Are all politicians the same? How many legitimate conservatives can be counted among the ranks of Republican office holders? Candidate for New York's 19th Congressional District, Kieran Michael Lalor, answers some of these questions in the interview that follows while also providing for rightists a little "audacity of hope." Lalor has been many things over the course of his young life. He served for six years in the Marine Corps and spent part of his stint battling terrorists in Iraq. Before joining the corps he taught high school social studies. Lalor also is a graduate of Pace University Law School. [For more biography go here].
Bernard Chapin: Mr. Lalor, congratulations on your campaign for Congress.
Kieran Michael Lalor: Thanks very much, Bernard. I've read a lot of your writing and interviews over the past few years. You're becoming a very big part of the new media that grassroots campaigns count on. So congratulations on your success, and I appreciate your time and your interest in my campaign.
Bernard Chapin: Thank you, sir. First off, what uniquely do you have to offer conservative voters at this time? What are your main positions?
Kieran Michael Lalor: I believe that the 2008 elections will be defined by national security. That means the war on Islamic fascism and border security. An unspoken truth about national defense policy is that proactive policies overseas can be made meaningless if our borders are left vulnerable.
And we can solve much of the illegal immigration problem through attrition. We can force illegals-and I'll call them "illegals" and risk Howard Dean's wrath-to return to their home countries with aggressive enforcement. And really, it comes down to four points I've been talking about with voters: (1) Deport illegals whenever they are convicted of crimes or discovered by routine law enforcement activity; (2) Prosecute those who hire and enable illegals; (2) End welfare, in-state tuition, and other benefits to illegals; and (4) Secure the border. This isn't earth-shattering stuff. It's almost amazing to me that this is considered a novel approach. But it requires political will and leadership, both of which are lacking when it comes to immigration policy.
Of course, the Democrats do not have any ideas on immigration because few Democrats have much in the way of principles. They've have been telling the American people for years that fixing immigration policy is an impossible task-this seems to be the one thing that Democrats think government isn't capable of fixing.
We also need to continue to pursue victory in Iraq. We are now winning the war, and yet people like my opponent, John Hall, can't even bring themselves to acknowledge this, very simply because they have so much invested in defeat. The Democrats are so smitten with defeat that they have convinced themselves that Iraq is already lost, and that despite all the progress, it's time to give up. But this is no time to turn around.
I've written and spoken a lot about veterans care, too. I don't know how anyone can look at the situation at Walter Reed and not view this as a priority. But again the solution is not more government. Too many patients at Walter Reed and at VA's across the country are far too familiar with that famous point made by Ronald Reagan that the scariest words in the English language are, "I'm from the government, and I am here to help." Here again, the solution is not more government.
My platform calls for decentralized and innovative solutions rather than more federal bureaucracy. I wrote recently in the New York Journal News that veterans should be entitled to transferable college credits for some of the things they are doing as part of military training. This would allow them to save thousands of dollars on up to two years of tuition and dramatically decrease the time it takes to earn a bachelor's degree.
The idea of putting things back in the hands of the American people rather than Washington bureaucrats was a cornerstone of Ronald Reagan's revolution, and it's the foundation for my campaign, too.
Bernard Chapin: Do you have the financial wherewithal to compete effectively against the Democratic Party?
Kieran Michael Lalor: Absolutely! I launched my campaign just weeks ago and we have already seen the beginning of a national grassroots movement supporting my campaign. The kind of people who are reading this interview will be the backbone of our fundraising, and I'm proud of that. As you're well aware, the Internet has just revolutionized fundraising, as Ron Paul is reminding us. It's really incredible.
There is no doubt that this will be an expensive race, and we're not naïve about that. John Hall is my polar opposite in most respects, and fundraising is no different. Hall is funded by the MoveOn.org left, and his list of campaign donors looks like a passenger list for a Woodstock-bound Volkswagen Splitty. Susan Sarandon, Bonnie Raitt, Pete Seeger. The list goes on and on. Hall likes to run away from tough issues, and he runs straight to Moveon.org and George Soros when he needs fast cash. In fact, Soros hosted a Hall fundraiser at a 5th Avenue apartment in Manhattan just this week.
