I am pleased to present the following interview with Bob Turner, who is challenging Rep. Anthony Weiner for New York’s Ninth Congressional District.
Turner spent 40 years of his career in the highly competitive television industry. His first job was as a clerk for ABC-TV, launching a rewarding career in broadcasting, advertising, TV program production and distribution. As President, CEO or Chairman, Bob has started up and managed companies large and small. While his family life was centered on the Ninth District, Bob’s career took him around the globe as he conducted business and formed programming partnerships in places from Tbilisi to Delhi, Manila to Moscow.
In 2003, Bob stepped out of full time business management. Currently, he manages his own business interests, including being an owner/partner in a hotel business in Orlando Florida. He is currently on the Board of Directors of Readspeak Inc. and Liberty Imaging Inc., and serves as a trustee of pro-bono organizations such as the Achilles Track Club and Family Focus Adoption Services.
Dustin Siggins: So I was reading National Review, the review you got, and I found it very interesting- especially because, on a personal level, I tried to interview Rep. Weiner some weeks ago
Bob Turner: *Chuckles*
DS: On his Politico piece about Social Security. I was going to do a bit of investigative journalism, getting his perspective; getting the perspective of someone else who disagrees with him; and his press secretary answered my phone calls, never responded to my e-mails, and blew me off. So it was very interesting how that worked, especially considering how much he’s on Fox, and how much he’s out there, that he wouldn’t want to talk to someone. I found that very interesting. So I will admit I have a bit of a personal vendetta in going to talk to you.
BT: *Chuckles* Okay.
DS: I have no shame in admitting that. Speaking of Politico, I’m sure you have an opinion on Social Security. Do you agree with the Congressman that Social Security is sound, and if not, how do you fix it?
BT: Weiner suggests that Social Security is sound. In reality, it is no more secure than any other U.S. debt obligations. Some people think the Social Security fund is like a secured savings account, but Social Security money has been spent. What’s left is an IOU, so this is no more secure than every one of our other debts, and all our debts are reliant on the state of the economy.
DS: Okay. How would you- what do you think are good policies to implement, to prevent this IOU from getting worse, which it’s only going to, at this rate?
BT: Well, to fix and to secure Social Security, we need to address the overall health of the economy. Obama’s economic policies- which Weiner supports- are a failure. The way to fix the economy is not through social stimulus spending, but we have to promote business growth. That is the tried-and-true way; it’s still tax cuts and tax credits for research and development; lower capital gains tax; incentives for venture capitalists; new business credits. These are the kind of programs and stimuli that create jobs and expand the economy.
We also have to keep an eye on prudent spending- spending cuts, reduction in government expansion, elimination of waste- you know, all of the tried-and-true methods to get this train back on track.
DS: Okay. I’ll take a little segue into social issues for just a moment.
DS: I didn’t see anything on your website regarding abortion. I was wondering what your opinion on it was.
BT: I’m an unabashed pro-lifer. I’m opposed to abortion on moral, religious, social grounds. Partial-birth abortion is particularly heinous, and Weiner has supported that. That would put me on the extreme other end of that position. This is not so much a legislative issue as judicial, except for federal fundings, which if- no, when I’m elected, I would certainly oppose all federal funding of abortion.
DS: You mentioned judicial issues. Can you explain that, just a little bit?
BT: Well, in Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court has said the states cannot legislate abortions as a personal right, so it would probably take a Constitutional amendment, and a major social issue I just don’t think is on the agenda for the next two or four years. The only practical opposition here will be funding- or defunding- of any abortion programs on the federal level.
DS: Fair enough. This has [inaudible] issue since Mitch Daniels- governor of Indiana- said we should have a truce, but obviously with President Obama in office we’re never gonna be able to get a pro-life-
BT: Well, exactly.
DS: – person on the Supreme Court. I guess my third question- I don’t know how much you’ve followed this- Rep. Weiner has targeted Goldline-
BT: Oh, yeah, I got a lot to say about this one.
DS: I was wondering two different questions (related). One, whether or not Goldline has done good or bad things, is this what a Congressman should be involved in? Should a Congressman be involved in targeting a company like this? And second of all- and related to that- if not, why do you think not? If so, why do you think so?
