Ken Timmerman is an investigative reporter for NewsMax, founder /CEO of the not-for-profit organization Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and an author. He’s running for Congress in Maryland’s 8th Congressional district which, as Anthropocon pointed out, has become more of a swing district based on the MD legislature’s attempt to gerrymander incumbent Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R) out of a district. In 2002, Maryland’s 8th Congressional District was gerrymandered from a swing district to an all-Democratic leaning district, leading to then State Senator Chris Van Hollen (D) elected over incumbent Connie Morella (R). With the changes to the district following the 2010 census, this district returns to its historic swing-state, with half the district in more conservative Frederick County. Internal polling from May from the Timmerman camp, show him within single digits in the new district. This is important to note, because we have battlegrounds across the nation we may not realize, so we need to pay attention to local races. I was able to get an email-based interview with Timmerman, asking him about his views on the issues. What follows are his answers:
Matthew Newman: What made you decide to run for Congress?
Ken Timmerman: I believe our country is headed in the wrong direction, and government is the problem, not the solution. We are spending way beyond our means at the same time we are creating bigger and more intrusive government and hollowing out our military. Recently, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our first grandchild, and I realized she was born with a debt of $50,000 on her head – the Obama deficits. This has just got to stop before we become bankrupt, like Greece.
MN: What about your background makes you uniquely qualified to serve as a Member of Congress?
KT: My opponent is a career politician. I’ve spent my career investigating politicians. I will bring that oversight capability to Congress on my first day in office.
Over the past thirty years as a war correspondent, author, and investigative reporter, I have been covering many of the hot spots you read about in the national media. I have seen first hand many of the problems that make the evening news.
I have been kidnapped and taken hostage by terrorists, an experience that changed my life forever. I have investigated corporations that have spread dual-use technologies to countries such as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya, where they were used to build Weapons of Mass Destruction. I have been sent by the State Department to share my knowledge of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear weapons program with delegates to the International Atomic Energy Agency. So subjects such as these are not abstract to me, but something I know well. Because of my work on Iran, I was jointly nominated for the Noble Peace prize with Ambassador John Bolton in 2006.
Over the past four years I have made several trips to northern Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to bear witness to the persecuted church, and have published a book about these experiences, St. Peter’s Bones, so that Americans can gain a better understanding of what it means to be a Christian living in a Muslim land. We cannot tolerate the introduction of Sharia law into American courts or American society, since history shows without any ambiguity that Sharia law is antithetical to the freedoms we hold dear.
For the past seven years, I have been the lead investigator for families of 9/11 victims in a ground-breaking civil lawsuit against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Based on my evidence, a federal district judge ruled just before Christmas that Iran “shared responsibility” for the 9/11 terrorist attacks with al Qaeda, and had provided “direct, material support” for the attacks.
As former president of the Maryland Taxpayers Association, I understand better than most that when the Democrats talk about government revenue, what they really mean is, your money. Already in 2000-2001, I urged the adoption of a Return-the-Surplus amendment to our state’s constitution as a means to prevent spendthrift politicians from wasting more of the taxpayer’s money.
Over the last decade 11 years America’s federal budget has nearly tripled, the size of government has doubled, and our country has lost its AAA rating for the first time. During his time in the House during the 1990s and as a Senator since 2004, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has stood in opposition to the policies that led to these dire straits. Whether it has been highlighting bipartisan hypocrisy, opposing earmarks, aiming to cut hundreds of billions in wasteful spending, or reforming entitlement and defense spending, Senator Coburn has been a rare and consistent proponent of a smaller, affordable federal government.
One of the Senator’s most effective contributions to this fight has been his many reports on what he has called “fraud, waste, abuse & stupidity.” In the most recent of these reports, released on June 06, 2012, the Senator highlighted nearly $700 billion in a little-noticed kind of wasteful federal spending: appropriated but unused funds. The report closely examines $70 billion of this funding, and finds funding for everything from schools and HIV/AIDS programs to bridges and DOJ bulletproof vests simply sitting unused.
The Senator sat down with me for a phone interview yesterday to discuss the report and its implications for the nation’s fiscal future.
Dustin Siggins: Senator, first, thanks for your time. Second, I have to say, the report is depressing…
Senator Coburn: The truth hurts, and I want the American people to tell Congress to stop wasting their money.
DS: The report examines $70 billion that have been appropriated but unused, including $1 billion the Government Accountability Office found in Fiscal Year 2011, and cites $687 billion in total appropriated but unused/unallocated funds going into FY 2013?. How many fiscal years does this cover? What is the importance of this report to the average American?
Senator Coburn: I can’t tell you the full amount, but I can tell you that money from the 1996 Olympics is still locked in, for example. And that was 16 years ago.
The importance of this report is that it highlights just how bad oversight and accountability are in Washington. For example, $7.5 billion in earmark transportation funding that is never going to be spent has been appropriated. It shows the incompetence of Congress, the incompetence of the process, and the incompetence of the bureaucracy. The federal government is so big it doesn’t know what it’s doing. People may have right intentions, but we’re incompetent because it’s so big.
