Thor Jacobs Interview

This week’s interviewee was Thor Jacobs who is running for Congress in the 2nd District.

What is your favorite drink?
TJ: I’m a Cold Beer man!
What’s your favorite?
TJ: Newcastle.
Out of a glass or the bottle?
TJ: No preference just cold!

When the Dems take control of Congress after the elections with all of the issues that need to be addressed, what do you think should be the first order of business?
TJ: The first order should be Iraq. Getting our hands around what our actual exit strategy is there.
I did live in Iraq. In the early 60’s my father did a stint with the United Nations as a consultant to Iraq ministry of education. In the 70’s he went back for another stint. It is near and dear to my heart. Our policies have been utterly destructive to that country and to our country; indicates that it needs to be of the highest order.
As to an exit strategy we got internationalize the effort. All of those friends and allies that we have alienated we have got to get them back into the fold. Even those that were not our allies, the Russians and Chinese, we need everyone’s support to pull this off; certainly NATO, and even some of the surrounding countries. It would make eminent sense to get a group of peacekeepers in there from Egypt they would be viewed not as occupiers or people there to exploit them which is how we are viewed by the insurgency and by a great extent the Iraqi people. They would be viewed there as actually being peacekeepers. We need to enlist the support of the international community both that it relates to peacekeeping and to economic development.

What can be done to change the direction in Iraq? (Other than internationalizing the effort.)
TJ: We go to be consistent with our policies. No double standard. We need to be consistent so the people through out the world don’t feel that there is one standard for everyone else, and different standard for them. An recent example We are prepared to take Iran to the security council for sanctions and then two weeks ago President Bush goes to India and says you haven’t signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, but guess what, we are still going to give you enriched uranium and we’ll just look the other way as it relates to your nuclear program. That sends the message that we have a double standard as it relates to different countries. Iran has to subscribe to the treaty; India does not. It sends an onerous message to Pakistan, and China that we are going to provide your arch enemies with highly enriched uranium, which we don’t think they are going to use for weapons production. Again, you have to be consistent.

It is likely that you could face Bob McEwen instead of Jean Schmidt in the election. What will make you a better Congressman than McEwen?
TJ: I would like to think that I am representing grassroots America and the grassroots second district. I’m just an average citizen who felt it his patriot duty to right the wrongs of what he sees in this government. Bob Mc Ewen on the other hand is a career politician and lobbyist who by all indications is trying to pad his pension, not represent the interest of the second district.

Than Jean Schmidt?
TJ: Intellectual issues aside, the role of the congress, like all branches of government is to be one of the checks and balances on the executive branch. By having someone in Congress that is nothing more than a rubberstamp to the policies of the president, then they are not doing their duty to be a check and balance to the executive branch. They are to supply oversight to the executive branch and accountability and if they are just a rubberstamp then they are not doing their job.

You have lived in the Middle East, you have a perspective on the Mid-East that others in Congress don’t have, how will you apply that experience to your work in Congress?
TJ: I have lived in three places in the Middle East, I lived in Iraq as a child, I attended American University of Beirut and I lived in UAE, near Dubi for about 4- 5 months in about 1983.
How did you get there?
TJ: My first job out of college was working for the State of Ohio as an International Trade specialist, part of my duty was to try to try to facilitate trade between Ohio and various parts of the world. I specialized on the Middle East. Exports basically. Through that experience I was offered a job to be a manager at a company in the United Arab Emirates.
What was that like?
TJ: The Iran Iraq war was raging, just across the Persian Gulf. We would hear reports and see oils spills that would wash up on shore, coming from a ship that was sunk. The UAE was an is an amazingly fascinating place in terms of the diversity of people that come to work there both then and now. Western Europeans, Asians, various Arab nationalities was absolutely fascinating.
The society was stratified, often times based on where you came from. There is a definitely pecking order. The indigenous population of the UAE was about 15% of the population and the rest were foreigners.

Last week the President said that the American people do not understand why he is so optimistic about the war in Iraq. Do you feel that there is anything that we can be optimistic about?
After a lot of consideration he answered.
TJ: I honestly cannot. I think we have to look at the war on two levels. It has obviously radicalized Iraq and Iraqis; a country that had no history what so ever of inter-sectarian strife. No record what so ever! The Kurds, Arabs and Sunnis and the Shi’is and the Christians got a long, up until our invasion. That is certainly not the case anymore.
On a higher level it has further radicalized the entire Muslim world. What that translates into is increases the threat of terrorism to our country.

Russ Feingold called to censure the president, where do you stand on the issue?
TJ: It is perhaps a logical first step. And if further revelations become known that the President has done things of an illegal nature, I think it’s a logical first step toward some sort of consideration of impeachment. A new revelation came out today, relative to the war in Iraq, a sort of second Downing Street Memo.
They were molding the facts to meet their objective of going to war. Which clearly implicates them as lying to their constituents about the war. I think it’s also an impeachable offense.

The honk and wave is a component of any political campaign. Do you honk or wave?
TJ: I’m multitalented so I can honk and wave at the same time.
(He’s a multitasker.)

