Duncan Hunter Speaks: Terrorist Trials in NY, Amnesty, Sarah Palin, China
This interview is the fifth installment of an on going series of conversations with the former Congressman and 2008 presidential candidate.
AJM: It’s been announced in the news with several stories coming out of the Pelosi camp and the Obama administration that they are going to revisit amnesty in the next few weeks. They are working diligently on the next amnesty plan and I’m sure they’ll have some of the same republicans involved with this – namely Lindsey Graham and McCain and some of the other same cast of characters. So this thing actually has a lot of support when you toss in those republicans. What is your opinion on this and what should we do to fight it?
DH: I think there will be a large backlash against this. Especially among rank and file democrats during this high unemployment period. I’ll never forget a construction worker, an American citizen coming up to me one time, a member of the Hispanic community, and said “please don’t let”–what was known in those days as Kennedy/McCain- “this thing pass”. This guy explained that it had taken him years to get to the point where he was making $35/hr. And he said “if you open the floodgates, I’ll go down to $15 an hour, and my ability to take care of my family will diminish”. He said that in so many words.
Especially when you have a massive unemployment rate, the idea that we are going to open the floodgates is insane. That’s what you do when you entertain amnesty. We’ve seen the number of crossings, illegal border crossings increase when the President even TALKS about it, talks about amnesty. It’s human nature. The people that came over in the 80s, when we gave amnesty to some 3 million people – and we incidentally at that point, we said ‘now THIS IS IT, this time we really mean it and we are gonna enforce our borders’. And people knew we didn’t really mean it; so about 12 million more came pouring in subsequent to that admonishment that we were now going to enforce the borders in a serious way, and that there would be no more amnesty.
So when you announce an amnesty there will always be a new wave people coming over illegally, human nature being what it is, anticipating that they – the new wave- will catch the next amnesty. So at a time when jobs are very, very difficult to find, especially blue collar jobs, the idea that we are opening the floodgates again is something the American people will not accept.
And I know the democrat strategists are looking to… thinking they are going to pickup a new, huge voting constituency. I don’t think so. Last hired is often first fired. And there are lots of folks in the Hispanic community like the guy who approached me, the construction worker, who are worried about their jobs and the rate of pay.
AJM: So you think the backlash will stop it once again?
DH: I think so.
AJM: I sure hope so. Even the Reagan model, which you voted against by the way, the 1986 amnesty, there was the promise of border enforcement. I can’t imagine that these democrats writing this next bill will…..they’ve already gutted your Secure Fence Act several times over. What’s your take on getting some real border enforcement? Are we going to have to wait for the next Republican in office?
DH: I think it is clear that this administration does not want a secure border. And it is always difficult to understand their point of view. But it is clear from their initiatives, and the lack of interest in completing the border fence. The way most of the amnesty initiatives have been framed, proponents always promise that enforcement will go hand in hand with the amnesty. But I think at this point all the political proponents of amnesty have lost their credibility.
We had a Secure Fence Act, which was watered down massively. We got some fence up, some 100s of miles of some barrier, which has been good. Incidentally, we sealed up Smugglers Gulch in San Diego with the double fence. And when we did that, the crime rate in the city of San Diego, by FBI statistics, after we built the fence, fell by more than 53 percent. The apprehensions went down by more than 90 percent!
The point is that fences do work. And another point is that the then governor of Arizona, Governor Napolitano, swung back and forth between saying “fences don’t work” – saying “if you show me a 12 foot fence, I’ll show you a 13 foot ladder”, and in the next sentence she would lament the fact that we (California) were sealing our border so the illegal aliens were now going to her state of Arizona and crossing.
She not only tried to have it both ways, but literally she tried to have it both ways in almost the same sentence (laughing).
In fact, in Yuma, Arizona, the one sector that they fenced there, as I recall, apprehensions went down from almost 138,000 in that sector to 3,800, after they did the fence....The same person who discounted the fence, and resented the fact that we had one. So no, she’s not going to lead with a construction program.
We had the two Texas senators, with the Texas border literally on fire with the smuggling of people and narcotics, fold. And I don’t know where they got their direction. The President (Bush) had essentially the same position – they didn’t want to fence Texas. You had at one time I recall, some 600 unsolved murders in Nuevo Laredo. That’s the drug town immediately across from Laredo, Texas. Massive smuggling. Yet inexplicable disinterest on the part of Kay Bailey and John Cornyn. Good members of congress, strong on defense, generally folks that I agree with; but also the governor, Governor Perry was not an advocate of the fence.
I think they were all talking to the landowners who probably liked the idea of having a fairly large pool of people coming across the border to work inexpensively.
