You probably don’t know who Rusten Currie is. But I’ll get to that. Know who Maxine Waters is? Well, Rusten Currie plans to defeat her in the next election.
Rusten is an Army intelligence officer and military blogger, currently deployed to Iraq. He’s running for the 2006 House of Representatives spot in the 35th District of California, against longtime and moonbat incumbent Maxine Waters. He graciously agreed to an interview.
Kit Jarrell: You talk about it a bit on your blog, but tell me how an Army officer deployed to Iraq decides to run for Congress. What will you bring to the party?
Rusten Currie: I often get this question; this idea has been a long time in coming. I have wanted to be involved with our political system for quite some time. My grandfather told me when I was in grade school that the only way to change a system was to become a part of it, and from within become the change you seek to bring about. In other words, lead by example. That is intent in my desire to serve as a member of the House of Representatives, change. What I hope to bring to the party is a voice for a generation largely not represented there. As the baby boomers near retirement, their children “generation X”, must now rise to the challenge of leading and become generation next. I have spent my entire adult life in service to this great nation. I was born here, I was educated here, and I have fought on distant shores because my nation so asked. Trained to lead in the military, it is not my desire to lead, that compels me to seek this great office, but my continued desire to serve.
I think that as many of my brothers and sisters in arms return home from their service in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and everywhere else the Global War on Terrorism takes us. The American people will see a rise in the desire of my generation to become teachers, doctors, and statesman, to take our experiences “over there” and to make our lives here better. There are many reasons why I serve, but it is my firm belief that the one thing that I can offer the party is my belief that our cause is just, and our resolve to make this nation better is our unifying purpose. This purpose must cross party lines, and I must do what all leaders must to do, lead from the front.
KJ: You’re running in the 35th District of California against Maxine Waters, who redefines the word “liberal”. How do you plan to reach out to her supporters?
RC: Representative Waters was born during the Great Depression; she saw, the Second World War, Korea, and Vietnam. The birth of the civil rights movement, some of the greatest advances in our great society, she was direct witness to. She has served in government for nearly 30 years of service. Where most of her peers would be spending this time with their grandchildren, she continues to serve. I think her desire to serve is commendable. However, I think that Representative Waters has lost touch with both the needs of her constituents, and the needs of her district. Lately there seems to be a feeling of division in American politics, a feeling of fear is pervasive in our nation. I think that anyone elected to high office needs to as a leader first and foremost inspire those that elected them. A leader must give hope to those that may not otherwise know hope. The leader must unite. Reaching out to the citizens that support Mrs. Waters is exactly what I hope to do, speaking to them not at them. Giving them access to me, and letting them know that their voice matters. Obviously, it will take a substantial amount of funding to make my candidacy viable against one of the most formidable members of Congress, but it is my intention to give the people of the CA 35th a real alternative to the only choice that they have been able to make for the last 7 elections.
The CA 35th encompasses a large portion of Southern California, and represents a vast socioeconomic and ethnic spectrum. It represents what California is, and can be. The potential for economic growth in that district is enormous, they key to it is not just leadership; it is finding viable economic opportunity to infuse the district and to get business energized about moving there, providing jobs and economic opportunity to the district. When Wal-Mart was voted away from that district some estimates say as many as 5000 jobs vanished with that vote. Obviously the people felt strongly about it, but I wondered when I heard that, where was the alternative? What did Representative Waters propose to the people in her district as an alternative to saying no to Wal-Mart, and to 5000 jobs and benefits?
My plan to reach out is simple; offer a clear message of hope, and of positive action, to fix the damage done to their community from 16 years of leadership that has taken them away from the path to economic freedom and a higher standard of living enjoyed by nearly every district that surrounds the 35th. First and foremost, though my message is one of forward progress, unity and hope.
KJ: What are the biggest issues facing your district and the state of California right now? What can you see yourself focusing on if you’re elected?
RC: The biggest issues facing the CA 35th and the entire state in my opinion is economic empowerment, or lack thereof, a broken healthcare system, that is exclusionary and largely ineffective. When people do not have any hope, life loses its flavor. There is a joke, in California. Where else can you make $250,000 a year and still not be able to buy a house? Three years ago, it was humorous to me, now I understand that it was born out of frustration with a housing market that was not attainable for a majority of the state’s residents, I used to work in Santa Monica, but I could not then and can not now afford a home there. There is no overnight fix to this problem, but there has not been enough forward progress to resolve it either.
If elected my first priority is to my district, starting with encouraging business development, and economic growth in every corner of the district. This means that communities will need redevelopment and a greater sense of belonging and connection to the rest of the state. The CA 35th is like a island, it needs to be a gateway to the rest of the state. There is potential for growth there, but a lack of real hope and opportunity from 16 years of divisive leadership has stifled growth, and withered hope. I am also a huge proponent of no child left behind, and that teachers are our real heroes they shape and mold our future and sadly they are neither empowered or resourced to succeed. That has to change. We are the wealthiest nation on the planet and the state of California is in the top ten on that list. There is no need to point fingers at who is or is not doing what, that leads to defeatism. I want to do something about it, and I choose the CA 35th to start fixing what is broken.