BT: There’s far more to this than meets the eye, and I’d like to give you a bit of my personal experience on this. I believe Representative Weiner is carrying the water for the Obama administration in his fight against Glenn Beck. In reality, it’s a diversion and a sideshow from many of the real issues that Beck is speaking about. You know, we have serious issues, and this ordinarily wouldn’t be worth too much attention, but what they- they: Weiner, Pelosi, Obama, and Company- are really doing is targeting this advertiser to chase the advertiser off the air. By so doing, they harm Beck. Get enough advertisers to do that, and he’s off the air.
Now, some years ago, I did a program, the TV program, with Rush Limbaugh. It lasted three or four years on the air. It was a half-hour television show. I don’t know if you remember it. It was in the mid-90s.
DS: Um, I was 10 at that time, so probably not.
BT: [Laughs} Oh, okay- so you don’t. You were not the target audience.
DS: No, I was not. [Laughs]
BT: At that time, it was a syndicated program, that means the company I was running produced, financed it, distributed it to the stations, and then sold the advertising time to recoup its investment. We found ourselves scrounging for advertisers because a lot of mainline advertisers had received letters. It didn’t take many, and through a little investigation we were reasonably sure those letters were generated by surrogates of the DNC. Most of the letters were from GLAAD, or NOW, accusing Rush of being homophobic, misogynistic, etc. What it did was make the advertisers hesitant. What ultimately happened is the rates we were charging were about half of what we would ordinarily get- which hindered the program. The program was still profitable, but instead of the ratings- which were a little under a 3, which might have generated $25 million a year- we were doing $15, $14 million per year, not making it that attractive for Rush to continue, or his executive producer- brilliant young guy names Roger Ailes.
DS: Roger Ailes? I’ve never heard that term applied to him, but maybe it’s all relative.
BT: That was in the mid-90s. [Laughs]
DS: [Laughs] I’m 24 years old, so I may be a little-
BT: So after that number of years we said, “This is not-“ It was profitable, but it was not profitable enough to be worth the effort, particularly when Rush was doing 10 times better or more in radio. So that effort against the advertisers turned out to be decisive. I see the same thing here, and I can tell you that from personal experience this is not about attacking Goldline- this is about attacking Beck’s advertisers to hinder or cripple the program.
DS: I think it’s a sign of success when he has-
BT: Oh, indeed. He has them scared.
DS: He’s got them scared. You know, they keep talking about all these advertisers that have dropped him, but the evidence just isn’t there that- I just read the most recent numbers; he got something like 2.54 million viewers on his Fox show. [DS: The actual ratings, according to Huffington Post(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/30/cable-news-ratings-top-30_n_630984.html#s108334) have Beck at 2.057 million viewers per day- third in cable behind O’Reilly and Hannity, respectively.] It’s something along those lines. I mean, he’s smoking everybody, except for Hannity and O’Reilly. So it’s really not working.
So I guess- one of my last questions- I looked at Real Clear Politics to see what they judge the race as, and they don’t even judge the race as competitive. According to the National Review piece, you got in because there was no one to write a check to.
BT: That is true.
DS: So how do you- I don’t know how long Rep. Weiner’s been in office for, but it’s been quite some time-
BT: He’s going for his seventh term.
DS: He’s articulate- I’ve seen him on TV- he’s articulate-
DS: Slick, okay. He has a lot of alleged facts at his control- how do you overcome this? I guess it’s an anti-incumbent year, but-
BT: True. I’m not sure how others may judge the competitiveness of this race, but I know something about the people of the 9th District and what they’re concerned about. This is a district of working middle-class homeowners, small business operators- these people work, they pay taxes, these are (dare I say) typical Americans in a very ethnically-diverse area. But these are the things they have in common, and they are worried. They are worried about jobs, about the economy, and they are extremely dissatisfied with the current administration and, I believe, they tie in the Democrats Pelosi and Weiner with as being architects of this problem. Now, the fact that Anthony Weiner has not run against anyone in the last few elections, to me, does not mean he is unbeatable. In the grassroots support, I just feel it. We have just begun, and my political career is three months old. We had our first meeting with volunteers, and we had about 70 people show up.
