Tom Tancredo talks with BPE's Bryan RenbaumBaltimore Post-Examiner

Illegal Immigration: Tom Tancredo discusses his Congressional career

Baltimore Post-Examiner interviewed former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado. Tancredo, an outspoken opponent of both illegal and [increased] legal immigration, briefly sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. He was also a candidate for governor of the Rocky Mountain State in 2010 and 2014. A Tea Party favorite, and frequent guest on FOX, MSNBC, and CNN, Tancredo is always willing to speak his mind. He also writes a weekly column for World Net Daily. 

BPE: You have often been critical of neo-conservatives within the GOP for their support of many issues, most notably, immigration reform. Do you consider yourself a member of the party’s diminishing paleo-conservative wing and if so do you identify with pundits such as Pat Buchanan?

TANCREDO: I identify with Pat on many issues and consider him to be a very good friend. In fact, his sister Bay ran my presidential campaign. I consider Pat to be both brilliant and prescient. The only thing I tend disagree with him on, is that he seems less willing to support Israel against the Palestinians, than I have been. But I certainly do not agree with the neo-cons in their other foreign policy or domestic objectives, particularly when it comes to immigration.

BPE: So would you consider yourself a paleo-conservative?

TANCREDO: I’m not sure what that term means.

BPE: Paleo-conservatives differ from neo-cons in that they emphasize social and cultural issues, as opposed supporting an interventionist foreign policy; their main objective is the preservation of Western Civilization.

TANCREDO: If that’s the definition you want to apply, then I am completely comfortable in accepting that label.

BPE: Another question pertaining to ideology … In 2012, you were one of the few conservatives who supported Amendment 64, which essentially legalized Marijuana use in Colorado. Does this indicate a libertarian streak?

Tom Tancredo

Tom Tancredo

TANCREDO: I guess you could say that. When I was in Congress I always supported the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment [each time it was introduced] which basically states that DOJ could not allocate money for the purpose of interfering with states that chose to liberalize marijuana laws. [The bill passed both houses of Congress as of December and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama]. Additionally, I have always opposed government intrusion into activities that have no consequence beyond the individual. That being said, I do not like marijuana, nor have I ever used it. There are a host of other vices including tobacco and excess alcohol use that are harmful, but I don’t think that I have any right to tell you what you can or cannot ingest. You call it libertarian, but I just call it liberty. And I always found it odd that conservatives, who tend to support less regulation, take the opposite position on this particular issue.

BPE: Understood, but don’t liberals use that same argument to justify same-sex marriage?

TANCREDO: Yes they do, and that is an issue I have always struggled with. And while I can accept the logic that argues they should have the right to marry someone of the same gender, I find it difficult to accept their unwillingness to take into account the ideas of others who oppose that practice. For instance, individuals should have the right to choose not to make a cake for them or to preside over their wedding ceremonies, particularly if doing so violates their religious beliefs. And gay-activists want to criminalize the right to do that. So, my reasoning dictates that if these groups want to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, there should be an amendment stating that not everyone has to agree with or facilitate this [would be] right.

BPE: That is an interesting perspective rarely mentioned by the mainstream media. But lets move on to your career in Congress. Throughout five terms in Congress, you were most commonly known as a vocal opponent of both illegal [and attempts at increasing] legal immigration. Is this a fair characterization of your efforts representing the 6th District?

TANCREDO: Yes.

BPE: Ok [laughter] simple enough. But I wanted to ask you, are there any other issues you worked on that may have been overlooked?

200px-TomTancredo08TANCREDO: Certainly, there was one in particular that interested me long before I came to Washington. While attending the Presbyterian-Evangelical Church in Cherry Hills, Colorado I became aware of the plight of Black-Christians in Sudan, which at the time was one country, and who were being persecuted by Arab-Muslims in the north. It really bothered me on a personal level and several years later when I was in Congress, I requested membership on the International Relations Africa-Subcommittee, which only had four members. I wanted to help Sudanese-Christians in some way, without sending troops to the region. So I teamed up with former Kansas GOP Senator (now governor) Sam Brownback who was also working on the issue, and together we traveled to Sudan. It was quite an extraordinary experience and when I got back I wrote the Sudan Peace Act, which didn’t pass for two years, but lead to the cessation of hostilities and eventually resulted in the partition of that country into north and south. And I consider that to be my greatest accomplishment in Congress and of course very few people are even aware that I did that.