We are only getting started. We're establishing a strong grassroots network that is committed to the campaign. And the money will be there but there's no doubt that fundraising has to be a priority. As far as that goes, my job is to convince conservatives that I believe the words that are coming out of my mouth.
And to make shameless appeals like this: if your readers are interested in making a donation, they can click here.
Bernard Chapin: I’m a bit short at the moment, sir. Sorry about that! At any rate, do you regard yourself as being a true conservative? You certainly sound like one to me. It’s sad because many rightward voters don't have much faith in the Republican Party anymore. We feel like our politicians describe themselves in Reaganesque terms before getting elected, but then, once ensconced in Washington, they "grow in office" by gravitating to the left.
Kieran Michael Lalor: A lot of times people ask me about what I believe in and I like to point out that I am quite literally a "product of the Conservative movement"-my parents met while working on Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign in 1964.
But that's a serious issue, and a good, tough question. I know that a lot of voters are disenchanted with Republicans, and it's hard to blame them. Some Republicans have lost faith in core conservative principles, and they abandon them for the sake of what they believe is political expediency. I have been critical of the President, for example, for his Administration's unwillingness to take a tough stand on spending. This is the kind of thing that drives away Republican voters and only helps the Democrats.
I think it's important to remember that many of the Congressional seats that tilted control to the Democrats in 2006 were won by moderate Democrats who often sounded a lot like Republicans when they were campaigning. Of course, the Democratic leadership seems to have collectively lost its mind and takes hard-left, anti-American positions. But liberal ideals just aren't a winner with the American people, and we can thank the good Lord for that.
At the end of the day, when conservative defense, tax and social policies are properly articulated, Republicans win. The American people want to vote for someone who carries the Ronald Reagan torch.
Bernard Chapin: Why shouldn't conservatives gravitate towards the Libertarian party nowadays, given recent events in Washington D.C.?
Kieran Michael Lalor: That's another fair and thoughtful question, Bernard. Are you interested in working on my campaign?
Rather than leaving the party, conservatives have to remember that they really are the party. Let's not forget that the Republican Party owes much of its success in the past decades to conservatives. Ronald Reagan brought the conservative movement back from the brink in the 1980's, and people like Newt Gingrich swept the GOP into power in 1994 and brought some very positive changes to American policy and I think kept Bill Clinton's leftist agenda on hold. Thirteen years later, conservatives are still the driving force behind the party and the source of the new ideas and passion that will sustain what Reagan started.
My message to conservative voters is to stay in the Republican fold and stick with it. And Libertarians, conservatives, and Republicans agree on so many of the most important issues, it would be a mistake for that coalition to divide. It would only result in more of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, among other things. That's motivation!
Bernard Chapin: What's your assessment of the Bush presidency? How do you think he'll be remembered?
Kieran Michael Lalor: No doubt, to most fair-minded Americans, President Bush's legacy will be a mixed bag.
Let's start with the positives, and these I think are very significant. The President told voters that he would look to appoint judges who know the difference between making law and adjudicating a case or controversy. That's important—the federal bench gives any President a long-lasting imprint on American culture. It's hardly the "least dangerous branch" anymore, if it ever was. President Bush honored his word by nominating John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and many other fine jurists on the federal district and appeals courts.
I also think history will recognize that President Bush has commendably stuck by his belief that victory in Iraq is not only attainable, but imperative, for the defense of the country. It's been reminiscent of Winston Churchill, who wasn't always popular, either. Looking at the world as the dust settled at Ground Zero, President Bush I think realized that terrorism requires military force more than law enforcement, although law enforcement certainly plays a big role. More than six years later, Democrats are still worrying about whether terrorists' jail cells are properly oriented toward Mecca and agonizing over whether the Jihadists get a good enough lawyer to file another appeal. I think the President realizes the folly in this, and he's stuck to his guns. And a lot of people have forgotten about the military's great successes in Afghanistan. That was a cancer in the Middle East, and while things aren't perfect, we owe a lot to President Bush for keeping Al Qaeda on the run.
