The TV networks aren’t letting you hear Michigan Rep. Thad McCotter debate just yet.
But the sitting congressman and Republican presidential candidate, known for his quirky style and intellect, says he plans to “slog away” in Iowa and New Hampshire, hoping to rise enough in the polls for a chance to take the stage with Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and the others gunning for the White House in 2012.
“They don’t understand what’s wrong with the economy, let alone how to fix it,” McCotter said of his opponents during a 45-minute editorial meeting with reporters from The Daily Caller on Thursday. “Secondly, I don’t hear much about foreign affairs.”
Among the most contentious topics at the Reagan Library debate in California this week was Social Security, but McCotter declined to say if he sides with Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The Texan didn’t back down then when moderators pressed him on his statement that the program is a Ponzi scheme.
“To me it’s irrelevant whether it’s a Ponzi scheme or whether or not it’s not,” McCotter said. “The question is ‘how are you going to fix it?’”
McCotter said he plans to introduce his own bill Monday that “allows people within personalized accounts within the system to start investing portions of future benefits.” (RELATED: McCotter seeks to fill foreign policy void in GOP primary field)
During the interview, he also railed against Wall Street bailouts, saying, “we know who crashed the economy.” Those financial firms, he said, are “part of the reason that this economy is stagnant.”
But the Michigander — referencing how Detroit was once called the “Arsenal of Democracy” — also defended his support of government loans to auto companies by saying that not voting to do so could have harmed the country’s national security.
“If you do not have the ability to manufacture armaments… your peace through strength mantra rings hollow and you continue to see the evisceration of your ability to protect your strategic interests,” he said.
On the topic of national security, he threw out a favorite candidate to take over the state department in the next Republican administration.
“I do hope that whoever is president of the United States makes John Bolton secretary of state,” McCotter said of the former U.N. ambassador. Bolton announced this week he isn’t running for the White House.
Continuing, McCotter said: “And one of the bitter ironies was that after Ambassador Bolton said he was not running for president they held a debate where nobody talked much about foreign policy after he urged them to.”
During a discussion on lighter topics, the guitar and music enthusiast — a self-described “Fender guy” — said he hasn’t chosen a theme song for his young presidential campaign.
“I’d probably have to write it myself because the musicians who tend to be left would tell me to stop playing it if I used their songs,” he said.
And asked to choose between Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, he was mum.
“I reject the premise of the question, as a country in war and recession.”
McCotter, a cigarette user, said he’d have no problem smoking in public as president, in contrast to Obama, who pledged to kick the habit once he started running for the White House in 2007.
“I hope one day to quit,” he said. “But until I do, I’ll smoke where it’s legal to. If that’s the worst vice I get when I leave this town, it’s a blessing.”
McCotter also told TheDC he hasn’t decided whether he’s running for re-election to his House seat yet. He’s focused on running for president now, he said.
“I have not made a decision about that,” he said. “I don’t even think about it.”