Kirk Lippold, the former commander of the USS Cole, announced Thursday morning that he would run for the Nevada congressional seat that Dean Heller is vacating. Lippold commanded the USS Cole when it was attacked and bombed by Al Qaeda in 2000 while at port in Yemen. The former naval commander will challenge Sharron Angle, and possibly others, in the Republican primary. In his first interview as a newly minted candidate, Lippold talked to The Daily Caller about where he stands on the issues, his naval record, and why he thinks voters will choose him over Angle, who he calls a “career politician” who lacks the “new leadership and new vision” that he would bring to the table.
(Note: the questions have been modified and cleaned up from the original dialogue for the sake of clarity).
Tell me about why you’re running for Congress.
I’m running because after serving for 26 years active duty in the navy, moved back to Nevada, I still have a sense to continue to serve my state of Nevada and the nation and I feel this is the best way to do it.
You contemplated a bid for Senate in 2010. Why did you decide not to enter the race then?
I chose not to enter because there was already an overcrowded Republican primary, and rather than continue to muddy the waters, I felt it was best to take a step back and have a more disciplined approach toward running for office, and the last year has given me that opportunity, and this will be a much more well thought out, well planned entrance into a campaign.
Tell me about where you stand as a candidate, and how that distinguishes you from the other Republican candidate who has declared for this race, Sharron Angle.
Well, first and foremost, the reason I wanted to run is because the field right now with Sharron Angle and the Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki, if he chooses to enter the race, they are realistically career politicians. They have run in races for the last thirteen years, they have held elected office, and I believe it is time for new leadership and new vision for Nevada, and the nation, and I feel that I represent that new leadership and that new vision that we can have.
Second reason, the nation right now is undergoing some very serious times. Serious times call for serious leaders especially when we are faced with the explosive growth in spending, the budget deficit that is out of control. And when you get to the bottom line, the deficit as it stands today has become a national security issue. It is affecting our ability as a nation to do things economically, diplomatically, and eventually it is going to begin to affect our military’s ability to safeguard our security interests around the world.
You mentioned that it was a very crowded field in 2010 and that was part of the reason you opted not to run. That’s a concern again, that too many people will enter the race and thereby hand Sharron Angle the win. Is that a concern of yours this time around?
It’s a concern, but the way I look at it, I actually look at this thing, if it wants to be a crowded field, how wonderful it is that that speaks to the depths that the Republican Party has and the talents, in some ways. But the reality of it is you have to look at whether we want to stick with the old career people who have run a campaign over and over, year after year, where nothing fundamentally has changed, or is it time to bring in some new vision, new leadership, that can take Nevada and the nation forward, in a better direction, to improve things for the average citizen.
Tell me about your civilian life since retiring from the Navy.
Well, when I retired from the Navy I was given a wonderful opportunity to work for a great organization called Military Families United and be their senior military fellow. Military Families United is an advocacy group that speaks out on the behalf of those who have lost loved ones in the ongoing wars, as well as those who continue to serve today. And being a spokesman for them and talking about national security issues has really been kind of a second career for me, that I have thoroughly enjoyed, where I can take all of the things I learned in the military and extend on them, and do it in a very positive fashion for those that are protecting our freedoms today.
You were the commander of the USS Cole when it was attacked and bombed by Al Qaeda in Yemen, and 17 sailors were killed. The Navy that there was nothing you could have done to prevent the attack, but the Senate did not confirm your promotion to a higher rank in the Navy because they felt you had not handled the situation adequately. What will you say to your opponents if they bring that up?
I would look at it and say when you review the entire investigation, you will see that it was the opinion of very senior officers in the military as well as political appointees up through the secretary of defense that ultimately determined there was nothing that the crew or I could have done that would have mitigated or prevented that attack; that we were set in there without adequate intelligence, training, or equipment to defend ourselves; and it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances that we were put into a port that had not been thoroughly vetted as far as the threat existing not only to the navy but in the country of Yemen itself.
What do you think of the Tea Party?
I embrace the Tea Party. I think that the organization, when you really stop and look at it, the tea party and what they stand for is a wonderful organization. I, quite frankly, am an independent proponent of limited government and citizen sovereignty. I’m very supportive of any citizen that takes up the charge to make the government more responsive to the people, and also I believe we need to begin to limit the amount of government intrusion into our lives. And that’s what the Tea Party stands for.
In the last election, Sharron Angle was repeatedly referred to as the ‘Tea Party darling.’ Do you think you’ll be able to pull Tea Party support from her?
I look at it and say, not only do I represent the values when it comes to the Tea Party, but I have the leadership and vision that Sharron Angle does not. And that people who really take an honest look at who’s in the race today are going to look, and they’re going to pick me over Sharron Angle. If Brian Krolicki chooses to enter the race – I mean Brian is a good guy, don’t get me wrong, he is a very nice guy – but the reality of it is, he and Sharron are career campaigners and politicians and have been for years, and it’s time to look for new blood.
You said Brian Krolicki is a good guy. Do you think Sharron Angle is not a good guy?
I think that Sharron Angle is a very nice person. Both of them are very nice, I’ve met both of them. But, again, we don’t need career politicians anymore.
Did I miss anything?
Probably the only thing that I would go into is, when you really look at it, national security for us as a nation is the foundation upon which we’ve built everything in this country. And without a strong national defense, without strong underpinnings, whether it is from securing our borders here at home to being able to safeguard our interest around the globe, we have to protect that security.
Ok. So do you see national security as the major issue facing the country right now?
The major issue that needs to be addressed, both for Nevada and the nation, is the out-of-control federal spending and the intrusion of government into our lives. We must get the deficit under control because it is the national security issue.
You know the intricacies of Nevada politics better than I do. Did I miss anything on that front?
I think Nevada’s probably like any other state: every state’s going to have all its little inner weavings and stuff. Honestly, I don’t pay attention to any of that. All I look at is what I can bring to the table and offer to citizens, and I believe that what I have to offer is better and more unique than any other candidate that’s out there – right now Sharron, maybe Brian Krolicki. But I’m not going to pay attention to all those little inner workings because quite honestly, they aren’t going to matter when a voter comes into a booth.