Duncan Hunter Interview 1-8-2010
AJM: Hello Congressman, how are you today?
DH: Very good.
AJM: How did your speech go?
DH: Good. It was a great event. It was for a guy named Lew Meyer. He was guy who was in Hue City when the NVA came and took Hue City, which our Marines then retook. He was badly hurt and was then in a POW camp. We got him a POW medal and a purple heart.
AJM: That’s great. Did you say it was on the Midway?
DH: Yeah, the ceremony was on the Midway. I’ve got about 20 minutes here, so let’s roll.
AJM: OK, let me close my office door so I don’t disturb the neighbors.
AJM: OK. Happy New Year to you first of all. I guess what I’d like to know, what we’d like to know is what are your plans for 2010 in terms of helping move the country, move the ball in our direction? I know you’ve been very involved through 2009 , so what are your plans going into 2010?
DH: Well, I think the best efforts of all Republicans and all conservatives is to try to get good guys to run for office, particularly in seats in what I would call swing districts, where we can take a big step, a giant step towards taking congress back. And to those ends, what I’ve been doing is trying to help a few good candidates. One of whom is Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch who is running for Congress here in San Diego against a long term liberal incumbent Bob Filner. Popaditch is a Silver Star winner who was in that famous picture as the statue of Saddam came down, when Baghdad fell. He was a tanker and was thereafter injured pretty badly in a tough firefight, won the Silver Star, came back to the States and is now running for that congressional seat.
We have a number of other good guys who are running fresh out of the Service. One is Vaughn Ward, a rifle company commander in Iraq and he is running for the seat in Boise, one of the two house seats there. Then we have Jesse Kelly who is running for what should be a Republican seat in Tucson. That is a seat that has a 20,000 vote Republican plurality, yet the seat is held by a democrat.
So helping with these – what I would call these “takeback” congressional districts, helping good, conservative candidates win in those districts should be the agenda for all Republicans and all conservatives this year.
AJM: Sounds like a good agenda.
DH: You win these things by winning seats and that’s how we’ll take away this “do anything I want to do” program that the Obama Administration has embarked upon. They aren’t held back now, they are filibuster proof in the Senate, and as the Health Care vote demonstrated, they have enough votes to override a filibuster attempt. And that means essentially they can do whatever they want to do. That’s not balance, that’s not checks and balances, but rather it is the pathway for a socialist agenda this next year.
AJM: Yes sir! This next question is related and it is a little bit touchier. And that is what about conservatives challenging established moderates in the party for their seats?
DH: It depends. I’ve always been cool to that approach, because we end up with a limited number of bullets and we end up shooting each other. Republicans can’t afford to do that, generally. So if you’ve got some fairly scarce ammunition and you can use it in a district where $50 thousand or $75 thousand might mean a 2% win for a Republican, like the Nick Popaditch district, why would you go over and spend a million trying to knock out a Republican in a safe Republican seat?
That approach has always left me a little cool. And behind that approach, to some degree, is of course the self interest of folks who want to take a Republican seat, that want to get a political seat for themselves, so they end up stirring up a fight with a Republican incumbent who at least makes that first vote in the right column. And that is the vote for Speaker. And if you have a Republican majority, you should always have a conservative speaker, because the majority of the Republican Party is conservative. So if you have a Connecticut liberal like Nancy Johnson or a social liberal like Rob Simmons, who is otherwise good on defense, and that person would vote for, say, a Newt Gingrich for Speaker of the House. So it’s much more worthwhile to expend your ammunition trying to take back a district that is held by a Democrat then shooting at each other – and I say that as a staunch conservative – shooting at other republicans when your ammunition is scarce when it’s going to take an all out effort to simply win a majority.
AJM: I understand that position, and that is the good Republican position. Now I’m going to ask you to put on your conservative hat. What happens in the instances when a moderate IS challenged by a conservative? Obviously certain moderates, oh I would say like a Lincoln Chafee, is really quite left actually as opposed to moderate. But in this case specifically, I heard today that JD Hayworth, your old buddy from Congress, is going to challenge John McCain for his Senate seat.
DH: Yeah? I haven’t heard that. But I’m going to see JD I think in a couple of weeks. He’s going to be out helping Jesse Kelly. I’m sure if that’s what he’s going to do, I’m sure he’ll call me about it. You know, everybody is an ‘independent contractor’ so you can’t say you don’t have the right to run in a district – whether it’s for a Senate seat or a House seat – and go up against a member of your own party.