I made the same point made in my book – [DS: I recently reviewed Senator Coburn’s book “The Debt Bomb.” See the review here.] we’re bankrupt, and we have a government that is twice the size the size it was in 2001. This report and the other 50 or 60 reports my office has released show my office knows more about the government than the OMB, the Senate, or anyone else in D.C. We have a Homeland Security report coming out, I think next week, and a job training program report as well. We have 47 job-training programs in the federal government that cost $19 billion, and all but three overlap. Let me ask you a question: Why do we need 47 job-training programs? Why not have one, and make it work, since none of them work?
DS: Well, I know my father, who has owned businesses for 31 years, would never allow that kind of inefficiency. Reports like this are why he may not vote in the fall.
Your report cites the following two examples of unused funds:
Are these funds that are sitting in local and state bank accounts waiting to be used, or do they sit in federal agencies awaiting permission to be released to recipients?
Senator Coburn: I can’t tell you that one, but Atlanta funding is in the Olympic Committee. It hasn’t been pulled back because it was earmarked. We need specific things changed in the law to pull it back. The Maglev train in Nevada spends $47 million, I think, on a train that’s never going to be built. You can find the exact number in the report. [DS: The report says Congress earmarked money for the Maglev train in 2005, but also that “Congress placed $45 million in limbo forever by repeatedly making drafting errors in legislation.”]
DS: Your office has released numerous reports that each show somewhere between millions and hundreds of billions in waste, fraud, abuse, stupidity and duplication. Yet in the long run it’s going to be entitlement spending and interest on the debt that really brings the country to its fiscal knees, regardless of how we spend, or eliminate, every other dollar in the federal budget. Two questions: First, should Americans have any faith that Congress can cut even this dollar-large but percent-small amount from inefficient appropriations, and second, will elimination of these dollars even make a real difference in the long run financial future of the nation?
Senator Coburn: It’s gonna happen [cutting spending]. It can happen in one of two ways: The American people can stop sending career politicians to D.C. and send new people to Congress. Or we can be treated like Greece, where people tell us how we will spend. I can’t tell you how long we have, but I’d say it’s between two and five years. We are the least-wilted rose in the vase, so we will last longer than two years, because we will be the last place to invest as Europe disintegrates, but we won’t have much time. Using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, we are $150 trillion in the hole.
It’s not about the election in November. This is about showing that we are serious about our spending problems by cutting here and there, where we can, and saving Medicare by changing it, and saving Social Security by changing it. It’s also about modernizing the Pentagon and having strength through streamlining.
DS: According to MSNBC, the President is going to be making an economic speech tomorrow [Thursday] that will likely focus on blaming George Bush for the problems his Presidency has faced, and compare Mitt Romney to Bush. When it comes to this report, has the problem worsened, gotten better, or stayed the same between the two Presidents? In other words, while the problem is clearly systemic, is it also a partisan problem?
Senator Coburn: It’s a bipartisan problem. You had GOP in solid control for four years, the Democrats for three with a filibuster-proof Senate. Right now, the bets and history are against us. What’s the history of republics? They die when people realize they can get more than they pay in, and that’s where we are. That’s why I wrote the book. The answer may not be my solutions, but that’s why we can compromise. First, though, we have to agree the problem exists.
When 1 out of 2 college students can’t get a job, we are in trouble. When 401Ks have half their purchasing power of a few years ago, people 45 to 65. Now’s the time to stop pointing fingers in Washington, and those who do point fingers are career politicians looking to win elections instead of doing what’s best for the country.
DS: I’ve seen in some headlines that Majority Leader Reid may be prioritizing boxing legislation over passing a budget, holding Attorney General Holder accountable for Fast and Furious, eliminating this kind of low-hanging waste in the budget, etc. Is this a gimmick for his constituents? Or is he seriously doing this?
Senator Coburn: It shows one of three things: First, we shouldn’t have authority over boxing. It’s a state issue. Second, it shows whether or not competency is leading the Senate. Third, it shows a lack of prioritization. While 5,000 people may care about the legislation Senator Reid is talking about, we have millions of older people who will be impacted if Medicare goes bankrupt, and millions of younger people who will have our debt on their shoulders.
DS: I’d like to shift away from the report to your fellow Senate Judiciary Committee Member, Senator Cornyn (R-TX), who made news yesterday with his blunt comments to Attorney General Holder calling for the Attorney General’s resignation. Were you in the hearing when this took place?
Senator Coburn: I watched it on TV; I was meeting with constituents.
DS: Can I get a reaction to the remarks?
Senator Coburn: I didn’t vote for Holder. I have problems with his honesty and integrity and what he has done in the past. Additionally, I think the DOJ is mismanaged with regard to its grants. Neither he nor his predecessor fixed that, so this is not a partisan thing.
He has not been straightforward on Fast & Furious, and it’s a big deal. Having political people report to him is basically “wink, nod, and go back to sleep.” We need an independent investigation. We need congressional subpoenas, and we need a good clean look at what went on. He has not provided that.
[Originally published in the Hot Air Green Room.]
Star Parker is the President of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) and a leading pro-life activist. A nationally syndicated columnist, she has led the fight against the HHS contraception/sterilization/abortifacient mandate, both in writing and publicly speaking out against its violations of a myriad of American rights and traditions. These speeches and columns can be found at her website, www.StarParker.com, and on her Facebook page.