Tough_on_terrorBPE: Why did you choose not to seek re-election in 2010?

TANCREDO: I left Congress because I felt I had done everything I had set out to do. Other people suggested it was because I had burnt every bridge there was to burn, but it was not a place I enjoyed. In fact, I remember driving to the Denver Airport on a Monday morning en route to Washington and getting a huge knot in my stomach. To this day, I still don’t like going back there, but do so occasionally. While a congressman [House Majority Leader] Tom Delay would often call me into his office to chastise me and once told me that if I didn’t shut up about illegal immigration and stop voting against the GOP leadership on specific issues, that: ‘You will ruin your career in this place.’ And I responded: ‘I don’t know how to break this to you Tom, but I don’t want a career in this place; [in fact] I don’t even like this place.’

BPE: You also had a well-publicized confrontation with Bush adviser Karl Rove in 2002 during which he told you that you were no longer welcome at the White House. What was the context of that dispute?

TANCREDO: Yes I had recently given an interview to The Washington Times and basically stated that if there was a repeat of an event like September 11th, and if Congress had not done anything more to stop illegal immigration (15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens who had overstayed their visas) than the blood of the American people would be on the hands of the President and Congress as well. Anyway, I remember pulling out of my driveway in Alexandria, Va. en route to the Capitol, when my phone rang. And when I answered it, the White House operator told me to hold for Karl Rove. So I said: ‘Hello Karl, how are you?’ And he responded: ‘I was doing a lot better until I read this article in The Washington Times!’ Rove then launched into a tirade accusing me of being a traitor to the party and the President, before finally saying: ‘Don’t ever darken the doorstep of this White House again!’

BPE: Wow. That sounds intense. Now, I’d like to move on to your presidential bid. In 2008, you briefly sought the GOP nomination in what many have suggested was an attempt to highlight issues (namely illegal immigration) that the party establishment chose to ignore. Do you feel vindicated in that effort and do you think the GOP will ever take your suggestions to heart?

TANCREDO: The answer to the first part is that absolutely I do. In fact, every day I see the issues I articulated during that candidacy playing out on the national stage. And you are right in stating that I only ran to force the other candidates to deal with this issue, which they did not want to discuss. But I felt it needed to be discussed and every day I feel justified in doing what I did. The answer to the next part is no, because the moneyed-interests who control the party are strongly influenced by the U.S Chamber of Commerce. And the COC is tempted by the prospect of cheap labor that illegal immigrants provide. Additionally, the Democrats opposed my efforts as well, seeing these individuals as prospective voters.

BPE: And you have certainly generated controversy discussing this issue as well as others. In April 2009, you visited UNC Chapel Hill as a guest speaker and were interrupted by student demonstrators shouting: ‘No dialogue with hate,’ in response to your opposition to President Obama’s Dream Act. Does this experience highlight the left’s hypocrisy regarding diversity of opinion?

TANCREDO: This was the first time anyone actually stopped me from speaking, although there are often attempts to prevent me from speaking on college campuses. On this particular occasion, they started throwing bricks through the window and everybody was forced to evacuate from the lecture hall. This resulted in my departure, but I was later invited back by the president of the college and returned, with a massive police escort. The reason I mention this is to convey the point that when I was in college I cannot remember any incidents where conservatives ever tried to prevent someone from speaking, simply because they didn’t agree with the speaker. Yet, I saw it all the time with the left and sometimes had to be taken onto campuses with SWAT teams and wear bullet-proof vests.

BPE: At the 2010 Tea Party Convention, you suggested President Obama could not have been elected if potential voters were required to pass a civics literacy test. In response, The New York Times wrote a scathing editorial basically insinuating that you were a racist and wanted to resurrect Jim Crow-era barriers. While this is certainly a controversial theory, how can such a test be racist, if everyone — without exception — is forced to meet the same requirements?

