Senate Conservatives Fund President Ken Cuccinelli says the next president needs to be a rock-solid conservative who will go to Washington and “rip the place out by the roots,” but he says the leadership of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner still amounts to nothing more than pre-emptive surrender.
Speaking from Mount Vernon on Constitution Day, Cuccinelli said he thought there was plenty of substance in the three-hour CNN Republican presidential debate, but that it could have done without the incessant questions asking candidates to respond to statements their rivals made.
“They had talked about making it Lincoln-Douglas style,” Cuccinelli said. “CNN’s idea of Lincoln-Douglas style is just the fact that candidates talk to each other. You know, there was no moderator turning to Senator (Stephen) Douglas saying, ‘You know, Lincoln says you’re short and fat like a fireplug. What do you think of that? Hey Lincoln, Senator Douglas says you’re a big, tall, ugly gorilla. What do you think of that?”
The former Virginia attorney general says an actual Lincoln-Douglas style debate would have been much better.
“It would be nice to transport them back there and maybe get a little peek at it,” Cuccinelli said. “Eventually [the Wednesday debate] got to substance, thankfully, but I think the candidates have a legitimate criticism there.”
Cuccinelli said he’s encouraged by the quality of candidates in the GOP field, but he said the nominee needs to embrace a concept many Republicans don’t think about much.
“One thing that I have been telling people in Virginia that I think needs to be a very important new consideration is we need a president who will show up and rip the place out by the roots, without apology,” Cuccinelli said.
He said that sentiment is rampant among conservatives, and he explained the popularity of the the Republican front-runner.
“It’s amazing now to see the Trump phenomenon, which is based very much on that, at least the people who are supporting him want that,” Cuccinelli said. “He’s not a conservative, but he is very anti-establishment, so he is really generating his support on the anti-establishment side. He’s ticking all the right people off.”
But Cuccinelli said it’s still vital for Republicans to nominate a principled conservative.
“You can wreck the place, but what are you going to build afterward? Is it going to be something based on the vision of this country and first principles?” he asked. “That’s what I want to see out of the next president, and I think we have a very high quality field on the Republican side, and there are many candidates who might fit that bill.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Ken Cuccinelli:
Cuccinelli said the Senate Conservatives Fund will not be getting involved in the presidential race, and he declined to give his personal preferences. However, when asked to list the candidates who did a good job of articulating conservative principles on Wednesday, he mentioned Sens. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, along with Carly Fiorina and, to some extent, Gov. Chris Christie.
While the 2016 presidential race plays out, Cuccinelli is keeping a very close eye on the 2016 appropriations process. A new fiscal year starts Oct. 1 and insistence from Democrats and President Obama on higher spending in many areas has GOP leaders believing a short-term continuing resolution at existing spending levels is the best option.
Cuccinelli is thoroughly unimpressed.
“That’s silly. The habit by Boehner and McConnell of pre-emptive surrender is really devastating to America and to the people who helped to elect these majorities,” said Cuccinelli, who also fumes over McConnell’s comments in recent weeks that fights over Planned Parenthood funding and other Republican priorities would have to wait until we have a different president.
“How about if you just fight for what’s right? How about that? It doesn’t even occur to him to do the right thing,” he said. “I’m a litigator, a negotiator by profession. President Obama, as we’ve seen with Iran, is an awful negotiator. He’s just terrible at it. But John Boehner and Mitch McConnell make him look brilliant by comparison.”
He believes GOP leaders could be much tougher, from actually passing bills and forcing Obama to veto popular legislation to making Democrats filibuster the old-fashioned way by defending their position on Planned Parenthood or Iran for hours on the floor.
“Make the Democrats stand up there for hour after hour and defend Iran. Defending Iran! Can you believe we’re saying this? Make them do it. Where’s the guts on this and, frankly, where are the brains?” said Cuccinelli, who noted that the public is overwhelmingly supportive of Republican positions on these issues.
Republican leaders dismiss Cuccinelli’s approach, saying the party will badly lose the public relations battle if there is a government shutdown and President Obama will never back down on issues like funding Planned Parenthood, sanctuary cities and the implementation of the Iran deal.
Cuccinelli said the strategy should be much more aggressive.
“If it were me and I sent him a budget that defunded Planned Parenthood and he vetoed it and he came back, I’d then send a budget that defunded Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities, ‘he explained. “If he vetoed that, I’d send him a budget that defunded sanctuary cities, Planned Parenthood and the Iran deal. You get the idea?”
He also says McConnell could have effectively killed the Iran nuclear deal.
“If a senator put in a resolution to approve the Iran deal as a treaty and McConnell brought it to the floor, of course it wouldn’t get two-thirds of the vote (for ratification). I would like to see Sen. (Tom) Cotton do that. Of course, I would then expect him to vote against his own resolution to approve it as a treaty,” Cuccinelli said.
“Then it will be identified by both houses as a treaty and rejected by the Senate, which has [jurisdiction] over treaties. You could immediately be in court with the president for a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the Iran deal immediately. That’s easy. You don’t even have to win any votes. You just have to hold them. Even if it’s filibustered, it would put the Senate in the posture where that litigation is available.”
Despite his frustrations with what he sees as a lack of boldness from the GOP leaders of a congressional majority, Cuccinelli said he still holds out hope that Republicans will fight back against Obama in these critical upcoming votes. However, he said there’s only one way that will happen.
“I do think tactics can change, but they aren’t going to change unless the people of this country call their Republican senators and Mitch McConnell and beat them over the head to get change,” he said.
Thursday afternoon, Republicans unveiled a new push to end taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. They call for a short-term continuing resolution and a separate vote on defunding Planned Parenthood that would not require the 60-vote threshold.