BT: The goal is to get a thousand to cover every one of the 512 EDs in this district, but it’s growing exponentially. I asked, with a show of hands, “How many of you have [n]ever been involved in a political campaign before?” [DS: The audio did not catch the “n” in “never”- which Mr. Turner did say.] And my hand was the first one up. But after that, about 90% of the people in that room have never been involved, and they cut across multiple ages and areas of this district. I found that a very encouraging sign.
If you talk to Karl Rove or Dick Morris, they’ll tell you you need a photogenic candidate. You need Slick slogans and political tricks, and you need a ton of campaign money. Well, how are we doing? Well, I’ve got a face for radio-
DS: [Laughs] I’m in the same boat you are.
BT: And as far as slick political slogans and all, we’re gonna run on principles. That should be unique.
BT: And for a ton of money, we got volunteers, and we have a lot of them. I can feel the ground moving, and the grass is swaying in our direction. I think this will be under the radar until September. We’re getting a reasonable response to the contribution effort, but a lot of this won’t be seen until later in the campaign, but I think people will kind of wake up around the beginning of September, and they’ll realize this will be a very competitive race.
There are a lot of things going on- a lot of changes in this district that are not apparent on the face of it, but I think this is going to be a very competitive race.
DS: Well, then, I guess I have one more question for you, before I let you go. You mentioned earlier the Obama social spending, and you just said you are going to run on principle. For me personally, I believe the biggest issue facing this nation is our debt- the debt crisis coming down the pike. According to the CBO it’s 2020, according to the IMF it’s 2015, that we hit 100% of debt-to-GDP ratio.
DS: So I was wondering two things: How do you think Americans (I don’t know if you will be able to answer this), how do you think Americans can trust Republicans, considering it was Bush who really started this spending, and Obama, who’s just made it worse. How can Americans trust Republicans, and secondly, as a Member of Congress, would you be willing to cut defense spending- which has at least doubled in the last decade- as a part of reigning in that spending?
BT: I’d be looking to cut spending. I’d be less inclined to cut defense spending when we’re in the midst of the long war, and in a very uncertain world. I believe America’s strength is in its strong military, and secondly, in its strong defense of the right and principles and human freedom, and not some wishy-washy diplomatic tactician’s-
DS: But it’s worked out so well.
BT: [Chuckles] Yeah. The money that can be cut- and there’s only so much real cutting that can be done- is in the redundancies and the wasteful government spending and a cap on spending. And digging into the administrative programs to cut out billions- hundreds of billions- in waste and unneeded programs. But the real way to manage the deficit is to increase the productivity of the nation as a whole. It may even have to be- and it will be- tax decreases in particular areas, particularly against business, that will help grow the economy, and bring that ratio of GDP to deficit down to what we can have manageable levels. It will take a long time before we can really attack this, and I think what we need is appropriations reform in the House- how bills are put together- how earmarks and riders can be attached to bills. We can change all that within the House rules, and a majority of Republicans can do that. Whether they have the political will, I think, in January, we’re gonna find out. We’ll be the majority, and we have [to] them to the test. I am more committed to the principles than to the party, and I hope there are enough others like that, but that remains to be seen. But you’ll get a fight from me, I can tell you that.
DS: Well, you got in because, as you said earlier, there was nobody to write a check to, so I doubt you’re going to be in for a 25-year career in the House.
BT: [Laughs] That would be most unlikely. I think an actuary would put my life expectancy at a little under that anyway, but-
DS: Well, I don’t know how old you are- 66?
DS: Wow. Geez.
BT: [Laughs] Yeah, we don’t have to dwell on that-
DS: [Laughs] No, no, no- you have the experience, you have the…all the things Rep. Weiner does not, that’s your advantage, right?
BT: Well, yeah, that’s true to a degree. I’ve actually started businesses, and run them, and had real jobs, yes. Mr. Weiner, Mr. Obama, have never had a real job, have never in a business environment, never been at risk.
DS: Well, we definitely agree on this last point.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at rightosphere.com.
Dustin Siggins is a research assistant at The Heritage Foundation and a blogger for the Rob Merkle for Congress campaign. He is the Editorial Director for http://thelobbyist.net; the Social Media Director for http://rightosphere.com; and the Bloggers & Media Liaison for http://conservativecongress.com. He is a member of the D.C. Army National Guard.