tv Conversations with Retiring Members - Rep. Dana Rohrabacher R- California CSPAN December 17, 2018 5:10pm-5:57pm EST
freedom. i have things i want to get done and things i want to say. by this time next year, i will not be worrying about how on before christmas before i actually get home. >> and time in congress. this is 45 minutes. steve: congressman, let's begin with the midterm election. why do you think you lost? what does that tell you about the state of the republican party and your hometown, orange county california? rep. rohrabacher: it showed me we have a weakness in the system and billionaires who can heavily financed elections from a have a major impact on political power in the united states. i have what i call bolshevik billionaires, who decided i had to go. i was outspent over 10 to one that i know of now.
people who are worth billions of dollars and don't even live in california. financed a loty of activities across the democratic party as well. i don't think it was any issues that changed this election, i would say it was a will to power on the part of some very powerful people who have billions of dollars and were able to use it. steve: did you see it coming in this cycle? rep. rohrabacher: i did. i made sure i went up and down my district. i worked harder than i ever have to make sure the public was. -- public knew who i was. before election day polls showed i was ahead. the last day, we had no money and you have billionaires like
bloomberg from new york. they had $4.5 million of advertising in my district. instead of being ahead two points, i was down three points. i think that made the difference in who controlled the house of representatives across the country. addressn your farewell you made reference to some critics who said you are vladimir putin's favorite member of the house. can you elaborate? rep. rohrabacher: that is a good example of what i am talking about. you have today an unholy alliance of what i call. billionaires -- bolshevik billionaires and the news media, which is no longer the news media. 90% are not people with journalistic instincts but instead part of the political are projecting when they are working for that
end. they are not trying to put out some better understanding where both sides are presented like journalists used to believe in. they are advocates. ist story, dana rohrabacher putin's favorite congressman -- did putin ever say that? no, some politically motivated journalist who is really a political activist. then they all started using that . but that is all fake news. -- during thee is cold war, you would never make anyone more engaged in the cold war then i was. i went to afghanistan and killed soviet troops, for pete sakes. i have those credentials. after the soviet union disintegrated and communism was
kicked out, although they have a nondemocratic authoritarian saidpt system there -- i we should be trying to find ways where we can work with that government. they are corrupt, and they are not meeting our standards does not mean we can work together to promote a better world. i was looked at as being putin's favorite congressman for saying we should treat each other in a way where we can find mutual benefit. putin'st make me favorite congressman? i don't think so. but it was stepping on the toes of some very powerful interest groups in washington and across the country that want war, they want to reignite the cold war
with russia. you've got china who is twice as repressive and corrupt as what is going on in russia. they are fine with doing business with china. countries --other certainly countries we would not think are near our standards that we work with when it is mutually beneficial to do some. that certainly does not make me putin's best friend. the fact that it was repeated so often should tell you there is corruption of our information coming out of supposedly journalists in our country. steve: your name came up as a potential candidate for secretary of state. how serious was that when donald trump was first elected? rep. rohrabacher: donald trump did not talk about it to me personally, but several talked about it.
i was not interested in being secretary of state. [laughter] i am and always have been out on my own. ownve been going out on my to get things done. i was a speechwriter for resident reagan for seven years, but was also a special assistant to the president for two of those years under ronald reagan. there were people in the white house who were serious about it, but i was not pushing for it. steve: let me ask you about president reagan. how did you become a speech writer? rep. rohrabacher: i don't know how much time i have. let me just note that was the head of youth of reagan in l.a. county high schools when he ran for governor the first time, 1966. that is way back. [laughter] back when the primary election ended, they were going to
eliminate youth for reagan. there had been so much infighting going on. i felt so upset about it that i knew i had to stop that from happening. they were going to integrate youth for reagan into the adult organizations. i saw that as the vehicle where we could organize units on wart thisto th radical left-wing marxism sweeping the campuses at the time. i had to see reagan personally. i found out he lived in the palisades and holiday house with a long driveway. there were no guards. i camped out on his back lawn. it was about 7:00 in the morning, nancy sticks her head out, who are you? i had a little sign that said,
ronald reagan, please speak to me. 120 seconds iss, all i need of your husband's time. she says, if he comes out, he will be out for 20 minutes and will miss breakfast and all these meetings. if you go now, i will get you a meeting with the campaign manager. i was going down the driveway and hear, wait a minute! there is ronald reagan. his shirt is half off, he goes, well son, if you could spend the night on my back lawn, i could spend some time with you. what is the problem? he never let me down. i was a journalist for a while after i graduated from college. atest very tough questions press conferences. i asked very tough questions at
