San Clemente Times
On Tuesday, Aug. 22, the editorial staff of the Picket Fence Media interviewed Congressional candidate Col. Doug Applegate. He faces the republican candidate and incumbent Darrell Issa in this year’s election.
Picket Fence Media: Why the heck would you want to run for Congress?
Doug Applegate: I don’t know why everybody asks that with that tone. They start off, “What are you thinking? Are you a masochist?” I told everybody that my personal concern was that I was concerned about the leadership in Congress because every time I hear somebody talking about the use of military force or combat operations, I’m hearing somebody talk that’s never real seen the trials and realities and the fog of war. And you just can’t send our children, our grandchildren, our blood and our treasure off to foreign lands without asking the right questions. I’ve been a trial attorney going on four decades, and you don’t get to the point of asking the right questions until you walk the ground in any subject area. I thought being a Marine since 1981 gives me a unique perspective and any Marine has a degree of leadership I see lacking in Congress.
So it may appear to be a masochistic process, but it’s probably just my Marine heritage. We have all sorts of quaint little sayings, “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” and I could go on, but that’s the reason.
PFM: So how do you change the tone and rhetoric about military action in Congress?
DA: A couple different ways. You have a connection with the right people, that should be … I think part of it is, look, it’s about presenting evidence on the floor of Congress. You have to ask the right people to come up to testify, and then you have to ask them the right question. I could’ve gotten to a completely different answer on Iraq no matter what information was tossed about, and I think you would’ve gotten a different set of COAs, courses of action. I really don’t think the American public, if they would’ve realized what the Pentagon could’ve told them: “It’s not going to be quick, it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to take a lot of troops and they’re going to have to stay a lot longer.” The war colleges when they, for instance, did the after-action analysis of Vietnam, it was pretty clear we were going to have to fight two generations to have any success in south Vietnam. If you would’ve told the American public it’s going to take 25 years, I think you would’ve seen a different reaction both at the ballot and on the streets, and really I think you would’ve gotten the same answers from people in the Pentagon that went to the same war colleges I went to. You would’ve been confronted with the reality that it could be quick and easy, we can be in Baghdad in two or three weeks; that’s not the real problem, it’s what we do afterwords. And now it’s been a little less than 16 years, it was 2003, so it’s been 13 years, and they’re dealing with the same asymmetric warfare that we dealt with. I was in Ramadi (Iraq) a good chunk of my tour in 2006 and Ramadi looks a little more blown up than when I was there. The struggle is still the same, and it wouldn’t surprise me, until you really have the right government in place, that it would continue for two generations.
I think part of it is you can’t just go and, by power of persuasion, argue to a better solution. You have to present metrics and evidence and that’s what I think you do. And when people are confronted in Congress, I think they have two choices: They can hide behind committees that block things form getting to the floor, or they can say, “Let’s put it to a vote,” whether it be a bill or any type of joint resolution, like the authorization for war on global terrorism. But you get people down on the record and you have to own up to that record.
PFM: There’s this perception, it would seem, that military families and military members tend to vote republican more than they do democrat…
DA: The premise of the question just about where the military votes. I can’t agree with that. I just have had so many people come up to me. I’ll give you an example. I walked in the Rancho Santa Fe Fourth of July parade. That’s a pretty red district. Frankly, when the staff said we’re going… I said, ‘Couldn’t we pick a better city? It’s pretty red down there.’
And a couple things happened that was interesting. Darrell and I had a brief conversation before the campaign stepped off where he really wasn’t interested in talking to me. He said, “The only way this is going to be good is if you get the DNC to spend 8 million dollars.” The other thing that happened is I had people that said, there were four Seals that came up to me after the parade who said, “Colonel, I just want you to know I’m a democrat and I support you.”
I have not made this a red and blue race, and I don’t think it is. I think the 49th is pretty unique. I’ve been around since 1981, whether active duty in the Marine Corps or as a reservist. I think that if you’re going to get anything done, you need to get past party and you need to just put people and country first.
