Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 14, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

United States Senator Jon Kyl


  • U.S. Senator Jon Kyl discusses national issues, including the economy and President Obama's stimulus package.
Guests:
  • Jon Kyl - U.S. Senator, Arizona


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Hello, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Back from a recent trip to the Middle East, Arizona senator Jon Kyl is here to tell us what he learned and share his thoughts on the economy, the stimulus, and what it means for Arizona. Good to see you again.

Jon Kyl:
Thank you very much. Good to be back.

Ted Simons:
Where did you go?

Jon Kyl:
We went to Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. We think we have problems here. They've got problems over there.

Ted Simons:
What did you see?

Jon Kyl:
The biggest impression is that Pakistan is in bad shape. It's a viable democracy. A vibrant country with a lot of people and the economy is down like everywhere else, but the Taliban have taken over significant parts of that country and the leadership of the country is divided, the military has not been able to stop the Taliban. This is a country with 100 nuclear weapons and as tough as the challenge in Afghanistan and the situation in Israel and the other places in the Middle East are, Pakistan, I think is where the serious attention should be paid to.

Ted Simons:
And we heard about the Pakistan government essentially ceding a part of the country to the Taliban under Sharia law. That’s basically a home ground now for the Taliban is it not?

Jon Kyl:
And when I met with the president, it was essentially, not to worry. They're just changing the names of the judges and it's not really a big deal. Well, it is a big deal. When your country can't control a part of your territory, it's like Texas, New Mexico and Arizona deciding they're going to be under the control of a drug cartel and it's no big deal, it's not a problem.

Ted Simons:
How is this changing what's happening on the ground there?

Jon Kyl:
We have two connected problems. Afghanistan in some respects is a little bit more like Iraq in the sense that the American military can be successful if we put in enough troops. The President's strategy is good, but I think he's trying to do a little bit on the cheap. We probably need 30,000 troops but we can retake -- where the poppies are grown and if we can help the government by training the Afghan army to stay and protect the population, we can maintain control in Afghanistan. The real problem? Afghanistan, there are about 300 al Qaeda in the area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Probably at least 30,000 Taliban. It's the militant Taliban that's the real problem.

Ted Simons:
I know you didn't get to visit the Asian countries.

Jon Kyl:
My colleague John McCain got back.

Ted Simons:
We'll be talking to him tomorrow. North Korea fires that missile and then the U.S. Security Council condemns and now North Korea says the six party talks forget about it. What's going on here?

Jon Kyl:
North Korea is tough and the Security Council is not. It condemns the action. Big deal. That doesn't mean anything to North Korea and I really regret there's been an assumption if we just talk with them and reason with the dear leader that everything will be all right. It won't. They're a nation that has nuclear weapons and they're testing missiles that can go further and further. Thank goodness we have a missile defense we can use to stop a missile. But now the president is talking about cutting back on the number of missiles in our missile defense and we need to get serious about threats from Iran and North Korea. Right now the best defense we have is our missile defense.

Ted Simons:
Secretary Gates had some ideas on reforming military acquisitions and weapons systems. Your thoughts.

Jon Kyl:
There's some good ideas and reforms that he has in place. I quarrel with some of the areas where he's cutting back. We're -- if you think about the stimulus package, the omnibus spending bill, the budget, where we're taking on massive debt. Spending trillions more and yet cutting defense. It's not credible for us to engage in all of this diplomacy and have nothing to back it up. They respect one thing and that's force and consistency and when they see us cutting back defense, particularly in areas where it -- particularly where it affects them. Missile defense, I think they're confident we're not going to have the ability to get the world to cause them to stop what they're doing and that's a bad thing.

Ted Simons:
Are we cutting back or slowing the increase?

Jon Kyl:
It depends on whether you fold into the budget all of the expenditures in Afghanistan and Iraq. If you fold that in, it's increased spending but under the Bush administration, that operational spending in Iraq and Afghanistan was always outside of the budget. If you bring it all in, and then you drastically cut the weapon acquisition, you can still have a larger budget, but in terms what we've been spending on military hardware and software, it's reduced.

Ted Simons:
Critics say the opponents to the cuts are carrying water for Raytheon.

