraction of its mental-health resources to help soldiers, Brown said.
It appears unlikely there will ever be accountability for the Benghazi embassy attack on Sept. 11 last year, said Brown in response to a question from an audience member. Brown took part in the Armed Services Committee's hearings following the attack and said it was frustrating trying to get then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to answer questions.
"We could not get a straight answer," Brown said. "It was a complete and total stonewall."
Brown said there are ongoing hearings but most legislators are focused on their re-elections at the moment.
He also criticized state legislators for putting a 6.25 percent tax on computer and software services.
"They voted to impose a tax on you, the innovators, and then when it comes out, they say they didn't know," Brown said. "You have to hold them accountable, folks."
Statehouse and Senate leaders announced Thursday that they will support repeal of the tax, which is in a transportation financing package. The vote could come within weeks.
Jim Adams, a vice president at Enterprise Bank, said he liked Brown's bipartisan approach to politics. The former senator's insights into the Benghazi hearings and the politics of Syria were interesting, he said.
"You can tell when he starts to talk about politics, his passion comes out," Adams said.
Brown received a standing ovation from the crowd of about 230 business leaders. His message sounded optimistic, said Bill Foss.
"It sounded presidential to me," Foss said. "I just find him so conciliatory. He's looking to bring together the extremes."
Deborah DiIorio said Brown's motivational message helped rekindle a fading interest in politics.
"I enjoyed him very much," DiIorio said. "I would love to see him run for president."
Hilary Amedy, who works with the mentoring program at LUK Inc., said she was taken when Brown talked about the importance of mentors in his life as a troubled youth. Every person who attended the breakfast received a copy of Brown's autobiography, Against All Odds.
Brown was the type of child Amedy's program tries to help.
"The mentoring was my message," she said.
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