What you were asking me about, though, was the practicality of using scarce ammunition to shoot our own soldiers. And my answer to that is, that it is not a practical thing to do.
Now, you called me with a lot of enthusiasm about having a 3rd candidate when we had a Republican candidate and had a democrat candidate in that NY district 23. I think that, wasn’t that the McHugh district?
AJM: Yes. McHugh moved onto the Administration…
DH: What I told you probably would happen, or had a chance of happening, occurred. That is, we ended up having a split. From a Democrat’s strategy point of view, they loved it when the Republicans basically had a split. Then the Republican nominee, who did something entirely inappropriate, which is to endorse the democrat. So the one thing that could keep the democrats in control of that particular seat occurred.
So at some point, here’s what you have: You have to win! Winning is important. So when you only have so much ammo, you want to ensure every bullet is expended to achieve maximum leverage.
The district next door to my seat, which I won in 1980, I ran against an 18 year Democrat, liberal incumbent, I couldn’t raise a dime from the Republicans. In fact, I had to sell my house to run. Which I did. But I couldn’t raise any money from the so-called Republican establishment. That same establishment put about 3 million dollars into the primary contest in the Republican district next door. The money I got from selling my house, which I could not raise from the Republicans, put me over the top and I was able to win that 2 to 1 democrat seat by 53% to 47%. So I learned first hand that, in terms of numbers, I gave the Republican party a seat that they otherwise would not have had. So it’s much more effective to use your ammunition shooting at the other side than shooting at your own troops.
AJM: I generally agree. I don’t anticipate that JD Haworth will get much support from the Party. He’s going to have to raise his money on his own.
DH: I want to be clear. I’m not talking about JD. JD hasn’t said anything to me, so I don’t want to personalize or speculate about what your friends are going to do. I like JD, he’s a great friend of mine. And what you do in a case when you have a personal friendship, is very often you throw all the rules aside. Personal friendships are still important in this world, and they are important to me.
But you asked me a general question about Republicans using their resources to shoot their own guys in primaries, and I said it’s not a practical strategy, and it’s not. I mean look at the national numbers. The democrats are below 50% approval for the first time. We have to strike hard.
If you ask me whether I would take a liberal Republican in a seat where his first vote would be for John Boehner for Speaker of the House, rather than Nancy Pelosi; or you are going to have a lefty in that seat who votes for Nancy Pelosi, my preference is always going to be the former.
AJM: I understand that, and I think most conservatives do. But the environment, especially with the Tea Parties, has kind of changed the outlook on Republicans as well as Democrats.. …
DH: Yes it has. But I’m reminded of another thing. You know Bob Dornan lost to Loretta Sanchez here in Orange County…
DH: And Bob Dornan was one of the great conservatives in our party. Dornan was beaten by a couple of hundred votes. I think 224 votes, arguably a number of them cast by illegal aliens. The democrats played the race card and the republicans folded. Nonetheless, he only lost by about 200 votes. The libertarian candidate got about 5000 votes, as I recall. And probably a lot of those people who voted libertarian, said ‘well I’m going to vote Libertarian because I think the Republicans haven’t done enough to cut taxes, they don’t do enough for freedom’. So by voting libertarian, they helped to elect a liberal over a real conservative. That’s what I call the practical aspects of dividing your votes and dividing your resources.
AJM: Yeah, I understand the third party notion and what it can do. I think you explained it well regarding that seat in NY. But when we talk in terms of Republican primary I think it’s been your practice, in fact I know you’ve actually recruited conservative candidates in the past to run against more liberal republicans. And I think we are going to see a fairly decent groundswell of that this time, within the Republican Party, not necessarily third party.
DH: Yeah. People I’ve recruited in the past, like Gunny Nick Popaditch – though I’m not the only person to have encouraged him to run, I don’t want to give myself all the credit – I think he’s a great candidate. But I asked him if he’s interested in running against an extremely liberal Democrat. And that’s the reason I wanted Nick to run.
AJM: Yeah, that’s a seat held by a democrat. In the past, with the Conservative Opportunity Society, you were trying to identify conservatives to run, not just Republicans.