press conferences. decided he would take me as part of his entourage. there were five or six people he took fro with him. i was with him every day. steve: that was an incredible campaign. he most of the early primaries -- lost some of the early primaries, then went all the way to the convention. rep. rohrabacher: the delegation gave a majority to ford, and it to happen, soed we lost. rep. rohrabacher: do you think you choseistake that his running mate to bridge the gap? rep. rohrabacher: they thought
he was going to bring over a certain number of delegates with him, and he was unable to do so. because weh a try were behind delegates and lost anyway. steve: had he gotten the nomination in 1976, would he have won? rep. rohrabacher: he would have one, but not have been the same president. i worked at both of his campaigns. typical he was the pessimistic conservative. [laughter] the apocalypse is about to happen, everything is falling apart. on,'s what he campaigned about how bad things were going to be and why we need republicans to be cutting spending and all the rest. elections,se two
it was based on the concept that at some point you could cut taxes and more revenue would be raised by the government. that created a whole new spirit throughout reagan's entire approach. in 1980, when jimmy carter was being pessimistic about the malays of our country -- malaise of our country and it looks like we were going to lose the cold war, reagan's listed our spirits -- boosted our spirits and the campaign had been totally positive. steve: what was he like as a boss? rep. rohrabacher: he was a kind man. he liked to tell jokes. bet would happen is we would
on long flights, everyone else seed be sleep, and i would by chance i would sit next to him and, for hours on the plan e, talk about old hollywood or sports. he love to talk about his family's background in ireland and what he did as a young boy. he was a lifeguard. i am a surfer. he was just a very fine person. steve: you have a favorite ronald reagan story and ronald reagan joke? rep. rohrabacher: i've got about a dozen favorite stories. a dozen of them. i will share to you the first one chronologically. reaganeen working with in the campaign, and reagan wins in 1980. i had been separated from him.
him for two months while he is getting ready to be president, and i am in the press office or something like that. they asked me, what do you want to do? being a speechwriter for the president is what i wanted to do. that was good because i would be right there with them. the very first meeting we had as speechwriters with the president in the oval office was the first time i had talked to him since the election. we walked in. top fivene of the speech writers we had. researchers, and they were all young women. we had the first speech writing session with the president.
it was sort of dusk as he was standing there. we all stood there and he looked at us and we looked at him, and he looked at us and we looked at him, and these minutes went by. [laughter] -- youoodness, this guy don't waste time in the oval office. this is a valuable moment. i figured it out. i immediately sat down. then everyone sat down. reagan was sitting next to me. everyone was getting out pens and papers. i leaned over and said, well, it president, is this what is like in england, you don't sit down until the king since down? he said, i don't sit until ladies sit first.
uld be, over what it sho the specific humor, how to applaud, so someone in the audience can applaud the activities for making a better world, and how to end win something inspiring. those were his directions to us. that is one of many stories i have of reagan. steve: you have his cadence down pat. rep. rohrabacher: after all these years, you would expect i would have that wouldn't you? [laughter] steve: favorite joke? rep. rohrabacher: there is a favorite joke that is a little off color and i better not say it. [laughter] i will tell you one irish joke. he left to tell irish -- loved to tell irish jokes.
it was hard for him to tell hesh jokes too, because never wanted to sell a joke about alcohol because his father was an gallic. -- an alcoholic. he came home and his father had been drunk on the steps of his house and had to bring him in. tell jokes about the irish. how do you tell a st. patrick's day story about the irish where you don't mention alcohol? remember --oke i there are a couple of them, but this construction worker -- no, this guy who wants to build a building in new york.
he comes into this pub and is trying to be arrogant with everybody. he says, show me an irishman and i will show you a wimp. reagan said this to speaker of the house at the time tip o'neill. then this big hunky construction worker comes up, 6'3", looks at an current and says, i'm irishman, and the guy goes, i'm a wimp. reagan knew how to do it just right. steve: you were elected in 1988. did you sense any slippage regarding president reagan's alzheimers? rep. rohrabacher: i am the age reagan was one he was becoming president of the united states during those years. i hate to tell you this, but when you get older -- i am 71
now, i miss names. there are people that i should remember their names and i just can't do it. from what i have talked to other people, a loss of memory can be expected with age. i don't think i have lost anymore then my other friends who experience the same thing. i saw reagan up close. there were times where, for example, he could not remember the names of his cabinet members. i understand that. i don't think that was alzheimer's, i think that was sign of age. the integer your question is no, but i saw he was concerned about memory loss. i hope all old people are.
