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September 02, 2009

On the Record With Chuck DeVore, Part III

In the final part of my interview with California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, we talked about issues of national scope. I didn't realize how much time we spent on these issues until I was looking over the transcript this morning. I encouraged the candidate to go into detail and he sure did. But fair warning: it's long.

Part I of the interview, which was about campaign strategies, is here.
Part II of the interview, which was about California issues, is here.

I hope you guys find the interview helpful. For me, it was a chance to gauge the candidate's beliefs and his chances in the election. I tried to keep editorializing to a minimum—you can be the judge; the transcript is the unvarnished interview—but I will be back tomorrow with some observations.


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Gabriel Malor: Looking forward, you will be facing these issues on a national level both in the general against Senator Boxer and—crossing our fingers—as a Senator. So, do you think we need a Federal Marriage Amendment?

Chuck DeVore: No, I think that is extremely contrary to the spirit of federalism as enunciated by the Founding Fathers. It’s the same reason why I’m very reluctant to countenance federal tort reform. Because tort law is properly the domain of the civil courts and that ought to be within the state court structure. Now, obviously, there is some federal tort, but it is mostly at the state level.

As a state lawmaker, I often look at the inexorable encroachment on the state prerogatives by the federal government and wonder, “Is there not a Tenth Amendment?” You know, we have a federal system for a purpose. There is supposed to be fifty state laboratories out there, each testing ideas and each learning from the other and having power closer to the people that they serve, not 3,000 miles away in Washington, D.C.

So, the issue then from the federal standpoint is the following: if the U.S. Supreme Court erroneously finds through the Commerce Clause or the Full Faith and Credit clause that somehow a marriage performed in Massachusetts has to be honored in California— If you begin to go down that road because of federal court intervention, which by the way isn’t necessarily the case for the same reason that you can go to Nevada and get a quickie divorce. So, there is already disparity in terms of divorces. In other words, just because you’re married in California, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t get that marriage dissolved in Nevada if you moved there.

I’m not yet convinced that there is a legal justification for engaging the Constitution to force one state to recognize another state’s marriage. However, if that came about, now you have a cause for action at the federal level that would say, okay, what do we want to do here? Do we want to clarify the Supreme Court ruling, which Congress can do. Congress can act to basically overrule the Supreme Court if it wants to? Most people forget that. Or do we want to pass a law that somehow blanket—

My predilection would be to let the federal system work and simply invalidate the federal ruling. Because I think that each state in this particular case because we’re dealing with family law now. It’s not like the issue of slavery where you’re now rising to a fundamental issue of liberty of an individual who is enslaved to work for another human. I don’t quite see this getting to that same level. Although, ironically the founding plank of the Republican Party—as you may know—is “We stand in opposition to those twin pillar of barbarism, slavery and polygamy.”

Along those same lines, does that mean that the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, isn’t that an abrogation of federalism? Isn’t it saying, well, we’re going to treat some marriages from some states one way, but not marriages—perfectly legal marriages—from some states another?

Again and that’s one of the reasons it’s run into some trouble.

Because it doesn’t quite stick with the federalist—

It was an attempt to kind of have your cake and eat it too. As you know, Congress wanted to do something, I think that President Clinton wanted to extract himself from the problem. Again, when you pass a statute, that’s not going to have the same effect as an amendment or a ruling that gets to a constitutional definition.

Wasn’t President Clinton trying to extract himself from the mess he got himself in with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? You’re retired military, what do you think about gays in the military?

Well, I’m perfectly happy with the policy the way it is. I don’t think it’s appropriate while in uniform or in combat or being deployed out to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing about one’s private life in terms of sexual exploits—whether they’re of the garden variety heterosexual or the homosexual kind. It’s not an appropriate discussion in military, just as if you were at work, a professional environment.