My point to the President, and to the Senators during the conference on this fence, was that a landowner on the border, or a rancher on the border, does not have the right to determine unilaterally what the immigration policy of this country is going to be. And just because that means that he gets some inexpensive people, he’s NOT the guy to be sorting out the people who may at one point be terrorists, or who may be the drug people, and determining who comes into the United States. The policy of the United States is deeper and is more important than the desires of a landowner to have some inexpensive labor coming in to his ranch from Mexico.
AJM: I’ll agree with that. I want to reiterate the fact that they’ve been catching a lot of non-mexicans, what do they call them, OTMs – Other Than Mexicans. A lot of Chinese coming…
DH: That’s always been the case. Everybody in the world knows if you want to get into America illegally, you use the southern border of the United States to do it. You don’t come through LA International Airport anymore. They understand that. That’s a MAJOR problem. So what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to elect a bunch of conservative Republicans in this next race. Obviously, we need to take Congress back!
And I think that’s possible. The swings, the nature of politics is to surprise. And I think we can have a surprising resurgence in the House races in this next election.
AJM: I sure hope so. And the guys you’ve been promoting are also, all of them, are strong border hawks. In the Hunter mold, as opposed to the McCain mold of wanting to grant amnesty. So keep up that work, Congressman. In the primaries, we need people that are going to do it right, and not waffle once they office.
DH: Yep. We need to do just that. We also need to – you know I’m looking forward to a lot more guys getting out of the service, and running for office across the country. That’s an important dimension to representation, especially when you have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at the level they are at right now. Having people, wearing the uniform, shedding that uniform, running for office then becoming representatives I think is an important part of American society. And we have a paucity of military folks coming into Congress.
AJM: What is your opinion of the National party endorsing candidates in a primary?
DH: Well, I think there needs to be a balance. Sometimes they need to go out and recruit candidates to run. Especially when you have great candidates you think should run for office. For example, Eisenhower was actively recruited by the national party – I’m probably using the best example of recruitment – but Eisenhower was recruited by the national Republicans to run on the GOP ticket. And I think when they initially talked with him, they weren’t sure if he was a Democrat or Republican. And as I recall, the Democrats had an interest in trying to get Eisenhower to run also. So that’s probably the best example of a national recruitment.
In a number of races you do want to go out – for example I went out and asked old Gunny Pop. I think he was inclined to run, but I told him he’d make a great Congressman and I encouraged him to run. I think that’s important. If you do that, you do need to endorse them when they run. But in terms of simply going with the….if somebody is already predisposed to run and they are running and there are other good candidates out there running, the idea that you try to anoint someone, I think, is a mistake.
AJM: OK. a question regarding Sarah Palin. I don’t know if you’ve turned on a TV lately, but she’s everywhere. She’s got a new book just released today – number 1 bestseller. She’s on Oprah and Barbara Walters and basically it is her re-introduction after she quit her governorship. So what do you think about Sarah Palin and her future in the Republican Party?
DH: You know, I don’t know Governor Palin well. And I’m not close to their campaign. So I don’t know her well enough to comment on what her strategy may be for the next couple of years. But I think she provided some energy to the Republican Party. And I think she has provided a strong role model for conservative women who want to get involved in politics, and to take the fight back to the liberal feminist side which has dominated Democratic politics.
So I think Sarah Palin was a refreshing contrast to the model that the liberal media was shoving at us as to what women in politics should be. She represented independence, individualism. I don’t know, I’m not familiar with all of her activities as a governor in Alaska so it’s tough to comment on that.
But I think, generally speaking, she’s a refreshing new presence on the political scene and I wish her well.
AJM: One of the criticisms of her, fair or not, was she doesn’t have a full grasp on certain aspects of what the Presidency entails when it comes to foreign policy or military affairs, national security, sovereignty, the types of things you’re known for. So we’d love to send her up to you at some point at least to meet. Would you be interested in meeting her?
DH: (Laughs) Well, of course. Listen; there are lots of people that have information, that have good backgrounds in national security who could brief up Sarah Palin.
I thought in the debates and interviews that she needed to have three or four positions that are classic republican, conservative positions, like Peace through Strength, and she needed to assert those. And remember Charlie Gibson, I think, was the first major interview that Sarah Palin did. I think she needed to assert those strongly, and stake out conservative positions, rather than kind of trying to handle the volleys that the media was throwing at her. I would have had a little different strategy going in to that.
But you know, I think Sarah Palin did a good job in the campaign. And certainly the campaign was in tough shape when Sarah Palin came onto the ticket. I think she was value added. Absolutely.
AJM: Another issue that is current news is that apparently Mr. Holder and Mr. Obama decided to bring Khalid Sheik Mohammed to New York for a trial, affording him all the rights of a US citizen. What is your take on this nonsense?