This morning Star gave me her thoughts on how opponents of the HHS mandate can convince the American people that the mandate is as important of an issue as the policy debates that have long dominated the 2012 Presidential race: the economy, debt and taxes. Our discussion is below.
Dustin Siggins: How can we convince the American people that the mandate is as or more important than the economy, debt, the threat of rising taxes, etc.? Obviously, it relates to First Amendment rights…
Star Parker: We have to keep the discussion alive. That’s why the rally last week continues the focus on the HHS Mandate. It’s not just about forcing the American people to do something they don’t want to do; to give this much power to a Secretary, on a whim to declare who should do what, especially with regards to religion, is unacceptable. If we allow the left to redefine what this debate is really about, that it’s just about contraceptives, next it will be something of more importance to the individual who is silent today. It’s important for the American people to understand there really is no separation of moral and economic issues, and that’s what this fight is about.
DS: But what is the most effective way to argue that Americans should care about this issue as much as unemployment and the national debt? For example, my friend Erica Szalkowski wrote on Daily Caller that the mandate violates both the First Amendment and tradition, both of which have given religious freedom great flexibility in our nation’s history.
SP: There is not one path. Those motivated by faith will use religion to argue against the mandate, and those who are convinced by religious arguments will be swayed. Those who are motivated by economic factors will understand we can’t afford to provide funding for all choices by all people. At the end of the day, the discussion is about what we will have in the public square, who decides law, etc. To have a functioning civil society, we need a limited role of government.
DS: In your March 12 column you mocked [Georgetown Law student Sandra] Fluke’s concerns as insignificant when compared to our massive entitlement debt obligations. Why is the mandate so important to overturn, then?
SP: It’s disingenuous to say we, with all of our debt, to say that we can afford to pay for everything. People who say it’s about birth control also seem to say it’s also about us paying for everything.
DS: What religious language do you think can work? Abstinence is 100% effective for preventing pregnancy, for example, but it has religious connotations.
SP: It doesn’t matter if you limit the role of government. Auto insurance and home insurance are individualized. We need to get back to individual responsibility. We need an obligation to own and have insurance. To live more healthily. We don’t need government to micromanage people’s lives.
DS: Last question: the individual health care market is more expensive than employer insurance because of government involvement. How do we fix it?
SP: The marketplace has been manipulated into a third-party system. I own a business, and we found that providing insurance for people was less expensive, in the form of HSAs and in other ways. The fact is, I don’t go to my auto insurance for a tune-up or to my home insurance for lightbulbs. The marketplace is distorted. We need to have this discussion going into the future to have people get the least expensive policy.
Auto insurance has a wide variety of insurance options, given record, the community in which one lives, car type, etc. This is a reality that needs to be in the health insurance market as well.
If we want to recover economically and otherwise, we need to stop providing for everything through social welfare. I used to be part of that. When I had abortions, they were paid for through social welfare programs. When I wanted to have a child, it was paid for through welfare. It wasn’t until my Christian conversion that I realized these things were wrong.
This is how you solve this issue in a secular society – people pay for the consequences of their decisions. 5-year olds understand that when they discuss things around the dinner table, that they can’t get everything. Parents have options when they insure their children, and they should have choices that they individually decide.
Requiring coverage for sexual choices is like requiring someone to pay for my car tuneup. Should we have a safety net for people with birth defects or disabilities? Let’s have that discussion. The fact that we force people to pay for everything else, it’s no wonder we can’t afford to help those who need it. Get rid of the freeloaders and we’ll have plenty to help those with special needs. That’s a benevolent and compassionate society.
Yesterday, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) engaged in a discussion with CNN’s Erin Burnett about debt and taxes. I was very impressed with the Senator’s comments, and after writing a post on the subject contacted his Washington office to set up an interview. His press staff was very responsive, and so this morning I sat down with the Senator for a phone interview. Our discussion is below.
Dustin Siggins: Thank you for your time. I really enjoyed your interview with Erin Burnett, and how you outlined your positions on spending and taxes. I posted on it yesterday, and was hoping you could expound upon what you said about not jumping up and down when it comes to entitlement reform, and how you instead simply believe it’s fiscal reality.
Sen. Rand Paul: Sure. This is what the “grand bargain” idea was all about. Democrats think working with us on Social Security will bring a compromise. They think we want changes to Social Security and we will agree to bring taxes up. This is wrong-headed. We are not jumping up and down to reform entitlements; we want to fix them because they are broken. The Deficit Commission wanted a “grand bargain,” but the whole concept misses the point.
DS: You also told Burnett that you don’t mind if some wealthy people pay more taxes once loopholes are cut out, etc. Can you explain that a little, please?
Sen. Rand Paul: If you flatten and simplify the code, some will pay more taxes. But in the aggregate, when it comes to the two large pies of the private sector and the government sector, you want the government sector to shrink. So some people will pay more in taxes, but you won’t need as much revenue to come into Washington. With a flatter system with fewer loopholes you won’t have as much money coming into Washington, but with a smaller government people will pay less overall.
