Interview with Congressman Tom Tancredo
Interview with Congressman Tom Tancredo, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, recorded Thursday, July 26, 2007 at 5:00 pm by Tom McLaughlin for Family Security Matters.
Thank you for calling Congressman. I’ll be recording this interview if that’s all right.
You were the first government official I ever heard raise the issue of illegal immigration, at least from where I live here in Maine . . .
. . . and you must be pretty gratified that ah . . .
I am. I am. It’s almost a - last night when we passed the amendment that I had proposed to the Justice Department funding bill, and it said that no funding from this bill can be used for the incarceration of Messrs. Ramos and Compian, I’m telling you - that alone is the most amazing thing I have ever seen here. First of all, it’s a unique undertaking that had never been tried before. And secondly, to have it pass with a voice vote because Democrats did not even want to have some of their members exposed by having to cast a recorded vote, so they could not require a recorded vote - they just passed it on voice . . .
That will mean that we’ll have to watch them carefully because they’re going to have to try and take it out during the Conference Committee that will occur after the Senate passes their version of the Commerce-State-Justice. But nonetheless, the point I’m trying to make is that it is an amazing change of attitude and atmosphere around here - something almost unbelievable to me.
They were pretty shook up last month when a [illegal alien amnesty] bill they thought was a sure thing went down.
That did it. That did it. It was a seismic shift there - I mean it was amazing. On Tuesday we had only thirty-six votes. On Thursday we had fifty-three and every one of them were senators who were up for reelection who changed their votes. It was only because of the massive outpouring of sentiment, and that made everybody understand what we’re really dealing with here. Until then, I don’t think people really believed that Americans paid attention to it or were concerned about it. They really believed they could finesse the issue, you know?
. . . just slip it by - nobody will really care - no big issue with most Americans. Democrats looked at it as new votes coming in. Republicans looked at it as cheap labor.
Right. That about sums it up. It was quite a shift all right. Do you think the “new media” could take some of the credit for that?
You bet your life. Talk radio and the internet - those two things. The entire playing field is different here and it’s because of the fact that people are willing to participate in this process we call a democracy - or more accurately, a republic - and the fact that they are getting information they would not get through the traditional media. I announced my candidacy for president on talk radio and I did so because, as I told John Michaelson on his show in Iowa, I’m doing this, in a way, because you guys are the ones who brought me to the party. I’ve done now almost three thousand radio shows and that’s [only since] we started keeping count about five years ago. Talk radio has given me - and certainly others - given me a megaphone that I would never have had otherwise. Then what happens is you can pick it up in the blogosphere and all the rest of it. It’s amazing and I just can’t tell you how pleased I am about this and how important it is because, really, I must admit to you that I am fearful for the republic. When only 14% of the general public actually gives approval of the Congress - and twenty-something percent for the president - you know it’s not because I’m an incumbent. The fact is I would rate us poorly also - the fact that there are 85% of the people out there who are disconnected from their government, who don’t believe it works, and you know what? It doesn’t work. It doesn’t. And I mean people see it and they become disillusioned. That’s why it’s so neat that phones rang off the hook in the Senate and it changed the bill. It reaffirmed the belief that people’s voices can be heard. I will tell you, I did feel at certain points in time, and have mentioned this to others who have agreed - during the debate on that bill I had the feeling, recognizing the intensity of the debate out there in the country itself . . .
. . . that had it passed, I believe there would have been violence, in a very limited - don’t get me wrong - I’m not talking about a revolution with everybody in the streets with arms - but I’m talking about certain areas, small, maybe on the border, there would have been violence. It’s amazing how intensely people feel about this issue. And thank God there was a revolution of sorts, a small one just the ballot box at this stage - at the email and telephone stage - of stopping legislation.
Yes, indeed. Um, I want to stop right here for a minute so I can do a check. I hope that cell phone is working. (I checked my computer recording equipment because I was getting very weak audio from him. He was in the Capitol and he took the opportunity to cast a vote. I called him back on a land line but still the signal was weak. We continued anyway, but the audio was so weak I can’t make a podcast.)
I’m going to the twelve basic questions which I think Mr. Moore gave you?
Actually I don’t believe I have them but go ahead anyway.
Okay. When and why did you decide to run for president?
It was about four months ago and it was because I had talked to and listened to the other people who had expressed a desire to run. I spoke personally to Romney for instance and asked him about his position on immigration and it was not satisfactory. And when I recognized there was no one there, there was absolutely no one there who was going to take this issue on, I decided that I had to do it. I have to tell you there is no allure to the office of president. Of course it’s enormously powerful but there’s no allure to it. I do what I do because issues need to be advanced. I articulate them as best I can, and if I’m president of the United States I will implement them. I did not begin this by simply seeking the office of president, if you know what I mean. It wasn’t me saying: “What will I do today? I know. I’ll run for president.” I did it because I could find no one else who will address these issues in the way that I believe they need to be addressed.
