Wednesday, November 23, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: Congressman Bob Turner: “Time to Increase our Commitment to the Security of Israel".

(A Jewish Voice Exclusive Interview- by Jacob Kornbluh). Known in the political arena as the most senior freshman in the U.S. congress, and in the entire country as the man who delivered a shellacking to the President by winning a stunning victory in New York’s 9th Congressional district special election on September 13, Congressman Bob Turner (R-NY) is still driven by the resounding message sent through the District’s voters— which includes one of the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish populations—rejecting the president’s positions and treatment of Israel, as a political outsider and a strong advocate for Israel.

The President seemed shaken and well-behaved immediately following the election (photo by AP)

In an exclusive interview with the Jewish Voice, Congressman Turner, who serves on the House Committees on Homeland Security, Veterans and Foreign Affairs, says he feels the President got the message, but has slipped since.

“Do you feel you delivered that message effectively to Washington? Does the President still know your name?” I asked. 

“Well I think so,” he responded, laughing. “I think the message was delivered. But in politics it kind of wears off, I think this President seemed shaken and well-behaved immediately following the election, and now he’s been slipping a little bit.

Commenting on the recent IAEA report that leaves no doubt about Iran’s goal of obtaining nuclear weapons, Congressman Turner believes that all necessary measures must be applied in stopping Iran from reaching that goal, and that all options must be on the table.

“We have to open up all the spigots to work towards a regime change, part of the effort has to be to impose the toughest sanctions ever, to destabilize their economy,” he said, adding that “cyber attacks” were to be used “not only against their cyber infrastructure,” but that we should be using the web to “inform the Iranian people and encourage them to continue the level of discontent and opposition to that regime.”

“And while we are at it,” he added. “It’s a good time to let the world know - Iran and everyone else, that Israel is a protected ally, a strategic partner and a strategic military ally, and we would counter no attack without retaliation.”

Addressing the deficit crisis and the failure of a bi-partisan Congress to come together on an agreed balanced budget amendment, Turner blamed the Democrats for playing partisan politics by rejecting the Republicans’ effort to address the deficit crisis.

“The Republicans on this side of the aisle spent a lot of time fighting among themselves to get a flexible and modest deal amendment proposal passed, we presented that to the full house, it was the same words that (the minority whip) Steny Hoyer approved of in 1995, and it was rejected, we only got about half the needed numbers of Democrats on board. Their leadership held firm; they would not vote for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Well… Whom did they hurt? They have hurt the American people, but why? For partisan politics, I find their position here unconscionable.

“We have a looming crisis on the deficit, and a deficit of confidence, and the only way for it to be restored is a Balanced Budget Amendment, and for them not to accept this,” he said, “is appalling.” “They even applauded it when it failed to get 2/3 of the vote,” said Turner, referring to this gesture also as “unconscionable.”

Asked about the super committee’s failure and the President’s proposal for automatic even spending and defense cuts, Turner warns of the consequences that any suggestion to cut the military budget would have on U.S. national security. “We are in to the long war with militant Islam, we have the Iranian situation, we have an unknown situation with the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt, in Libya and whatever may happen in Syria, we have Turkey pulling out of the western camp, we have a looming threat of China, we have a very unfriendly Russia,” adding that “This is the time for a strong America, not a weakened state with a weakened defense.”

On the subject of foreign aid, and the recent controversial issue that irked many in the pro-Israel Jewish community, set forward by the Republican presidential candidates, and echoed by Texas Governor Rick Perry at the last GOP debate, proposing that all foreign aid be reduced “to zero,” including Israel, Turner empathized that while there is a need in discussion of the way how we approach and handle foreign aid, Israel as a strategic ally of the United States must be excluded from that discussion. “Now is not the time to even discuss cutting aid,” he said.

“We need a strong Israel, we need to be there in Israel’s defense, this is no time to even discuss cutting aid, this is a time to increase our commitment and let the rest of the world know how strong our commitment is; this would be a good time to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and take other dramatic steps so the world would see this.”

"What kind of other dramatic steps?" I asked.

“Well it might be a more active role in the Iron Dome defense technically, and to increase the level of our military assistance and coordination.”

Looking ahead to the general elections, and his reelection bid in 2012, (he jokes that he is running every year for office since 2010), we asked Congressman Turner what his plans are to retain the trust of his heavily Democratic district. After spending a year in Washington politics, Turner said he has no doubt that with the help of the Jewish community and the voters that connected to his practical, no-nonsense message in 2011, he
will prevail again.

[in unedited version: “Well…first and foremost is to get people like Jacob Kornbluh behind me (I was a volunteer and a social media outreach surrogate for the Turner campaign),  to continue his great work,” he said.]

“I think the message is going to be the same: you have a fiscally conservative and responsible businessman taking a practical approach to Washington.”

“The message will be simple,” he added. “It’s not going to be crafted by a PR firm. And we are going to continue to hammer away on these things, the job that has to be done, restoring prosperity; and we have the formulas for that – lower taxes, less regulations and more confidence... And in order to get all those things done, we are going to need fewer liberal Democrats,” he concluded.