Candidate vying to unseat Landrieu addresses N.O. gathering
17th June 2013 · 0 Comments
By Christopher Tidmore
Mere hours after the Snowden revelations about the NSA/CIA emails broke on Monday, June 13, the newest U.S. Senate candidate taking on Mary Landrieu in 2014, Rob Maness, addressed the topic before a house full of potential voters in Uptown New Orleans.
The gathering was organized by a fellow veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, Hy McEnery. Like Maness, the local Reverend had spent the better part of the last decade deployed to the hot spots of the War on Terror. (At home, though, McEnery faces a different type of battlefield. He runs LAMB Ministries, an inner-city outreach group to teens that works amongst the predominantly African-American residents of Pigeon Town, a poor neighborhood perched between Oak St. and Earhart Blvd.)
McEnery welcomed the recently Retired Air Force Bird Colonel. Maness, who after twenty years of enforcing no fly zones and bombing runs in Iraq and Afghanistan, expressed a deep skepticism about America as “the world’s policeman”..
“Our defense budget is too big,” he stated, uttering the critique that America’s constant focus on overseas conflicts undermines our national defense. It is a testament to the changing political environment that the predominantly Republican crowd found itself quite receptive Rob Maness’ message.
The influence of the Rand Paul wing of the GOP has gained ground with the base.
“I believe in strong national defense but our defense budget is highly bloated. We need a full defense budget review to make sure we are only spending tax dollars on the right capabilities to meet our national security needs,” the retired Air Force Colonel emphasized.
On the Snowden affair, Maness proved quite critical of Senators McCain and Graham. “I respect their service to this country, not just John McCain’s but Lindsey Graham’s. He served in the military as well, but…The NSA program revelations were known to Congress and should been known to the American people. The author of the original Patriot Act has publicly stated these new programs go far beyond the original intent and the codified limits of the Patriot Act, and are therefore violations of the law. When seen in the larger context of the other violations of our laws in the IRS, EPA, DHS surrounding American individual liberty, I have a grave concern regarding vast overreach of the current government.”
“I believe we have over-classified too much information for quite some time,” the former nuclear weapons expert, who has enjoyed top secret clearance for decades, declared.
The state of intelligence gathering wasn’t the only element of foreign policy in which Maness disagreed with many of his fellow Republicans. In recent weeks, neoconservatives called upon President Obama to intervene in the Syrian conflict. Their demands for action were echoed across the political spectrum last week with the fall of the key strategic city of Qusair, once the rebel center, and the news that after more than two years of fighting in Syria, the documented death toll is approaching 93,000.
The Republican Senate candidate expressed concern over calls to arm those battling Assad. “The question is, which Syrian rebels should we arm, if any?” With large factions of those fighting the regime comprised of Al Qaida and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated groups, transferring weapons to the Syria opposition, as McCain and Graham has called for, is fraught with danger, in Maness’ view.
Maness told the gathering, “I am running for Senate because Louisiana taxpayers are sick and tired of the status quo in Washington. They want someone who will fight for them and create jobs, instead of getting bogged down in the Washington political swamp. I will travel across the state and share my message of limited government, economic growth, and personal liberty with the hardworking people of Louisiana. I believe that is what the people of Louisiana are looking for.”
As to why he entered the race, he remembered, “I spent my young life watching my father serve this great country. I spent my adult life serving this our great constitutional republic. Now, as a retired Air Force Colonel, I want to continue to serve my country and my state in a new capacity.
“As I watched what was happening to our state, our country and our constitution, I knew that I needed to take action and get involved if my children and grandchildren were to inherit America, as we knew it when we grew up. The frustration of watching President Obama dismantle our Constitution and our personal liberties piece-by-piece while Senator Landrieu sat back and did nothing to protect the interests of the great people of Louisiana left me with no choice.”
In that vein, Maness said, “I am running to support and defend the Constitution as it was written as it was intended by our founding Fathers; Repeal big government programs like Obamacare to heal and restore our economy so ALL Americans can prosper; and rein in out-of-control government spending.”
Last week saw the commencement of the debate over immigration reform, and Maness expressed deep problems with the bill as currently written. “We are a nation of immigrants. America’s citizens come from all over the world, united by a belief in freedom and a desire to live the American Dream. But we are also a nation of laws. There is no doubt that our immigration system is broken and must be reformed, but it must be done in a way consistent with the rule of law and basic fairness. Therefore, I will not support a bill that grants amnesty.”
Nor does the retired Air Force Colonel support the Affordable Care Act, and he gives little credence to arguments that the La. state budget stands to disproportionately gain from the increased Medicaid funding due to our poorer population.
Of course, in that way, Maness stands in the mainstream of his party. “We are already beginning to witness the harmful consequences of Obamacare, including premium increases and threats of canceled policies. Obamacare was supposed to solve our broken healthcare system and make health care more affordable. Instead, it is doing the opposite. For example, President Obama’s Medicaid expansion imposes new financial burdens on our state’s already strapped budget, and if implemented, will bankrupt our state. Finally, Obamacare empowers government bureaucrats to make private health care decisions that should be left to doctors and patients to make.”
When asked, though, if repealed, what replaces the Affordable Care Act, he had no answer. In other words, when queried under the GOP moniker “repeal and replace,” what is your legislative plan to provide universal access to affordable health care, Maness replied, “Replace with what? Obamacare-lite?”
“That is the Bill Cassidy/GOP Establishment way,” he continued. “On Bill Cassidy’s official member website it states ‘Bill is supporting legislation that will repeal the new law and replace it with reforms that will help ensure access to affordable, quality health care to all.’No. We must stop trying to fix everything with government.
“Obamacare should be repealed before it permanently damages our economy and stifles the middle-class. Big Government healthcare will never be capable of providing quality and affordable health care; only free markets where the doctor and patient make the decisions can provide that. And I will never pose for a photo-op of an Obamacare Pork project like Rep. Cassidy did.
“I stand absolutely firm for the right to life, traditional marriage, our 2nd amendment and all the rights in the Bill of Rights as they are the foundation of America’s success, and I will use every tool available to me in the Senate to protect and defend them.”
It’s personal for the father of five. “I first moved to La. in 1987 being stationed here twice in my Air Force career, spending more of my adult life here than anywhere else. My family and I were thrilled to get the opportunity to choose La. as our permanent home and Madisonville as our hometown because we already knew the people and history of La. make it the best place in the world to live.”
This article originally published in the June 17, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.