Okay. What do you see as our biggest domestic problem? Probably the immigration issue as we just discussed.
Of course it is. The most serious domestic policy issue would have to be immigration.
What do you see as our biggest foreign policy problem?
The Middle East. Actually, the war on Radical Islam.
Um-hmm. I like the way you phrased that. In our struggle against Radical Islam, which is the way I phrased it here [also], how important is the propaganda aspect of it - the propaganda war?
There are two ways to fight any war: one is with the force of arms, and the other is with the force of ideas. They’re equally at issue.
I’m trying to ask all the candidates the same questions and the next one is about immigraton again, but let me rephrase it: As president, what is the first thing you would do?
I’d turn to my Attorney General and tell him that he should begin a vigorous enforcement of the law against hiring people who are here illegally. Employers who are violating the law I’d want to be one of the top priorities. Then I would turn to the Homeland Security Secretary and say, you are to secure that southern border and then start securing the northern border with, first of all, a triple-layer boundary fence, and secondly the human resources behind it that need to be there in order to secure it.
Okay. How do you understand the first part of our Fourteenth Amendment?
I’ll tell you what - it has absolutely nothing to do with illegal immigration. It was a response to the Dredd Scott Decision. It was made entirely for the purpose of assuring that children of slaves would have benefit of citizenship and it has nothing to do with illegal immigrants [anchor babies]. There’s specific wording in there which would indicate, ah, the case. I think the phrase is, ah, “people have be in the United States and under the jurisdiction thereof,” Umm . . .
And, ah, that is an important phrase.
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof . . .”
Okay. Interesting little quote. I hadn’t looked at it that way before. Would you require states and/or cities to restrict federally-subsidized social services to citizens only?
I would if I could. The social services - if they’re not federally funded the federal government really doesn’t play a role in this, but any social services that have federal funds attached - absolutely. Now that’s almost everything to tell you the truth. I don’t know that there’s any county in the United States of America that doesn’t administer some sort of social service benefit that’s supplemented by federal funds, so yeah. Citizenship has got to mean something.
All right. What would victory in Iraq look like?
Well, it would look like a stabilized Iraq. It would not look, geopolitically like we see it today, but it would be a place of some degree of stability, and a place that is a buffer in a way between the Shia crescent and the Sunni crescent.
Okay, and how would you get there?
Ah, the first thing we would have to do is disengage as the police force in Iraq. It’s not the appropriate use of our military. It must be turned over to the Iraqis and I mean now. But we cannot withdraw from the area. We will be there for a long time and I don’t care who is president, there is no way we will not have troops in and around Iraq and in the Middle East - in that area - for a long time. There are national security interests that are at stake there - that keep us there - but we cannot continue to be the police force in Iraq. Impossible. That job has got to be taken over by the Iraqis - the patrolling of their streets in their own Humvees or in those we give them. I don’t care. The simple police, the constabulary activities in Iraq have to be done by Iraqis and there may be a great deal of violence, I know, but there’s a great deal of violence, of course, every day. And civil war? Well it could certainly be defined that way now. But one thing I do know is that civil war eventually - eventually ends in civil peace. It may be a long and ugly period of time, but we’re going to have to turn the keys to the house over to the Iraqis, and we should do so as soon as possible. I mean right away.
Okay. How important do you see democracy in the Middle East?
It may not be something we necessarily picture or define that develops over there, and I didn’t say democracy. I just said stability.
We have created an embryonic democracy. Whether it remains that way or not is still sort of, ah, something that is up in the air. What I want is stability. The idea of a democratic Iraq is not imperative. Preferable, but not imperative. What we want is a stable Iraq - not attached to either the Sunni or the Shia, and that dominates the world around them. That is preferable, but is it possible? Oh boy - another question entirely.
Okay. Next door - how would you deal with Iran?
Iran is a huge question mark because we don’t know exactly the extent to which the internal politics of Iran are playing out. There is hope. Oh, hang on a minute. Gotta vote . . . (I waited on the line until he came back) . . . Okay. What I was saying is, a great deal of information - mixed messages - a great deal of mixed messages are coming out of Iran that would suggest we have a possibility of a transition, a regime change, a modification of the regime, all because the population there is very mixed. It’s only 60% Persian. There are a lot of Sunnis even. There are a lot of Christians. There are a lot of Kurds, and it is a relatively well-educated population and, if you can believe polls taken there, Americans are thought of very well by a large percentage of the - especially the younger population - so the tricky thing is to bring about a modification of their government and not do so with boots on the ground which would be, certainly, a disaster and an embroilment in the conflict that I’m not sure we can be successful in. We have to, on the other hand, do what we can to make sure that a guy [Mahmoud Ahmadinijad] who believes he is the transition point for the return of the Twelfth Imam . . .