Getting back to the veterans, I think the younger veterans who were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, they put people and country first. I don’t identify them as Republicans, and I don’t particularly identify them as Democrats either. I have the advantage of being in a district that’s a Marine district. So thats how I view veterans, and Corpsmen, because there’s a heavy Navy presence as well.
PFM: I understand going after not wanting to make it red and blue, but you would be entering a red and blue Congress. What are some of the things you would do to extend the olive branch and compromise with your counterparts?
DA: Well, the first thing I’d do is pull the Republican members that I think are reasonable aside. I’d say, “Look, you need to stop worrying about being taken behind the woodshed by the Republican leader if you step out of line, because that’s not why you’re here.” And I know that that’s what happens. It happens on both sides, but I just have good, solid reports that it happens more on the Republican side, particularly in the last six years. And I think it’s saying, “I’m going to trust you, I’m gonna build relationships and be a stand up guy. If somebody starts attacking you, I’m going to have your back.” So I think that’s what you need to do, and you have to take risks. That’s something I had Marines do all the time and soldiers in Al Anbar (Iraq). I mean they had to trust Muslim Iraqi army soldiers every day. So it’s not that risky to do in Congress, but that’s how you get deals done. You form relationships. You don’t say, “Well I can’t sit down and have a drink for coffee with somebody because you’re Republican.”
PFM: Are there a couple issues or obstacles you see that would stand in the way of cohesion?
DA: Specific road blocks to get to deals? I think that’s just you either have experience and can accomplish that in a non-coercive way or not. I’ve lived in an adversarial situation as a trial attorney for a long time, and you can have a very adversarial dispute that’s going to lead to a trial, and it can be just a miserable experience, or you can extend professional courtesies and treat somebody as not the essence of the party.
I think it’s personal relationships. Every now and then—although the campaign has been very uplifting, I’ve become much less cynical throughout this process than anything else I’ve ever done. It’s because I think people are changing. I think the demographics have changed, but I also think that the way they’ve viewed the last—since 9/11, as we need a real strategy. We need solutions that actually take effect and effect not only our lives in our local communities but how we perceive the world. And I think people are interested in solutions, not just, “OK, here’s my set of principles.”
PFM: Is there anything federally you would support to help regulate sober living homes, because many local municipalities feel like they’re at a loss.
DA: Well, they are at a loss. And it is a local issue, and I know particularly South Orange County, it’s a real hot topic, and i know its particularly more an issue where I live in San Clemente than anywhere else. Although it reaches even up to Ladera Ranch. I go to up to Ladera Ranch and people say, “These corporations are buying foreclosed homes for two million dollars, and they’ve got six bedrooms, and we know what’s going to happen when we see all these bunk beds being moved into one of these McMansions.”
And I’ve talked to the HOAs. Now, here I’m just putting on my lawyer’s hat, it’s not simpler, but I understand the sword and the shield with respect to these sober living facilities, and by the way, there is a federal component in it, and it is this: most of these, and they’re usually LLCs, which are very simple corporations, I’m not casting aspersions at them, but you sit me down, I want to create an LLC, now being able to do it online, I can have my employer identification number, ill get it filed with the Secretary of State, I’ll be able tomorrow morning to start operations as a business. The problem is that even in the best case scenario, the HOA scenario, you can say HOAs can do something—you know, usually the villagers, so to speak, will get the pitchforks out and say, “It’s unsafe for the children, this isn’t what we bought into, its creating horrible effects on real estate prices,” not an unknown subject in Orange County, then they’ll go to the lawyer and the lawyer will either deliver the bad news or worse, he’ll file a lawsuit to effect the HOA CC&Rs, and guess what’s going to happen? They’re going to lose, they’re going to end up having all the people who were upset with pitchforks, who were all upset about “those” people, and the lawyers who are representing the LLCs that were set up in a matter of 12 hours will say, “Americans with Disabilities Act. And when I beat you, I’m going to get additional damages and my attorney’s fees.” So this is a sticky wicket. But ultimately there’s going to have to be something that you need to have real evidence on up in Congress, because I don’t think this was the real intent of the ADA, but there’s your federal issue.
