November 4, 2009
Former Congressman Duncan L. Hunter was kind enough to interrupt his extended Idaho vacation once more to answer a few questions and put his two cents in on the issues of the day. He and Lynne had their daughter-in-law and grandkids join them in Idaho over the Halloween weekend. He also extended his vacation plans for another week or so. After 28 years in the US House, then writing a book, he certainly deserves to enjoy his family, the R&R, and the hunting and fishing opportunities this weeks long vacation has afforded him.
Hunter mentioned his son Duncan D. could not attend for Halloween, because he was in Afghanistan over the weekend on a fact finding trip. I let him know that their local newspaper, the North County Times (San Diego area), had two headlined stories about Duncan D.: one addressing his trip to Afghanistan and his clear statement that this war is winnable; and the other about his fervent opposition to ObamaCare.
Hunter mentioned that the North County Times was a good paper, and had usually treated him fairly over the years.
I then told Hunter that while researching the media archives during the race for the GOP 2008 nomination, I noticed a trend in his hometown’s other big paper, the San Diego Union Tribune. That early in his career, they seemed to treat he and other conservatives with an even hand, but that sometime in the 1990’s they started veering to the far left, and injecting that bias in their ‘news’ reports.
Hunter then recited the history of the San Diego Union tribune, with Copley Press acquiring them, and Helen Copley running the paper, until her death in 2001. We pick up the interview at this point (due to recorder malfunction)….
DH: Even though she had Herb Kline, who was Nixon’s press secretary, as the manager of Copley Press, they started pulling in more liberal reporters and opinion writers. And her son, David Copley took it over. And it’s just kind of a mess right now. And you know all the newspapers are dropping like flies right now because they can’t keep up with the electronic side.
So yeah, they changed it, and they hated border control. They hated the border fence - which was my baby, and they managed to cow all the other politicians in San Diego to not be in favor of the border fence.
AJM: It’s funny though, how you kept getting re-elected by large margins.
DH: Yeah, that’s a good statement on the irrelevancy of the printed media. On the other hand, listen, you talk to your friends (other politicians around the country) and you think your local press has given you a couple of shots, then they tell you ‘look what my guys did to me’, and you walk out of there saying “God Bless Copley press” (laughing). It’s all relative, all a matter of comparison. And everyone’s got their written media, at least one or two, that give them a bad time.
But interestingly, North County (Times), was always good.
AJM: Yeah, they seem to cover the news without a lot of bias, a lot of opinion written into the article, except for the opinion of the people they are interviewing.
DH: Yeah, they are very good folks. I was impressed by them. And they actually did a lot of coverage of the Iraq War too. They had some people over there, and if you look up the national stuff on the Iraq War, there were some North County Times reporters, which is interesting.
AJM: I noticed that.
DH: They are obviously not a NY Times or other large paper with the logistical stretch to be able to do that kind of stuff.
So, yeah, I’m still up here (in Idaho).
AJM: So do you have time for an interview now, or would you rather do it sometime later this week, or…
DH: No, go right ahead. You got a little time. I’m looking for a particular restaurant that I’m going to take my wife to, so go ahead. I’m just driving around the streets here looking for it.
AJM: OK, do you have a hands free device?
AJM: OK, I don’t want to take responsibility for killing you (laughing).
DH: Great. It’s a fancy world, and I’m as artsy-crafty as the rest of them.
AJM: Well, first of all, you probably got a little bit of the news on the election. It went fairly well for the republicans this time, yesterday.
DH: One big disappointment, of course, was that the John McHugh seat was taken by a democrat (NY-23). That race was a good example of the fact that politics never comes wrapped in neat packages. The Republican nominee, as you know, ultimately endorsed the democrat after she pulled out and after the conservative Hoffman was endorsed by the party…
AJM: Exactly, that was no surprise to those of us that thought she (Scozzafava) was a bad choice up front. He ended up losing 49 to 45%, with 6% going to the republican even though she dropped out. The other factor that helped sink Mr. Hoffman was the fact that the RNC and the NRCC had put up $900,000 to Scozzafava before she dropped out, and ran attack ads on him. So he was up against it. He hung in there but he lost. Kind of like you thought he might. I got the impression, you said last week that whenever a conservative is not aligned with the Republicans; the democrats are quote unquote – “licking their chops”. That’s what you said.