I should also mention, we haven't heard much about embryonic stem cell research lately. That's because it has been proven unnecessary and hasn't resulted in much in the way of medical advances. John Edwards in 2004 referenced Christopher Reeve and told a group of voters that if President Bush were defeated, people like Christopher Reeve would walk. That's the shameless and disgusting kind of lies that the President has been up against. But President Bush took a firm moral position on this in 2001 and stuck with it despite an awful lot of criticism. Some call that obstinate. I call it leadership.
I also commend the President for his middle class tax cuts. They were a big reason why the slowdown after 9/11 was really just a hiccup.
I think on the negative side, I've been disappointed with the White House's difficulty in getting its message out and in articulating its positions effectively. I recognize they're up against a very hostile media, but credibility begins with taking a clear position, and the White House hasn't always done that.
The President clearly hasn't shown nearly enough willpower when it comes to federal spending. He just hasn't been a fiscally responsible President, and that's one big issue on the minds of conservatives. Are Republicans a party of big spenders? I don't think so, but some have lost faith, and Republicans paid the price. Again, it a matter of discipline and political will. Let's face it, perhaps the President's most glaring disappointment is border security and immigration. As I think I mentioned, it's almost silly to talk about these issues in isolation. Immigration must be an integral part of national security-we can't worry about the pandering that Democrats are so fond of. If nothing else, porous borders pose a very real security threat, and the White House has, I think, been stubborn in refusing to acknowledge this.
Bernard Chapin: Out of the candidates running for the presidency right now which one best captures your sympathy?
Kieran Michael Lalor: I really can't say that I'm sympathetic to any of the Presidential candidates. Maybe we should be sympathetic toward the Democrats, because they all seem to be the same candidate and have nothing better to do than attack each other personally. Can you believe Hillary Clinton ridiculed Obama's third grade essay?
On a personal level and as a war veteran, I have to say that I've always admired John McCain's heroism as a POW and his selfless adherence to the military's Code of Conduct when he was offered early release from Hanoi. That's a life of honor and duty, and I admire Senator McCain. In terms of a candidate's style, I am a big fan of Giuliani's New Yorker tenacity. On issues, I think Fred Thompson offers details that other candidates do not and as a conservative, I appreciate that. I also think that Duncan Hunter is rock-solid on most of issues but it is tough for a Congressman to have national name recognition.
Like most of the Republican electorate, I am still making up my mind. I watch every debate and follow the race closely, and we all need to keep in mind that the ultimate goal is defeating whatever candidate the Democrats put up. As Republicans, and really as Americans, too, which is what really matters, we're really all in this together.
Bernard Chapin: I saw a picture of you on the campaign trail which brings me to my last question. In your opinion, what particular issue most appeals to conservative voters today? Is it immigration?
Kieran Michael Lalor: No doubt, immigration resonates, because the current immigration mess affects education, healthcare, national security and our daily quality of life. It's something we see every day, and it sticks in the craw of law-abiding citizens and patriots who are trying to do the right thing from day to day, pay their taxes, follow the rules, and love their country. In some areas, the open borders lobby is so arrogant that they think ordinary Americans owe the illegal population even more. That's a load of nonsense, and like a lot of voters I've met, I've seen enough.
As an Iraq veteran, I've also seen a lot of support from law enforcement and veterans organizations. A lot of Republicans don't want to say what I say, which is that we are going to win in Iraq. In the Hudson Valley in New York, a lot of people have kids in the military or lost colleagues on 9/11, and they understand the necessity of taking the fight to the enemy. I am happy to say these folks have been rallying around my campaign. They are hearing our message loud and clear.
Bernard Chapin: Thanks so much Sir, and good luck.
Bernard Chapin is the author of Women: Theory and Practice and Escape from Gangsta Island. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.