And it’s right up front and it’s paralyzing everyone, even municipalities, even if they have a great zoning issue or something along those lines. Trust me, as an attorney I’d say, “You’re probably going to get trust and you’re going to have to pay attorney fees.” So you have to figure out something that still honors the intent, because I believe in the ADA. There’s nothing in the ADA that I find problematic, but it’s in its application in residential neighborhoods like this, it’s a problem. It just is. It’s a question of density, and the business model for this is “strict compliance, zero tolerance, if you fall off the wagon, no matter what the substance is, alcohol, drugs or otherwise, you’re out.” And so then the people are thrown out literally on the street with their bags, and they’re in the neighborhood then. And then you have a potential homeless problem. It all depends on what their resources are, whether or not their family is just going to say, “we’re enablers, we need to stop sending them just to additional treatment centers,” and then you overlay that on I don’t know how many times there’s been a heroin problem since I’ve been on the Earth, but it seems like it’s a cycle every ten years. I remember as a small child that it was a huge concern for Vietnam vets coming over and this would’ve been around ’66, ’65, ’67, because I remember Life Magazine having exposes on that, and so we’re living in another opiate supply and demand problem.
PFM: To be clear, would you, under the right circumstances, support a push to amend or supplement the ADA?
DA: You gotta do something with the ADA because otherwise sober living facilities have complete leverage. Now it might, and I really need to sit down, and there’s a number of possible courses of action, one of the biggest problems is, if they get their attorney’s fees, that’s a concept the winning party in an ADA action seeking to enforce the ADA, if they prevail they get their attorneys fees. That’s not a right across the board in American Jurisprudence. It is in England, but most states and in most instances it’s either got to be in explicit contact … or by statute. So I think there are ways that you can affect the problem and not violate the intent of the ADA.
Heres the problem because I’ve already heard Mr. Issa’s solution to this. I got a Republican who says, “We need to look at regulating” and I’m gonna say, “You guys are saying, ‘We need to deregulate everything and now this is another instance where we’re going to pick and choose, but regulations are going to be good in this particular instance, and this is going to be a problem just to say well, we’ll regulate it.’” Congress is going to have to step up to the plate because the ADA is always going to impact this.
Look, local government is tough. It’s a brutal way to spend your time, because its’ really at the tip of the spear, and you’re going to hear a lot about how this is really horrible and we have more crime in our neighborhoods and you need to do something about it, and they can’t do anything about the ADA, and I know what their city attorney’s telling them behind closed doors, and it would be nice, and quite frankly, they should be honest and just say we need to do something in Congress. But then their Congressional reps might be invited to come in and talk with the City Council. I’d be more than willing to go in and talk to them about it, and I know that Darrell’s been talking about it, at least as we’ve gotten close to the election. That might have something to do with that he had the closest primary he’s ever had in 16 years.
PFM: Assuming that South Orange County will continue to be a stronghold for Congressman Issa, are there any inroads you can make in our communities up here?
DA: I don’t think Darrell’s spent a lot of time up here. But don’t feel like you’re the red-headed stepchild, because I get that same response in San Diego. Hell, I get the same response in Vista, where he’s lived since he came to California. Yeah, I know right after the primary, he actually was at least going through the motions of setting up some kind of campaign office in South Orange County. He hasn’t done it yet, and he has sort of non-publicized, guerrilla-type events. He had one last week at the OC Tavern. Listen, I’ve lived around here since ’81. I know that there’s a lot of Republicans that live in Orange County, and this is still one of the reddest areas of Orange County. But peoples’ perspectives have changed. I view that as, listen, I’ll go and talk to any Republican and what I tell them is, “If you want to talk facts, then let’s make sure we don’t talk past one another, and you’re entitled to your opinions, and I’m not going to necessarily accept your principles and opinions, and I can live if i don’t get your vote, but I’m still going to be more accessible. You’re going to be able to get through my office door if I’m elected to Congress a lot easier than you’ve ever been able to talk to Congressman Issa.” And then I can usually say, “Have you ever been inside his office?” I haven’t met too many people who have. Actually, I’ve met no one who’s been in there. So, I think that South Orange County might decide the Congressional race.