DH: Well, with the split, the mathematics hurt you. It was inevitable that she would get some Republican votes that would have normally gone to the conservative. If we would have had a unified republican line there, we would have done better.
But I think that seat is available, that seat is a likely “win back” for the Republicans in the November election.
AJM: If indeed the GOP can get their house in order, and there is no guarantee that they are going to do that.
DH: Yeah, if we have a united ticket here this next time. The democrats will do everything he can to imbed themselves over the next six or seven months, but I think we have a better than 50/50 chance of taking that seat back.
AJM: Yeah, I think so too. It’s not that far away either. But New Jersey was a success. That slob Corzine was shown the door, which is a very good thing. And in Virginia, the Republicans actually ran the table with a fairly conservative lineup, after going for Obama in 2008.
DH: Yes. Virginia righted itself with this election.
AJM: Exactly. Well, we’ve got some more troubling things coming down the pike here, besides health care. I just saw that Obama released a statement that he’s going to double down on Cap and Trade, the global warming legislation. And that’s our next battle. What do you suggest that the Republicans and conservatives do to combat this?
DH: I think the republicans have to appeal to the folks who will be most affected by the Cap and Trade, by the Obama Administration. That’s the people who carry lunch buckets and work for a living. That there’s going to be a continuing exodus of high paying jobs as a result of this emphasis by the Obama Administration, which will make moving a production line to China or India become more attractive than ever to American employers.
So working the jobs angle – I think that the Republicans should try to get the attention of the labor unions, and let them know that their life blood is going to be leaving this country as America becomes more unfriendly to business.
AJM: The republicans and the union leadership have seldom been on good terms, but that didn’t stop a whole bunch of people, people I knew, who were union members from supporting Ronald Reagan back in the day.
DH: I remember the times, years ago, when George Meany was about the only guy in America who was willing to take a tough line against the Russians. His longshoremen, at one point, refused to load Russian ships during a foreign policy crisis. So unions and union leaders may become unlikely allies to the cause of keeping jobs.
And that has happened before. When “no growth” advocates tried to control the housing industry in California, business and labor had come together to offset that campaign. And they’ve done so in several places, and have done so successfully.
You’ve got to remember, those guys that are working folks are the same people that follow our flag in times of war, and protect this nation, pay taxes, and do lots of good things. I think that one thing the Republicans have to remember is that union workers, in many cases, reflect the best of this country.
AJM: That is true for the ones that actually do labor, but unions such as the SEIU, the service employees union, is frankly, not much more than a Marxist front.
DH: You have literally hundreds and hundreds of unions in this country, so you can’t simply….that’s like saying that Mr. Madoff ran off with all the money in a suitcase so capitalism is bad.
AJM: No, I agree, I’m just saying that there are some unions that are completely in bed with the Democratic Party, no matter what. You can maybe still reach some members, but this SEIU group – the ACORN folks, the vote fraud folks – and they’re the kind of…
DH: No doubt that you tend to have lefties, or left wingers tend to gravitate or attempt to embed themselves in labor unions. That’s true. On the other hand, you have a lot of great union members who are good Republicans. And I think the Republican Party has to remember that. For the Republican party to glom on to “free trade” on the basis that sending the jobs to Japan and Asia dissipates the power of the guys who they perceive were tearing down their signs during the election, that is union people, and to take a wholesale approach like that is a mistake.
AJM: I think so too. I worked at Boeing for nine years, and I’d say a good 40% of them were republicans right off the bat, and another 20% were conservative democrats. It was not always reflected in their leaderships’ decisions; doesn’t mean you can’t talk over their leadership and attract large swaths of the lunch bucket guys.
AJM: On the other side of this argument with Cap and Trade is also the angle that James Inhofe has been taking, Senator Inhofe. And that is that the whole damn thing is a fraud with all the recent science showing that the last 10 years to be cooling, not heating. So hence we have the name ‘climate change’ now instead of global warming. The whole scheme is a socialist construct to give the UN and supra-national entities power of taxation and regulation that they do not currently have.
DH: Well, I think there is a shortage of solid science on the part of the “global warmers”. The former head of the American Academy of Sciences, who passed away several years ago, was a staunch foe of this global warming concept. If you look for the hard science, you’ll see there is much less hard science than there are speeches promoting the concept of global warming. And it wouldn’t be bad to have a major debate with the best advocates and scientists on both sides.
