Conservative 'Superhero' Brewer Turns Up Arizona Heat

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PHOENIX, Ariz. - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer isn't afraid to take a stand and that's earned her a number of political enemies on issues from abortion to immigration.

Most recently she upset opponents by issuing an executive order to block new benefits for illegal immigrants in her state. The move stops state agencies from issuing a driver's license and other public benefits to young immigrants who obtain work authorization from a new Obama administration policy.

But Brewer's enemy list has also helped her become a conservative superhero across the country.

"When you hear that phrase what goes through your mind?" CBN News' David Brody asked the governor.

"Well, it's unbelievable to me," she replied. "I think they say that and, I think, then they expect so much from me that sometimes I feel like I can't live up to their expectations."

She's lived up to expectations by putting her governor's signature on a number of conservative causes.

For example:

  • The Bible can now be taught in high school history courses.
  • She eliminated domestic partner benefits for state employees.
  • She balanced the budget through tough budget cuts.
  • She even brought back the state Christmas tree.

Abortion, Immigration

Then there's abortion. Dozens of pro-life bills have been made law in the state, including banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and defunding Planned Parenthood.

"You know, it wasn't tough really for me because I believe in what I believe," Brewer said. "I believe in the right to life."

Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, warned that such stands will likely prove costly to the governor.

"Any politician who attacks birth control the way Jan Brewer has just attacked birth control, she will pay a price at the polls," O'Neill said.

Brewer's toughest fight came over immigration and went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The famous state "Senate Bill 1070" allows Arizona law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone during routine stops.

Critics called the measure racial profiling, while proponents viewed it as enforcing U.S. immigration policy. The court held up that part of the law.

"The signing of Senate Bill 1070 was a very difficult time for me personally because I knew immediately (that), although we monitored the bill and amended the bill in the legislature, it was going to be a lightning rod," Brewer told CBN News.

"However, I didn't know or realize at the time just how big of a lightning rod it was going to be," she added. "Many a night, I would sit on my patio and think, 'You know, Jesus hold my hand. You got me here, now you've got to get me through all of this."

She's relied on that divine dependence through many difficult times, including the death of her son John in 2007 from cancer.

"God has always gotten me through them," she told CBN News. "He hasn't ever let me down. Sometimes I haven't understood why he has done things and why things happened, but I know that God has a plan."

"He has opened up so many doors for me," she continued. "And he's given me a shield on so many occasions where I thought the whole world was going to fall apart around me and I'd be standing there alone."

An 'Uncomfortable Encounter'

All of these hardships toughened an already tough Brewer. It's something President Obama recently found out first hand.

In January, cameras captured an animated Brewer pointing her finger at the president when she greeted him at the Phoenix airport.

"He said, 'The last time we sat down, Jan, you weren't very gracious to me in regards to how you reflected it in your book, Scorpions for Breakfast, or something to that tone," she recalled.

"And I said, 'Well, I'm sorry about that. I'm sorry you're disappointed about this, but my book is a truth-telling book," she continued. "And that's exactly how I felt. I felt that you were like lecturing to me rather than discussing things with me."

"And, he really resented it," Brewer said. "You could tell it. And I was in the middle of my sentence, and he walked away from me. And of course the press saw that, and unfortunately, I was talking. He walks away, and I turned to him and I said, 'Mr. President, did you read my book?'"

"And he turned around to me and he said, 'excerpts,'" she recalled. "And that was the end of the conversation. But I talk a lot with my hands, and it was an uncomfortable encounter. It just simply was an uncomfortable encounter."

Obama Seeks Payback

Now the president hopes for payback. His campaign thinks they have a chance to win Brewer's home state in the fall election.

But Brewer said, "Not on my watch. Not on my watch. Arizona is a red state, and we're going to keep it red."

Nobody knows exactly what the future holds for the governor, but she said she plans to continue moving on the only way she knows how.

"I got involved with politics because I believed that I could make a difference," she said. "My mother always told me that as you go through life, no matter what you do, or how you do it, you leave a little footprint, and that's your legacy."

"And I'm Norwegian, so I've got a little Norwegian backbone," she added. "And if people get me in a corner, sometimes I do get a little feisty."

"I try not to be mean or hateful," she said. "I try to listen to people, but I think I would describe myself as someone that listens, who wants to be a good public servant and do the right thing."

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David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at Facebook.com/TheBrodyFile.