PFM: Do you think the races upticket from you might impact the turnout or outcome of this race?
DA: It may in the context of a large turnout generally help Democrats. Now, part of that is because Democrats only show up every four years and Republicans campaign every two years, and I try to remind people that if you want your ticket to complain, you’ve got to pay the admission price. So you can’t just get involved in campaigns and elections every four years. A lot of the questions I get like yours with respect to “How are you going to reach across the aisle,” part of it is if “Hey, if you’re upset with the way Congress has been not acting, then you’re going to have to get involved.” Because the big solution of that is to change the balance of power in the House of Representatives. I think it’s conceded that the Republicans are going to lose the Senate, it’s just a question of by how much they’re going to lose. I don’t know if any of the races are going to affect the 49th, but I do know there are plenty of reasons for Californians to keep voting past 6 p.m. (when the Presidential race may be called) because you’re going to have people who are still interested. And even Republicans, if they’re going to vote for Senate, are going to have to vote for a Democrat.
PFM: Would you support at the federal level implementing legislation like the state ballot initiatives on marijuana and gun control?
DA: We have a unique opportunity, particularly at the federal level: marijuana has never really been studied. Opiates, that’s not the case, that’s a pretty addictive substance. But we never really studied cannabis and it’s still problem to conduct studies.
I think they’ve got great laboratories if we can get it off the scheduled drugs so we can really study its efficacy, and I think it actually holds a lot of hope for (post-traumatic stress) and veterans. Because I have personal experience with respect to seeing a lot of Marines and Corpsmen that, I mean if you’re around Marines and Corspmen and you see them back after deployment you can sort of, in my position, I just get to the point of, “So are you getting treatment for PTS? Are you going to the VA? What are you doing?” Because I usually get in touch with them and they have other problems and their problems usually don’t match up with their personal history, and I found that all the young men and women hate the Big Pharm solution. “Just take drugs to alter your mood,” which the side effects are such that nobody wants to be caught in that rabbit hole.
Your other option is alcohol or cannabis, and I’m just telling you, this is anecdotal, this is not statistically confirmed, but it seems like the vets I’ve known have a better success rate if they get their medical marijuana card and they self-medicate. On an anecdotal model. I would want to see it study. The mental health care providers that I’ve talked to, that’s something I think most would agree on, and there some disagreement in the scientific community, which is more reason to study it and understand it better.
The biggest problem is, once again, count heads. I’m not going to get that language passed in Congress, and there’s all sorts of problems with that. At the federal level, it needs to be studied. We need to talk about metrics, what would be valid metrics, so I think it would be very interesting to see what happens in California because it’s going to pass. And I’ve talked to a lot of interesting people that have held interesting offices in the past, and people from all walks are very interested in getting into the distribution scheme of legalized cannabis. I’ve heard it said that 90 percent of marijuana consumed in the U.S. is grown in California, and 90 percent of that is also consumed in California. It’s going to change the tax basis and the budgeting in California, because the figures are huge.
PFM: I don’t want to assume, but would you support federally prosecuting states that legalize marijuana?
DA: Prosecuting states? No. What generally happens is this. Right now the (Department of Justice) DOJ says they will not prosecute state-legalized marijuana transactions. But as soon as the DOJ can look at it and local governments and say, “This is interstate commerce, it’s not grown in the state it’s legalized in,” that’s when the marijuana shops get closed up. Sometimes with interesting video results as we had up in Santa Ana, which just sort of shows how absurd we’re at with this.