Graters ice cream was featured in last night’s episode of West Wing, which begs the question, Graeters or Aglamesis?
TJ: I’m sort of a blue-collar kind of guy; I’m just fine with UDF.

On the domestic front:
You and your family have a background in education. What steps need to be taken to correct our educational system and the failed, “No Child Left Behind?”
TJ: It starts with a level playing field. We cannot have a child in Adams county having something like $3,000 a year spent on his education and a child in the Princeton School district that has $12,000 a year spent on him. That is not fair and the Ohio Supreme Court has said it is not fair. Unfortunately the Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate have not seen fit to enforce the supreme courts ruling.
Quality education starts with a level playing field where every kid, regardless of where they attend school has equal opportunity and resources. We have to find more innovative ways to fund schools other than property taxes. It needs to be addressed on a federal, state, and local level. What has been happening the Federal Government cuts funding to the states, the states cut it to the local level, which then have to raise property taxes. The federal legislators then can score brownie points by saying we cut taxes. The domino effect means that it ultimately comes back to raising property taxes, which people don’t realize they can thank their local congressman for.

The United States immigration policies are in the news, the United States is struggling to decide the fate of as many as 12 million people living in the country illegally. The President is pressuring Congress to allow immigrants to stay in the country legally if they take a job Americans are unwilling to do. If you were in Congress now, what would your position be?
TJ: We need to recognize we are a country of immigrants. We have to have some level of compassion for all immigrants that are coming here to seek a better life.
Having said that we need to get control over our borders. For economic and security reasons. If we do not stem the flow of undocumented workers to this country we are going to have social problems that are eventually going to become insurmountable. Relative to the healthcare system, the education system; we are going to have a class of people who never learned English, and are never going to become citizens because they didn’t do it through the proper channels. We need to make it clear to everyone that we are going to beginning to enforce the existing laws relative to illegal immigrants in the workforce. Our Government has chosen not to enforce them. The economic situation is too compelling. You can hire illegal immigrants to work below minimum wage and get them to do jobs basic Americans don’t want to do.
Tell the employers that the enforcement applies to them. If you deport a couple dozen here, a dozen there, it is meaningless. If you gave a large employer a two million dollar fine it would send a very tough message to this country that we are going to get tough with this issue.
Having said that we still have the issue of ten to twelve undocumented workers. I tend to fall on the side of advocating a guest worker program. It is impractical to think that we are going to deport 11-12 million people. Or that they are voluntarily going back to Guatemala or Mexico because they can’t get hired at the large corporation but someone may hire them under the table. They are not going anywhere. So give them the means to obtain citizenship legally like our forefathers did, learn English, integrate into society, pay taxes, so forth. If you don’t have the enforcement side of that equation five years from now we are going to have ten million more come across.

You and your brother own a small business.
What steps can congress take to help small business owners?
TJ: Healthcare, we got to come to grips with the healthcare system, as it currently exists. I can’t say that I have got any sort of mission as is relates to that system, but small business owners simply can’t afford to offer healthcare to their employees. You need a critical mass of 15- 20 people before you can even think about offering healthcare. Otherwise your employees are on their own. If you can’t offer healthcare of any sort you are not going to be able to attract the best and brightest.

Recently, Ford announced that it would be closing its facility in Batavia, which is in your district. With the number of people who will lose their jobs, what can be done to keep good paying jobs in your district and in Ohio?
TJ: The vast majority of new jobs are in fact generated from small business we have got to figure out ways to help small businesses. Be it on the tax care side of things or the healthcare side of things. Stimulate the establishment the small businesses in those two ways. The other obvious issue is that what is occurring in our globalized world, is that labor goes to those parts of the world that could offer it at the cheapest levels. To a certain extent that is just a fact of life. But we as a government need to be more vigilant in our trade policies with respect to countries that don’t subscribe to the same standards that we do. Be it minimum wage, pollution, work environment. All those things cost our employers money it doesn’t necessarily cost an employer in China that has free reign to pollute the air, to pollute the water to hire a 13 year-old with slave wages.

The scientific community asserts that global warming is a reality. Recent research has shown that tropical storms, hurricanes and monsoons will continue to increase in severity and intensity and that we may face a 20-foot sea level rise between 2050 and 2100. What should we do?
TJ: The United States should take a leadership position. It’s the opposite of what we are doing today. Every single country has signed on to the Kyoto treaty (with the exception of Australia). We can’t be seen as trying to shirk our responsibilities and cheat as it relates to those things. We have got to take a leadership responsibility not only signing on to the protocol but insisting that enforcement and monitoring are even more rigorous. I have heard even if we stopped polluting tomorrow we would have the residual effects for another 30-40 years.

If elected, do you promise not to make such a tragic mistake on the floor of the house, or off, that SNL will do a skit about you?
TJ: If it entails doing my job as a Congressman, which is providing oversight to the executive branch of government, then it wouldn’t be a bad thing; that certainly wasn’t the case with Jean Schmidt. I could see myself railing against the imbedded powers. I don’t think we can continue with business as usual in this country. Someone has got to make a difference. Continuing on status quo is digging us in a bigger ditch with every passing year.

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