Monday, July 16, 2007

Duncan Hunter Interview

Telephone interview recorded on Friday, July 13, 2007 at 2:30 pm EST by Tom McLaughlin for Family Security Matters.

Hello. This is Duncan Hunter.

Thank you for calling, Congressman. I’ll be recording this conversation. Is that all right with you?

It is.

Okay. Let’s get started. I have twelve basic questions for all the presidential candidates, but I have one especially for you given your background. You served your country as a soldier in Vietnam. You must be having some thoughts about what happened in 1975 when the Democrats were in the majority in the United States Congress, and what is being threatened today for Iraq now that Democrats have taken control of Congress again.

Well, I think we’re going to prevail in Iraq, and I think the government of Iraq is going to hold and that the army will hold. There are a hundred and twenty battalions that make up the Iraqi Army. They’re being trained and equipped right now and a lot of them are getting quite a bit of combat operational experience.


In my estimation, Iraq will move along. It’s an inept government as most new governments are, but I think it will mature over a period of time. I’m reminded that in Vietnam, Congress totally cut off aid to South Vietnam - which was a left-wing reaction to the Democrat, left-dominated Congress. It really, to a large degree, was a function of Watergate.

Um-hmm. Yes it was. Do you have as much confidence in our Democrat-controlled Congress as you do that the Iraqi government will hold?

Yes. There are much smaller margins and a less left-leaning Congress now than we had right after 1974. Nixon was paralyzed by Watergate in 1974.

Yes. Well, I hope you’re right. Have you seen the rest of my questions? I sent them ahead of time to Mr. Tyler.

No. I haven’t seen them.

Well, I’m going to them now. First of all: When and why did you decide to run for president?

Well, I’ve always been focused on national security issues during my entire career in congress - twenty-six years - the last four years as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. I think the next five to seven years are going to be years in which national security is a major focus for our country, and I believe that I have particular credentials, strong credentials, to commander-in-chief. I’ve served the country. My son has served two tours in Iraq, and I’ve been a member of the Armed Services Committee for twenty-six years and a chairman of the committee for four. That means I can look the American people in the eye in a military crisis and say, “We’re all in this together.” I think that’s an important element, or dimension, to bring to national leadership. I also think the country needs a rebirth of its economic base, and particularly its industrial base. Right now we’re suffering under what I consider to be very bad trade policies, in which our trading competitors benefit from an uneven playing field, in which our manufacturing industry is double-taxed when it exports, and in which our competitors pay no taxes. We’re allowing China to cheat on trade right now and that unbalanced or uneven playing field is accruing to our detriment. It’s caused massive trade imbalances - massive trade losses for the US and the resultant losses of jobs and business. I want to change that as president.

Okay, that’s the why of it . . .

I’ll stop the Chinese from cheating on trade.

Okay. When did you make the decision to run?

I thought about it over the last several years and it was a decision I made about four or five months before I announced.

All right.

So, I don’t have a particular, ah, moment, but it was decision that was a long time in the making.

Okay. What do you see as our biggest domestic problem?

I think, ah, high-paying jobs and a strong economy for this next generation, so they can have the opportunity they deserve and the educational opportunity they deserve. That’s going to require a strong industrial base. That’s why it’s so important that we renew America’s manufacturing base. I think that is, in fact, our biggest problem because the manufacturing base is important to Americans for two reasons: One, it supports high-paying jobs that will allow this next generation to support an aging generation which will be dependent upon them. But secondly, a strong industrial base is important to national security. As the industrial base erodes and moves off-shore, that’s going to make it very difficult for the United States over a period of time to be able to continue to have the support that it needs in the industrial base to be able to maintain all of the weapons systems and the weapons development that we need.


Basically, America’s industrial base - what FDR called the “arsenal of democracy” - won World War I, World War II and the Cold War for this country. That industrial base is being fractured and moved off-shore right now. We need to stem that hemorrhage of industrial capability and bring some of it back to the United States. I think we should take down manufacturing taxes to zero in this country. We need to stop the Chinese from cheating on trade. That means passing the Hunter/Ryan bill which stops currency devaluation on the part of China - they’re devaluing their currency by forty percent right now - and that will provide some stability to the manufacturing base in this country.

So, you are not against what is commonly referred to as “free trade.” You would like to re-negotiate the position of the United States in that realm. Would that be a safe way to sum it up?

