Politics and Pizza: An Exclusive Interview with Alaska’s Joe Miller

By Gregory

Oct 4, 2010 1:26pm

ABC News Jonathan Karl Reports: POLITICO's Mike Allen and I have been having lunch together with newsmakers for more than decade.  The conversations can be lively and informative, but they’ve always been off-the-record – until now. For a special webcast called “The Scoop: Lunch with Jon Karl and Mike Allen”, Mike and I decided to invite the cameras along as grabbed lunch with Joe Miller, the tea party sensation who defeated Lisa Murkowski and captured the Republican Senate nomination in Alaska.  As you’ll see, the setting is relaxed, the conversation lively and far-reaching.  Miller stakes out some highly controversial political views, talks about his family’s plans for Washington (he has 8 kids), and weighs in on Sarah Palin’s potential as a presidential candidate.    In this lunchtime interview, Miller makes news and generates controversy.  But this is no cable-tv shout-fest.  On The Scoop, you’ll really get a chance to know one of 2010′s most colorful and provocative political figures. Watch here and here and you can read the full transcipt below.
MIKE ALLEN, POLITICO: You’ve been fun to cover, fun to write about. You win, you come to DC, are you going to get bored?
JOE MILLER, Republican Alaskan Senate Candidate: There’s no way that I’m going to get bored.
JONATHAN KARL, Senior Political Correspondent, ABC News: No, boring, are you going to be boring..
JOE MILLER: Oh am I going to be boring?
JONATHAN KARL: Yeah, we have seen a lot of candidates that are very colorful on the campaign trail, they get to Washington and suddenly…
JOE MILLER: Well do you find me boring now?
JONATHAN KARL: No, not yet but you’re still a candidate…
JOE MILLER: Joe is not going to change. Trust me, I’m not going to be boring.
MIKE ALLEN: Now are you worried about fitting in with the Senate Republicans and your leadership, your new bosses?
JOE MILLER: Fitting in is not my concern. My concern is the country, making sure that we bring the leadership necessary to turn this nation around and I think that it really is the people of America that are doing that. Look at what Alaskan voters have done with this race, I mean they’re communicating something through who they’ve chosen through the primary.
MIKE ALLEN: Sounds like you’d be willing to buck Senate Republican leaders.
JM JOE MILLER We’re going to do what’s necessary in order to make sure that America gets back on the right path. I mean we are going to play ball, we’re going to make sure things get done.
JONATHAN KARL: So who should the Republican leader be?
JOE MILLER: Whoever the caucus determines the leader should be.
JONATHAN KARL: And you must have feelings about this, do you think we need a change in the leadership?
JOE MILLER: I think we need to make sure that this Congress whether Republican or Democrat takes the right path and that means restraining the federal government back to a manageable level, one that I think is mandated by the Constitution.
JONATHAN KARL: So what I’m hearing from you though is that it’s not a given that the current Republican leadership should remain and Mitch McConnell should still be the leader. I mean he was obviously the Senate majority leader during a lot of the big deficit spending of George W. Bush and the Republican Congress.
JOE MILLER: Well let me make this very clear. First of all the leadership and in fact RSC has been very, very supportive of this race because again I think they see this as an opportunity to lead the nation back to where it needs to be. To restore liberty, to get this nation back on track constitutionally, I’m encouraged by that. I think that we’re going to see big things happen through the leadership of the Republican party to get this nation back on track.
JONATHAN KARL: This is an ad being run by people who are supporting your campaign, not by you again, against Lisa Murkowski. I want to play a little bit of it and see what you think.
[Plays Ad]
JOE MILLER: Oh I agree. I don’t think it raises the dialogue to a healthy level. Most Alaskans are aware of how the Senator got her seat. Frankly the folk that need to be persuaded, that are really in the middle, need to know where we’re at as a nation. I would not back that ad or support it financially.
MIKE ALLEN: What are the mechanics, can a write in candidate win?
JOE MILLER: Well, this write in candidate isn’t going to win. I suppose it’s been done before.
MIKE ALLEN: Why do you say that with such confidence?
JOE MILLER: Well, I think Alaskans understand where we’re at. Certainly out base is committed and we intend to lead the nation. We have a middleman in Alaska that I think is starting to understand where we are fiscally and I believe at the end of the  day is going to make the decision to put the state forward, that puts the state in a future direction not one that’s based on the past. This idea of earmarks, this idea of federal spending, which in our state is critically important to our economy- 40 percent of our economy dependent on federal dollars . This idea of being dependent on federal dollars– Everybody knows that has commonsense that that’s not going to continue forever. I mean, we have 13.5 trillion in federal debt, over 100 trillion in future, unfunded obligations and Alaskans have to balance their checkbook just like anybody else. They understand we gotta plan for the future. And the plan for the future can’t be the way of the past and both Senator Murkowski and Scott McAdams represent the way of the past. They have no solutions for the future.