Also, the President saying something that is borderline dishonest – that his spending is going down. [DS: The President has been citing a Market Watch analysis by Rex Nutting showing the President’s spending has gone up slowly and is coming down. I debunked Nutting’s analysis in a post soon after it came out.] This is just not true. His spending is up near 23%, 24% of GDP, and spending has grown significantly since he entered office.
Related, contrary to what the President says, the Bush tax cuts didn’t slow revenues. From 2003 to 2007 tax revenues matched their long-time average of 18% of GDP. Once the recession hit revenues went below 15% of GDP, but that was not because of the Bush tax cuts. That was because of the recession.
DS: I looked at tax revenue numbers by JustFacts.com, and they show the same thing.
Sen. Rand Paul: Even Bill Clinton, who looks at things from a Keynesian perspective, says we shouldn’t have a massive tax increase by eliminating the Bush tax cuts. If Obama wants re-election, we should make the Bush tax cuts permanent. He is not likely to do that, but (and it’s too late) he could come to us and say “You guys have some good ideas on Social Security, why don’t we sit down together to reform Social Security?” About a year ago he sat down with all of the Republican Senators and the question I got to ask him was related to that: why we don’t gradually raise the age and means-test? Just these changes could save the program for 75 years, or probably forever.
My bill looks to make these kinds of changes, and includes an index linking retirement to longevity. Medicare will have to change the same way as Social Security, but it’s so broken it needs other reforms. My plan institutes some of the same market forces as Paul Ryan’s plans, and gives Americans the Congressional health care plan. I think this latter point is very important, as it’s hard for people to say we are trying to gyp seniors when we are giving them the same health care system Congress has. Everyone already believes Congressmen have such a great system for themselves, and so this take advantage of that.
One thing Ryan does is say his plan gives health care plans like those Congress has. I specifically say in my plan that seniors will get the same plans as Congress.
Means-testing, raising the retirement age, and instituting the other changes in my plan may not fix Medicare. However, it does save $1 trillion over ten years.
DS: How many years do you think we have left before we face a fiscal crisis? I reviewed Senator Tom Coburn’s book “The Debt Bomb,” and he says we have about two years.
Sen. Rand Paul: I said when I ran in 2010 there is a day of reckoning coming, but I don’t know when. If I knew that I’d be a hedge fund manager instead of a government employee. It’s hard to predict things like that. There is an inevitability to it, however, and we can’t run trillion-dollar deficits for a long period of time. In the past, inflation was the threat, and we’ve printed up so much money in the last couple of years I think the reason we don’t see price inflation is that printed money flows overseas. 50% of our money goes overseas, especially because we import more than we export, and it will come home to roost. When Europe was uncertain, people flocked to the dollar because it’s stable. I think that as uncertainty grows here people will be going elsewhere, perhaps to gold. Gold has done well for quite a while.
The Chinese and Indians are skittish about holding our debt, and when gold goes down they buy more of our debt. But at some point the day of reckoning will come. I am generally on the same page as Senator Coburn.
DS: There’s been talk about you being asked to be VP by Mitt Romney, especially in light of the meeting between the two of you in late May. What are the top three specific policy solutions you would like to see the GOP’s presumptive nominee and whomever he picks to be VP to focus on in the general election and subsequently sign into law if elected?
Sen. Rand Paul: I believe the number one threat to the nation is our debt. We have to balance the budget in a finite period of time, and it probably won’t happen until we get a Balanced Budget Amendment. Now, a President doesn’t sign a constitutional amendment, so I don’t know how much of a difference support from a President will make. But it will take a difference in governing. When we were in charge with Bush and in charge of both Houses, we doubled the size of Department of Education and expanded Medicare. Bush I expanded the wetlands nonsense. Will we do a better job with a GOP Administration and Congress in 2012? I hope so, and I’ve tried to get actively involved, including endorsing endorsed Ted Cruz in Texas and Mark Neumann in Wisconsin.
Saturday morning at 8:00 AM I received a call from 2012 US Senate candidate Daniel Bongino. Bongino is 37 year old Republican from Maryland who’s goal is to take on incumbent Ben Cardin in the general election. Bongino has an extensive background in law enforcement, serving four years in the New York City police department and twelve years in the Secret Service, serving under President’s Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Bongino left the Secret Service in early May. He has a Master’s degrees in Psychology and an MBA from Penn State University. Bongino and his wife have founded and run a number of successful small businesses. He was genuine, knowledgeable, and open to any question I was ready to throw his way. When asked about his platform, Bongino said, “I’m not just trying to tote the conservative line, [this is my platform] because these policies work.” I agree. What follows is the transcript of my interview with Bongino and some additional comments.
Matthew Newman: What grade would you give our incumbent Senator?
Daniel Bongino: An unequivocal F. Capital F. Failure in every regard – tax issues, education issues, second amendment issues, economic issues, and social issues. An F across the board. But, I give him an A for politics. In 44 years, he’s become quite the expert.
MN: As a first time candidate, how difficult do you feel it will be to compete in the primary or general election against more seasoned, political veterans?
DB: It is going to be difficult, no doubt about it. Maryland is not an enormous state, but it is difficult to traverse…our message is strong. I feel my message in the primary is the strongest. My ideas on education, health care, and the economy are strong and resonating. In 12 years of research on macroeconomic policy. You know what I found? You spend your money better than other people do. Not surprising.
