Transcript: Face to Face with Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio

Bill Plante: Welcome to Face to Face, I'm Bill Plante and with me Sen. John Glenn who has just received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. You've been in space a couple of times. How does that compare to this? 

John Glenn: Very different, but both very gratifying. And you know, this was nice today. One thing that's nice is just to be considered in the same league as  some of the people - the other awardees up there. For instance I was sitting beside the man who eradicated smallpox. That's pretty big stuff. And so I, it's good to be there and I hope that out of some of the awardees up there I hope that word gets into the schools and maybe can encourage some of our young people to do their own studies and have their own projects in the future that can be just as meaningful as anybody who was up there today. 

Bill Plante: You've been away from the Senate for a few years now. What do you think of the political climate today? 

John Glenn: Well it's too bad because it's become so polarized and nobody willing to compromise and it's become so much that way that I think a lot of things that should be getting done are not getting done. And that's too bad. I think we used to have, when I was still there, I think there was a lot more socializing, I think there was a lot more friendly activity back and forth across the center aisle, if you want to put it that way. But this is getting a little bit ridiculous right now. Whether it's the result of - who knows what it's the result of -whether it's tea party emphasis or some of the other things going on out there, but...we've had tough times in this country before where people didn't cooperate. And one resulted in a whole civil war. And we recovered. And we'll recover from this. 

Bill Plante: Well the shape of the campaign is pretty clear. You've got Mitt Romney for the Republicans and the President, and already the ads are pretty tough. 

John Glenn: Well they are. And I think, I would hope that people would be more positive. I don't like negative campaigning, never did like that. And didn't get that involved with negative campaigning with any of the campaigns that I ever ran. But I think - I think people want to hear something positive. They don't want to just see backbiting at each other, they'd like to know about where the candidates stand on where they'd like to take the country. What's the future? That's where we're going to live. And after campaign's over, if people are biting at each other all during the campaign and I think it's quite fair to put out something on the record a person has that's actual fact. But so much of it now is innuendo and things like that and character assassination that I just deplore. So I think we'll come out of this. I think we will because eventually the people will demand that we do that. 

Bill Plante: About space. You've just seen the first commercial space venture. What do you think about that? 

John Glenn: It's a good first step. It's exactly that, a first step. 

Bill Plante: Are you disappointed that the government isn't doing it? 

John Glenn: I would have preferred that, but President Bush - George W. Bush - decided in 2004 in a speech over at NASA to redirect NASA in new directions to set a base on the moon and go into Mars. But with no additional budget to do it. You had to cut, you had to do it out of the current budget which meant - and he also directed the end of the space shuttle which I disagreed with strongly. And so now we have to go over and pay the Russians to take our people on the Soyuz up to our space station and I think it deserves better than that and not only because we put a lot of money into it but because it has the greatest potential for research. And things that could benefit our people right here on earth. 

Bill Plante: So you think the SpaceX program that just was successful -

John Glenn: No SpaceX, that's a good step forward and I -

Bill Plante: -- is going to help? 

John Glenn: I certainly hope it works and I hope that and the other companies that are working on similar programs now - I hope that they are successful because otherwise, if anything happens to the Soyuz right now, we don't have a manned program until we develop our own capabilities. So I disagreed with those decision that President Bush made back in '04, and it left us in a situation now where we're very vulnerable in case something happened to the Soyuz. But we, this going the private route, that has been decided and if it's - if we're going that route I hope it's successful and we've had one successful flight. We need a number more of the cargo flights, the unmanned flights, and then qualify that vehicle for human use. And that will be a big step forward for that. Or one of the other companies that is working on the same project. 

Bill Plante: Senator, thanks very much and congratulations on the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

John Glenn: Thank you. It's been a big day.