Yes, but in two areas: One is that China is cheating on the trade rules as they stand right now. When you devalue your currency by forty percent, that’s a species of state subsidy and that allows Chinese products to undercut the costs of American products across the board. The other one is that the trade deal we signed after World War II, when most of the world was burned out, was very uneven. It gave other nations the ability to subsidize their industries by rebating their taxes to them - allowing that to take place for every nation except the United States. The United State is the only one of the top ten trading countries that cannot rebate its taxes to its manufacturers.

And that’s because of some policy made domestically and not because of some international agreements?

No, that’s an international deal that we made. We agreed under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that we would be treated unequally from all the other trading countries of the world. It was almost foreign aid. We did that after World War II when the rest of the world was in pretty bad shape. Today the countries that were burned out now have robust manufacturing capability.

Indeed. Well, what do you see as our biggest foreign policy problem?

I think that, obviously, the development of nuclear weapons in Iran - the pursuit of nuclear weapons in Iran, the fact that North Korea has some now and is racing to develop the means for delivery, and the emergence of China as a new superpower stepping into the shoes of the former Soviet Union.

Um-hmm. Okay. In our struggle against Radical Islam, how important is the propaganda war?

Here’s what I would say: with the emergence of mass media since [World War II], the emergence of things like the internet, the proliferation of television stations and radio stations around the world, has minimized the ability of any one entity to shape the news. Now I would say that what I call the “American example,” that is, just the basic decency and goodness of the American people that is manifested in lots and lots of activities, like the fact that we undertook - in the tsunami - we undertook an airlift that was bigger than any airlift since the Berlin Airlift.

Hmm. I didn’t realize that.

Yes, and we responded, with the American fleet, to the requirements - to the humanitarian requirements - in a way that was totally unprecedented. I think the world takes note of that. I also think that in Iraq, al Qaeda for example, in driving these bomb-laden trucks into crowds of women and children, has damaged its image in the Muslim world. I think that’s been evidenced by the new move by the Sunni population in Anbar Province against al Qaeda leadership.


And the turnaround that we’ve seen in cities like Fallujah and Hamadi.

So, as president you would use the bully pulpit to call more attention to actions like that.

Yes, I’d say to what I call the American example, the example of spreading freedom and supporting humanitarian operations around the world - all the good things that are manifest in America.

All right. How will you deal with our legal and illegal immigration problems?

You know, I wrote the bill that mandates a border fence that was signed into law by the president. That’s the 850 miles of border fence that is now mandated to be constructed across Arizona and New Mexico and Texas. I wrote that bill. They’ve only built thirteen miles of that fence so far. Putting up a fence across the southern border - it’s a double fence with a border patrol road in between - I built the fence in San Diego which has reduced the smuggling out there of people and narcotics by more than ninety percent. The 854-mile fence is mandated to be constructed across the major smuggler’s corridors in those three states that I mentioned - Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. That will go a long way toward enforcement of the border, which is key not only to the immigration issue, but also to the security issue. So enforcement of the border is something I would put a lot of emphasis on. But number one - I’d just simply carry out the very law that I wrote as a congressman and that’s the Border Fence Act.

Okay. How do you understand the first part of our Fourteenth Amendment, and I quote: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside”?

(The Congressman’s car was passing through a suspension bridge and there was interference as I read the question) I haven’t had a legal analysis of that amendment lately but I know Bilbray’s legislation, Congressman Bilbray’s legislation, contemplates that there’s not an absolute right to have citizenship as a result of having been born in the United States, and I think that’s a substantive argument which appears to have some merit.

So as president you would, say, use the Attorney General to challenge the way that’s interpreted?

Yeah, well, I don’t think you want a president that makes decisions on fairly complicated legal rulings as he’s driving in a car through a bridge. I would say this - what I’ve seen of that analysis of the Constitutional amendment [in the proposed bill] appears to have merit and I’d look very carefully at that. I don’t think it makes good sense that people can simply be smuggled into the United States and having done that, acquiring citizenship for their child.

I live in a sanctuary state - right on the border between Maine and New Hampshire on the Maine side - would you require states and cities to restrict federally-subsidized social services to citizens only?

I think, generally speaking, one thing about Americans is that we don’t step over people who are dying on the basis that they are not citizens. We handle emergency calls for all.


But I would say that of course you would continue emergency medical care - life-saving medical care would not be denied people - but I think I think that it’s absolutely appropriate that taxpayers’ benefits not go to people who are here illegally.

Okay. You’ve already answered some of these questions . . .

Do you remember Proposition 187 we had in California?


