If Democrats win the White House and control Congress in 2008, they would rescind the most important tool for fighting terrorism and “put America at risk,” Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., predicts.
In a wide-ranging Newsmax interview in his office on the third floor of the Russell Senate Office Building, Martinez, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Republican National Committee, also warned that if the Democrats were to win the presidency, an empowered Democratic Congress would go on a tax and spend rampage.
Already Democrats in Congress have been “doing the same old thing Democrats do,” Martinez says. “Look at Charlie Rangel’s proposed tax increase and look at the way they’re spending money.”
Over the next five years, Democrats are proposing to spend $205 billion more than the president has proposed in budget requests.
“When I look at polls and they show that the American people trust the Democrats more than the Republicans on spending, it shows us how we’ve lost our brand,” Martinez says. “We’ve got to get our brand back.”
The American Dream
Elected in 2004 in a hotly contested Senate race in Florida, Martinez has lived the American dream. Born in Cuba, he came to the U.S. in 1962 at age 15 as part of a Roman Catholic humanitarian effort called Operation Peter Pan, which has helped more than 14,000 Cuban children escape communism.
He lived with foster families until he was reunited with his family in 1966.
Martinez has a new book due out in June 2008, “A Sense of Belonging: From Castro’s Cuba to the U.S. Senate, One Man’s Pursuit of the American Dream” (Crown Forum).
A stalwart conservative in the Senate, Martinez has been a fighter for a stronger military and policies important to seniors. He opposes abortion and supports school vouchers, free trade, tax cuts, English-only education, continued sanctions on Cuba, and a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Martinez has a high 84 percent rating from The American Conservative Union — and a zero percent “liberal quotient” from Americans for Democratic Action.
At President Bush’s request, Martinez was brought in to chair the RNC and help stabilize the committee after the party lost both the Senate and the House in the 2006 elections.
The First Target: FISA
Today, Martinez says the No. 1 priority for him and his Republican colleagues is to keep America safe.
The senator told Newsmax that after President Bush finishes his term, the Democrats’ first target will be the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The law, originally passed in 1978, allows quick interception of terrorists’ calls and e-mails.
“If the Democrats were to control the House, the Senate, and the White House, FISA would be a thing of the past,” Martinez says. “FISA is the most important tool we have to keep America safe. If they had their way, Democrats would be safeguarding constitutional rights of foreign terrorists who do not have constitutional rights. That would be a clear opening to the enemy and would eliminate our best tool to keep America safe from the next terrorist attack.”
Despite constant attacks by Democrats, no abuse of that law or of other Bush administration anti-terrorism measures has been found, Martinez points out.
“The question is, Do we trust the terrorists or trust our own government? I mean why don’t we trust our president?” Martinez asks. “Now there are those who make a living out of trying to say that this man is not trustworthy. I know him well enough to know that that’s not the case. And I also know he’s got a track record going back more than six years without an attack.”
And despite harsh press criticism of the President’s Iraq policy, Martinez sees “progress towards victory” in Iraq. But he admits he was startled during the David Petraeus hearings to find “Sen. Clinton, when faced with the prospects of success, being incapable of accepting that and insisting on having only bad news come out of Iraq.”
He also notes that the Democrats don’t offer any solutions to the complex threat we face with Iran. Martinez says Iran is a threat to the region and a threat to the U.S.
“Yet,” he says, “it doesn’t appear to me that the Democrats have a clear understanding of that, other than to fear Dick Cheney more than President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”
Encouraging Signs for 2008
When it comes to the 2008 election, Martinez sees some encouraging signs for the Republicans.
“On issue after issue, the three Democratic presidential candidates cannot pander enough to the extreme left of their party,” Martinez says. “And that’s what gives me hope that in a general election contest we’re going to triumph, because they are moving beyond where this country is.”
Martinez points to some good news for Republicans in the mid-term elections as well.
“Republicans won the governorship in Mississippi and Louisiana,” he says. “Every statewide seat was won by Republicans in Mississippi. We also saw Republican mayors elected in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. What it tells me is that our country has not ideologically shifted to the left.”
Martinez also argues that the Republicans have a good chance of keeping the White House next year because of the party’s strong lineup of prospective nominees. Among the contenders, Martinez says he has “a couple” of favorites.
“If I endorse, it’ll be sometime in a few weeks from now, but I may choose not to,” he says.
As Martinez sees it, “Mitt Romney is an energetic, exciting person. I love Ann Romney; she’s just a tremendous lady. You can tell a lot about a person by that person’s spouse. I think she speaks volumes about him.”
Beyond that, “he has been a successful governor and successfully tangled with the healthcare mess in Massachusetts, a liberal state. He tackled the Winter Olympics and turned that around dramatically. He was very successful in business. So I think he has a strong resume.”
Rudy Giuliani is “America’s mayor,” Martinez says. “Giuliani’s record in New York is exemplary, when it comes to lowering taxes, when it comes to bringing crime down, when it comes to just his innate ability to lead. On 9/11, of course, he led in the most difficult of circumstances. So he’s been battle tested, in my opinion.”
John McCain is “a true national hero, a person who through his life story is an inspiration to all,” Martinez says. “I think he’s still a solid conservative.”
Mike Huckabee was a good governor and is “someone that I think has really hit a chord with the American people. I think in the debates he has shown good humor.”
As for Fred Thompson, Martinez says, “I still am waiting for Thompson to show what he’s about. But we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt until he’s been out there a little longer.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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