DH: I think we had, we put together the terrorist tribunal, and I participated in putting that law together as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee on the House side. And I think we did it right. The defendants have lots of rights, the right to cross examine, the right against self-incrimination, and the right -except where classified evidence might be compromised – to confront their accusers. They had lots of rights. If you look at the Rwandan model and the Nuremberg model where we prosecuted war criminals, they have as many rights in our military tribunal system that we set up as the defendants in those two forums.
Now when you bring people to America, there are certain additional rights that attach because you are basically here. I think it is a mistake to bring him to New York and to give them all the protections of American criminals. One reason is this: If you take a batch of POWs that we’ve captured on the battlefield of a shooting war, people that wore uniforms, and you demanded that we had to release them unless we could prove that each and every one of them, prove beyond a reasonable doubt that everyone of them was actually in the act carrying out war against the Americans, we would never be able to prove a lot of those cases!
In the first place, war is a confusing thing. You don’t go back and recreate crime scenes when you get your Humvee blown up, or you have shots taken at you in the remote areas of Afghanistan. You can’t give a guy Miranda rights before you question him. Somebody’s life may depend on him answering those questions. And so you really give people when you afford them complete criminal rights in America, you are giving them a lot more rights than a soldier gets.
We now live in this age of terrorism, and we’ve got to find our way between the desire to give people massive rights when we are prosecuting them or else free them. Between that extreme and rights you afford somebody when they are wearing a uniform and engaging you in a direct fight. It is unusual that we are actually giving more rights to the guys who blew up women and children in a very cowardly way than are given to uniformed troops who march out to the battlefield and fight for their country in the open. But that is essentially what we are doing.
And we ought to keep Guantanamo going. Guantanamo is EXACTLY the right place for these guys. They all gained weight at Guantanamo. They have lots of sports and athletics. They have taxpayer paid prayer rugs, Korans, they have the loud speaker. As I recall when I was down there it was giving prayer call something like five times a day over the prison loudspeaker system. If that would have been a Baptist prayer call the ACLU would have gone nuts, but it was a muslim prayer call so it was OK.
The point is that they were very well taken care of. And the idea that we somehow acquiesce to this very fuzzy “world opinion” – a world opinion made up of foreign leaders who like the idea of the Americans always doing the heavy lifting when it comes to fighting terrorism – they want to offer up all these objections to Guantanamo.
The interesting thing about Guantanamo is that of all the major prisons in the world, it’s the only prison, the only major prison, where there’s never been a murder. It’s probably the only prison where people also gain weight. It’s also got a medical system there that is better than most American’s HMOs to take care of people medically.
The question is “what are we doing?”.
And the answer is that we are satisfying a perception. And it’s a perception that really isn’t held genuinely by the people that utter that perception. That is leftist foreign leaders who complain about Guantanamo. They like us going after the terrorists, doing the heavy lifting, and they want to sit back and issue press releases saying ‘when you catch these murderers treat them very humanely, take care of them- and incidentally you Americans pay for it all – and we in other parts of the world will monitor your progress in terms of humanitarianism.’
DH: Yeah. Well with respect to Guantanamo, it’s the old saying “when the truth conflicts with the legend – print the legend”. I do not agree with the policy of pretending that a fiction or a myth is real in order to satisfy public opinion. We did NOT torture people in Guantanamo. If you ask the relevant authorities if dogs ever bit people in Guantanamo, the answer is “no”, or “once” at one point. People were not tortured at Guantanamo. They’ve generally been taken very good care of.
We’ve had tons of delegations visting Guantanamo. I remember Madeleine Bordallo who was the representative from Guam walked out of the trip I took down there – she was one of our congressional delegation members – and said at the press conference, “this place is a country club”. Of course, that’s the ‘wrong’ thing to say if you are going to be politically correct, but she’s a pretty gutsy lady. And she’s a democrat, incidentally, and told it like it was. We treat people very well in Guantanamo, and yet we’re acknowledging this myth, this legend, and treating it like it’s true. The legend that invokes images of people being chained and beaten and whipped – it’s just nuts.
AJM: Yep. And when you say “we”, it’s people like Dick Durbin and some of the more liberal democrats in addition to the Obama administration. They are going against the grain of American wisdom.
DH: Dick Durbin has had scores of murders in his prisons, and I don’t think he recommends closing them down! You know, and these people that say you shouldn’t use dogs – shouldn’t have dogs present – If you ask them if they are going to recommend closing down their K9 units in their own police departments in the states they represent, the answer would be an absolute NO. And if you don’t think a 110 pound German Shepherd – they say it’s torture to intimidate people with the presence of a dog – having a massive German Shepherd snapping at you six inches from your face, I think it tends to make you want to talk.
I think lots of people have made lots of confessions with that 110 pound German Shepherd snapping away while the police officer of Illinois, Senator Durbin’s state, or lots of others, routinely goes through his Miranda warnings.
