Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

August 8, 2013

Kingston: Defense No. 1

THOMASVILLE — Congressman Jack Kingston thinks he has a not-so-secret weapon that will help him defeat his rivals in the race for the U.S. Senate  — extensive knowledge of the military.

Kingston, who hails from Savannah, led Thursday’s Rotary Club address at The Plaza with his views on matters of defense. His district — the First — includes four military installations.

“I think the two biggest issues are national security and, of course, the economy,” Kingston said. “National security has always got to be the No. 1 issue of any country.”

Kingston said the U.S. currently has soldiers stationed in 170 countries. The are only 196 countries on the planet.

“We face huge challenges,” Kingston said after mentioning several hot spots in the Middle East that are in turmoil. “Unfortunately, the Arab Spring has not turned out as we had hoped it would as far as leading people toward freedom and democracy. Instead, it has given rise to the Muslim Brotherhood and some of the extreme police in there.”

Kingston, the ranking member of the defense subcommittee on House Appropriations, believes the military should be largely immune from Republican calls for major cuts in government spending.

“I believe very, very strongly that we need to keep our army ready at any time and any place,” he said.

Kingston added that he wants to ensure that U.S. military personnel have the best training and equipment available.

“We want them to fight when we have to and then come home,” he said.

Kingston thinks the U.S. should talk tough and be willing to back it up.

“When (our enemies) touch our personnel overseas, we need to have a signal that we are going to go after them,” he said. “If the United Nations has a problem with it, we’ll talk about it when we get home.”

Kingston thinks President Obama’s recent decision to close 19 U.S. embassies around the world suggests weakness to terrorists. He thinks they have been emboldened by the killing of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and the lack of anyone being held accountable for those heinous acts.

“That’s the reality of war,” he said. “We have to be careful with that.”

The 20-year veterans on Congress said surveillance is crucial to U.S. safety. However, he thinks the Patriot Act needs to be reexamined.

“I was in Congress (in 2001) when we voted for the Patriot Act, and I can tell you that part of the Patriot Act was never designed to monitor your phone calls and who you’ve been calling,” Kingston said. “The conversation itself is not monitored, but I feel strongly that, when we were passing that, the intention was that a suspected terrorist’s phone call could be tracked and, in fact, monitored, and whoever he or she is talking to — then there would be a ripple effect and those phone calls could be monitored as well, but it would require a court order.”

Kingston also thinks NSA actions should be scrutinized in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the nation’s ability to spy on its citizens.

“I don’t believe Edward Snowden is a hero — he took an oath and he broke an oath — but the discussion and debate about these issues is worth having,” he said.

Before closing and opening the floor for questions, Kingston broached monetary subjects. He said the U.S. borrows 42 cents of every dollar its spends. Many of the loans come from China.

Kingston pointed to several areas of budgetary fat, including $100 million spent on military flyovers for sporting events — some over domed stations — and $108 million spent on unused refundable airline tickets for the Pentagon.

He also said there are 47 different federal jobs programs.

“If one of them worked, you wouldn’t need the other 46,” he said. “You might need five or six, but you don’t need all of them.”

Most of the questions from the audience centered on the Affordable Care Act, the federal bureaucracy and Congress’ overall ineffectiveness in tackling the nation’s problems.

Kingston countered that he has been effective for Georgia.

“I have a consistent background in fighting government regulation,” he said. “My lifetime voting record with the National Federation of Independent Businesses is 100 percent. I’m very, very pro jobs and I have a 20-year record of showing that.”

 

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