For a lot of people I think this has become a big cult. And I think a lot of the scientific community, which more than any other community, likes to be loved. So some of them have become very polarized, but there are a lot of them who are very objective, who dealt from the “show me” state, who haven’t seen the hard science that would compel the conclusions that we’ve seen talked about as if they are old, settled science.
AJM: It was interesting, because last Friday Glenn Beck had on his show a gentleman from England who is a leading skeptic. And he showed a graph, where all the computer models for global warming, from all these various universities and what have you, making their assumptions, all showing this trend line of heating the atmosphere over a period of years. So even though there were slight variations in the rate, he showed two pages of all these “studies”, or computer models, showing this warming. Then he showed the last 20 years of actual scientific data compiled by the head scientist at, I believe, MIT, and it showed the line going in the exact opposite direction – from 20 years of meticulous data collection.
AJM: So the idea that Algore can dismiss this as some kind of settled science is really beyond the pale.
DH: Listen, do you remember the old Liberty Valence movie with Jimmy Stewart? And Jimmy Stewart finally told the reporter that actually the character who was played by John Wayne had shot Liberty Valence, and not him….
AJM: Yeah, yeah…
DH: discarding the glory and the fame of having shot Liberty Valence. And the reporter closed up his notebook and walked away, and Stewart said “aren’t you going to print that?”, and the reporter said “listen, when the legend conflicts with the facts, print the legend”. (laughing)!
I think that’s what a lot of the media are inclined to do right now.
But we need to have a national debate on the technical aspects; we need to have a scientific debate. Let people watch the science, and have an objective debate in lieu of the bombastics, and let the people make their own decisions based on this.
The people are being effectively walled off by the media. The people who object on a scientific basis to the notion of global warming are being shouted down. We need to have a debate on this.
AJM: I agree. And Senator Inhofe, I give him a lot of credit, he’s been leading that fight, to have that very debate. He’s offered to debate Algore, on a televised…
DH: Not Jim Inhofe debating. I like Jim Inhofe, he’s a good guy. Nor Algore. We need to have a debate with the best scientists. For example, take the…, exhume the papers from the guy who was, as I recall, the president of the American Academy of Sciences – he passed away a couple of years ago. He was a very revered scientist in this country. He dismissed the notion of global warming.
AJM: Yeah, and he’s not the only one. In fact, one of the leading French scientists, who was at the forefront for the global warmers, came out a year and a half ago and said “you know, we’ve been wrong, it’s cooling now, not warming”. So he’s flipped sides, this guy from France, and he is probably the equivalent to this guy from the American Academy of Sciences. But they are immediately labeled ‘heretics’. It’s a religion for some of this folks.
DH: That’s right. So let’s have the debate. It would be good.
AJM: So let’s see, global warming, the elections, what else was I going to ask….Oh, I was going to ask you about the book you said you were writing. Your book on Iraq and Afghanistan. Is that going to come out in a book form soon?
DH: Well, it’s not going to be on your local bookshelves in the next couple of weeks, but I will have it done in a couple of months.
AJM: Do you have a publisher lined up?
DH: We are working away.
AJM: Ok. Well you’ve got a lot of experience under your belt, unlike that guy who is sitting in the oval office, who’s already got two biographies, I mean autobiographies. Are you ever considering writing your autobiography?
DH: No. I haven’t been considering that. I’m trying to do something that is of some value to the country, other than entertainment (laughs). No, but we’re working away on this thing (war book) and it should be done in a month or so.
AJM: OK. Question. One of the folks that I correspond with, one of the guys who supported your campaign said, “you know, that Hunter must have known Ronald Reagan pretty well”, and he asked if you would give an anecdote about any experience you had with the Gipper. I know you knew him for a long time. But any humorous or interesting anecdotes you’d care to share about the old guy?
DH: Well, I wasn’t that close to Reagan, but I was one of the congressmen who came in with him in 80. I was part of several of his campaign appearances. I will tell you at one point a friend of mine was a speechwriter in the Reagan Whitehouse. He said “congratulations, Reagan is going to be in your town campaigning for you in the next couple of weeks, and I’m writing the speech. What would you like him to say about you?”
