If the Hilton Head Conservatives had taken a straw presidential poll at Monday's lunchtime meeting with Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)there's little doubt Hunter would have won hands down.
Congressman Hunter, candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 (official site here) has been described as a "conservative's conservative." On Monday, he touched on all the right notes in his address to an overflow crowd and the question and answer session which followed.
Area conservatives were eager to meet and hear Mr. Hunter's views on issues after his strong showing in the Spartanburg County, SC Straw Poll where Hunter came in a third, but only by a handful of votes in a nearly three place tie with John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. When congratulated on the result, Congressman Hunter reminded Mike's America that he was only six votes away from taking first place out of 776 votes cast.
Upon meeting Mr. Hunter and listening to his presentation, I'm struck by his accessibility. Many politicians carry around such overinflated egos, it's difficult to sit with them in the same room. With Congressman Hunter, there's not the practiced charm or humor that one might expect from others. With Congressman Hunter you get substance, not style. And the substance is what is getting attention in South Carolina.
Border Security First-- THE FENCE!
If there is one issue which makes Duncan Hunter stand out from all the other candidates it is his paramount insistence that we must secure our nation's borders. Hunter returned to that theme often during his remarks. As a Congressman in San Diego he has seen the problem along the Mexican border with California firsthand.
Congressman Hunter has been fighting for greater border security in a campaign that goes back to the late 1980's (Hunter's chronology on this issue is here).Two critical components in the successful implementation of his plan have been the hiring of thousands of additional border agents as well as the construction of a test border fence near the heaviest crossing at San Ysidro.
The original 14 mile fence transformed a hellish no man's land depicted by Joseph Wambaugh in Lines and Shadows into a more manageable problem. Duncan Hunter built on these years of experience and was an instrumental cosponsor of The Secure Fence Act of 2006 mandating a triple fence across 700 miles of America’s land border with Mexico.
Asked during the question and answer session about the myriad of other problems exacerbated by the flood of illegal immigration which grips many parts of the nation including Hilton Head, Congressman Hunter responded that many of these problems would be resolved, or at least manageable, if adequate border security was achieved. Hunter points out that "We spend three billion dollars a year just to incarcerate illegal aliens convicted of crimes." That would not be necessary if the illegals committing the crimes were prevented from gaining entry across a porous border.
Congressman Hunter insists that the fence "will be built" and that he intends to "light a fire under Homeland Security" to use the $1.2 billion already appropriated for this purpose and get the job done. He promises that as President, he would get the job done in "six months."
And just so the record is clear, Hunter staunchly opposes current legislation which amounts to "amnesty" for illegals already here.
But before any of those who support unfettered immigration accuse Mr. Hunter of having some "nativist" beef against poor Mexicans, Hunter tells the story of his early legal career in San Diego where he set up a storefront legal office and provided free legal services to many Hispanic clients. He insisted on only one thing: that they conduct their legal business IN ENGLISH!
National Security: How Fair Trade Protects the 'Arsenal of Democracy'
As Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee in the previous Congress, Duncan Hunter grew increasingly concerned with the military buildup and aspirations of communist China. The recent demonstration of satellite warfare capability is an alarming wake up call. And yet, Hunter points out "we are arming China with U.S. trade dollars" by permitting China to subsidize industries and devalue it's currency which gives China an unfair trade advantage.
As President, Hunter would "junk" the current trade deal with China which makes it cheaper for U.S. firms to produce goods in China and export them back to the U.S. Hunter also points out that "The United States is the only nation that does not rebate taxes for exports" which makes our goods more expensive overseas and less competitive.
In a Hunter Administration, Duncan Hunter would re-institute the old Reagan rule: "Trust, but verify" and terminate the "look the other way" attitude that seems to permeate so many of our agreements with foreign countries. You can bet also that Hunter would be keeping a watchful eye on Chinese military developments.
Iraq In It to WIN!
"It's in America's interest to expand freedom" said Hunter when the conversation switched to Iraq. Supporting freedom and democracy movements has been U.S. policy for sixty years and it works. He reminded us that El Salvador was once a nation torn by violence, but due to U.S. policy is now free and their troops are fighting alongside ours in Iraq.
In every successful example from the last sixty years Hunter notes that we've followed the same game plan: "first, we stand up a free government; then we stand up a military force capable of protecting that government; and lastly, we leave."
He tells us that we're in that middle phase in Iraq now and the question is "when to let go of the bicycle seat" and let the Iraqis takeover so we may leave.
In addition to the President's strategy, Hunter would insist that new Iraqi units that have not been combat hardened be rotated into the few remaining tough zones to complete their training.
And for opponents on the left who have never served their nation in any capacity but insist that others do, Hunter and his family have walked the walk. At the conclusion of his remarks he read excerpts from a letter written by his father upon returning to San Diego at the conclusion of his service in World War II. He also read words written by his son, Duncan Jr. who returned to San Diego after combat in Fallujah, Iraq. Both stressed the appreciation for freedom this nation offers and the blessings of family. Congressman Hunter himself was a US Army Ranger who fought in Vietnam.
Mike's America Question to Hunter
At the end of the question and answer session, I had one last question for Congressman Hunter: "Readers at my blog, Mike's America,have said time and again that we need another Reagan: someone who has the vision of a better way forward for this nation and who can unite and lead us down that road. I venture to suggest that all those who are here today agree with your views on the issues. As President, how will you implement these goals?"
Hunter replied that the key was to find "common ground" on the key issues, which include: "security, a strong defense... a future for our kids...secure borders and a better trade deal."
In Reaganesque closing remarks, Mr. Hunter foretells a bright future for the United States: "I see a new sunrise of opportunity, faith and freedom and I want to lead it."