House Candidate Roberts Emphasizes His Support For Pres. Bush On Iraq
By: Tom Yancy/Staff Writer
Source: The Greeneville Sun
Congressional candidate Richard Roberts said Thursday that he continues to believe that the war in Iraq, and the wider war against terror will be "the most important thing we have to deal with in our lifetimes." Roberts, 52, a Greeneville resident, is one of 12 candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bill Jenkins, R-1st. Jenkins plans to retire.
In speaking to the Greeneville Kiwanis Club, Roberts said none of the experts he talked to early on in the process recommended talking about the war, or about support for President Bush. He said he asked those experts, "Will that make this country safer, if we don't talk about what's going on in the Middle East?" or talk about "the radical element of Islam," some of whose adherents "believe they have a true religious duty to kill us, and destroy our way of life."
Roberts said the experts continued to say that to discuss such issues "wouldn't be popular."
Roberts said that anyone asking voters to send them to Congress should tell those voters "where you're coming from" on "the most important thing we have to deal with in our lifetimes." He continued, "The threat we face from radical Islam is real not a theory," as he said the events of Sept. 11, 2001 proved. "The vast majority" of followers of Islam are not "full of hate," Roberts said. He said he believes most Islamic believers focus mostly on "their jobs, their kids, and trying to have a future, but there is an element" that is full of hate, and that element is in charge of several countries the U.S. depends on for oil.
"The tragedy is, we're feeding that," by continued dependence on oil imported from the Middle East, Roberts said. "We're 40-some years into an energy crisis, and we don't have a policy," he said. Roberts said he does not believe there is a single "magic bullet" to solve the U.S. energy crisis, "but I think there are bullets in the gun." He noted that 80 percent of the electricity produced in France comes from nuclear power, yet it has been 30-some years since a new nuclear power plant was started in the United States. In addition, "a large portion" of U.S. oil and gas reserves are "locked up" in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, where Roberts said he believes they could be safely recovered.
"Nobody I've talked to can really tell me the risks of drilling," Roberts said. He pointed out that the Alaska oil pipeline has had a good environmental record for a long time, and the "biggest problem" with getting oil from Alaska occurred many years ago because of "a drunk pilot on a ship," a reference to the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.
Another "bullet," the congressional candidate said in response to a question, might be making more ethanol motor fuel from corn, or possibly from sugar cane.
The energy policy "doesn't have to happen overnight," Roberts said, "but we have to commit. And we have to have leadership, so that the first time gas gets below $1.50 again," Congress does not "relax and feel satisfied," and take no action. Lack of an energy policy is really "lack of will," Roberts said.
Turning to the illegal immigration problem, he said "lack of will to enforce existing laws" is also the problem there. "Special interests tell us" that enforcing immigration laws is "cruel or racist," Roberts said, but he added, "The American people are not that way." He pointed to U.S. aid to Iran after an earthquake there, or aid to countries in south Asia after the tsunami and even "rescuing Europe from Hitler" as examples.
"We've got to have control of our borders," Roberts said, and know who comes in, how long they intend to stay, and when they are going back. Illegal immigration is part of the terror problem, Roberts said. "I'm convinced in my heart of hearts that we've got to stand up and talk about it," he said. "If we don't, the essence of our country will be gone."
Roberts said his stand in support of President Bush's handling of the war and position on immigration have elicited "strong reactions," both positive and negative, "but that's OK."
Last week, when Republican candidates participated in a debate in Jonesborough, "I challenged my competitors" to talk about Iraq and terrorism, Roberts said. But though the candidates faced a series of questions, they were about "everything other than terrorism and the war in Iraq, and we did it on a night that two young Americans were being tortured and killed."
Roberts was introduced by club member Bob Rodefer as someone who worked for Baker Worthington, the law firm headed by former U.S. Senator Howard H. Baker, in the firm's Knoxville, Nashville and then Washington offices. While in Washington, Rodefer said, Roberts did legal work for what was then a small Greeneville-based firm headed by Scott Niswonger until Niswonger convinced him to become general counsel and senior vice president of Greeneville-based trucking companies Landair Transport and Forward Air.
Rodefer said Roberts helped build those two companies into "two of the most successful of their kind," with 70 freight forwarding locations in 38 states. Rodefer noted that Roberts was also involved in the creation of the Niswonger Foundation and in several major construction projects: the renovation of Greeneville High School, the addition to the library at Tusculum College and Pioneer Park, the home of the Greeneville Astros.
Roberts said he has been meeting people all across the congressional district "that are really focused on what's important in the district and the country," which has "helped me tremendously to focus in an optimistic way." Television has a way, he said, of "segregating people" from each other, while focusing on "a collection of the worst things going on in the world."
Talking to people, on the other hand, shows "there is a lot of hope in the world," he said, and plenty of people who are focused on "their kids, starting a business, creating jobs, and the troops in Iraq." He added, "People really do care about what goes on at the national level," and not just on "what am I going to get" out of the political process.
Roberts also said that, if elected, he will continue to be "a strong advocate for this area of the country," and for Greene County.
He urged the Kiwanians to "pick up the phone and call somebody in another county" and ask for their votes, and to "talk to your neighbor."