So promptly, as a new congressman, I wrote several very strong, praise-filled provisions that I supplied my friend with, who was the speechwriter. And I was eagerly awaiting the President. And the President got up and went right down the line - when he was at Mission Valley in San Diego, with 20 thousand people there several weeks later – went right down the line. He almost read it like I wrote it. And then he turns to me and said “yes, and my good friend Duncan HOWARD... one of the fine young stars in this new congress.” (Laughing)
AJM: (Laughs) Did you spell your name wrong when you gave it to him?
DH: And my colleague, Bill Lowry, who was there on the podium with me – we were always competing for press – he had a heckuva laugh. And later, so did I.
AJM: I take it you still won the race…
DH: Yeah. No, it was a great time. Anyway that was one of the fun times we had with the Gipper. Let me put it this way. He knew where the Soviet Union was and he knew what he wanted to do to them, but he didn’t remember all the names of these nondescript congressmen.
AJM: Well I tell you though, what was interesting in the press, back in the mid 1980s, you led a delegation to Europe to convince the Europeans of a couple of things, regarding missile defenses as well as…
DH: Yeah, missile defenses.
AJM: The fact that you were still relatively green, or young back then says something – that Reagan would be happy with you leading that charge. I thought that was kind of impressive.
DH: Yes, that was a good campaign. That was when the Soviets had threatened Europe with SS-20 missiles, and theater missile defense, theater ballistic missile defense, was not banned by the ABM treaty. So we visited with the French, the British, and I believe, the Germans and we urged them to start development on theater ballistic missile defense systems. We also worked with the Israelis. And working on the Armed Services Committee, we were the driver on the development of the Arrow missile defense system, which Israel presently deploys.
AJM: And it’s funny. I read a piece published several years later, I believe published in the 1990s, when the debate re-ignited over missile defenses with Clinton basically trying to snuff them out. But I read a piece where Jack Kemp had credited you with being the leader on getting the thing passed through congress initially, back in the 80s.
DH: Well very good. Jack was a good guy. And Jack was a real leader on missile defense too.
AJM: I know he was. And for him to single out you was quite complimentary. I think he mentioned Henry Hyde as well. The three of you were the brass knucklers for Reagan in the House.
DH: Well there were a lot of great supporters of the Gipper in the House.
AJM: Well in conclusion today – I’ll let you go eat – any inkling or any urge to perhaps compete for a certain Senate seat or governorship in the great state of California?
DH: No. Right now, my job is simply to be supporting cast. I’ve won three awards for shuttling grand kids around and if my son asks me for any advice, I’m always happy to give it to him. And it’s always worth what he pays for it (laughs). You’ve got another Hunter up there in the Capital right now.
AJM: I know. Like I said, I keep an eye on that. He’s impressed me. He’s saying some good things. It’s funny, because it’s come full circle, because he’s saying a lot of the same things that you have previously said on the same subject matter. He didn’t fall far from the tree.
DH: In that case, that’s a reflection of his good judgment. (laughing).
AJM: So did you get any more hunting in this past week?
DH: No, I’ve just been driving out and watching sunsets out here with my wife. But we’ve done a little bit of hunting here, a little bird hunting here in Idaho.
AJM: Did you end up catching a steelhead like you said you were going to?
DH: No, we were going to go up today, but it’s a long run to get up there. So we didn’t go. We ended up not going, although the steelhead fishing is tremendous right now.
AJM: That’s kind of a shame.
DH: They’ve got what they call a forty rear run. They are doing real well.
AJM: Must be that global warming, because here in the Puget Sound, every year we get salmon, salmon coming back in different seasons, different years. Some of the King salmon go out and come back after four years, the sockeye, etc. But the only fish that does not have a supplemental system of hatcheries to try to increase the stocks is the Pink salmon. The Pink salmon, they don’t stock them, they don’t hatch them. They are native, all of them. And we had a record run this year – of pink salmon. So I’m wondering if some of these hatcheries are….
DH: More proof that big government does not work!
So I’ll let you go now. We’ll hook up next week. What I’d like to do when you are back in San Diego, and more or less settled in one spot, I’d like to set up that conference call system, because there a couple of other folks that would really like to get in a question.
DH: Be happy to do it, absolutely.