Jon Kyl:
You have some congressmen if it's made in their district, they're for it. That's not where I'm coming from. Or John McCain. There's some areas where the secretary is making some very good adjustments, shall we say.

Ted Simons:
I want to get to economic matters here if we can. Ben Bernanke says the recession may be bottoming out.

Jon Kyl:
He would know better than I would. I don't think anyone can know for sure. It could be. If it is, my guess is it will be a rocky bottom for some time to come.

Ted Simons:
Does it seem as though credit is starting to loosen up?

Jon Kyl:
In other places in the country, it is, but not in Arizona. We have a market that's dominated by real estate development, and the like. And the credit for those kinds of activities is still very constipated is the word they use, and it's a good description.

Ted Simons:
You spoke to a group of bankers and told them government regulators and the government are going to be watching their every step.

Jon Kyl:
Sure.

Ted Simons:
Was this a way of warning them or is it this a criticism over regulation?

Jon Kyl:
Neither. What I was saying if you take money from the federal government, like the so-called tarp money, you need to welcome them into your boardroom because they're going to be watching what you're doing and maybe -- he who has the gold makes the rules and if the federal government gives help, then beware, they may tell what you what to do.

Ted Simons:
Do you agree with that scrutiny especially how much government money is being pumped in?

Jon Kyl:
In some respects it's appropriate, but can you imagine government bureaucrats dictating how much you pay your people? They didn't get any smarter when they went from Ohio or Washington D.C. and while it's correct that taxpayer money should be carefully accounted for and managed when it's sent to General Motors or some big bank, by the same token, that shouldn't mean that the government decides how to run the businesses.

Ted Simons:
I want to get to Mexico now. Jumping all over the globe. But you have field hearings I believe next week.

Jon Kyl:
Yes.

Ted Simons:
Violence spilling over from Mexico to the U.S. How much of a threat?

Jon Kyl:
It’s a huge threat. It's been going on for a long time. The law enforcement people, they couldn't get anybody to pay attention until recently but it's a phenomenon that -- because of the kidnapping and extortion and then the crime, immigrant on immigrant, the rapes and burglaries and now the drug cartels moving ever further north preying on each other but a lot spills across the border because they're in Arizona and Texas and California and as well as northern Mexico. It's a huge problem and we need to work closely with the Mexican government to do everything we can to stop it.

Ted Simons:
What should we do, aside from working with the Mexican government?

Jon Kyl:
That's the primary thing, control our borders. We still don't have control of our borders. And they don't want us to allow cash and arms to flow into Mexico and we don't want them to bring illegal contraband or immigrants. Controlling the borders works both ways.

Ted Simons:
Is there more incentive on Capitol Hill to find consensus on reform?

Jon Kyl:
Not right now. First of all, we're in a recession and the need for cheaper labor isn't as significant as it was back in the boom days. Secondly, as John McCain will tell you, the American people have sent a strong signal. Control the border, enforce the law and then we'll talk about what we do next and we still haven't accomplished everything we need to in those regard. To try and do immigration reform at this point would be premature and probably not end successfully.

Ted Simons:
I ask that because the president sounds like he's starting to get more interested and focus more on immigration reform. What would you tell him? What do you want him to look at?

Jon Kyl:
First of all, he has a big group he needs to satisfy who wants that. And he's working the problem and we'll work it together and that's fine and there will be a lot of action but I don't think there will be action on Capitol Hill. I think it would be a big mistake to try and pursue that right now. I don't think the ground has been laid and if they want a failure, try it soon. But they ought to focus on the big problem. Domestically it's the recession and the credit crunch and until we get that taken care of, most will say stop reforming the world and get down to the problem that's affecting our daily lives.

Ted Simons:
Last question. Are we on the right track to get that kind of return as far as the economy is concerned?

Jon Kyl:
No. We're doing some proper things in dealing with financial institutions and credit. There's some things we ought to be doing that we're not doing and vice versa. But when it comes to stimulating the economy, we're spending literally trillions of dollars. Much will be wasted. Little of it will do any good and it will create a permanent government structure that's going to be very difficult to roll back. The most number of new jobs created are government jobs.

Ted Simons:
All right. Senator, we'll stop it right there. Thanks for joining us.

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