Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has built his reputation as a vocal critic of the Obama administration. In The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty, the gubernatorial candidate chronicles the legal battles that he sees as tools of resistance to federal abuses of power. Cuccinelli recently spoke to U.S. News about the current state of the GOP, federal "agencies of mass destruction," and the biggest threats posed by the Obama administration's policies. Excerpts:
Do you think the GOP can make a comeback?
Parties have internal turmoil all the time. I don't see it as any worse now than at other times, but it's important for us to be able to unify on some basic themes. I think that functionally what we need to do is set an example, and I think you're seeing that by looking at Republican governors and legislators in some states. I mean, look at Michigan. They just became a right-to-work state.
Do you think your brand of conservatism can win on a national level?
[Smaller government] means lower spending, lower taxing, more freedom, less intervention, and the fundamentals of a defense policy that go along with that. I think sticking with the basics works. And we also have to be willing to, frankly, just work hard. Here in Virginia, the president's team worked better than we did. They had four times the staff, which we didn't know until after the election, and they also were working smarter. We're playing catch up now.
Can the GOP appeal to Hispanic voters?
Well, Hispanics start small businesses at something like twice the rate of the rest of the population. They're entrepreneurial, hardworking, strong families. The traits I just described to you should fit very nicely with Republicans, and we need to be connecting and appealing to them in those areas of their lives.
How about to women?
I'm a person who appeals to women with a variety of issues that they just happen to care more about that I also happen to care about. I've worked to improve mental health and worked to help the mentally ill for over a decade and a half, including when I was in the legislature. Women's issues aren't just abortion. Women's issues are everything women care about. And I have an awful lot of issues that I appeal to women on, just as a natural course.
Has the tea party been good for the nation?
The tea party focuses on issues and principles, and I think that brings a healthy, substantive element to the public debate and the public discussion. I think that's the main way they've been helpful. The second way they've been helpful is, frankly, activating people who have never been engaged before in politics.
What do you see as the biggest threat posed by the policies of the Obama administration?
Probably the biggest threat is a regulatory onslaught. Part of what I deal with as Attorney General is that they're, with disturbing frequency, doing this illegally. We just won a case against the [Environmental Protection Agency] last month. Had we lost, it would have cost Fairfax County taxpayers about $250 million and Virginia taxpayers about $70 million through our Department of Transportation. Unfortunately, I foresee more battles like that, where they're pushing the legal envelope in ways that if they're allowed to proceed are going to be phenomenally expensive, going to be incredibly damaging to our economy, and they're going to reduce freedoms.
Why do you call the EPA an "agency of mass destruction?"
The problem is, while certainly I want to keep a clean environment, I also want to see a balance. And this agency has not even attempted to strike a balance. They are just literally pushing the envelope, almost regardless of the cost-benefit of whatever it is they're pursuing, and I don't think there is another agency that has been so destructive of economic opportunity.
What, if anything, should be done about citizens having to wait for hours to vote?
I think the only real solution to that is, frankly, more money, if anybody is willing to put it in. If funding were provided for more machines and more poll workers, we could process people faster. The other thing we can do at the state level is try to be a little more careful about having less items on the ballot.
You're running for governor against Terry McAuliffe. Are there any areas of agreement between the two of you?
We're both motivated to increase employment in Virginia, though I also want to increase economic activity, and I strongly suspect we have very different ideas about how that may best be achieved.
Why should the president read your book?
He should read my book to have second thoughts about reining in all of these agencies that he oversees, or appoints people to oversee, that have been so overly aggressive for breaking the law, trampling the Constitution, and hurting our economy.
- Read the U.S. News Debate: Has Obama Exercised Enough Leadership in Dealing With Republicans in Congress?
- Read Lara Brown: Why the U.S. Doesn't Choose Its President Like a Pope
- Read Leslie Marshall: Why Democrats Will Win the House in 2014