steve: when was the last time you saw him? rep. rohrabacher: i went to his office in los angeles. a couple times. i talked to him. we had a really wonderful talk, but i was horrified when he told me he had had an accident. he went like this and showed me there was a hole in his head. he had been on a horse. [phone ringing] uh oh. mr. president, sorry, i am into an interview right now, i have to call you back later. [laughter] the president obviously. said he hadhe been on a horse.
he had been riding horses since his mid-to-late 70's, and he fell off the horse. there was some liquid in their and they cut a hole in his head to drain it. i did not know if that is what they should have done. i did not know if this was a real problem. having a hole in your head at any age is a problem. that was the last time i saw him alive. steve: why did you decide to run for the house? rep. rohrabacher: first of all i did not know what was going to do. i am not a wealthy person. i think i am the poorest member of congress. writer, and i was a i still am a writer, and i decided i was going to take a job with reader's digest. that the congressional seat,
which my family lived in, became vacant. dan lungren, longtime republican, decided not to run. so it was an open seat. my title on a ballot designation was presidential special assistant. that is a pretty good title to have on your ballot. i talked to some people. the reagan people were very happy to have that. i knew i had been trained for seven years, got the top briefings on all the issues, so i knew foreign policy, i knew economic issues, i understood a lot of the dynamics of the way our system works in washington. i decided that will be a good way to put that knowledge to work rather than be a later for reader's digest. steve: will you miss when you leave -- what will you miss when
you leave the house? rep. rohrabacher: that is hard to say. i like the camaraderie. i know people think because it ands very back and forth there is belligerent sounding rhetoric, but i like being with my colleagues. senate, those are a bunch of lone wolves, i like the spirit here where we are working together. will miss that. know andthe people i have developed friendships with have retired already. i will miss that time in my life when i was surrounded by people standing for what we believe in. not taking way from the
democrats. morenk they believe on humanitarian terms and we think more in terms of patriotic terms. steve: do you consider yourself an ideologue? rep. rohrabacher: i'd say i'm ousy well read in vari political theories. i would describe myself as a pro-freedom patriot. what is good for the people of the united states, that coupled where freedombout and liberty must be a center core of what america's all about. i was a hard-core libertarian for a while, but a hard-core conservative for a while, so
there is a blending of those two, patriot and also pro- freedom person. steve: why do you think your party lost the house this year? rep. rohrabacher: the republican party lost this year because they did not have the will to power. the other side had billionaires who were pumping, maybe we will find it was billions of dollars -- i know it was at least hundreds of millions of dollars. they basically stole the campaign because they had the will to do it. they hired people voted dollars an hour to come -- $20 dollars an hour to come in to l.a. county. they had the money and will to do it. this was an election that was bought and sold for by outside billionaires. they are the ones who are in an alliance with the special interests that make up the
basics of the democratic party. steve: how would you assess the speakership of paul ryan? rep. rohrabacher: i think the job of speaker is a tough job, especially if you are in republican -- a republican, because you have to keep your majority together. republicans are less likely to forget their differences than are the democrats. democrats have more of a sense of camaraderie and collectivist about them -- collectiveness about them. they have an alliance with other groups and they stay true to that. republicans on the other hand have not identified, this is our roup. it is hard to keep a republican majority. paul ryan, i can't think of someone who would have done a better job of that. there are areas where i have
but i disagreement on, can't think of someone right now what have done a better job. steve: take one issue, what is your biggest disagreement? rep. rohrabacher: i think paul really doesn't want to do anything about illegal immigration because his own personal theory is more like the big business end of republican party and everyone in the democratic party, more open borders. they believe -- they say we need more labor, more people that can work in aerospace, whatever, we need h1b visas. we have so many people in their 50's in california in the aerospace industry who get laid off and they don't get their job back. foreigners who
are 25 and 30 years old and get that job. no, we don't need to have more people coming in. i think we have one million legal immigrants, i am proud of that. but the illegal immigrants and the immigrants we bring in just for jobs to help out businessman so they don't have to hire americans, that is wrong. paul more reflects the chamber of commerce mentality and more o concept borders type than i would. steve: he often sleeps in his office. you do the same? rep. rohrabacher: yeah. here,rs ago i had a house a little townhouse i had bought when i first came here.