This is just one of those things that I think there are solutions all around us, and most of them deal with if you’re going to get to the solution, you’re going to have to deal with tomorrow’s technology or at least tomorrow’s science. You aren’t going to have hard and firm answers for what seem to be intractable problems that we face today, but we’re going to have tomorrow’s technology, and we have to stop avoiding that. That’s not even the 60-pound gorilla in the room, that’s something we should be looking forward to. Each day you wake up, “OK, yesterday was the slowest technology day the rest of my life because things are geometrically progressing,” and I think that’s where the solutions are, and I think that gets back to how the demographics have changed. People implicitly expect there’s going to be a better mousetrap tomorrow. We need to start applying that to better political situations as well. “We just can’t tackle that because it’ll cost too much money.” Well it might cost too much money with yesterday’s technology, but with next year’s technology, it might be a completely different dynamic. That’s why factories get moved.
PFM: And what about gun control? Would you support federal legislation to limit clip size and require background checks for ammo?
DA: I get back to what can you get passed? And I’ll be honest, I have a Marine solution to this. I never sent anybody out to combat deployment unless they were, in the last 12 months, trained and qualified on a combat range. And if you’re going to tell this theory of the good guy with a gun and maybe if we have open carry laws that it’s going to reduce crime—first of all, there’s no evidence of that. No evidence of that happening and if you want to depend on this theory of a good guy with a gun, there’s no such thing as an untrained good guy with a gun. Even I, and I retired in 2006, I know my skills aren’t the same as they were when I deployed to Iraq. And I really think we have to be realistic.
What we have is a mental health care problem. And the reality is there’s enough weapons to arm every man, woman and child and have some left over. So, and by the way, I don’t believe in big magazines; they’re not necessary for hunting, but then again I’ve told people for a long time, “If you need an assault weapon to go deer hunting, you better take up fishing, because you don’t get a second shot, they’re gone.” Assault weapons are designed for one reason: I can put more rounds down range at another human being that I want to kill. That’s it.”
But I think the biggest thing is, look, at least in my lifetime, I’m not going to be able to look around and say, “Well, we need to modify the Second Amendment,” something which nobody ever suggested, even though it comes up all the time that the Second Amendment is somehow going to be abdicated, I don’t think thats going to happen. And I think you need to do something about all the weapons that are already out there. I’ve said, if it’s good enough for Marines, if you’re going to check out your weapon from the armory, you need to be qualified, and you need to be trained in your own weapon.
I’ll tell you one other interesting that’ll happen, and I don’t know, maybe a couple of you have been on military or private gun ranges, but people take a lot more notice of people’s sort of mental health state when the guy to your left and the guy to your right are standing there with a loaded weapon. You want to make sure he’s safe with the weapon. Maybe you catch different things he may be talking about and we don’t do that. I don’t know how many people on my block or your block might have a dozen weapons stacked up in the back of the closet. Maybe the guy is a perfectly good citizen, but maybe he’s not, but I look at all the mass shootings, and you aren’t going to catch all of them with background checks. You aren’t going to catch all of them with “no fly, no buy.” You’re not even going to stop it by shrinking the magazine. The other thing, I’m sorry, I chuckle at this, because most people have no idea how many 30 round magazines are lying around, both figuratively and literally. I don’t know how you’d really make a dent improving public safety by just saying, “no more big magazine.” That just means they can’t by them at the gun store, but we haven’t been able to buy those in California for a while. If you buy an assault weapon, you get a ten round clip, but there’s plenty of 30 round magazines all over. I think that’s just an example of, “Are you really trying to solve a problem or do you really understand the problem?”
PFM: For people who are wary of mass shootings, what’s realistic change we can expect in the next 10-15 years?