[SPIKE MENDELSOHN, owner of "We, the Pizza"  enters]
SPIKE MENDELSOHN: I’m pretty new to Washington myself and so when I came I kept the beard. I kept the scruff and I guess my big question is when you come to Washington, are you going to let this bring you a little good luck and keep it?
JOE MILLER: We’re keeping it, in fact, we’ve had all this pressure you know you need to along Joe, you just got to get rid of the beard, there’s no beards in the Senate and you know what you get, what you see is what you get. We’re keeping it.
JONATHAN KARL: You are very confident that you’re going to win this race and your Twitter feed has had some things just in the last day or so, “I think we’ll do some house hunting while I’m in DC, guess I should pick out some office furniture as well while in DC, and then there’s the matter of the plaque for the door.” Is this getting a little bit too confident a little bit you know measuring the drapes…
JOE MILLER: The Twitter you missed was the feed that said I’m looking for a new staffer to do Twitter feeds.
JONATHAN KARL: Wait a minute, you’re not telling me that you don’t do the Joe Miller Twitter.
JOE MILLER: No that’s a volunteer staffer. That’s a volunteer staffer. Didn’t do any house hunting, certainly we’re not over confident. We’re working this race as if it’s just as hard as the primary, we don’t have an overconfident spirit in this.
JONATHAN KARL: You are a constitutionalist. That’s at the core of your political philosophy here and we did an interview some time back where you said that unemployment benefits are not constitutional.
[Clip Runs]
JONATHAN KARL: So, can you help me understand that?
MIKE ALLEN: And you still stick by it?
JOE MILLER: Look, this is an issue not whether or not Joe is against unemployment compensation I’m very much for it. But the issue is who administers that program, who should be in charge of that program. It’s a question of state control or federal control. Who has the power, who has the control, who has the money? Our perspective is really those programs they’re already at the state level. And we think that ought to stay there but we also think that the funding the other mechanisms are best in state hands. Who is better to determine what the people need than those leaders that are closest to the people?
MIKE ALLEN: What do you think the Feds should do? Pentagon, clearly, what else?
JOE MILLER: Well I think that we need to be focused on those things that the government at the central level does best, and those things that our founders were really interested, national defense obviously. You know we’re right now spread thin, we’re all across the world, Iraq and Afghanistan…
MIKE ALLEN: We’ve agreed about defense, like what else, post office?
JOE MILLER: Oh I like post office, sure. What I’d recommend that you do is go to the Constitution and look at the enumerated powers because what we have is something that we call the 10th amendment that says, look if it’s not there if it’s not enumerated, then it’s delegated to the states. Everything that’s not there is reserved to the states and the people and I think that’s a key factor in looking at what we want to do with the federal government.
MIKE ALLEN: Let’s be practical, how do you roll that back, how do you get back to your enumerated powers?
JOE MILLER: Well, what we do in the next two years is we do a lot of de-funding. We look at these regulations, we look at these agencies that have overreached and say look…
JOE MILLER: Defund certain components of it, absolutely. There’s a proper role for some of these agencies where you have inter-state impacts, there’s no question about it. But when they’re messing in areas that are purely intra-state, in other words only impacts the state itself, the federal government has no business. Shouldn’t be there, shouldn’t be creating inefficiency, shouldn’t be creating increased debt that is now burdening my kids, my grandkids, great-grandkids, who knows how many generations.
JONATHAN KARL: What about minimum wage? Should the federal government be setting a minimum wage? Every state is different, there are different standards, different costs of living in every state, should there be…
MIKE ALLEN: It's not an enumerated power.
JONATHAN KARL: Should the federal government be requiring a minimum wage?
JOE MILLER: That is clearly up to the states. We believe, the state of Alaska has a minimum wage which is higher than the federal level because our state leaders have made that determination. The minimum level again should be the state’s decision.
JONATHAN KARL: So there should not be a federal minimum wage.
JOE MILLER: There should not be, that is not within the scope of the powers that are given to the federal government. And again, let me make it clear, this is not just a simple checklist this is, let’s think of this pragmatically as well, even if you disagree with the constitutional approach which I think is the number one thing that we ought to be following, it still makes far more sense to have those kinds of decisions made at the level closest to the people where there is more accountability, less inefficiency, where there is more understanding of where the people ought to be and what the state role of government is. We’ve said this many times, if you like big government, move to Massachusetts. PART TWO:
MIKE ALLEN: What current Senator do you admire most or you feel is most congruent aligned with your views?
JOE MILLER: Well I think Tom Coburn and DeMint have both done amazing things in the Senate and I certainly look at them as both providing leadership.
JONATHAN KARL: When we get to social security, you know you’ve talked about getting to privatization so ultimately are we getting to the point – I mean obviously you want to keep commitment to current seniors, right?