se for myto buy a hou family in california, i had to have a down payment, so i sold this one. for about 10 years i have been sleeping on my sofa here. --is not a pull out under, either, it is a regular couch. i don't have any upkeep to worry about, pipes freezing or leaky roofs or anything like that. there is a gym downstairs. i pay a fee to be part of the congressional gym. up.ush my teeth and clean i did that this morning. steve: when you leave the house for the last time, what will go through your mind? rep. rohrabacher: that i am 71 years old. i am not 40. when i was 40, anything they
could have done when i was 20 i could have done when i was 40. now i'm asked that stage in my life -- past that stage in my life. moreout street boarding often. i had the cartilage in my shoulders replaced two years ago. when i looked back on these years, i am really grateful that god gave me the opportunity to do this. said the most exhilarating thing is being shot at with no effect. i would say the most exhilarating thing in the world is to be free to advocate and push those things you believe in, even though you might fail. outou have a forum to get and promote in a real way those
things you believe in, and i have had that opportunity for 30 years. steve: having lost the election, are you at ease? are you comfortable with it? rep. rohrabacher: at ease? i'm joyous. [laughter] i'm a free man. free at last. with our real problem system. i'm not mad at the people at all. our system was such, my opponents, billionaires from outside our state were able to put millions of dollars into my state, 10 times more than i had. and tryt when i go out to raise money i can only ask for the $700 from someone, yet -- $2700 from someone, yet
bloomberg can say i will kick in $4.5 million of advertising against dana? i was ahead a couple points before that. system.a flaw in our i don't take it personally. it is a flaw for everyone. we have to correct that. want power in the hands of outside billionaires. steve: would you say you have made any enemies inside congress? rep. rohrabacher: inside congress i don't think i have made political enemies. some people may not be my friends, but they are not my enemies. people who disagree with me understand i try to be honorable and i never take disagreement personally.
i have a good relationship with a number of people. i put that to work on the cannabis thing. for years i always believed it was a stupid waste of our money to trying to prevent people, adults, from ingesting a weed. you have so much other crime that is going on that should be focused on. i worked early on with people on the idea of legalizing cannabis. i was able to work with others. we have had various democrats who have been very active over the years. we put together something that both republicans and democrats could agree on, and that is that the states should have the right to set policy on at least
medical marijuana. we had an amendment that passed. what it did was say the federal government cannot use its resources in the department of justice to supersede a state law on cannabis. medical use of cannabis. ever able to put the coalition together, and i was able to do that. my democratic colleagues -- i get along with them. even though there is heated debate, i don't make it personal and all. -- at all. steve: do you think you made a difference? rep. rohrabacher: i made a big difference. first of all the whole cannabis thing would not have happened if i did not put the coalition together. the democrats always wanted to
do it, but i found a way to get republicans over. there are many people suffering suffered in the last 30 years who shouldn't need to. cannabis as enormous medical uses, both for guys coming back from the war, but senior citizens who have aches and lost their appetite, kids having seizures, finding a way to get off opiates, i am proud of that. i am proud early on in my career i was given a chance to be the subcommittee chairman on science and technology on the space subcommittee. i was able, for eight years, to restructure our system as such that we now have a space business. america's space program is not
just government employees or nasa employees or whatever, but instead we brought in spacex, virgin galactic, a number of these companies who have invested tens of billions of dollars into private sector approaches to space. there is more to come. we have people investing in entire constellations where we will be able to monitor the world, monitor a virus starting someplace even. i helped redesign our space program when i was chairman of that subcommittee to make sure we had billions invested by the private sector. i i saved last thing american lives when it came to
afghanistan. military. in the i know how much suffering happens when we lose just one of our military people. because of setting the course in afghanistan, trying to convince the powers that be that they should take a different approach, i think i saved several thousand american lives. -- liketed, after 9/11 they did in iraq, which was not successful, they were going to send 150,000 troops from the northwest province since of pakistan into afghanistan. i had been in that area. mujahedin were fighting soviets. i knew what that was all about. that mission would have been a total failure. up army would have ended
under siege just like the russians were. you can't do that. the reason they listened to me after the 9/11, russians left, i was about the only american who kept going to afghanistan and meeting with various people. they knew me. they knew what i started for. i stood with them in a battle. i was tipped off by one of them that there was going to be a major attack on the united states. this guy bin laden is talking to us about it. the guy who tipped me off said, look, this is going to be a huge attack. they are talking about flying planes into buildings. how about taking over nuclear
power plants? we talked about a number of things. steve: when was this? rep. rohrabacher: this was about three months before 9/11. planid the signed this will be put into place is when something big happens in afghanistan. steve: did you tell the president? rep. rohrabacher: let me tell you what i did. i was told when something big happened in afghanistan, that would mean the attack would soon happen. it was the death of a commander. i figured it out when i heard he had been murdered. i said, that is what it is going to be. warn all over town ning everybody, there is going to be april harbor level of attack -- pearl harbor level of attack on united states by
islamic terrorists soon. blah.a, blah blah who am i to be telling the cia this? the day before i called up my friend condy rice. her deputy gets on the phone and says, what do you want to talk to condy about? majorthis going to be a terrorist attack launched any day. it will be about the size of pearl harbor. he says, is this about afghanistan again? i said yes, it is. he says, look, will put you downi to see condy tomorrow 2:30 at the white house. you will warn of a major imminent terrorist attack.