DA: I like my idea. I do. It works with a lot of people. Here’s something I’ll grant with service members; a lot of them will say you’re not gonna take away my weapon, and i say (sigh), for—and I use different language with them—for goodness sakes. I still get my haircut at the same barber chop in San Clemente where I did when I was on active duty. The barbers have changed, OK, but it’s the same place, and I’ll hear an active duty Marine say something like that. And ill say, “Nobody’s going to take away your weapon. Relax. But you got any problem with going to the range and getting trained every year?” “Well, no sir.” Well, OK, maybe that’s what we should do, but I also know that you have a visceral feeling when you heard about Sandy Hook. I think all Americans do, and you know, it really kind of sticks in my craw that there were Democrats who blocked legislation in the senate and I know why they did it, and I know it was political, but some things should push you beyond political considerations.
PFM: Would training or requiring training prevent mentally ill people from getting a hold of weapons. Are there other solutions? In technology, perhaps?
DA: There are, but—I actually like the membership of the NRA, because every time I see a survey, they want to do the right thing. Something like 80-90 percent are for background checks even at gun shows, and the sad fact is that American gun shows are just like Pakistani or an Afghan gun bazaar. They are a little different because you can get fully auto AK-47s in Pakistan and Afghanistan at the bazaar, they’re out there fabricating them. And I think the part of the issue is going to be until we have a better mental healthcare system, which is largely a question of crocs on the ground, not boots on the ground, you need more people in mental health. The VA is the first one that should be getting any increase in mental health care providers, but you’re going to have to do something with respect to finding out who already has guns that just aren’t stable. And constitutionally I can’t think of crafting a statute that says, “OK if you have a gun, you need to go get a mental health checkup.” Not going to happen, at many different levels, but you have to force them sort of to come out figuratively speaking in the light of day with their weapon and eyeball them.
I gotta tell you, I’m not whistling past the graveyard. I’ve had instances where in that context, if the gunnery sergeant comes to me when I was rifle company commander and says, “You know, Brown? I think he’s got something going on,” or “I know this is the situation he’s got going on, he hasn’t been behaving appropriately.” I’m responsible. I can’t tell you how many times I got my backside chewed out because some Marine went up to Los Angeles on a weekend and did something stupid and it was perceived always as a leadership problem. “Why did you allow this to happen?” And it wasn’t one of those things where I could say, “Hey Colonel, I didn’t hold his hand up in Los Angeles.” It was a leadership problem. One of the first things, since it was a question of how you’re career progressed in the Marine Corps, I pulled a lot of rifle cards. If there was any question, I said they’re not checking out a weapon, they’re going down to the hospital. I want an upcheck on them before they start carrying weapons again.
We’re not going to confiscate all the weapons that are already out there, and we need to just start being realistic. And if you talk to people who have been around weapons, that’s why I think the NRA membership have a very common sense approach, but if you ever read the bylaws of the NRA, the membership has very little control of the governing body. And they (the NRA) work for the gun lobbies. They work for the gun manufacturers. They make a lot of money all over the world. even here in the U.S.
PFM: What’s your read is on the urgency with which we need to find real solutions to manmade climate change.
DA: I come from the party that believes in science so this is kind of easy for me. But I’ll tell you just in case that that’s not enough to build consensus on something that I think is clearly going to become a problem that you can’t keep kicking the can down the road. Hey, the Navy and Marine Corps for ten years have been going up the Hill and saying we need renewable energy. We don’t want the petroleum, oil and lubricant supply chain that we’ve been saddled with because it restricts our ability to operate, it makes us vulnerable at many different levels, and we want to do something about renewables.
We should have a Manhattan-type project with renewable fuels. And guess what? This part of Southern California has all these natural synergies in research for so many things. It’s stupid that our Congressmen haven’t been pounding the table on that. I mean, I know who to drag up from the Pentagon to say, “Hey renewables, talk to all these idiots.” And it’s a national security thing, so if you think this is some grand liberal conspiracy or whatever, it’s not. This is a real issue, and just like you gotta do something with carbon. That’s sort of an easy distinction. I don’t know why a guy that had an electronics firm and likes to portray himself as at the cutting edge of technology, why he can’t see science in other areas. Then again, I can’t figure out why he endorsed Donald Trump either.
