Ted Alexander, at left, and Jim Snyder listen as Dr. Greg Brannon is about to answer an audience question.
The United States should clamp down on Russian expansionist dictator Vladimir Putin economically via natural gas policies, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows and senatorial hopeful Thom Tillis said Saturday.
They spoke at the annual Henderson County Republican Convention. That was followed by the Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner, also in Opportunity House. The tender meal was catered by Crystal’s BBQ and Grill.
The GOP’s consensus verbal menu featured grilled Obamacare, Ronald Reagan toasties as an appetizer, low calorie tax/spend sprinkles, key side dishes of pro-life proclamation and sovereign border shutdown, and Putin gluten puffs for dessert.
State House Speaker Tillis spoke during the nearly two-hour convention, before going to a prior campaign engagement. Then during the luncheon, three other U.S. Senate candidates spoke who seek the GOP stamp and the seat of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.). They are former two-term Shelby Mayor Ted Alexander who is an attorney, Tea Party constitutionalist Dr. Greg Brannon of Cary, and Lexington attorney Jim Snyder. Brannon and Tillis are deadlocked atop a recent Public Policy Polling poll. The four senatorial candidates on the May 6 primary ballot but absent from both GOP functions Saturday are Alex Lee Bradshaw of Hickory, Heather Grant of Wilkesboro, Edward Kryn of Clayton, and Charlotte First Baptist minister Mark Harris.
Hagan is challenged in the Democrat primary by Ernest T. Reeves and Will Stewart. Two vying for the Libertarian nomination are Tim D’Annunzio and Sean Haugh.
Speaker Tillis and U.S. Rep. Meadows each told The Tribune that the United States should hit Pres. Putin in the money pocket, with economic sanctions much stronger than the Obama administration is doing and by thwarting lucrative Russian natural gas and oil exports.
“We have to turn off the spicket from Russia,” lowering imports by increasing our own energy production, Meadows said. He singled liquid natural gas as pivotal. He said gas and oil prices will drop, as “energy independence” rises for the West. European Union nations import nearly one-third of crude oil and nearly 40 percent of natural gas from Russia, he noted. Russia ranks behind only the U.S. globally, in natural gas production.
The planned 1,200-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada should be allowed into the U.S., to deliver oil from Alberta tar sands to refineries in Texas and to create more jobs, Tillis said. Pres. Barack Obama rejected the TransCanada Corp. project, as its route would go near a groundwater aquifer in Nebraska. The plan was rerouted two years ago. GOP leaders charge Obama is dragging decisions past the fall election, to try to avoid the issue.
Obama’s policy is one of “weakness” and “retreat” rather than Russian containment, Tillis said. He said Russia seems eager to again “suppress” neighbors as during the Cold War. He shares the view of former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. Bolton predicts Putin is after all of Ukraine, and as much of the former Soviet empire and resources as he can snatch while avoiding war with the U.S. Putin recently announced annexation of the Crimea. That peninsula is among areas with Russian-speaking majorities in Ukraine.
Ukraine is torn by Civil War. A rebellion drove out the Russian-allied leader, after he won what critics allege is a bogus election backed by intimidation of Russian troops by the border. Russia sent troops into Georgia four years ago. Tillis said the U.S. can better aid “freedom-loving people” in Ukraine if it becomes independently democratic and joins NATO, as some ex-Soviet “border states” have done.
Rep. Meadows said “I do believe Russia is after Eastern Ukraine, and probably Southern Ukraine as well” with its many ethnic Russians. In his speech, he called Putin a “dictator” who has pulled back reforms in Russia, and who is “trying to stomp out” freedom in neighboring states. He elaborated to The Tribune. “I’m not saying Putin is as bad as Hitler. But it’s eerily similar to the (British) appeasement of Hitler” that let him annex the strategic German-speaking Sudetenland and open a Pandora’s World War II Box. Rep. Meadows said, “Putin’s threat is real, and it’s scary.”
Meadows is on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He said a challenge in dealing with radical Islamic factions is many “countries want what we have (economically), but they hate who we are and our freedoms.”
Tillis also told the crowd about the volatile Middle East. He said Pres. Obama erred in giving radical Iran and Syria “a seat at the (negotiating) table,” such as regarding Iran’s nuclear program buildup that threatens Israel. Tillis was 19 in 1979, when the Iranian Hostage Crisis erupted. “We’ve seen turmoil before. In 1979, we were also dealing with Russia (in Afghanistan), the Middle East, oil, unemployment. Jimmy Carter was driving the nation into the ground. But under Ronald Reagan, we turned the economy around. We rose back to being the most exceptional nation in the world. We can do that again.”
Among other issues, Tillis called for such steps as to “repeal Obamacare, simplify the tax code, tax relief, debt reduction (via spending cuts), and easing regulatory burdens” on business to protect jobs. He is from Cornelius.
At the luncheon, soft-spoken Alexander said as he spoke for 10 minutes the nation’s debt was rising another $10 million and “we each owe $55,000 more.” He said Vice-president Joe Biden’s messsage is “You don’t have to work. We’ll take care of you.”
He said as Shelby mayor, he expanded tourist facilities and kept jobs from leaving. He said a security-based bonus for clamping down on illegal entry into this country is “possible terrorists” can sneak in. He said conservatives are unfairly “told we’re haters, for being pro-life and for traditional marriage.”
Lanky Snyder called for reversing such policies as the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA resulted in much industry moving jobs to Mexico, and others staying but lowering wages to compete. He said federal monetary policy wrongly is “micromanaged.” He calls for gradual withdrawal of “quantitative easing” of bond buying that boosts the stock market.
The 6-foot-6 3/4 inch Snyder played basketball for Wake Forest Coach Bones McKinney, in 1964-67. Snyder said “I’ll fight for you, so liberals never again control our lives.”
Peppery Brannon said individual rights are paramount. The OBGYN physician, who delivered a baby early that morning, said he sees first-hand how the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is backfiring. It is forcing people to buy medical insurance, at rising and oft-unaffordable (one-fourth of take-home pay) premiums, he said. Existing coverages are restricted, and many are deemed insufficient. Authorized policies are covering less and/or costing patients, their benefits-providing employers, care providers and taxpayers more money. Also, employers are cutting back worker hours to avoid full-time benefits, and to offset higher minimum wage for entry workers.
Tillis has name recognition and a pivotal state political role. But Brannon has national endorsements from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Rand’s father — Libertarian-leaning former U.S. Rep. Dr. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a three-time presidential candidate. Brannon said Glenn Beck praised him, when he was the radio political commentator’s on-air guest.