DIMPOOL INTERVIEW SERIES
INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL JOHNS
National Tea Party leader*
16 July 2011
About the Tea Party
Dimpool: First of all, could you please give us some information about the organizational structure of the Tea Party? We know that the Tea Party does not have a central leadership, so how can it maintain the unity and solidarity inside the movement, and what is the ultimate goal of it?
Michael Johns: The movement is now two years old. From the beginning, however, I have been a proponent of keeping the movement as decentralized as possible. In my view, the Tea Party movement is, plain and simple, a movement of the American people. In a lot of respects, this approach is consistent with our approach to governing: If things can work in a decentralized way, that’s always preferable to centralizing them. That’s the essence of our Tenth Amendment: Let the power and the decisions lie with the people. Jefferson said that a free people derive their rights from the laws of nature, not from some chief magistrate. In my view, all we need is an energized, diligent and educated citizens’ movement that understands and can explain the laws of nature and the perils of deviating from them. If we competently and convincingly explain this concept, and how off course this current administration is with the vision of our founders, I know we will prevail. Elections get won on ideas, and ours are simply more proven. Theirs have failed historically, and–not surprisingly–are failing now.
Tea Party and the Republicans
Dimpool: Why do all the candidates who are supported by the Tea Party share the Republican mindset and how many candidates have made through the U.S. Congress via Tea party support?
Michael Johns: The movement is non-partisan, which is to say that it is based on ensuring that ideas, not parties, prevail. There are some Tea Party Democrats. There are many Tea Party independents and registered Libertarians. And there are many like me too, who believe that the Tea Party movement is not just key to saving the nation but also key to saving the Republican Party. Between the two major parties, quite obviously, the Republican Party is more associated with adherence to the Constitution, limited government and tax relief, so it should be no surprise that many members of this movement, like myself, are Republicans.
Anyone who followed the 2010 elections saw Tea Party-backed candidates win at Gubernatorial, Congressional and state assembly levels. The story of the 2010 election, in many ways, was one of a victorious Tea Party movement and message. In the U.S. House, we now have 60 of the 435 members formally affiliated with the House Tea Party Caucus, though I believe our support in the House goes much deeper than that. In the U.S. Senate, four of the 100 members belong to the Senate Tea Party Caucus, but I believe our support goes deeper there too. In any case, the measure of our success, in my mind, is not measured in Washington, D.C. It is measured in the spirit of resistance that is building against big government and in support of our nation’s founding values.
Comparing George H. W. Bush to Barack H. Obama
Dimpool: Former President George H. W. Bush has been criticized a lot, not only by the U.S. citizens but also by other nations, and many people hoped that President Obama would make the world a better place to live. Yet, nowadays, especially many U.S. citizens feel that they were unfair to George H. W. Bush. How do you explain this situation, and according to you whose administration was more successful: Former President George H. W. Bush or President Obama?
Michael Johns: Well, I worked in the George H. W. Bush White House, so I may not be the most objective voice, but I think it’s self-evident: George H. W. Bush managed the intricacies of the end of the Cold War. He dislodged Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, which, if left to stand, would have proven the largest set-back for American global interests since the fall of Saigon. He institutionalized some of the best ideas from the Reagan Revolution, and he once enjoyed over 90 percent favorable polling numbers with the American people. Barack Obama, on the other hand, is wrong on everything: He has grown this federal government in dangerous and perilous ways. He has weakened America’s standing in the world. He has embraced failed and failing ideologies.
This theme is persistent and goes very deep, but just start with a contrast of how George H. W. Bush handled the Kuwait crisis versus how Barack Obama handled the Green Revolution in Iran. Bush quickly defined the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait as a threat, told the world the now famous line: “This will not stand,” and then followed through with an ambitious but realistic mission to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait. He delivered on every promise he made the world and his fellow Americans. With the Green Revolution, in my view, a similar opportunity emerged for the United States to define American interests and pursue them relentlessly, clearly and successfully. Instead, as brave students and resistance forces took to the Tehran streets, Obama sent conflicting signals, urging “restraint” and ultimately doing nothing as the Green Revolution was crushed. Thousands of freedom-loving Iranians were detained and arrested. And many, like Neda Agha-Soltan, Sohrab Aarabi and others were killed.
The mullahs prevailed, American interests were damaged, and Obama sent a very dangerous message to the world: If you support freedom, you are on your own. Don’t look to the U.S. for support. Instead, America should have stood boldly and firmly with the Green Revolution, and made it clear we supported their aims and were committed to the emergence of genuine freedom there.
Current U.S. foreign policy
Dimpool: How do you define President Obama’s foreign policy and how do you analyze his decisions regarding the Middle East, such as the removal of the U.S. forces from Iraq or Afghanistan?