the next day was 9/11. the planes started flying into the building 9:00 i guess. so i did not get to go to the white house to warn condy rice. people understood i had been out there, although it never made the news. no one wanted to admit it was possible i would have known about this. people started listening to me and i went to various to governments and agencies with not to sendich was in large numbers of american troops, but have special forces teams couple with warlords, which they called the northern alliance. we together a team. guy from another
agency i shouldn't talk about. we put together the plan. they still were going to go forward with this idea of troops 150,000 american from the pakistani northwest provinces. northwest provinces of pakistan are the most anti-american place in the world. we never would have had a successful operation there. when they presented to the president, the president said how long will it take us to do this major operation? they said three or four months. he said, don't we have anything we can do right away? there was this other plan, work with the northern warlords and send special forces teams. the president said, how long will that take? we can start tomorrow. go for it.
that is what president bush decided to do. about that first special operations team that came in to afghanistan after 9/11. there is a movie about it. when they got off the helicopter say little team helped where they should land. when the guy gets off the helicopter, he says to the first afghan he sees, i want to see the general. he says, you can't see him now, he is on the phone to a congressional office. there you go. >> could 9/11 have been prevented? rep. rohrabacher: yes. yes it could have.
me put it this way -- i think people poo-pooed it. i sort of poo-pooed it myself. my source of information for this was a high-level person in the taliban who had fought with me against the soviets. this is someone who i met in a neutral country. i assumed, number one, the cia was bugging every conversation i had with this guy. o-pooed it as po well. i said this could never succeed. we are recording every single phone conversation of these people putting together this conspiracy. they will never be able to succeed in doing that. only when they killed the
immander did i relies it -- realize it was going to happen. tried to warn people. is i wasm proud of able to help put together the alternative to just sending in all those troops, and we were successful. when the taliban were driven out of kabul, there were only 200 americans on the ground. it was done by the northern alliance guys who my team brought into the fold. the lives of american families who would have most their love ones had we had the wrong strategy. steve: in retirement, is there one thing dana rohrabacher wants to do? rep. rohrabacher: a couple technologies. i would like to promote various
technologies that will make things better and be good for the whole world. one is our next generation of nuclear power. instead of trying to start nuclear waste, we have the ability to build a reactor that can eat nuclear waste. i want to promote that type of thing. i have a couple film scripts i have written. i am a writer by profession. i have always gotten a good response in a couple of my film scripts. i like to promote things that will make the world better, especially technology things. i would like to do some writing for the movies. i would like to help people in the cannabis industry, for example, reach the next stage where they can fully utilize the medical benefits of cannabis. steve: congressman, we thank
>> when the new office takes office in january, it will have most diverse freshmen class in recent history. new congress, new leaders watch live on c-span starting january 3rd. and tonight on c-span, former chair janet ve yellin in conversation with the "new york times" columnist talking about the 2008 financial crisis. the role of the federal reserve and current risks in the markets tonight at 8:00 here on c-span and the federal government will shut this friday night at midnight eastern time if there's o agreement on funding for the u.s.-mexico border wall. the white house wants congress the ovide $5 billion for wall. the house returns wednesday to deal with the issue. the senate is meeting today but on a criminal justice bill. watch live coverage of the house here on c-span. the