DH: Oh that’s true. I still do. But all the conservatives I recruited to run, I recruited to run as Republicans during my tenure at COS. (Laughing) I don’t recall ever asking anyone to run on the Libertarian ticket.
AJM: (laughs) Oh, no, no, no.
DH: (laughing) That’d have been a real trick if I had!
AJM: OK. Well good. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from JD in the weeks to come. It will be interesting to see what happens there.
DH: Yeah. JD is a great guy and he’s a great friend.
AJM: Yeah, I noticed also, you told me you endorsed Mr. Bob Smith for Senate down there in Florida, not the moderate NRSC’s Charlie….
DH: Yeah. Bob Smith helped me in my presidential race. He supported me. Plus, he’s an old time friend of 30 years. That’s important.
AJM: Plus he’s an old cold warrior too. We don’t seem to have too many anti-communists around anymore. We need a few more of them, I’ll tell ya.
DH: Yes, we do. Bob Smith’s a great guy and I would do the same thing again.
AJM: Well good. There you go, you’re stirring the pot.
DH: (laughs) That’s not so. You have a general practical rule which is when you divide votes, you divide resources, that hurts you in terms of the general election. But against that rule, you’ve got exceptions. One exception is old friends who have known you for a long time, who have helped you. There’s a certain reciprocity involved. And also, going out and recruiting candidates as I’ve done. When you go out and recruit a conservative candidate and you ask them to run, because you think they are just a tremendous candidate that would do great things for the country, you don’t have a crystal ball that tells you that 3 weeks from now you’re going to have a state senator get into the race who has got good poll numbers. So you understand, once you go out and recruit that good candidate to run, then you have to stick with him. There’s a certain loyalty factor involved. So overlay that loyalty factor, that conservative factor, and the recruitment factor against the practical rule that you want to use your scarce ammunition in the real battle (general election), not against fellow republicans. I think that is an important thing.
AJM: OK, very good.
Now on to our Christmas underwear bomber. I’m sure you are quite aware of that story, about the guy getting on the airplane with the bomb planted in his skivvies. They did not ‘connect the dots’ on this guy and I’m wondering if it’s because of their attitude that this is not really a WAR on terrorists we’re engaged in. They changed it to an “Overseas Contingency Operation”, and they don’t use the words “terrorism” or “jihadists”, so I think political correctness has slipped back into this fight, especially with the idea we are going to prosecute these guys in court. What is your message to the Obama Administration about how we need to keep these folks off of airplanes and out of our country?
DH: The Obama Administration, I hope, has learned the lesson that you can’t eliminate the war by changing your vocabulary. You can’t do that anymore than they could have in 1942 by declaring that World War II was over. That is essentially what the Obama Administration tried to do. They thought that by changing their vocabulary, they could somehow stop these jihadists from attacking us. That is a rather naïve point of view. And if that is representative of their strategic thinking, I think the country is in for real trouble.
AJM: I’ve seen nothing from these guys that tells me it’s not. That is why this 2010 election we just talked about it is one of the most crucial in our modern history. We’ve had others, but this one’s a biggie.
DH: Oh yeah! That’s why I’m doing…..let me again make a pitch for 3 guys. You’ve got 3 military guys who went out there and fought for this country in Iraq and understand what it takes to defeat an enemy. One of the guys is Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch, the “cigar marine”. He was the guy that was sitting in the turret of an M1 tank as the statue of Saddam came down. He later won the Silver Star in heavy combat. A great, great speaker, very eloquent; running against liberal Bob Filner here. We’ve got to help him. Also, Jesse Kelly, who was a Corporal who went over the line in the initial push towards Baghdad. He comes from a business family, and could have easily avoided service. In fact, everyone that serves today serves as a volunteer. He went into the combat arms as an infantryman and served in that first Iraq push. He’s running in Tucson. And lastly, Vaughn Ward, who served in both the CIA and as a Marine rifle company commander in Iraq, running in the Boise district of Idaho. These are three guys who served our country and want to serve again in the Congress. I’ve backed them up. If I did nothing else, I’d cut three checks and send them to those guys.
AJM: Well, you’re definitely going to get checks coming for all those guys. Plus there are another couple of gentlemen, like the guy out in Iowa, Chris Reed, who I believe you’ve campaigned for as well.