Judge Roy Moore has had a busy in Iowa today. The potential candidate for President, who earlier formed a presidential exploratory committee, started the day off on Jan Mickelson’s program on WHO-Radio. He made news with the statement that he does not really support the 20-week cutoff abortion bill currently being debated in Iowa. He is troubled by the contradiction of having a bill claim that life begins at conception, yet does not call for an end to all abortions, only those after 20 weeks. This position might ruffle some feathers in Iowa, but it one of principle. He believes as some other pro-lifers do, that this bill institutionalizes abortion in a way that compromises the legal standing of personhood for the unborn. He believes life begins at conception, or more accurately, fertilization. He does not consider himself an incrementalist, though he has been accused of being one because he supports the “heartbeat” bill in Ohio that reputedly would ban abortions after a heart beat is heard (about 21 days).
I was able to secure a phone interview with Judge Moore on behalf of Caffeinated Thoughts and Race42012. Recognizing that our country is “in dire straits”, he began the interview with a portion of this quote from Noah Webster about electing just men to office:
The preservation of government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty; if the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded. If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws.
The first thing he’d do to reduce the debt that is crippling our nation “is fire a lot of people”. The debt when Reagan was in office was a trillion dollars. The current debt is higher than all other deficits combined, over $14T dollars. Though he considers himself a constitutionalist, he does not consider himself a libertarian. He would maintain the ban on women in combat and wants to return the position of the military to the way it was BEFORE President Bill Clinton instituted the Don”t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. That would allow the government to ban all known homosexuals from serving. He also opposes same-sex “marriages” AND civil unions.
Judge Moore will be speaking this evening at Indian Hills Junior High in Clive, Iowa at 7:00 p.m. He was invited by Pastor Tom Colson. The speech is open to the public.
Students for Daniels is an organization attempting to draft Indiana governor Mitch Daniels to run for President. They have produced a number of videos in their effort, and made an appearance at CPAC. Founded by four students at Yale, they have spread to 60 universities across the country. Students for Daniels Political Director Michael Knowles was kind enough to sit down with Race42012 for a few minutes for an e-mail interview on why he and Students for Daniels believe Governor Daniels is the man to beat President Obama in 2012 and prevent America from falling over the fiscal cliff they believe we are heading towards.
Race42012: Why does Students for Daniels exist? What did he do to bring himself to your attention?
Michael Knowles: Students for Daniels exists because four college students came to the same realization at the same time: the unprecedented, unsustainable, and unnecessary national debt that President Obama and former Speaker Pelosi have accumulated threatens the future of our generation and of the United States. Governor Daniels brought himself to our attention by doing the one thing that every other potential candidate has failed to do: he’s been doing his job properly. The Students for Daniels have spent the past three months raising the Governor’s profile through television commercials, Op-Eds, and interviews because Governor Daniels, unlike certain potential candidates such as Governor Romney, has not spent the past six years trying to raise his national profile. Candidates like Romney have shown time and again that they are willing to do or say anything that will help them get elected, while Governor Daniels has shown himself willing to confront difficult issues like entitlement reform, education, and public sector unions. He has turned enormous deficits into surpluses and is the only candidate discussing the $26.4 trillion debt that our generation is poised to inherit within ten years.
R4’12: Daniels has a lot of support among elite thought leaders- for example, the founders of Students for Daniels formed the organization at Yale. He’s been popular in Politico; the New York Times; American Spectator; National Review; Weekly Standard; and spoke at the CPAC banquet dinner. However, he’s done little grassroots outreach. Why is that, and should he do more outreach to grassroots conservatives?
M.K.: To be clear, Governor Daniels has not been leading grassroots outreach across the country because he’s been doing his job in Indiana. As a result, the Students for Daniels have been doing that outreach for him, and—despite claims to the contrary—we are the only grassroots conservative movement of its type in the country. Other candidates have begun their own “Students For” organizations, but these astroturf groups can hardly be described as grassroots. The effort among those who oppose Governor Daniels to label him as the “heartthrob of the elites” is perhaps an even more outrageous mischaracterization than Mitt Romney’s recent, desperate attempts to explain away his failed healthcare plan in Massachusetts, which became the prototype for President Obama’s similarly dangerous healthcare law. And while the Student Initiative to Draft Daniels PAC did form at Yale, we have now spread to sixty chapters across the country and continue to gain more chapters every week.
R4’12: Can you explain for our readers why Governor Daniels supports ethanol subsidies- something Al Gore is backtracking on, and that we spent $7.7 on last year? Wouldn’t that be an easy way to cut inefficient spending?
Most potential Republican presidential candidates agree: the economy is going to be the central and defining issue of the 2012 election. This view, however, is not a universal one. There is at least one potential candidate who believes that foreign policy may pose even greater challenges to the next president than the economy. Ambassador John Bolton is concerned about the lack of foreign policy discussion coming from Republican hopefuls, and fears the consequences of the lack may be disastrous. And, as a result, the pugnacious conservative diplomat is considering jumping into the fray. I spoke with Ambassador Bolton two weeks ago on a broad range of foreign policy issues, his impressions of the potential competition, and some thoughts on how a foreign policy candidate like Bolton might address complex domestic issues.