PFM: What are some solutions for our ongoing water needs? Is desalination the best answer? Can we work with other states to secure more of the Colorado River? What’s the lay of land?
DA: The lay of the land to work with other states to get more of the Colorado River, that litigation went on for 30 years, repeatedly up to the Supreme Court because everybody wanted more than their fair share of the Colorado River. And the only entity that really hasn’t gotten a fair shake in that whole resolution is Mexico because they basically get 0 of the Colorado River. This really gets back to tomorrow’s technology to tackle these problems. Look, I’ve been around desal just from the Navy’s perspective. That’s not the magic wand, that’s not going to create what we think Southern California should be and have ignored for since right after World War I. We live in coastal desert. We’re not supposed to have all this water naturally, but we have all these people now. We’ve got to turn to the ocean. I mean you have to be honest about it. California statewide and the San Joaquin Valley is not going to be growing all the fruits and vegetables that it has for the past century but we’ve got the U.S. Navy. We got Scripps Oceanography. We’ve got the biokinetics center, primarily in the southern part of the 49th, but we need to really start looking at continuing the world’s eighth largest economy.
And we really aren’t losing our position as the 8th largest economy of the world. It’s the ocean, and thats why I get really upset when NIH (National Institutes of Health) doesn’t get funded because that limits Scripps and their research, and if you talk to anybody in bio-medicine, our medicine foundation has been land-based throughout the world and you talk to people down at Scripps and they say 90 percent of the world’s organisms, both discovered and undiscovered, are in the ocean. Five percent of the grants get U.S. funding. That seems like a pretty stupid way of going about things.
I grew up in a blue collar family. Union family. Everybody even at the union level knows, hey, you better adapt. You aren’t going to be able to have the same factory job from generation to generation because factories change, even before NAFTA. You’re going to have to adapt and change. This district probably has more potential for being on the cutting edge of certainly anything thats marine related, because you’ve got the Navy, you have Scripss, you need people who are really going to start pushing science and technology, and be honest with it. This can no longer be a pay to play, because its a world-wide competition, and we still have some advantages but those can be lost. It’s a space in time, and that space is shrinking. So all those thing you talk about—
First, I don’t think desal is the absolute answer, because guess what, it takes a hell of a lot of energy to do it and the lagoon down in Carlsbad is just about to be placed on a watch list because of pollution, and it relates to the new desal plant that’s down there. You’re going to have to get away from a freshwater-based agriculture and economy. And sometimes in different coffees, people will say, “What are we going to do about the water? I can’t water my lawn.” And I say, “This is a bad starting point. Does anybody have any other thoughts on water?” And usually somebody will save me from that because there’s no answer to the man or woman who wants to know when they can start watering their lawn again.
We need to count on a technological solution for American workers, American agriculture and national security. And really that’s what we’ve always done, but a lot of those things have to begin through Congress, as well as private industry.
PFM: The Obama administration has deported more undocumented Latinos than any other administration. How would you assess Obama’s immigration policy?
DA: Southern California looks at immigration and “undocumented people” a lot differently than the rest of the country. I mean we just do. I have always thought that viscerally and I can tell you now being down in polling on the issues in my district and Darrell’s district, it’s not that big an issue. I mean, Californians are concerned about something else. I believe that, look, we repeatedly tried different fixes. Ronald Reagan just gave amnesty and that did work. Part of the reality is that there is a zero net-sum game for Mexico. Most of the undocumented workers are coming from Asia. Look, O read it, I know what was in the 2013 Senate immigration reform bill that was bipartisan. It is not an easy path to citizenship, but there is a path to citizenship and that’s what we should pursue. And that should be the starting point for a Congress that wants to get something done, rather than preserve an issue. And I don’t think the Latino community is going to wait any longer. I think it’s the right thing to do. I try to tell people, and I think Southern Californians understand this, people from south of the border are not necessarily running to be Americans; they’re running from the problems in Mexico. And it depends on where you’re at in Mexico. If you go down to some parts in Mexico, there’s amazing things that are going on, but you still have other parts with government corruption. Anybody that’s having huge success in Mexico will tout that, and they’ll tout where they’re doing it at, and I always say, “When are you gonna get to Tijuana or other parts of Chihuahua or sonora?” And they’ll say, “That;s not on my list,” because it has a history of corruption. It’s tough to be a judge there. I mean tough in terms of being able to live a full life, because if you do your job, you’re generally going to be shot. The drug cartels, I mean everything is connected—the war on drugs creates the market for the drugs that pass through Mexico, and I get concerned whenever somebody tags the words ‘war on’ anything, because war is generally not the answer. They’re not looking for solutions, they’re just looking for an excuse to use kinetics and violence and force to address problems.