I supported Prop 187.

Okay. Victory in Iraq: what would it look like? You pretty much described that in answer to the first question.

I would say a country that is a friend, not an enemy of the United States - a country that has a modicum of freedom and which will not be a state sponsor of terrorism.

Hmm. How important do you think democracy is in the Middle East?

Having a modicum of representative government, which I think Iraq has right now, is an important element of the seed that we’ve planted in that part of the Middle East. It is, I think, an important thing, and hopefully something that will - as difficult and as tough as this is - will lead to stable governments that will have a benign relationship with our nation. That should accrue to the long-term benefit of the United States and our interests in that region.

Do you think it would be . . .

It’s not something that comes easy, but I think it’s something that’s worth working for. I think we do that - I think we pursue a modicum of democracy - understanding that it’s being done in a culture that’s been trained to accommodate dictators, and that the change is not easily delivered.

Hmm. Hopefully it will be contagious.

Yeah. Well, we saw little ripples in Lebanon and in Egypt after we, after the elections in Iraq.

We did. We did. How would you deal with Iran? You already partially answered that question as well, but . . .

Yeah. I think Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear devices.


And in my administration they would not be allowed.

All methods of persuasion on the table . . .


Okay. What do you think of the old quote: “That government is best that governs least”?

I like that.

Attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but I guess he didn’t say it. I guess it was Henry David Thoreau of all people, but . . .

Is that right?


I think that’s generally a good statement. Of course all those statements are subject to exceptions. There are certain times when you need strong national leadership, especially in time of war, and there are times, for example when you need to enforce your borders and you need to have strong federal action.

Would you shrink our federal bureaucracy, other than the military?

I think we can bring the bureaucracy down markedly. We can even bring down some of the bureaucracy in the military.

All right. How would you interpret our Second Amendment?

Well, the right to keep and bear arms - I think that’s a very important part of homeland security. The ability of a person to own and maintain a firearm and to protect his house and his community and his country is an important part of our national security.

Okay. Last question . . .

I’m also a big hunter but I think hunting is not the reason you’ve got a right to keep and bear arms.

Hunting is not the reason? More personal security.

Personal security and the security of our community and our country.


You know, especially when we’ve been invaded recently with the attack on 9-11, if there had been a ground attack that had accompanied the aerial attack in a city like New York where all the good people had been disarmed, it would have been devastating.

Certainly. Last question: How would you handle efforts as president to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine?

Well, I think the attempt to muzzle talk radio under the so-called Fairness Doctrine is a reflection of the fact that liberals don’t like that most Americans are conservative. Talk radio is generally conservative because it reflects the views of the American people. The idea that you have to inject liberal views on talk radio [broadcast] to a community that is not liberal is, I think, an invalid concept. I think we’re going to have to protect the free speech of talk radio from the objects of its criticism, and that is - liberal politicians.

Um, if I could ask one more - I saw on your web site that you would increase the size of our military. You were specific about Marines.

Yeah, about ten extra battalions for the US Marine Corps. We made this recommendation when I was chairman of the Armed Services Committee. You’d have to go back and look at the paperwork, but I believe it was ten battalions for the Marines and something like about eight additional Army brigade combat teams.

How big is a brigade?

A battalion is actually about 800 folks, so a brigade is maybe, ah, 3000 folks.

And you made that recommendation about four years ago?

We made it a recommendation two years ago to increase the size of the Army and the Marine Corps over the objection of the Pentagon which said they didn’t [need them] - and I actually increased the size of the Marines over the last couple of years to 180,000 people.

You wrote a bill that was passed that would do so?

The Administration came back this year with a proposal that’s in agreement with that. They do recommend now increasing the size of the Marine Corps and the Army. As a matter of fact, over the last couple of years we’ve increased the in-strength of the Army by 30,000 persons and we’ve increased the size of the Marine Corps to 180,000. I did that by putting in provisions for additional in-strength in the Marine Corps over the last several years.

Well Congressman, I really thank you for your time and Family Security Matters thanks you as well.

You’re very welcome.

And best of luck with your campaign.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Duncan Hunter is a true conservative and has my support, he is the 1st candidate i donted money to .......

Tom McLaughlin said...

I don't understand why conservatives in the Republican Party are looking around for a true conservative. Hunter is it. Why can't they see it? He's been in the debates and handled himself like a leader in my eyes. I don't get it.

Maybe he's annoyed the party leadership somehow. If it was on illegal immigration, then that would be a further endorsement to me.