The Energizer Takes on the Terminator: Interview with State Senator Tom McClintock

by | Sep 13, 2003

If Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Terminator, State Sen. Tom McClintock, a conservative who has figured prominently into the nation’s most controversial election since 2000, is the Energizer Bunny. Against a media onslaught that has emphasized celebrity over philosophy, launched in the wake of Schwarzenegger’s late-night talk show announcement, McClintock, unlike Issa, Simon and Ueberroth, has […]

If Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Terminator, State Sen. Tom McClintock, a conservative who has figured prominently into the nation’s most controversial election since 2000, is the Energizer Bunny.

Against a media onslaught that has emphasized celebrity over philosophy, launched in the wake of Schwarzenegger’s late-night talk show announcement, McClintock, unlike Issa, Simon and Ueberroth, has withstood some powerful forces.

It hasn’t been easy. Opposing the GOP establishment from caustic conservative Ann Coulter and FoxNews and talk radio host Sean Hannity to California Congressmen Dreier, Cox and Rohrabacher, never before has the conservative talk radio/cable news/Washington triad so quickly and completely lined up behind a pragmatic GOP candidate whose only legislative accomplishment is an increase in subsidies to public schools.

During a recent interview, McClintock was intense, sincere and confident, qualities which have earned the trust of a growing number of Californians. And McClintock’s tortoise-and-hare strategy may be paying off. As actor and Ford and Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein, who has held off endorsing a candidate, told Barbara Walters on The View this week: he’s voting for McClintock.

Scott Holleran: You often cite the Founding Fathers. Yet there is no founding document that allows for a recall election. On what grounds do you support the recall?

Sen. McClintock: Well, let’s see what the Founders had to say about that. It’s in the Declaration of Independence: “It is the right of the people to alter or abolish [the government] and to institute a new government.” So I believe the Founders actually did speak out. In the 92 years [since California’s recall law was established], there have been 31 attempts to recall a sitting state governor.

SH: You often cite the fact that you won more votes in 2002 than any other Republican in California. But recently you have lost both elections in which you sought higher office. How can you win?

TM: If you’ll look at the Senate district that elected me in 2000 by a double digit margin, they also voted for Al Gore by a slight margin and, in fact, I have led the GOP’s top of ticket in every race I’ve run except in 1994, when I came within two percent of winning. Last year, [when McClintock lost by a slim margin in the controller’s race] mine was the closest election in California history.

SH: You’re a free market advocate. Philosopher Ayn Rand believed that property rights are the basis of individual rights. Do you agree?
TM: Yes.

SH: How will you deal with the California Coastal Commission, which increasingly restricts the use of private property?
TM: I’ve always believed that land use decisions belong in local hands. the people of Santa Barbara, for example, are far more competent custodians than bureaucrats in Sacramento. I believe people have a right to live where they please and enjoy their property as long as they’re not infringing on the rights of others. Those are very simple concepts that I’m afraid we’ve lost sight of.

SH: Does nature have an intrinsic value?
TM: Of course it does. But private property is the province of the property owner.

SH: How do you respond to environmentalists’ and some homeowners’ claim that the right to property means a permanent view of a hillside?
TM: I disagree. And I think Californians have had it with the assault on basic rights by the government.

SH: Your party’s standard-bearer, President Bush, has favored billions of dollars in subsidies for AIDS, and proposed the largest expansion of Medicare since it was enacted in 1965. As governor of the nation’s largest state, will you oppose the president’s big spending?
TM: I believe that spending must be brought under control on state and federal levels and I believe that state and federal governments are spending much more than they should. They need to fulfill their role in protecting freedom and prosperity. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, patriotism means to stand by the country, not necessarily by the president.

SH: Do you oppose the Family Leave law, which forces every employer in California to subsidize an employee’s absence for up to six weeks?
TM: Absolutely.

SH: Will you challenge the judicial blocking of Proposition 187?
TM: Yes. I am told there are a number of ways to legally challenge Court decisions and I will.

SH: Do you oppose the issuing of Driver’s Licenses to illegal aliens?
TM: Yes, and I do believe that it may be the subject of a referendum.

SH: Are children the proper focus of government policy, as Arnold Schwarzenegger has proclaimed?
TM: Not when we’re putting $ 9,100 per student [according to page 77 of the 2003 California Budget, State Dept. of Finance] and watching only a fraction of that money trickle down to the kids. I have two kids in public schools. There are major savings that can be affected by reducing those layers of bureaucracy, such as classroom-based budgeting. I would simply require that the money be injected into the classroom at the school site level. The children are used as an excuse to feather various bureaucracies.

SH: Why do you oppose domestic partnership laws?
TM: I don’t care about people’s sexual preferences. I don’t think they’re a subject for government legislation. We’ve developed a unique body of law surrounding marriage. People right now have the right to enter into voluntary contracts. The law clearly recognizes that and it should. Among our inalienable rights is the right of people to enter into those voluntary associations.

SH: Will you seek to criminalize sexual behavior, such as anti-sodomy laws?
TM: No.

SH: Should businesses be permitted to drill for oil off the California coast?
TM: If the federal government does not allow drilling in the desolation of the Arctic Tundra, then there is no excuse for drilling off the coast of California and if the federal government does allow for drilling in the Arctic, there’s no reason not to. We need a renewed commitment to hydroelectric and nuclear energy-it’s absolutely clean, cheap and abundant.

SH: Is it government’s proper role to display theologically-based monuments?
TM: The government envisioned by the American Founders was one that was to tolerate all religious practices not a government that tolerates no religious practices.

SH: Does a display of a theologically-based monument in a government building constitute a practice of religion?
TM: Our government is based upon a unique assessment that there are certain inalienable rights endowed by our Creator and the purpose of our government is to protect those rights. I believe that there is nothing wrong with displaying the Ten Commandments in a judicial setting. The Ten Commandments form the moral basis of a rule of law. The expression of religious sentiments are a right of the American people. There are two sides of the United States seal on the one dollar bill and the symbolism was very clearly laid out in the legislation that established that seal. If you go to [Alexis] de Toqueville, he said that one of the differences between the failure of the French Revolution and success of the American Revolution is that Americans believe in God. And that is the foundation upon which the nation was built. But the law has to be enforced, so I don’t agree with [Alabama Judge Roy] Moore’s actions-but I do agree with his sentiments.

SH: Before 9/11, California was targeted by Islamic terrorists during the Millennium celebrations, including such landmarks as the Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyland, and the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco. As governor, how will you prepare for a terrorist attack?
TM: We have emergency procedures in place and California has an Office of Emergency Response in the event of a wide array of terrorist attacks. Posting National Guard sentries at the Golden Gate Bridge to wave at people as they pass is ridiculous. I believe our state procedures are adequate.

Scott Holleran's writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Classic Chicago, and The Advocate. The cultural fellow with Arts for LA interviewed the man who saved Salman Rushdie about his act of heroism and wrote the award-winning “Roberto Clemente in Retrospect” for Pittsburgh Quarterly. Scott Holleran lives in Southern California. Read his fiction at ShortStoriesByScottHolleran.substack.com and read his non-fiction at ScottHolleran.substack.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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