We first spoke with Congressman Walter B. Jones of North Carolina’s third district in June [see here]. At that time, he talked with us about the state of America’s government. Now, the eight term Republican member of the House of Representatives is back with us for a wide ranging, half-hour discussion.
Congressman Jones expresses concern about the direction the country is headed. Featured columnist Jay Bildstein joins us for this important conversation.
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This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released its findings for 2010. The results showed that 46 million Americans are considered on the poverty line and almost 50 million Americans do not have medical insurance. Congressman Jones responds to these latest findings:
“This has been a very serious concern of mine for many years. Quite frankly, I’d been opposed to all these free trade agreements because I saw this would be a disadvantage for the American worker. I think that has been proven true. I felt for too long that this country had become a nation to create service opportunities but not work opportunities meaning from the standpoint of manufacturing. And I’m very distressed that our country is in this situation, but I think we, and we meaning political leaders, both parties are responsible.
I’ve always said that if you want to change the way Washington operates, you need to change the way we finance campaigns. Special interests and PACS [Political Action Committees] have too much influence. And I am part of the problem, but I’m also, with John Larson, trying to be part of the solution.”
One of Congressman Jones colleagues and friends, in the U.S. House of Representatives, is current Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul. With Americans dissatisfaction with public officials running high and recent polls showing Ron Paul fairing well, Mr. Jones talks with Jay about how Dr. Paul is not getting fair media coverage, compared to candidates like Governor Rick Perry, former Governor Mitt Romney and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. The congressman notes he is supporting Candidate Paul for President, though he does not agree with him on everything.
“I’ll be very honest with you. I’ve been quoted many times, particularly here on the hill about my concern and the lack of fairness when it comes to Ron Paul. I don’t agree with Ron Paul on everything, but I’m supporting him because I do agree with him, his concern about the economic situation facing our nation, the Federal Reserve and fighting all these wars around the world that we don’t need to be policing.
So it’s amazing if you really look at it, based on what you said, which you’re exactly right. He’s still running third and he’s not getting a whole lot of fairness from the press and I don’t know how you change that. Paul has his own network and as long as he can stay viable, meaning running two, three, four, I think he’s gonna be in this thing till the end.”
Congressman Jones agrees with Jay and my belief that the United States needs to shut down various military bases around the world. He also hopes that people from across the nation come to Washington, D.C. to protest the war in Afghanistan. This is most remarkable, perhaps, owing to the fact that the congressman is in a North Carolina district with a good portion of his constituents coming from the military. But Walter B. Jones is a man of conviction.
“We need to start closing these bases around the world that are not in the national security of this country. And everywhere I go and I do have a military district, you just made reference to that. And I make the same statement, I get applause. I make the statement let’s get our troops out of Afghanistan now, not later. I get applause. The American people are just waiting for the leadership to start having those positions. That’s what we don’t have…What I would like to see and I’ve said this on the floor of the House during five minute speeches, I know it won’t happen, but I’d give anything if just for one week the American people could forget their problems and come up here and protest to get our troops out of Afghanistan.”
Focusing on infrastructure and his thoughts on President Obama’s job plan, to put people back to work, repairing things like bridges, the congressman notes he would be willing to support investing in infrastructure:
“I do believe that if you have an investment of the tax payer’s money into infrastructure and nothing but infrastructure, I think that is what we should support because the American people can see the work being done on our road, our bridges, our water systems and things like that. Then when you can show the American people look how we’re spending your money and look how you benefit from the spending. They buy into that. I would. You would.”
With numerous budget cuts proposed in other government programs, I ask Congressman Jones why we do not hear more about cuts to the approximately one trillion dollar a year defense budget America has. We spend as much or more on defense than the rest of the world combined. The congressman believes everything has to be on the table:
“I think you’re gonna see the effort and the effort doesn’t always lead to an end result that’s satisfactory. But I believe sincerely that it’s gonna be part of the debate. I don’t know. The President has suggested 400 billion dollars over 10 years. They’re others in the Congress in both parties that are saying, ‘No, it’s gotta be greater than that.’ And so it’s trying to find this balance.”
Discussing leadership and symbolism, Jay brings up to Congressman Jones how President Obama should not have gone on vacation because, following the debt ceiling debacle and tough times many Americans are facing, it sent the wrong message.