No doubt there are thousands of individuals who are currently serving who are homosexual and who perform well, who perform heroically. The question then becomes, when you enact a policy as the liberals would propose that we have—where everything is out in the open—look at California, where we’ve taken things to the ultimate conclusion. Where, for example, inmates in out prison system can ask for the taxpayers to complete a sex-change operation and the tax payers have to oblige.

Look at the fact that transsexuals and transvestites and bisexuals, all of these people are covered by our discrimination laws. Are we then going to force the military to say, okay, this individual is a female, but their gender identity is male? So they’re going to act and dress and expect to be treated as a male. Now, in California, that’s actually a legitimate part of the discussion in the state discourse. The same people who would think that certainly wouldn’t stop at having homosexuals openly serve in the military. That’s just the beginning.

As an officer who understands that there are certain qualities that your soldiers look to for leadership, at what point do we lose our ability to say, “You know something? This person is not a good leader. This person is not going to be promoted.” Well, what happens if this person just happens to be openly gay and they’re leadership style is weak. Are they going to say, “You didn’t promote me because I’m openly gay?” and now we have a lawsuit on our hands?

The purpose of the U.S. military is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. It is not a right to serve in the military. It is something that the military needs to have individuals who are capable of doing things that they may have nightmares the rest of their life so that the rest of us can rest easy in our homes, secure in our liberties. If you begin to go down the road of forcing the military to conform to some leftist vision of Utopia, I think that we are forgetting the primary purpose of the military.

Again, there are no doubt thousands of patriotic individuals serving in the military today who are homosexual and who serve effectively and will continue to serve effectively under the current policy. For that, I don’t see any reason to change something right now.

What I would be interested in—were this done—it would be fascinating to see what would happen with the all-volunteer military, with individuals volunteering to serve as the culture of the military would be under assault and would change.

I think that same point was raised when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was passed in the Nineties and I don’t actually know what effect it had—

No, what was going on at the time was the Clinton Administration wanted to have openly gay people serving. The compromise was Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And when it happened, it was essentially a confirmation of policy as it basically existed. There were some cases where people were rooted out, where there were investigations done. Often, in cases where people held top security clearances because it was very easy—especially longer ago than today— to pressure someone with blackmail by threatening to out them. As a result, it made them a security risk. And so there were investigations that had been done that would have kicked people out preemptively.

Now that society is not as spooled up about whether or not you’re in the closet or not, and because of the policy as it now exists, it is, I think, virtually impossible to blackmail somebody. Because if the individual doesn’t ask or doesn’t tell then someone else tries to out them—well, that doesn’t count. That’s someone else. That’s someone trying to pressure someone. Under the rule, that doesn’t count.

And so, I think that the policy as enacted was kind of where the military was going anyway at the time. I just think it’s important that we understand the special purpose of the military and not try to force it to conform to, in this case, liberal ideals without fully appreciating the impact it might have on the military being able to continue its mission of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States.

I know we're running over our alloted time. You have time for some more questions?

Sure, no problem.

By the way, on these issues—which in the past Boxer has made great hay on social conservative issues—the important thing to understand is that in his environment it’s all going to be about jobs, taxes, regulation, domestic energy production, offshore oil and gas, modern nuclear power. These are areas that she is not comfortable on. And to the extent that she wishes to engage, for example, we’ve had two pro-life and one moderate Republican who was not pro-life run against her. Now, she labeled all of them radicals and all of them unacceptable from a reproductive rights standpoint. She went after Bruce Herschensohn, who is my honorary co-chair; Matt Fong; and Bill Jones.

So anyone that has come up against her has always been too radical on these issues and that’s how she paints them. Where, I think this time is going to be different. She has traditionally been every year the Freedom of Choice Act, an act is so radical that even her fellow Democrat senators say that it’s too radical to even pass the Senate. And here’s this individual where if you ask the average Californian what has Barbara Boxer ever done legislatively, you’ll get a blank stare. No one has been able to say anything of what she’s ever accomplished legislatively. Who then year after year wastes her time on this hyperliberal bill that would overturn every constitutionally confirmed restriction on abortion in all the states that have passed them; from parental consent or notification laws to waiting periods to freedom of conscience laws that allow doctors and nurses, for example, at Catholic hospitals not to have to perform abortions in their Ob/Gyn wards. That law would federalize everything and would prevent any of that.

