Congressman J. Randy Forbes recently sat down with The Citizen’s Baxter Ennis for a discussion on some of the major issues and critical decisions facing our nation. The interview was held in his district office in Chesapeake. Forbes represents the 4th congressional district which includes Chesapeake, Petersburg, Chesterfield, Emporia, as well as portions of the state capital of Richmond. Forbes has represented the 4th District since his election in 2001. He serves on the House Committee on Armed Services where he is Chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee. Forbes also serves on the Judiciary Committee.
Congressman Forbes, do you believe that we as a nation are at a crossroads?
Forbes: No question about it, we’re definitely at a crossroads. If you look back to the 1960s, Barry Goldwater was planning to run against John Kennedy. They had discussions for actually traveling the country and doing debates together. The plan was they would have a debate, get on a plane and go to the next town and debate there. The point is they both shared a common vision for the destination of where the country would ultimately end up – they just had different ideas on the right road to get us there, and they could respectfully debate their ideas. Today, however, we have two totally different destinations in mind as to where the country should go. America will choose which destination we will go to as a nation. That decision will ultimately determine whether we’re able to pass the freedoms we inherited on to future generations.
What do you believe is the single biggest issue or threat facing the nation in the next four years?
Forbes: I think there is no question that it’s the economy. The economy drives everything else we do in terms of national defense, education, in terms of so many other factors. The number one concern with the economy is the creation of jobs.
We have already lost 473,000 net jobs in the last three and one-half years, and we have three big job killers getting ready to hit us:
What will the effect of Sequestration be in Hampton Roads?
(Note: Sequestration means that effective January 2013 there will be mandatory, automatic across-the-board spending cuts in the federal budget.)
Forbes: Somewhere between 130,000-204,000 jobs will be lost across Virginia because of it. The ripple effect of that, of course, is going to be huge. From an economic point of view it will be hugely devastating. The bigger concern, though, that we have with Sequestration will be what it does to our national defense, which is going to be enormous. We could have a Navy reduced to the fewest ships in 100 years. We could have 150,000-200,000 pink slips given to active duty men and women in uniform, which would be the equivalent of letting the U.S. Marine Corps go overnight.
And, of course, it’s going to encourage bad actors in the world to start spending more for defense. We are already seeing that from the Russians and the Chinese. So we’re hoping we’ll get that turned around, but the odds of that happening are diminishing each day.
Can the Sequestration be stopped?
Forbes: You have to realize the backdrop to these massive cuts is that we‘ve already had $800 billion in defense cuts, and we’re getting ready to take another ½ trillion dollars in cuts that are going to come. I fought against that and lost.
Sequestration is currently the law, and another $500 billion cut will happen on January 2, 2013 unless it is changed. To change it would require an act be passed by the House and Senate and be signed by the president. So far the House has passed a bill that would stop it. The Senate refused to pass or even vote on it, and President Obama said he’ll veto it unless it has the spending in it that he wants for other programs. I would say we have no better than a 50/50 chance to get it stopped before January 2nd.
Are there any particular industries that will be affected by Sequestration?
Forbes: The biggest myth is that people believe it will only impact the defense contractors. But the ripple effect will impact home prices, realtors, builders, car salesmen, people in beauty shops, restaurants, etc. – so we will all feel it. As you reduce the amount of income due to job losses there will be less tax dollars coming in for local and state governments, and we will all feel the loss of tax revenues. We would really feel those losses in our budgets a couple of years down the road.
Is our Middle East policy working?
Forbes: Anyone who could describe our Middle East policy as working and sees embassies attacked, our ambassador killed and our flag burned and says that the policy is working, I would question whether those people should be in office or not. Just look at what’s happening on TV and most Americans can draw the conclusion that it is not working. The question is then, what do we do? I think we have to change the policies and the direction of the policies we have had. We’ve got to have a position where American credibility means something around the world.
Has the administration dropped the ball on adequately defending our embassies?
Forbes: I just had a meeting with an individual, a former State Department worker, who told me he was just aghast at what he saw because, he said, we are seeing a pattern of poor planning, or no planning, and you can’t ask questions under this administration because if you ask questions, you’re fired. It is totally incomprehensible to see 9-11 coming up and not increase security for these embassies. Another major concern is the cover-up that everyone now understands was an intentional cover-up to try to say it was about this film and it was not a terrorist attack. Remember this administration wouldn’t even let you say “war on terror” so how are you going to get it in the reports to even explain what’s happening out there. I think this was just a huge vacuum of leadership.
How would you characterize the major “philosophy of government” of the two presidential candidates?
Forbes: There is no question in my mind that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will bring the greatest intellectual firepower to the economy and the creation of jobs as any president we have had in our lifetime. They will be very hands on; that will be their commitment. Barack Obama has delegated this to individuals, and the unfortunate thing for him and for the country has been that he picked the wrong people. I think Mitt Romney has a track record of picking the right people to succeed.
You have spoken before about the Four Pillars. What are the Four Pillars?
Forbes: The four great pillars that have sustained us as a nation are: a strong economy, the rule of law, religious freedom and national defense.
You can’t create a strong economy when you are destroying jobs like Sequestration will.
The rule of law is being ignored. On October 11 the Department of Defense refused to meet the time line that the law required them to give notice to those who will lose their jobs to Sequestration. The Administration says they will buy them off by paying their attorney’s fees if they are sued for not meeting the timeline of giving notice. The rule of law has been thrown out the window.
Regarding religious freedom, we’ve seen our freedom of religion attacked across the country and even in the military.
And on national defense, I believe we are dismantling the greatest military the world has ever known.
What do you think the mood of the country is regarding the election?
Forbes: If you look at the mood of Americans over the last year there are four words that describe them: frustrated, angry, fearful and energized.
People are frustrated because no one believes they get the truth anymore. The government comes out and spins them and then they watch the media slant and filter the news so they don’t trust what is put out.
They are angry because they feel that those who did have the facts were just making bad decisions and, because of that, the country is moving in the wrong direction.
Folks tell me they have become fearful because they feel the great country they knew slipping away from them.
But, people are now energized; they are changing the pronouns from “they” need to do something to “I” can do something; and I think that’s good.
As I mentioned, people are more energized than I have seen them to change the direction they see the country going. I think that bodes well for those of us in the House. I believe we (Republicans) have a very good chance of winning the White House. I think it is looking like Mitt Romney will be the one to cross the finish line first.
I think the Senate, unfortunately, is more a state by state, personality driven thing. I think we have a better chance at the White House than the Senate. And we probably won’t know that outcome until very late on election night.
In closing, Congressman Forbes shared the story of Coty Childers, a young man from Chesapeake.
“From the time Coty was 11 years old his dream in life was not to go to college or have a new car, but it was to be a United States Marine. When he was 18 years old Coty became a Marine, and when he was 19 years old his funeral was held in our church. Coty had two tattoos, one of the American flag, literally in red, white and blue, and the other was the word ‘family’.”
Forbes continued, “Few of us are asked to pay the price that Coty paid for freedom. Yet we see so many people who are unwilling to even vote or pay attention to the issues so important in our country. You might sometimes wonder if they even deserve the freedom that Americans like Coty died to preserve. Perhaps when we speak of sacrifice and working to make this country great, we need to look each other in the eye and say ‘this is something WE have to do, not just something they have to do’. If we are willing to do that, I am confident that we can pass the torch of freedom on to our children and grandchildren.”