Jay also stated that the President, Vice President and Congress should take a 50 percent pay cut to show the public they are willing to act with seriousness of purpose and demonstrate leadership when it comes to the federal deficit and debt. Jones agreed with Jay that symbolism is important, yet he believes Americans want to see action through legislation.
“I think symbolism is important and I agree with you there’s certain things that could be done, but more importantly to me than symbolism is action and action is stop sending jobs overseas. Defeat these bills that Mr. Obama and the Republican leadership wants to bring to the floor, trade with Korea, trade with Panama, trade with Columbia, that to me means more to the American people. Yes, symbolism is important, I would agree. If I could’ve advised the President, I’d said, ‘No. I don’t think you should go to Cape Cod.’ Or wherever he went. But again, I think what the American people really are looking at, what are you gonna do to change this environment, this recession and that’s what I am trying to do with colleagues in both parties.”
In the challenging times we are in, Mr. Jones believes a third party candidate could make an impact in the 2012 Presidential Election:
“I’m 68 years of age. I don’t remember any time since I was a teenager that the country that I love and you love has been in so much trouble monetarily speaking, bailout of Wall Street, I didn’t vote for that by the way. We’ve seen so many of the institutions of this country collapse, housing and everything else. I think that the environment, the atmosphere is gonna be conducive for a third party candidate if those who are leading the ticket Republican and Mr. Obama, if that’s gonna be the choices, I think that’s gonna be a third party person that’s probably already started talking to people.
Now I don’t know this, this is my gut quite frankly and if a Ron Paul or someone like that, a Herman Cain, if they don’t get the nomination and this person, he or she knows about November this year, I think they’re gonna look seriously at getting into it.”
In light of Greece’s financial situation and the state of the European Union in general, we question Congressman Jones on whether America will face another financial crisis prior to the 2012 Presidential elections. Might there be a crisis brewing, similar to the one brought on, in large measure, by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September of 2008?
The congressman says he is not sure. He says America needs to understand you cannot be a superpower when you ship all of your jobs overseas:
“Well, I would answer you this way, I’m not sure. I would tell you why because again, we’re in such a deep recession and I think, personally I think we’re in a double dip recession, but all and all, again, I think that America has yet to understand we’re not the super power anymore. You cannot be a super power when you send all your manufacturing jobs overseas. So my answer is not really directly to your question I guess or your statement, but this is why I say America is where it is today and we don’t have the kind of leadership. You’ve already touched on that many times in this conversation, but all and all, we are in a situation where America is still trying to say to the world we’re the policemen. You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that. “
Mr. Jones noted that President Obama might sign an agreement to stay in Afghanistan past 2014. This is something many people might not have heard about yet. He says he is working on a letter to ask the President to go to Congress with a treaty rather than bypassing them and deciding on this issue alone:
“Apparently this administration is trying to create a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan to stay there for many more years passed 2014, many more years…I talked to Barney Frank yesterday, he had not heard about it. I had a meeting with Louise Slaughter to talk about trade issues, she had not heard about it. Couple of my Republican friends had not heard about it and I’m willing to try to put together a letter to get to the President next week to say, ‘For God’s sakes, don’t you sign any type of partnership like this.’ If you want to have a treaty, then bring it to the Congress and let the Congress vote yes or no on it. But don’t bypass Congress because when you do that, you’re bypassing the American people.”
With many Americans frustrated about the state of the nation, the congressman admits he has been frustrated, for quite a while, by things he has witnessed in Congress:
“Very much. I have been frustrated ever since Bush was in office and we were misled with the intelligence to go into Iraq and then you know, Mr. Obama campaigned and said, ‘No. I’m not gonna keep my troops overseas fighting.’ I had a Democrat tell me this yesterday, but what look where they are. He increased the numbers with the surge…We need the right leadership in the White House to get smart.”
In closing, Congressman Walter B. Jones believes America is at a crossroads and needs to undergo major change:
“This is the crossroads for America. We’re in the 11th hour of a 12 hour clock. This next election, if we don’t make a major change and get a Ron Paul type or someone that’s got the independence that you’ve talked about for the last 30 minutes, the independence and the integrity, I don’t know where we’re going to be honest with you.”
Congressman Jones’s official website is at http://jones.house.gov/
You can email Chris Yandek at ChrisYandek@CYInterview.com