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Monday, September 18, 2017

On Capitol Hill, it's business as usual.

When Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election, I believed that the Republican-controlled Congress would confidently pass the agenda that was responsible for dispatching Hillary Clinton and Company.  The issues that were most important to me- safe borders, immigration enforcement, rolling back unnecessary regulations, re-negotiating terrible Trade Agreements, and support for our veterans, were part and parcel of the platform that President Trump embraced during the election.  Given that those same issues are also traditional Republican concerns, I assumed that Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker of the House Ryan would have little difficulty corralling their respective Republican majorities and pushing aside the Democratic opposition.  Unfortunately, it just hasn't happened as I envisioned.  Although President Trump has been able to pass some of the agenda, he must be frustrated with the lack of urgency demonstrated by Congress.  Ten months into the Trump presidency, why hasn't Congress been more aggressive on implementing his agenda?

Most of the more prolific Republican members of Congress have voted in line with President Trump.  More accurately, they have voted as conservatives, which is what is expected by their constituents.  My Congressman, who has been in office over three decades, traditionally votes as a conservative, but I'm not ready to concede that his voting record this year is an indication of support for President Trump.  I think the same can be said for many of the more influential Republican Congressmen and women.  Voting conservative is something that is expected by their constituents, and not necessarily an indication of support for President Trump.  Since my district voted heavily in favor of Donald Trump, I expected my Congressman to take a leadership role in shepherding the Trump agenda through the House of Representatives.  He's been in Congress a decade longer than the Speaker of the House, and currently chairs the Science, Space, and Technology committee.  I can only assume that he wields enough influence to make a bold stand calling for unity behind our Republican President, and the issues that swept him into office.   On the contrary, since the inauguration, what I've observed is one Democrat member of Congress after another aggressively attacking President Trump and his policies.  Since the Republican Party has a forty-six seat majority in the House of Representatives, why is it always the Democrats who seem to control the debate?

For a Congressperson to be accountable to his or her constituents, it must take more than a positive voting record.  Our nation sits at a crossroads, and our elected officials must be ready to stand up and be heard, because the left has shown no hesitation in taking over the bully pulpit.  President Trump deserves a Congress that will use its majority to push aside the opposition and pass the legislation that will make our nation safer and our economy stronger.  For too many years, the polite, business-as-usual style of negotiating in the House of Representatives has allowed the Democrats to dominate the agenda, regardless of which party is in the majority, and every year, Congress seems to become less responsive to the people.  We need a Congress that tackles its responsibilities in a responsible fashion, and the last one to leave the Chamber turns out the lights.  Instead, we have a never-ending process of brokering, deal-making, behind-the-scenes negotiating, additional deal-making and still nothing gets accomplished.  This is not my idea of smaller government, folks, and any member of Congress who calls themselves a Conservative and has been in office more than a decade, needs to explain to me exactly what steps they have taken to make our government smaller, cheaper, and less intrusive on our lives.

The election of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth President of the United States was the first step taken by the American people in returning responsible, accountable leadership to Washington DC.  In order to provide President Trump with the legislative support he needs to make our nation safer, shrink the size of government, and grow our economy, we must elect a Congress which demonstrably supports the Trump agenda and is willing to toss aside convention when necessary and use the majority which was provided by the American electorate.  Its time to look beyond the Congressional voting record and ask the all-important questions, "what has my Congressperson actually accomplished, how dedicated are they to a smaller government, and just how aggressive is he or she willing to be in support of the Trump agenda?"

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A close look at Texas District 21 is a reminder as to why I'm running for Congress.

Why would anyone chose to run for Congress?  Some people really get a kick out of being in a position of authority.  It can be an addiction, especially for people who need constant positive reinforcement.  There are folks who truly enjoy the political process itself, including statistics, advertising, and the adrenaline rush that can come from campaigning.  Polling indicates that the majority of Americans believe people run for Congress as a means to financial enrichment, although a quick review of the requirements to get a successful campaign off the ground make it apparent that access to resources needs to present before the election, not just after.  Then we have the participants of conscience, people who get involved for the purpose of defending the Constitution and protecting our freedoms.  Not surprisingly, everyone claims to fit into the last category, especially during campaign season.

Until I embarked on a book tour to promote the publishing of my memoir, Mukhabarat, Baby!, I had no idea how angry people had become.  After two terms of Barack Obama, I wasn't necessarily thrilled with politics at the time, either, but folks were showing up to my speaking engagements prepared to ask very thoughtful and intelligent questions regarding the actions of both the Obama Administration and Congress.  Because I had experienced the frustration and anger of average Americans first-hand, I can't say I was surprised when an outsider, Donald Trump, won the presidency.  On the other side of the coin, an outsider also gave Hillary Clinton headaches.  In fact, many on the far-left still claim that if the Democratic establishment hadn't manipulated the rules here and there, Bernie Sanders would have been the nominee.  From my optic, that's a bit of a stretch, given that Hillary did win a substantial majority of votes in the combined Democratic primaries, but one thing is for certain, just about everyone seems to be pissed off about something.  Although it was unexpected, I was ecstatic when Trump won the election.  I've never claimed to appreciate his elitist background, brusk manner and dismissive attitude, but I sure did embrace the Trump Agenda.  Border security, standing up to law-flaunting sanctuary cities, re-negotiating eight years of awful trade agreements, repealing Obamacare, and respect for our military, police officers and first responders- what a package!  I was ready to see President Trump Make America Great Again.  I was disabused of any notion I had that things would progress smoothly for the new administration almost as soon as Hillary called to concede.