TANCREDO: Great question. It couldn’t be. It’s not racist. Immigrants have to take a test to become citizens, and that’s the test I would use for everyone. If we can expect an individual from another country coming here to understand a modicum amount of American History, then why is it so unreasonable to apply that same requirement to those who were born here? And I’ve seen the test; it’s not a mind bender. Additionally, the people who call me a racist for suggesting that are themselves expressing racism to the nth degree because they are insinuating that only people of color would not be able to pass the test. Furthermore, most of the uninformed people I see on reality TV, namely college students, are white.

BPE: Do you think that comment generated the same level of controversy as your alleged 2005 assertion that the U.S should “Bomb Mecca” if terrorists set off a nuclear device on American soil?

TANCREDO: I never said “Bomb Mecca,” but the civics literacy comment did not generate nearly as much controversy as the former. What really happened was that I was on the radio and was asked the question you just referenced. And I said that after detonation there are no good options and nothing can be done except quarantine the area and clear the bodies. I also said that the emphasis has to be placed on preventing a situation like that from occurring. The commentator then asked me how I would do that and I responded by saying that we have to first understand what motivates the terrorists: religious zealotry. Once you understand that then the defense strategy has to deal with that component just as MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) created a deterrent [during the Cold War] so would the threat of taking out their holy sites. So that is the origin of the comment, and you would have thought that I actually did bomb Mecca. Also, I received a call from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force saying that two teams from Pakistan had been dispatched to kill me and there was huge picture of me being hung in effigy in Islamabad in Time Magazine. There was also a bit of humor in the fact that they spelled my last name correctly, but misspelled “death” as “deth.”

BPE: You have also been an outspoken opponent of multiculturalism and have voiced deep concerns over the danger radical Islam poses to the survival of Western Civilization. Explain how mass immigration in general threatens America and the reasoning behind a recent column you wrote suggesting the United States should refuse to admit any more immigrants from Muslim countries?

TANCREDO: First of all, let me say that immigration can be a very positive thing; if people assimilate into the host culture. But since implementation of the Immigration Act of 1965, progressives have encouraged the exact opposite of assimilation. They have promoted tribalism and ethnic division.

Tom Tancredo

Tom Tancredo

BPE: I want to move on to your current activities. When you first ran for Governor in 2010, on the Constitution Party’s ticket, you got more than three times as many votes than the GOP nominee, but lost to Democrat John Hickenlooper. And last year you ran again, as a Republican, but lost the primary to Bob Beauprez, who in turn lost to Hickenlooper. Do these experiences indirectly indicate cleverly-orchestrated attempts by the GOP establishment to ensure you never gain national prominence?

TANCREDO: Yes. And I believe New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie played a prominent role in that effort.

He funneled a large sum of money [as Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association to the Republican Attorneys General Association] to my primary opponent in 2014, as reported by the Denver Post [who referenced a claim from the campaign finance watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington].

BPE: After the mid-term elections last year, you announced the creation of a “Stop Chris Christie” PAC. Can you explain what this is and if there is any truth to the charge that you created it to punish Christie for trying to undermine your campaign?

TANCREDO: I plead guilty as charged. The purpose of the PAC is pretty clear: to stop Christie from becoming President.

BPE: The 2016 Presidential Campaign is about to begin. As you know, Hillary will likely be the Democratic nominee and many believe Jeb Bush, her GOP opponent. Last April, Bush stated that those who enter the U.S illegally are motivated to do so out of an “act of love” for the United States. How would you respond to this assertion and will you consider running again next year if none of the Republican candidates take a tough stand on this issue?

TANCREDO: Yes. If I need to run again in order to highlight this issue, I will do so. Bush’s comment is in my opinion, naïve to the point of disqualification. That was a stupid thing for him to suggest. I’ve been on that border several times, and love does not factor into it.


About the author

Bryan Renbaum

Bryan is a reporter and political columnist with Baltimore Post-Examiner and has broken multiple stories involving athletic scandals. He has been interviewed by ABC's Good Morning America as well as Baltimore area radio stations. Bryan has both covered and worked in the Maryland General Assembly and is extremely knowledgeable of politics, voting patterns and American history. In addition to his regular duties, Bryan freelances for several publications and performs investigative research. He has a B.A. in Political Science. Contact the author.
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