A.J. Nolte: In a book review of Collin Duke’s ‘Hard Line’ written for National Review you write of the 2012 Republican nomination contest that we need “a more robust vetting on foreign policy issues during the candidate selection process”, and that this is “the only thing that stands between the Republican electorate and potentially disastrous foreign policy consequences.” What should that vetting process look like, and what role do you see yourself playing in it?
Ambassador John Bolton: Well, I think it’s very important to return national security issues to the center of the national debate over policy. Obviously, there are a lot of critical economic issues being debated now, but Obama has, in two years, largely turned off debate on foreign policy. He’s just not that interested in it, he confronts national security questions effectively only when he has to, and that approach has been mirrored, I think, too much on the Republican side. I think the world remains dangerous for the United States; I think there are any number of growing foreign policy risks that we face. You can see it in the events in Egypt in the past three weeks. So, number 1, what we need to do is simply restore the saliency of national security in the national policy universe. Number 2, we need to find out what the views are of the prospective Republican candidates. I’m hoping that most share a very sound approach to foreign policy, but we need to flush that out in specific. And we need to see, really, who is prepared, if they’re elected, to assume responsibility for foreign policy, and even before that, who’s prepared to debate Barack Obama in the campaign in the fall of next year. I haven’t decided what my role is yet—I haven’t decided whether or not to become a candidate—but I have said for quite some time now that I think it is important to get national security issues out in the forefront, and that’s what I’m still thinking about how to do.
AJN: What do you think are some ways that, with candidates who’ve got less foreign policy experience—I know a lot of the 2012 prospective candidates are governors—how do you think we can know beyond sort of the platitude foreign policy statements that they come out with, where they’re coming from on foreign policy? Do you think who they hire as their staff is the key determinant, or are there things in their records as governors before that we can look at to find that information?
JB: Well, I think one way you find out some of the answers to these issues is in debates, and what they feel they need to address in the course of their ongoing campaign. And I think a lot of it depends on citizens. Its the same as in the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary and the others that come after that, Nevada, Michigan, South Carolina, Florida, that people in those states really have great access to those candidates because of their relatively early positioning in the whole process. I think the more people who ask the candidates about their foreign policy views, the more candidates will have to respond, and that would be all to the good.
AJN: You mentioned the Egyptian crisis a couple of times, and I wanted to amplify that. Its been grabbing a lot of headlines, and a lot of the potential 2012 candidates are responding to it. If you wouldn’t mind, how would you assess some of their responses, and how would a potential candidate John Bolton respond differently to the Egyptian crisis than some of the other potential candidates out there?
JB: Honestly, just in the interests of time, I talked about Egypt at some length in my CPAC speech…, and I know that it’s up on the web (click here). I think some of the other candidates have begun to address it, I noticed Governor Pawlenty did, and I told him—actually I ran into him at Fox on Friday night, Fox in Washington, and I said I agreed with the point he had made on Egypt. I think that’s an example of what I’m talking about; the more you get the candidates to articulate what their views are, the more clearly we can understand their thinking and voters can make up their minds. When you start from a place where there’s almost no discussion of foreign policy, obviously the only way you can go is up, but I think it’s important to get that process started.
AJN: Now, just very quickly, I want to hit you with a couple of foreign policy-oriented questions, and ask what you think a Republican president should do about these ongoing challenges, and how you would contrast that with the Obama administration. I want to start with Iran.
Businessman Herman Cain has formed an exploratory committee and is considering a bid for President. For those who don’t know, Cain is a successful businessman who has a history of turning businesses around, from his tenure at Pillsbury to his tenure as President and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. Cain also served as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and President and the CEO of the National Restaurant Association. In this last role, Cain challenged Bill Clinton in the mid-nineties when he attempted to socialize medicine in a public forum.
In 2006, Cain was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in both his liver and his colon. With surgery and chemotherapy, Cain fought and defeated cancer. He has been cancer free since.
More recently, Cain was a radio host in Georgia on WSB until he recently decided to form a Presidential exploratory committee. I contacted his campaign recently to see if he’d be willing to answer some questions. What follows are Mr. Cain’s answers to my questions.
Matthew R. Newman: What led you to become interested in politics?
Herman Cain: I have always been interested in the way that public policy affects businesspeople and their employees. It wasn’t until the birth of my granddaughter Selena in 1999 did I stop and think, “What can I do to make this a better world?” For me, that means lending my voice to the conservative cause and prayerfully consider using my time, talents and treasure to make this country a little bit better.
MRN: What did you learn from your 2004 campaign about connecting with voters, and how would you apply that to the disparate voters across the union?
HC: In 2004, I came in what I call an “impressive second” in the Republican Senatorial primary in the state of Georgia. I started off with no name recognition and no political record. Instead, I had an extensive and successful business background. Although I ultimately did not win the nomination, I learned the importance of talking with and listening to the people. Too many politicians talk at folks, instead of talking with them about the issues facing our country.
MRN: Do you believe that never holding elected office will be a hindrance to your campaign?