And here she is continuing to push on this while the economy is going to hell in a handbasket. While California is looking at 14.5 percent official unemployment. While we’re becoming more and more dependent on foreign sources of imported oil every year. And it’s like, “Why are you doing this Senator Boxer, why are you continuing to push this? You call me a radical. Here you are pushing this piece of legislation that even your fellow liberal Democrats say can’t pass. And you’re doing so to the exclusion of trying to fix the California economy.” So I just don’t see that playing very well in the coming cycle.

You brought up energy policy. You already talked about the attempt to get offshore drilling here in California off the ground. I’m sure you’re aware of the recent Democratic cap and trade bill. What did you think?

Yes. We’ve purchased somewhere around six million banner impressions on that and have generated in excess of 50,000 Senators against cap and trade. I think that you’ll find that it’s very unique for a campaign for U.S. Senate to have done such a thing. By doing so, we dramatically increased the number of email addresses and supporters that we have for our campaign. And so we not only moved on an issue, our campaign has benefited as well.

Now, the Waxman-Markey-Boxer bill is every interesting in that it mirrors a lot of what California passed three years ago with AB 32, the global greenhouse gas reduction initiative that California passed. And so, we’ve seen some experience with that here in California.

We’ve also seen what happened in Spain, which in the wake of the Al Qaeda-inspired attack on their transit system elected a socialist government a few years back. They pulled their troops out of Iraq and then immediately lurched the country to the Left economically. In Spain, where they promised to go all-in on these green jobs, for every green job they created they lost 2.2 regular jobs, such that in the eurozone, 60 percent of the newly-unemployed in Europe are Spaniards.

What I find incredulous is that Boxer claims that this cap and trade, this huge energy tax, would help create jobs and would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. And what’s interesting is that it’s a bald-faced lie on both counts. It will not create jobs and it will actually increase global greenhouse gas emissions. Well, how would that happen? By increasing the cost of energy in America, we will continue to put pressure on manufacturers to offshore. They’ll go to places like coal-fired China, which is adding two one-hundred or one-thousand megawatt coal-fired plants every week—a hundred a year. And that same unit of goods and services that used to be made in America that is made in China will produce far more greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacture of that unit of goods or services. And then, to add insult to injury, will be imported into America on a boat or an aircraft that will further make greenhouse gas emissions to ship it here.

And so you lose both jobs and emissions go up, not down. And we’ll see that in California because we’re ahead of the country by a few years. In California we have this mandate to reduce our emissions by 30 percent only eleven years from now. To put it in perspective, if we were to get rid of every privately-owned automobile in the state, you couldn’t make the number. If you got rid of all electrical production in the state, you couldn’t make the number. California is already the most electrically efficient state in the country. So we’re already doing pretty good from a pollution and greenhouse gas emissions standpoint. And yet, by making energy more costly in California, you will put pressure on the few remaining manufacturing entities in California to move to places like coal-fired Utah or coal-fired Pennsylvania or coal-fired China or India at a far greater cost to the environment—if that’s what your concern is.

And so the irony is that they somehow think that California or America is this island, this economic and environmental island, and somehow we can pass rules and regulations and laws to contain the pollution only in this country and to contain the jobs and the manufacturing activity only in this country. When you know and I know that that’s a fallacy. You can’t do that.

And so, on both twin flames that she makes for cap and trade, she’s wrong. It won’t add jobs. It will destroy jobs. And it won’t help the environment. It’ll make the environment worse. But other than that, it’s a great idea.

Now, I know you are a big proponent of nuclear power. To my knowledge we haven’t opened a nuclear plant in thirty years. Is nuclear ever going to come out of the red tape?