We've got multiple investigations about alleged Trump collusion with Russian efforts to impact the 2016 election with absolutely no evidence, the Washington Post and NY Times publishing leaked, classified information on a daily basis, and a GOP-majority House and Senate that seem ready to impeach their own president, and the Trump Administration isn't even ten months old.  After completing my book tour, I continued to speak to various conservative groups regarding the history of espionage and what I considered abuses of the FISA law by the Obama Administration.  At every event, I was approached and asked to run for Congress.  Conservatives in Texas District 21 have been re-electing Republican Representative Lamar Smith for over thirty years, but I was sensing that patience was finally wearing thin.  Voters in District 21 voted overwhelmingly for the Trump Agenda, and it was obvious that Congress was very interested in making Trump's campaign promises a priority.  Where did Lamar Smith stand on the Trump Agenda?  No one seemed to have a clue, but it was clear that he wasn't looking for an opportunity to stand up for President Trump.  Representative Smith appears content to follow the lead of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and defer to politics as usual.  After discussing the issue with my family and close friends, and keeping in mind the desire for change that was so apparent to me during my speaking engagements throughout District 21, I decided to run against Lamar Smith in the Republican Primary in March 2018.

I am not a politician, and can safely say that I belong to that group of candidates that is running for the purpose of protecting our freedoms, defending the Constitution and the rule of law, and keeping the American people safe from government overreach, crime, and terrorism.  When I first decided to run, I was told that I would need to write myself a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars, or I had no chance of winning.  I did not write myself a check for thousands of dollars, although if it had been possible, I would have.  I retired with a full disability after having been poisoned while working for the CIA in 2001, and like many of you, I live on a fixed income.  Having me in Congress would be a return to Representative Democracy, as I'm not an attorney, nor am I a millionaire.  Everything I have done up to now, I 've done either by myself or with the help of a small group of supporters.  I've learned so much about the electoral process, and I'm convinced that the rules and regulations that exist are intended to discourage "average" Americans from participating in elections.  This reality wasn't a huge surprise, but I have to admit I was shocked when I discovered that Democrats are much more quick to get involved in the causes they feel are important, and much more willing to donate to candidates whom they support. 

In 2018, the Democratic Party will be running a number of Congressional candidates that don't resemble what we've recognized in the past as a typical Democrat.  The Democrats purposely searched for retired military and law enforcement to run in conservative districts, and nationally Democrats have been putting a great deal of money behind these candidates.  One of the announced Democrats running in Texas District 21 is a retired Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and a Bronze Star recipient, and a graduate of West Point.  I thank him for his service and I appreciate his willingness to get involved in the process, but his politics are way to the left of the citizens of District 21.  I spent my time in warzones, including Iraq and Kosovo, and I've sacrificed for my nation.  I can think of nothing that I would appreciate more than debating this guy, as long as he promises to take of the ubiquitous UT baseball cap he seems to be always wearing.  But his candidacy is a good example of the problem pro-Trump candidates like myself are facing.  He's raised over three-hundred-thousand dollars, including quite a bit from out-of-state donors.  Democrats in California and DC really like this guy.

One advantage I have, which can't be bought, is that I represent the heart and soul of the Texas Hill Country.  I'm from here, and my connection to this community is a source of great personal pride.  District 21- Comal, Real, Bandera, Gillespie, Blanco, Kerr, Kendall Counties, with significant sections of Bexar, Hays and Travis Counties as well, is home to as diverse a group of Texans as you will find.  San Antonio and Austin are two of the fastest growing urban areas in the nation, but travel an hour west of Austin or an hour north of San Antonio, and you will find countless ranches and farms decorating our beautiful hills and river valleys.  Retired military families are a tremendously vibrant and important part of the district, as is Texas State University, one of the largest in the state.  The folks that live in District 21 are honest, hard-working, and generous; they don't have much time for foolishness, and they tend to see government nowadays as wasteful, intrusive and over-reaching, and I'm in complete agreement.  District 21 is one of the most consistently Republican districts in Texas, and if you're from here, you know why.  Families are the priority, and religion is the bedrock of this basically conservative community.  Be that as it may, people are very welcoming to new neighbors, and I've never seen one example of intolerance or racism.  Simply put, the voters of District 21 voted overwhelmingly for the pro-family, smaller government, support for rule-of-law agenda of Donald Trump.  I am much more reflective of this community than my opponents, and as a member of Congress, I will address their concerns and expectations.  Its not so much about us anymore, folks, its about the generations who follow.  Congress has been using their credit card for years, and its just about at its limit.  We must be accountable to our children and grandchildren, and leave them with real opportunities for success and the pursuit of safe, free and happy lives.