HC: Many reporters and members of the elite political class would like you to believe that attending an Ivy League school or having a lifelong political career is essential to succeeding in public policy and public service. Such a perspective indicates how out of touch they are with the American people. Most Americans cannot identify with lifetime politicians. They can identify with someone who has run several businesses, raised a family, survived cancer and achieved his American Dream.
And besides, all of the people in Washington, D.C. have political experience. How’s that working out, for you?
MRN: What are the three biggest areas that you find yourself in disagreement with President Obama?
HC: It is difficult to narrow down my disagreement with President Obama to only three areas, so I’ll try to summarize all of them in two ways:
First, I think he and I simply view America differently. He seems ashamed of this country, ashamed of our history and ashamed of our prosperity. He sees this country as greedy, reckless and inherently flawed. He sees the Constitution as a roadblock to his political agenda and his hopes for “fundamentally transforming this country.”I see this country as the greatest and most noble idea men were ever brave enough to dream up. I see America as force for good in the world, a nation that has liberated the oppressed and been the most generous nation in human history. I see the Constitution as a freeing document, a document that guarantees the liberty of the people and the restraint of government. I see the American people as industrious, innovative and just plain decent. I truly believe that a bad day in America is better than a good day anywhere else.
Secondly, I think President Obama rejects the notion that people can think for themselves. He believes the government’s role is to legislate behavior of the people through taxes and regulation. His entire political agenda has been characterized by him forcing unpopular legislation down the throats of the American people, whether it’s cap and trade, health care, bailouts, stimulus programs or the preferential treatment of unions. His view of the role of government and mine are polar opposites.
MRN: When you were at the Americans for Prosperity National Summit in August 2010, you spoke about forcing your subordinates to cut 15% from the Godfather Pizza budget. When your marketing VP could not get down to 85%, you fired that person and hired a new marketing VP. Is it possible to apply that same business style to Washington, given the nature of partisan politics and the various rules regarding the Senate and the separation of powers?
HC: It is not only possible to do so, it is imperative to do so. The American people are the collective employer of the government. If elected and appointed officials are unable to scale back the size and scope of government, including our looming debt and continual deficits, then the American people should fire them, as they did to many in Congress in November 2010. On an executive level, if I were the president, I would transfer this tried-and-true practice from my private sector experience to public service.
MRN: The 2010 census shows Republican states such as Texas making huge gains in population and in turn have the potential for big gains in Congress. However, many of those population gains are due to an influx of Latinos, who typically vote Democratic. How can Republicans stay true to their principles on border control and still win the Latino vote?
HC: There is certainly a welcoming home for Latinos in the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Latinos are generally very faithful and religious people, so our views on life issues should appeal to them. Further, those who come to this country knowing and understanding that this is a place for opportunity should understand that reaping the benefits of this great nation mean taking an active role in its maintenance.
There are a growing number of Hispanic voters who are coming to the Republican Party and the conservative movement. I hope that they identify with our philosophy as the one that will create the greatest amount of economic and social mobility for themselves and their families.
It’s important to note that many Hispanic Republicans were elected in the midterm elections across all levels of government, including U.S. Senate and governorships.
MRN: You have made your first hire in Iowa. Do you expect to focus there, or will you target other early states as well?
HC: I have been to Iowa ten times already. During this exploratory phase, I am visiting a lot of early primary and caucus states to gauge grassroots and donor support in those areas. I have also spent time in some of the key battleground states, as well.
MRN: You are extremely popular among the base of the Republican Party, as evidenced by your presences and support at Daily Caller; Red State; and AFP conferences across the nation. Should you choose to run, how would you work to garner the necessary establishment support within the Republican Party?
HC: It is my hope that whoever ends of being the nominee, they will enjoy support from Republican Party leadership and various GOP organizations.
MRN: If elected, how would a Cain administration deal with potential threats from North Korea?
HC: Appeasing our enemies should never be an option. Our current president seems to believe that compromising or “sitting down” with the world’s most threatening dictators makes the U.S. sophisticated or progressive. Moves like this exchange our security for vanity. President Reagan knew that national security wasn’t about America winning “Miss Congeniality” contests. It’s about keeping our people safe.
That means knowing who are friends are and knowing who our enemies are. In this case, North Korea is a danger not only to its own people, but also to the U.S. Most importantly, it’s about maintaining “peace through strength.”
MRN: How does your view of American exceptionalism translate into your vision for US foreign policy, and what concrete steps would you take, as President, to make that vision a reality?
HC: American Exceptionalism has two connotations. The first, and more traditional, is that the U.S. is the greatest nation on Earth because our government and laws are reflective of the understanding that “we the people” have certain God-given rights that can never be taken away.
The second was popularized by President Reagan and that is that America is simply the greatest country on Earth. I recently wrote about this in American Spectator, and the piece will appear in March 2010. I find it very alarming that our current President doesn’t share my (and millions of other Americans’) views on this. In April 2009, the President said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” In saying this, President Obama chalked up American Exceptionalism to simple nationalism. We know this isn’t the case.
In regards to foreign policy, American Exceptionalism means that we must protect and defend the gift that is America.