There are numerous licenses that have been granted that are now in the process. They were granted under the previous administration and Obama’s kind of reluctantly letting them go through. Interestingly enough, Obama’s home state of Illinois has the highest amount of nuclear power of any state in the country. From an irony standpoint, the state with the greatest percentage of nuclear power is Vermont because they have their own nuclear power plant, Vermont Yankee.

So, yes, I think that nuclear will be a component. Now, the fact that the Obama Administration along with Harry Reid basically said “no” to Yucca Mountain does not, is not a death knell to the nuclear industry because since 1983 there has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission dry cask storage on-site. Where you take the spent fuel rod assembly and you let it cool off in a pond for about five to ten years. Then you put it in a concrete-reinforced vault from which no radiation leaks. And that vault is good for fifty to a hundred years. It just sits there continuing to emit radiation, but none of it, none of which escapes.

But the important thing about nuclear power is because if you understand that you’re generating power on a mass basis, 6.5 million times more per unit of mass than simple chemical reactions like coal or natural gas or oil then you understand you’re generating this enormous amount of energy with a very small amount of material. That’s why if you took all of the spent fuel from the civilian nuclear power effort in American and you put it on one football field, you would fill it to the depth of 15 feet.

What’s interesting about that, just about every day that much coal ash slag is made. That slag is high in heavy metals like mercury and cadmium and lead that you have to keep isolated from the water table for the rest of time. It’s kind of like choose your poison. You want one of these done every day? Or do you want one of these done every forty years?

Furthermore, we ought to do what the French do, which is recycle the spent fuel. If you recycle the spent fuel by extracting the useable plutonium and putting it back into the fuel cycle, you can actually return 96 percent of the material back into the fuel cycle and the remaining 4 percent is far less radioactive over the long term because you’ve taken the plutonium out of it. So instead of being radioactive for a quarter-million years, it’s radioactive for a couple thousand years. And given that the ancient Egyptians created the pyramids with ancient technology and they’re still around after 5,000 years, you would think that modern man could figure out how to entomb a small amount of material and ensure its safety for 2,000 years. Pretty elementary to me.

The nice thing about nuclear power is that you get affordable, reliable, 24x7 power for your base load energy needs that have the lowest emissions per kilowatt-hour, lowest grams of carbon dioxide emissions per kilowatt-hour of any source of energy, including wind and solar. Again, because you’re using nuclear processes. I’m talking end-to-end, full lifecycle.

So, if your objective is to reduce greenhouse gas objectives then most assuredly—unless you have some other hidden objective that you’re not revealing to us—then most assuredly the most efficient way to do it is with modern nuclear power. I think that if you link modern nuclear power with an intelligent use of hydro and solar— Solar has some nice effects even though it’s still too costly. Its nice impact is that it tends to do better on sunny days when you need the extra electricity. Nuclear power plants are only now being modulated plus or minus 20 percent or so in their output. The French have gotten pretty good at it, but nuclear power plants tend to want to run 100 percent, 24x7. That’s the most efficient way they run and it’s kind of hard to just turn them off and save the power. Whereas solar at least has the advantage. On a hot day when everyone’s using their air conditioning it tends to produce more.

So there seems to be an interesting linkage here that we can have between having a slightly excess nuclear power so that at night-time we can charge up vehicles and store the energy for transportation purposes and create hydrogen that we can then burn in those vehicles during the day. Linked with a judicious use of hydro, which can be modulated very easily, and solar, which tends to peak when you need the extra energy.

We commentators reacted pretty poorly during the cap and tax debate—excuse me, the cap and trade debate—when 8 Republicans in the House crossed over and voted for it. Now, I know it’s hard to look into the future, I know it’s hard to say what you’re going to do, but do you see yourself crossing the aisle on a global warming bill?