JOE MILLER: Thank you, yes, that is our current position.
JONATHAN KARL: But you would like to see ultimately to get to a point where there is no social security, federal social security program in America?
JOE MILLER: We’ve been attacked unfairly and I appreciate the honest comment that you made about our current position because we’ve mentioned the word reform and social security in the same sentence. And so typically what happens with any political opponent, they use that as an opportunity to scare voters into thinking that we want to cut off the elderly. You’ve hit it on the head, right now we’ve got a fiscal crisis in this nation that if it continues we’re bankrupt, we aren’t going to have the funding necessary to keep the commitment to those most dependent, but anybody that says that this system can continue where it’s at is not being truthful to the American people.
MIKE ALLEN: Joe, what do you think of President Obama’s surge, $30,000 more troops to Afghanistan?
JOE MILLER: Kudos to him on that one. I mean we absolutely have to support our troops in Afghanistan. I think there are things that could have been done differently there, I think there are still things that could be done differently in Afghanistan, but we’ve got to support the troops on the ground.
JONATHAN KARL: You had a quote also on your Twitter feed from Dwight D. Eisenhower: “We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.” And Mike brings up Afghanistan, is there a danger that we’re doing that? I mean, it’s not just 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, it’s a counter-insurgency plan that essentially amounts to nation-building. We saw in the effort to bring democracy to the Middle East under the last president. Are you worried that some of this has gone a little bit too far, I mean this is big government, this is really big government.
JOE MILLER: I do not believe it’s within the national interest to engage in nation building. I believe it’s very much in the national interest, within the mandate of common defense, to go out there and take care of terrorism. Now that means we’ve got to be much more laser focused, recognizing that our role as a country isn’t to go into an area that for millennia has been ruled by ethnic rivalry or dictatorship and say we know what’s best for government for you. Instead what we go in with is a big stick and say you take care of this or we’re going to take care of it for you. And that requires a mind-set change, it’s a different approach, it’s one that doesn’t require the same dedication of resources that we’ve dedicated to our other war efforts and I think it’s something that can also help us get back on track fiscally. But again, the answer to that is provided in the Constitution – is nation building within the common defense? I don’t think so.
JONATHAN KARL: So was President Bush wrong to go into Iraq with, I mean he was very explicit about going in there not just to get rid of Saddam Hussein but also to create a democratic outpost in the Middle East, was that misguided?
JOE MILLER: I think that you have to address any threat of weapons of mass destruction, it’s critical, but I have to tell you I disagree with the approach of imposed democracy. That’s not the role, you know I was part of the first Desert Storm. We got in, we got out. We didn’t change the nation of Iraq. That’s the same sort of approach that I believe that we as a nation have to follow in the future. Our enemies need to understand they’re going to get crushed in the place that it hurts them most if they fund terrorism or if they cause a threat to arise that threatens the freedom that we espouse as a nation. They need to understand it, they need to also recognize though that we aren’t going to bankrupt ourselves in trying to impose some sort of governmental system that really does not reflect the history of their nation.
JONATHAN KARL: We can’t end without asking about Sarah Palin. 
MIKE ALLEN: You’re here because of Sarah Palin.
JOE MILLER: No doubt about it.
MIKE ALLEN: If she ran for president, would you support her?
JOE MILLER: You know there are a little folks that are out there that are putting their name in the hat, she absolutely is one of the good names that are there, any one of which would be better than Obama. There’s no question about that.
MIKE ALLEN: Should she go?
JOE MILLER: That’s her choice, you know right now.
JONATHAN KARL: But would you be encouraging her to run, you’re a smart guy I mean, you’ve known her for a long time. Do you think she should run?
JOE MILLER: That’s her choice entirely.
MIKE ALLEN: If you win, would you move here?
JOE MILLER: We are moving here, yes.
MIKE ALLEN: So you’re gonna become a Washingtonian.
JOE MILLER: No we’re still Alaskans.
MIKE ALLEN: Inside the beltway?
JOE MILLER I can guarantee you that we’re gonna spend most of our time in Alaska that we can outside of the duties that we have here.
JONATHAN KARL: But you’re gonna bring your kids?
JOE MILLER: You know I’ve got a bear permit in Kodiak, my son does, my 14-year-old, and I can tell you if I don’t go back and help  him fill that bear permit he’s going to be pretty upset.
JONATHAN KARL: We don’t have a lot of bears in Washington.
JOE MILLER: Well you’ve got some real challenges. I’m sure there’s gonna be some hunting that goes on here too.
MIKE ALLEN: But 6 of your 8 are still at home, they range from age 7 to age 21, the 6 kids will be moving here?
JOE MILLER: Well we’ve got 2 that are taking classes right now at the University of Alaska that are still with us, we have family that is supporting us. Most of our kids will be coming with us.


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