Westmoreland began his talk by saying that Congress is on a 10-day break and that members left an important issue undone.
“We did not renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” he said. Westmoreland said the act has become outdated since its passage in the 1970s and does not cover recent advances such as the Internet. He also said the government is only listening in on phone calls made outside the country that just happen to pass through the United States.
“These are not U.S. citizens we’re talking about,” he said. “These are people like (Osama) bin Laden.”
He went on to say that the Democrats in Congress do not want to renew the act but only extend it for a few months at a time until a Democratic president is elected. He said a Democratic president could then abolish the act.
“That’s the same San Francisco mentality that’s been shown in Berkeley, California,” he said, referring to the city’s recent attempt to ban military recruiters.
He then criticized Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama by citing a quote from his wife Michelle on how, due to her husband’s political campaign, this is the first time she is proud to be an American.
He went on to say that he believes in the aftermath of the 2008 election, the United States will be more divided than in 1860 and that bipartisanship in the United States is largely a myth - the only recent bipartisan initiative was the stimulus package, which he described as a redistribution of wealth that was often unmerited.
“It’s going to take a change,” he said, but the change won’t be coming from politicians. “It’s got to come from each one of us.”
He said many U.S. residents have delegated their responsibilities to the politicians.
“We’ve got to have a revolution of some sort to get more people involved,” he said.
He then spoke briefly about the war in Iraq and said the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, though expensive, is necessary to defend the American homeland. He then opened the floor for questions.
Jere Koser asked him to explain the “San Francisco mentality” he had referred to earlier.
Westmoreland said that holders of this mentality think all problems can be solved with money and good will. He said that those with this mentality have not taken into account changes in warfare from World War I to the current conflict in Iraq and said the Geneva Convention does not apply to al-Qaeda because al-Qaeda members do not wear uniforms and do not fight for a recognized government.
Tommy Hopkins asked Westmoreland about illegal immigration. Westmoreland responded that illegal immigration has been a problem since President Reagan granted amnesty in the 1980s, which he said only encouraged the problem. He said Americans are generous, offering illegal immigrants free medical care, education and citizenship for their children, and that encourages the poor of other nations to come. He said illegal immigrants in previous years lived quietly and avoided attention but are now demonstrating in the streets demanding legalization.
“That’s the kind of boldness that’s come about,” he said.
Westmoreland said the only thing to do is to seal the border and begin deporting illegal immigrants in an orderly fashion. He said 12 million illegal immigrants cannot be deported overnight, and, in response to an audience query about preventing illegal immigrants from holding jobs, that employers often hire illegal immigrants who appear to have legitimate papers and it would be unfair to prosecute employers for that.
Allen Marshall then asked about the economy. Westmoreland said the recently passed stimulus bill had devalued the dollar and required extensive borrowing from China to pay for it. He then expressed skepticism of alternative energy programs, saying that they’re “the short-term politically correct thing to do,” but would ultimately cost more than they saved and are a distraction from the increase in oil prices and the decline of the dollar.
Westmoreland said the real way to fix the economy would be to lower corporate taxes.
“Let’s lower the rate on corporate America,” he said, from 35 percent to 15 percent. He said this would prevent outsourcing.
J.L. King asked Westmoreland what issues should be dealt with today so that they don’t become problems in 2020. Westmoreland briefly spoke about the need to increase domestic oil drilling and production before saying that the old business will “break us” before new business can become a problem. In particular, he cited the rising costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
In discussion after the meeting, Westmoreland said that passing the Fair Tax is possible but the public needs to be better educated.
“A lot of people are afraid of it because they don’t understand it,” he said.