The Guantanamo situation is a tragedy. It is a situation in which they are pretending something happened which did not happen; trying to solve a problem which doesn’t exist, all to make people like us. In the end that never works.
DF: Let’s say we do those back and get back control like you’re talking about and the pendulum pushes the other way and a good conservative is in power. Where to you begin to rebuild and restore this country, to what we, you and I, the people on this phone I know, love and want and that is our vision of this country. Can it be pushed back? Can the destruction be repaired?
DH: Well certainly. Congress can pass a law, and repeal a law with a vote, and the president can sign that law. So the answer to how far we’re going to have to roll this thing back is a function to some degree with what happens to things like this Health Bill that’s going forward right now. Let’s fight and hope they don’t get it. But they may have a lot of things that we’ll have to roll back. But I would say let’s roll back ALL the inhibitors to economic growth.
One thing that I think we should do though is that….the post ’73 Republicans broke away from the party and broke away from our traditions. I think this blind adherence to this concept of so-called ‘free trade’ has been a disaster for the United States. You’re talking in a phone now, if your phone costs a hundred bucks and the same phone is made in China that’s made in the United States. If you make that in China and you send it to the United States for sale, the Chinese government rebates 17 percent back to you in Value Added Tax, if you export to the US. If you are an exporter from the US trying to sell in China, you get 17 percent added to your cost when you cross the docks in China. That’s a 34 point spread, with respect to exports.
Our industrial base is being exported to China. I think that’s a mistake. In fact it’s kind of funny; the Red Army is winning, but they are not winning on the battlefield, they are winning in a move – in regimented fashion – with jobs in China that were formerly held by Americans in this country. So the lack of jobs, lack of blue collar jobs, the lack of manufacturing jobs is to a large degree behind a lot of other problems. For example, the housing industry. To have a solid, healthy housing industry, requires at the base of the pyramid workers who can afford to pay mortgages. And as you evaporate the industrial base of this country – and manufacturers in this country have traditionally been a higher paid sector than service – as you evaporate this constituency of homeowners who because they have good jobs, pay mortgages, you damage the homebuilding industry. Very substantially.
So I think trade is a place where we can work on. You know, I told the President when he wanted me to vote on the South American ‘free trade’ agreement, I said “you know, I like the Bush policy on trade, but it is the policy of Senator Prescott Bush, who in 1962 stood with Barry Goldwater against the Kennedy Trade Liberalization Act”.
And in this country, if you look at the two Republicans on Mount Rushmore, both of them were against this idea of free trade. They liked the idea of protecting American workers. Two of our greatest presidents, arguably. So this Republican adherence to free trade where we are shipping our industry overseas as fast as we can is a mistake. And the problem is democrats have taken it on too. I had the bill that would have allowed for punishment of China, for sanctions against China, for artificially keeping their currency low in order to destroy American exports and boost their exports. Democrats always talked about moving that bill rapidly. When they took control, after they did a few fundraisers on Wall Street, they lost their enthusiasm for my bill...And they never did have a vote on it.
DF: As I recall, you were virtually the lone voice in the last campaign talking about the trade deficit and the issues with China and their arming up. From what I can tell, you continue to be that.
DH: Well, our problem is we need to make sure the Republicans remember their roots. We haven’t traditionally been the free traders. If you go to the cellar of the Capital Hill Club and you look at the old cartoons from the 1890s and early 1900s, you’ll see the one with Teddy Roosevelt standing over a prostrate Grover Cleveland type – I don’t know if it was Grover himself – but Grover Cleveland has “free trade” on his boxing gloves and he’s being knocked out by the Republican, who has got “protection”. And you know now ‘protection’ is used in a pejorative way. But what a national government is with respect to trade is the one time when they are essentially a business representative. Because an individual businessman can’t leave Provo, Utah and go negotiate his own rules for trade with the government of China. When you deal with international trade, our government is your business advocate; it has to be your business advocate. It has to do the right thing with respect to making sure your guys have a level chance of winning in this world trade now. Anyway, that’s a place where the Republican party still needs to find its roots.
AJM: Just to add to this and top it off, Congressman, Ronald Reagan said “we’ll trade with anyone, but we’ll never be anyone’s ‘trade patsy’”. And that’s what we’ve become.
DH: Yeah. Ronald Reagan also said, “when one side is cheating, there is no free trade”. The other sides cheat like crazy! We’ve allowed this one VAT, this value added tax rebate, where every other country in the world rebates value added taxes from 10 to 20 percent. We’ve got 122 trading partners that do that. Yet we don’t get to rebate our income tax to our guys that export. Big, big disparity.
(interview edited for space)
We already know Congressman Hunter supports these three candidates.
Nick “Gunny Pop” Popaditch http://www.popaditchforcongress.com/
2LT Vaughn Ward