MRN: The Tea Party had a massive influence on the 2010 midterm elections. Recently, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Tea Party would dissipate as the economy recovered. How accurate do you think assessment is, and do you think the Tea Party will continue to impact both primary and general elections in 2012?
HC: Frankly, I don’t believe anyone should be treating Sen. Harry Reid as any sort of expert on the mood of America. After all, he’s the guy that declared that the war was “lost” and that it was a good thing that “only 36,000 people” lost their jobs that day.
That being said, I have been an active member of the TEA Party movement, as well as a keynote speaker at more than 120 grassroots events across the country in the past year. I see the will of the people and it is as vibrant and strong as ever.
MRN: What are your thoughts on the media portrayal of the Tea Party movement, especially in regard to their reaction to the recent attack on Congresswoman Giffords?
HC: Some members of the media have chosen to portray TEA Party activists as fringe, prejudiced and uneducated. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Their portrayal indicates their utter contempt for ordinary Americans, whom they would prefer to just “sit down and shut up.” Well, I’ve got news for them: it just isn’t happening.
In regards to the tragic incident regarding Congresswoman Giffords and many others injured or killed, their attempts to politicize such a catastrophe are disgusting. They attempted to “attack the dots” when they weren’t there, and even unfairly attributed blame to Governor Palin. Those who made false accusations should be held accountable.
MRN: It is well documented that you are pro-life. How do you feel that, as President, you would be able to help promote a culture of life?
HC: While I do believe that the economy and national security are the most important issues facing our country, I am a firm believer in the dignity of life and support a ban on partial birth abortion. If I were president, I would sign legislation that would protect the sanctity of life. Additionally, I would be in favor of any legislation that would encourage adoptions as a loving and safe alternative to abortion.
I also support a complete federal defunding of Planned Parenthood. American taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for abortions that destroy life and harm the mother. Furthermore, the roots of the organization, as pointed out in Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Facism,” are Margaret Sanger’s desire to perform eugenics and ultimately, destroy the black race. Many of America’s most revered civil rights leaders, such as Niger Innis and Dr. Alveda King, would attest to this fact.
MRN: If elected, what qualifications would you look for in a potential nominee to the Supreme Court? Do you have any specific people that you feel are good, model Judges?
HC: The simple answer: a Justice must issue rulings based on the Constitution, not on any political leanings or desires to legislate from the bench.
MRN: If elected, how would a Cain administration deal with border security and illegal immigration?
HC: First things first: the term “comprehensive immigration reform” tossed around by liberals is simply code for “do nothing” which becomes amnesty.
There are 3 steps to solving our illegal immigration problem: securing the border (we put a man on the moon, so this isn’t that hard!); enforce the laws; promote the existing path to citizenship.
MRN: Historically, the Republican Party has had difficulty reaching out to urban voters with their primary strength in rural and suburban areas. How do you feel the Republican Party should reach out to these voters and as the party’s standard bearer in 2012, how would you do just that?
HC: There are more conservative black voters out there than are willing to admit it. They fear being ostracized by other members of the black community. I think that if given the option of two black candidates for president of differing ideologies, they would be encouraged to choose based on merit and policies.
MRN: Where do you find yourself in agreement with our current President?
HC: I agree with President Obama’s stated intentions of bringing sweeping ethics reforms to the federal government. I’m just waiting on those to be put into action. We’ll see.
MRN: In closing, what is the one thing you want to ensure that potential voters know about you personally?
HC: While I prayerfully consider a run for the White House, I want people to know that this isn’t about me. Frankly, I’d love nothing more than to enjoy my retirement, playing golf every day and spending time with my family. However, I think the problems facing our country are grave and require bold leadership. At this country’s birth, we had the Founding Fathers. Now it’s time for patriots to step up to be the Defending Fathers.
I’d like to thank Mr. Cain for his time and the editors at Race42012 for helping to develop some of these questions. If you’d like to learn more about Mr. Cain, check out the website for his exploratory committee.
Governor Huckabee has taken some heat by some fiscal conservatives for lending support to Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. I defended the Governor when Michelle Malkin suggested that his position on this issue was proof he was a nanny-stater.
In his new book, A Simple Government, Huckabee addresses a related issue: school breakfasts. He is blunt: “What does it say about our society that so many parents apparently can’t get it together enough to give their children a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice. It is that they just assume, after years of the practiced, that it’s the government’s job to pay for school breakfasts?” In the next paragraph, he makes it plain that it’s the parents job to feed their kids.
In the paragraph after that, however, he appears to backpedal, writing that he is no way suggesting that we stop school breakfasts. In a conference call with bloggers today, I asked him plainly:
If you were president in 2013 and a Republican House and Senate voted to end the federal school breakfast program in one year and the school lunch program one year after that, and the department of education the year after that, would you sign the bill, considering that in your book you show that these things would be better handled by parents, churches, and the states, respectively, rather than the federal government, and in fact, the federal role in education is itself unconstitutional?
His answer: Yes, he would sign a bill abolishing the Federal Department of Education, if Congress gave him such a bill to sign. On the question of school lunches, he fudged a little (pardon the pun), suggesting that he would consider it if he could be assured there would a church organization or the states would make up the difference. Not a knee-jerk answer, but thoughtful and responsive, even if a little tentative.