Well, never, no. Not on a global warming bill. Anything that would burden the American taxpayer and manufacturing base with additional costs isn’t going to work. It will not reduce global emissions. Now, if a global warming bill was predicated on building an enormous number of nuclear power plants to provide excess power at night that was affordable and would give us a competitive advantage versus our trading partners, then that’s a different story.

I doubt you’ll be seeing that bill coming from the other side of the aisle.

The first thing you’ve got to look at is will it actually work. And in this case it wouldn’t actually work. It doesn’t perform as they say because they’re only increasing the cost in America, which cause further pressure on manufacturing jobs to leave. We can’t do that. We can’t take out the bottom rungs of the economic ladder and expect to have a society where people can hope for a better life for themselves and their kids.

Y’know, before I won my Army scholarship that let me go to Claremont McKenna College, I was working as an industrial carpenter with steel. I wore a hardhat. I paid dues to the AFL-CIO. That’s how I paid for college. If those sorts of jobs go away, you’re going to lose out on a lot of social mobility that makes American very dynamic and a special place to live.

Speaking of Senators crossing the aisle, what do you think about the illegal immigration reform effort?

Well, I think that anything that we do has to be fair to people who are following rule of law. It can’t be done until we have secure borders. Right now people are smuggling people and drugs and terrorism and weapons across our border and we don’t know it. Every nation has a sovereign right to secure borders.

Then, once you get secured borders the question turns to what sort of a system do we run? Anything that we do with the individuals who are currently in this nation must not—to preserve rule of law, to preserve our image abroad, to make it so that those people who are waiting patiently overseas for their visas to come work in this country and eventually become citizens don’t feel like suckers for following the law—anything we do cannot reward someone who is here by letting them cut in front of the line of someone who has followed the law. It makes a mockery of our system of justice and our system of laws if we do such a thing.

I also think that we need to have more resources poured into E-Verify. That system ought not go away. I’ve actually proposed a law here in California that would have given a modest incentive for companies to use the system. Where the delta would have been $100 per year per employee if you used it versus if you didn’t use it, as far as a fee versus a tax break. With the understanding that in California in a recent year 17 percent of the Social Security numbers reported to the Franchise Tax Board were bad. Of the 17 percent, 5—almost a third—were because of transposed numbers or a woman got married and had a different last name and she never reported it to the Social Security Administration.

Leaving 12 percent of the numbers bad for other reasons. Like somebody was a fugitive from justice from Michigan and they’re trying to evade capture. Or someone has a judgment against them for child support and they don’t want their wages garnished. Or they’re here illegally and they are evading detection from federal authorities. Well, 12 percent is quite a bit.

The problem with that is it kind of messes up our tax structure here in California because not everybody is properly reporting it through the system. Wouldn’t it be nice if with just a modest incentive for companies to sign up to the system and use it?

Assemblyman, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. Good luck on the campaign, sir.

Absolutely. We’re having a ball and I commend to you that poll as I said. Just for your calcs, I think it’s very interesting that we now have over 12,000 donors to our effort. I think that what you’ll find in recent history is that is unprecedented on the Republican side. They’ve always just tried to run the traditional— you know, keep the candidate chained to the phone making fundraising calls all day and save up enough money to carpet bomb the state at 40,000 feet with a bunch of TV ads.

I think that the modern technology—the social networking and with ways of campaigning like Deeds did in Virginia to beat Terry McAuliffe and Moran—I think that those technologies enable a different sort of campaign to be run. Which is one of the reasons why I’m especially proud that, for example, my YouTube video featuring Dr. Evil and Barbara Boxer has 101,000 plus views now, which is more than four times what the NRSC’s video on the same topic has. Which is, of course, a particular personal enjoyment because of the NRSCs—

Failure to support?

Shilling for Fiorina. So, I think that kind of augurs well for the campaign. We’re executing our business plan exactly the way we wanted to, which is to go to the grassroots and build them up and build up a massive movement that can sustain the campaign in its later stages.

Well, good luck.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 09:34 AM

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