. . . you know in that case you’ll recall there are all kinds of catastrophic events that have to occur in order for the Twelfth Imam to return - and this guy thinks he’s going to bring them about. I just don’t think that it’s a good idea to give this guy a bomb or a nuclear weapon or let him obtain one. So it’s challenging - to say the least it is challenging, but you can work with the Iranian diaspora - there are a lot of people outside of the country and a lot of people inside of the country with whom you can work . . .
“You can work with the Iranian . . .”?
Diaspora. Uh, there are the . . .
Diaspora [Iranian nationals living abroad]. Oh, okay, yes right . . .
Because they want change, believe me.
So you have diplomatic, economic and military choices, and they are sometimes enormously challenging. For instance, we need to provide support - economic and moral, if you will - to the people inside of Iran who are working to overthrow the regime. But if we announced - if we actually said that - it puts a target on their back. I mean that’s exactly what the Iranian government wants to show the Iranian people - that any dissent whatsoever is like an American plot being paid for by the CIA.
So how do you get that done? You need to provide financial support, but you sure as heck cannot announce it. We’ve actually made this mistake. We just announced the other day we’re going to have $75 million that we’re putting into a variety of different accounts for “democracy in Iran” but, boy, that’s putting a very big target on the back of every Iranian dissident. And so it’s a tricky process, I’m going to tell you that.
Um-hmm. I’m glad you know who the Twelfth Imam is and how that’s a factor in what Ahmadinijad is trying to do over there.
You’re the first candidate who has voiced that and I’ve interviewed four of them. Ah, what do you think of the old quote: “That government governs best that governs least”?
That’s exactly right. I may have mentioned in our conversation - I can’t remember - our converation has gone back and forth. I may have mentioned that most people believe that, ah, the government is not working. And that’s because it isn’t.
And that’s because it’s too big. It can’t do all the things that people ask of it. Everybody has got to realize that. We cannot provide health care for every American; education for every American; social services for every American. The federal government was never designed for that. Never. The Constitution is clear about what our role is. We’re going to protect and defend. That’s it. If we just focused on that and let the states take care of the rest of the stuff, frankly, we would be able do a better job at what we can do. But, you know, demands are constant. Every time I speak, even in New Hampshire, Iowa, the heartland - where you think you are among the folks who - you know, New Hampshire, lets say. “Live Free or Die” right?
Yeah. I’m right next door.
[People are saying] “Live free or die? I don’t think I want to die, and I want to ask the federal government to make sure I don’t. You know, it’s going to protect me with a bubble. I don’t ever want to ever be ill, and if I do I want you to pay for it.” It’s astounding. We get what we demand and what we get is huge government and everybody complains about the deficit or the intrusive nature of government. Well, yeah! It’s take your pick. What do you want?
How would you shrink the federal bureaucracy?
Believe me. It’s called veto. It’s called a veto. I would veto appropriations bill for these departments until they shut down the government.
I have no qualms about that. I lived through it. I was in Reagan’s Administration when we actually - I used to send him faxes because didn’t have emails - I was a Reagan appointee and I worked in the US Department of Education. My task was to help bring that thing to a closure. We couldn’t close it individually but our task was to shrink it as much as possible because we couldn’t even get legislation passed - after only two years, we could not reverse it [establishment of the DOE under Carter]. So the task was, okay, we’re going to go in - we’re going to reduce it dramatically. I went from 222 people working there in a regional office to 60. It’s probably 500 now for all I know, but . . .
. . . and periodically the president would veto something, like a budget bill, and it would last over the weekend into Monday. I used to fax things like: “Mr. President: Please don’t open that door. Don’t give in. Keep it shut. Let’s see how long it is before anybody knows it’s closed.”
Interesting. How would you interpret our Second Amendment?
Quite literally. There are people in the country, of course, who should not be allowed to have a gun. They are in prison or they are felons or they are a danger to themselves or others - but other than that, every law-abiding American should be able to keep and bear arms. I have my own concealed-carry permit and I will feel much safer when the District of Columbia ban is thrown out - when that appeal is upheld, I mean when the appeal is thrown out. One court has already overturned the thing.
How would you handle efforts to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine?
I would kill it fast. Certainly nothing would get across my desk. I guarantee it.
Okay. Last question: Is it possible for the federal government to monitor and keep records of crimes committed by illegal aliens?
Of course we can do it. I mean, or we could ignore it just like we’ve ignored all the laws about immigration and continue to erode the whole concept of rules.
Thank you very much for your time, Congressman, and I apologize for the technical difficulties. I don’t think I’ll be able to make a podcast, but I got it clearly enough that I can hear it and transcribe it - which I’ll get onto right away.
Thank you very much.
You’re welcome. Good-bye.