DH: Yes, absolutely. While he didn’t serve in a combat unit in Iraq or Afghanistan, he nonetheless was in the Navy, a servant of our country. He’s running against the liberal, Mr. Loebsack out there in Iowa. Great candidate. So I went out there to do a small event for him. We’ve got to help him out. That seat is representative of the kind of swing district that we need to get back if we are going to win majority. We can’t just win the solid Republican districts. We’ve got to win some tough ones. That seats in the same position, I think, as Mr. Filner’s here in San Diego. It’s a Democrat seat, a district that is marginally Democrat, but populated by a conservative constituency and voter base. We can win these with good candidates. Chris is an example of one of those good candidates.
AJM: And you are going to stay involved in these campaigns and other campaigns of up and coming conservatives throughout the year?
DH: Absolutely. Yes.
AJM: Well your 20 minutes is up, I hate to tell you (laughs). I know you have limited time, but I have to ask you this. Are you a San Diego Chargers fan by chance?
DH: Uh, yes.
AJM: And you think their chances this year are???
DH: Listen. I always think the Chargers are going to win every game. (laughs). With respect to other facets of life, we can be practical, we must be practical. But with the Chargers, I’m always for the Chargers whether they are up or down or indifferent, and I always think they are going to win every game. In this case they’ve won what? The last eleven?
AJM: Yes. I think.
DH: And Phillip Rivers has never lost a game in December, he’s 18-0 for December. And I hope that carries into this month! But I think we’ve got a great chance of winning everything.
AJM: They are looking good. I just filled out a football pool, I’m still picking the Vikings to win the Super Bowl – they’ve been my team since I was a kid – but in terms of who looks the scariest right now, I’d say it’s San Diego.
DH: San Diego’s looking good. Incidentally, on the college level, Vaughn Ward, the guy who is running for Congress in Boise Idaho, his team Boise State has done well. They just won the Fiesta Bowl.
AJM: Is Vaughn a Boise State grad?
DH: No, I don’t think he’s a Boise State grad, but he’s a Boise State aficionado at this point.
AJM: (Laughs) After last night’s National Championship game, Boise State ended up in the final polling, the AP and the Coaches Poll, as number 4 in the nation. That’s pretty impressive, because I think they have all but one of their starters is coming back next year. Can you believe that?
DH: Yeah. They ought to be a little higher. What they did was simply let them replace TCU who they beat.
AJM: Pretty much.
DH: They beat Oklahoma, they beat Oregon.
AJM: They should be number 2.
DH: I think they are the number 1 team in the nation! Who do they have ranked right now as number 1?
AJM: Alabama, of course.
DH: Yeah. But you know, TCU was number 4 ranked, right?
AJM: Uh huh.
DH: What did they get? 45 yards on the ground against Boise State?
AJM: That was an impressive defensive display.
DH: I think they have definitely got the best defense in the nation. And I think they’ve got the best team.
AJM: Well next year, because they should start the year highly ranked, if they go undefeated again, they should get a chance to play for the national championship this time, even though they are in the WAC. So we’ll see.
Final question for you. Michael Steele. Have you been paying attention to this guy the last few days?
DH: I haven’t been following Michael, but I know him.
AJM: He managed to put his foot in his mouth one more time. Yesterday, talking to Sean Hannity, Hannity asked him if he thought we had enough to take back the House, and he answered “no”. So he’s been scrambling trying to do damage control. But there have been a lot of calls for his head. Do you think it is beneficial at this point to call for this guy’s head?
DH: No. What I think Michael’s got to do, is redouble his efforts to take back the house. He can always make up by action for what faux pas have been wrought by speech. If he just works real hard and helps us raise money and goes into those districts – he’s a good speaker – and just does everything he can for us to win…
AJM: He needs to watch his language or something. He’s very good at shooting himself in the feet.
DH: Well, I’m not good at un-ringing bells. So it sounds like that bell’s been rung. (laughing)
AJM: (laughs) Well listen, I’ll let you go. And I’m going to be bugging you once JD gets a hold of you, and I’m going to ask you if you’ll be supported him over McCain.
DH: OK. Good
AJM: I have a sneaking suspicion you’re going to.
DH: (laughs) Well, thanks for calling up and….
AJM: No more Amnesty Queens. Have a good day.
DH: OK. Goodbye.