But I think we need to be honest about part of doing something about immigration is improving the lot of Mexico that has not seen the benefit of NAFTA. I ask people here all the time, here in California, “Who knows what the minimum wage is in Mexico?” and usually they say 2.50, 5 dollars? 5 dollars a day. There are factories were Mexican factory workers are making 8 dollars an hour, which is probably better than a lot of union wages when you factor in the cost of living in Mexico, but I know just enough immigration law to understand this: eventually if you get into the country and you have a child here, as some people refer to as anchor babies, when that child reaches the age of maturity, that’s the sponsor for the parents. Thats been in immigration law since the Civil War, and it’s because citizenship was a birth right.
So a lot of this is, so, are you really going to address the reality, and the reality is U.S. business has been benefitting by undocumented workers for a long time, and they need to become part of the solution, and the whole excuse that, “Oh, we just can’t tell whether they’re undocumented or not,” I like to say well when I was in Iraq we had intelligence, definitely a shortage of interpreters, so we had a hard time identifying if a bad guy was in Baghdad, whether or not he was on the border of Syria the next day, which would indicate maybe they’re involved in maybe bomb-making activity. but we got a technological solution real quick. We started using a system that digitally photographs irises, and it works better than a fingerprint. And if he said he was Ali in Baghdad, we’d say, “Mohammed, you’re not mohammed, you were Ali back in the Sunni area on the west side of Baghdad, so you’re coming with us.” That can be done and it’s not that costly or expensive.
PFM: Are there issues with privacy with that?
DA: It’s different because you aren’t getting an ID. You aren’t finding out where people live. You’re just taking a biometric, and it’s not invasive. If it was DNA, then you’d have Consitutitional issues with it. But it’s sort of like you wear it on your face every day, so i think that would pass Constitutional muster, I really do, and it’s really just a function of being who you say you are.
We know that an undocumented person doesn’t have any problem getting documentation. For one thing, they can go get a drivers license, right? Legally, but also in other states, they can get whatever form they need, including a social security number. Most of them end up paying some income tax and social security.
PFM: So this is an anti-climactic final question: Is this your first time running?
PFM: Do you have any concerns that voters might be concerned about that?
DA: No, I don’t, because one of the reasons I decided to run is I took sort of an inventory of the experience of most Congressmen, and there’s only 5 percent that have served in a combat zone ever in their lives, so if you’re going to vote on war I’m just going to tell you, I think my leadership would be much more valuable in answering questions than 95 percent of them, and i can understand—and the other thing is since about the mid-80s, I’ve been trying cases, both white color crimes and complex crimes and civil cases, so I’ve lived sort of at the crux of the beaker or the test tube as far as how laws get applied to people and businesses and communities, and that’s something that people like to say, ‘I’ve been a businessman.’ I’ve been a businessman too, my law office has always been my own, but those people always come to the justice system to solve their issues. And as far as experience level, procedural rules I’ll have to get up to speed on, but that isn’t the first I’ve had to do that because I’m a member of the bar in five states so I’m used to getting used to new rules.
But I don’t have any learning curve concerning the military, foreign affairs, particularly in certain parts of the world, or the criminal justice system, the civil justice system or the penal system, so no, I don’t have any questions about whether or not I can deliver a better representative, because I’ve been representing people all my life.