Michael Johns: I see the Obama administration as being driven almost exclusively by political calculations in its foreign policy decisions. That’s certainly the case in Iraq and Afghanistan. America should never permit its national security engagements to be constrained by deadlines. Instead, we should specify our goals and then pursue them with diligence until they are achieved. Instead, the message Obama sent the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan is to just wait us out; we’ll be gone in 2014, no matter the conditions. That’s not a foreign policy. That’s not a national security policy. That’s a political policy catering only to a domestic political constituency.
Dimpool: One of the biggest criticisms President Obama faces is that he does not give enough importance to the U.S. – Israeli relations. Do you agree with this opinion and could you please explain why?
Michael Johns: I’d go further than that. I’d say that Obama is ripping the U.S.-Israeli alliance apart at the seams. He does not seem to care too deeply for the security interests of Israel, and he has empowered Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist forces by undermining Israel’s territorial security needs and sending a message of moral ambivalence on the Israel versus global terror struggle. I subscribe to the conservative thesis that Israel’s survival is critical to the West. We may differ with Israel here and there, but no one should doubt American commitment to her survival.
Osama Bin Laden’s death and its impacts
Dimpool: What are the impacts of Bin Laden’s death on U.S. politics? Do you think that Bin Laden’s killing gives Obama a boost on terrorism and Afghanistan approval?
Michael Johns: I believe it is critically important, for both strategic and symbolic purposes, that the primary al-Qaeda organizers of the September 11 attacks be held fully accountable for their actions. It’s a product of the relentless efforts of American military and intelligence forces that Bin Laden was neutralized. That said, al-Qaeda is a very amorphous force that is not dependent on one central leader, and the al-Qaeda threat to American interests will persist in a post-Bin Laden world.
2012 the U.S. Elections
Dimpool: What are your opinions about the 2012 U.S. elections? Do you think Obama will be elected as a second-term president?
Michael Johns: My view: No, he will not be reelected. Is that a foregone conclusion? No, it isn’t. It depends on what all of us do next, including seizing control of this policy debate and explaining how he has failed America. But I believe the emergence and vast influence of the Tea Party movement is pointing increasingly to the conclusion that his ideas and policies are being rejected. His policies have failed people everywhere, and the resistance to them is as passionate and organized as ever. I believe he is destined for one term, and I think any Republican nominee will prevail over him, no matter who it is.
President Obama and debates about his birth certificate
Dimpool: Even though President Obama nearly finished his term in the White House, debates regarding his birth certificates still exist. Why do you think Obama does not want to reveal those documents, and do you think that it is fair to hide those from the U.S. citizens?
Michael Johns: I find this one of the oddest things I have ever witnessed in 30 years of involvement in American politics, and I believe the controversy lies entirely on his shoulders. There is no explanation to account for why someone would go to such Nixonian depths and expense to conceal one’s birth documents. Certainly, it is not fair to hide them from the American people, as he did, and I support legislation that will require all candidates for federal office to provide the Federal Election Commission (FEC) with copies of all documents that demonstrate their eligibility for the office for which they are running. I also believe Obama owes the American people a full explanation of precisely why he went to such great lengths to conceal the long birth certificate and to answer directly the concerns about his eligibility. No one should be forced to take him at his word. He promised to be the most transparent President in American history, and then set about doing nothing but raising walls of resistance to legitimate questions.
Tea Party’s role in the U.S. future
Dimpool: According to you, what is the most important issue facing the United States today, and what is a possible solution? Does the Tea Party offer a solution for those problems?
Michael Johns: I believe the most important issue is ensuring the continued growth and success of the Tea Party movement because I believe it is the key to saving the nation from the progressive agenda of big government, reduced individual liberties and abandonment of our Constitutional principles. Recent history indicates that, for all their admirable efforts, this nation is not going to be saved by Washington, D.C.-based conservative institutions or the Republican Party. It will be saved by the people, and the best avenue for that activism right now is through the Tea Party movement. Jefferson urged us to “educate and inform the whole mass of the people” because, he said, “they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of liberty.” So that is the biggest challenge I see now: Can this Tea Party movement reach the masses with the message of liberty and can we win the hearts and minds of the American people with the genius ideas that were at the core of this nation’s founding? For America’s future, I pray we can.*Michael Johns is a health care executive, former White House and U.S. federal government official, and a conservative policy analyst and writer. He is one of several national founders and leaders of the U.S. Tea Party movement. In addition to his extensive private sector career, Michael has served as a White House speechwriter to President George H. W. Bush, a senior aide to former New Jersey Governor and 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean (R-NJ), and a senior United States Senate aide to U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Michael began his career as a policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation and as an editor of the foundation’s scholarly magazine, Policy Review. Michael has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, National Review, and other national media. He has appeared on CBS News, PBS, CNBC, C-SPAN, Al Jazeera, Fox Morning News, and other networks. He is a graduate of the University of Miami, where he majored in economics and graduated with honors.