KJ: Immigration has been in the news a great deal, especially in states like Arizona and California. How do you plan on helping to secure U.S. borders? What do you think of citizen groups like the Minutemen?
RC: I was fortunate in that I was able to be a part of three Joint Task Force 6 missions along the US, Mexican border. I was able see just how monumental this problem is for both of our nations. I was able to see, how thin our Boarder Patrol agents are spread, and that they truly are on the frontlines of a different kind of war. Nightly we saw hundreds of illegal border crossings, and nightly our frustration grew realizing how little we could do to stop this. It was more than an issue of lack of resources to impede the flow of illegal immigration; it seemed to me even then to be a lack of resolve to not only fix the problem, but a lack of desire to understand it. There is no easy fix to the trouble we have along our Southern border, but to me it seems that our National Guardsman and women are ideally suited especially after OIF II and III to take on the mission to assist our strained Boarder Patrol. This is the definitive solution but it would go a long way to resolving the issue. It would also give the Governors of the Southern Border States more control of Army and Air National Guard assets, in helping to preserve the safety of our border.
I would also call upon our neighbors in Mexico City to join us in our efforts to “man the line”. The people that illegally cross the border into the United States are not all smugglers they are men and women and even their children who are willing to brave the many dangers to enter the United States in search of a better life. For this, I cannot fault them in their desire. However, my job would be to maintain the laws of this nation, and often that means taking a hard stand, and enforcing the line in the sand. I think that by collaborating with Mexico, and utilizing the National Guard in a more domestic role, we can refocus our efforts and resources to stem the tide of illegal border crossings, and in the process save lives, and increase the amount of illegal narcotics we capture; preventing them from entering the United States, and poisoning our communities.
The Minutemen are a group of committed citizens who are donating their time to help ensure that our borders are guarded. While I applaud this effort I remain cautious not of their intentions, but as someone who has spent months along the border, I am well aware of what can go wrong. There is an inherent danger assumed and accepted by the men and women of the US Border Patrol. However, when civilians operate along the border without the benefit of dedicated and secure communications and established support networks there is a large margin for serious error, and incident. This effort of the Minutemen reminds me of the success of citizen watch groups such as Neighborhood Watch. I remain cautiously optimistic of the potential for achievement, but the ability to coordinate and resource an undertaking of this magnitude to avoid impeding the mission and safety of our Border Patrol Agents has raised obvious concerns of all parties involved.
KJ: You’re an intelligence officer in the Army. You have access to a great deal of information that the general public never sees. Do you feel that we as a nation are told too much about operations in Iraq or too little? Do you think it would change perception of the war if we knew more? And what role do you feel the press plays in the (mis)information of the American public?
RC: The Public Affairs office can discuss this issue in detail – there is specific guidance that governs what the Army can release and not release and the PAO can address this question better than I can. I think that if there was more of a media presence in the average daily life here in Iraq, that the world would get a better view of what we do, and who we are collectively and individually. Since that is unlikely, the media presents facts in the best way it can. Personally, I would like to see more about who we are in Iraq. Not just Americans, coalition forces and civilians here but, the local Iraqis who have to get up daily and survive, and deal with not only the Coalition, and the insurgency, but just earning a living and getting their children up for school, and helping their sons and daughters answer math questions. I’d like to see real human interest stories to help the world see that Iraqis are human beings, dealing with what many people can not even imagine. Our enemies watch television so, obviously operational security must take precedence over image, and I think that many Americans get that. The members of the media I have come in contact with so far here, have been honest men and women, who are trying to do what we in the military are trying to do, sort the facts and present them in the best way possible.
KJ: What do you think of the recent trend of officers being brought up on charges for actions taken during combat situations? Are we becoming too worried about our image to let the military do its job? And how does that affect men in the field?
RC: There are laws in war just as in society, often it seems that there are too many, they are designed to govern our conduct and give us a solid blueprint for acceptable behavior. Military personnel who violate these laws are subject to prosecution. This is not new; the image of a rogue Army is far more detrimental than the image of an Army who will prosecute those who do not abide by the law. The law is the line between an Army conducting its combat mission honorably and the enemies we fight who have no morals – who target civilians – men, women, and children indiscriminately. If we did not prosecute those Soldiers who target the innocents, we would be no better than the terrorists we are fighting. There is a perception that the military is being portrayed in a negative manner, and it has had an affect in the field, but it is not the affect one might think. Our leaders at all levels are working tirelessly to ensure that all personnel are aware of the laws of war, and the standards of conduct that we all expect, it is a huge responsibility for a seasoned leader to bear, so imagine the weight on the shoulders of a 19 year old who is engaged in combat. Many of us here have said, I would never do that, but combat is an odd thing. The pressures exerted on an individual are almost impossible to explain to those who have never been in harms way. It has affected my morale, but I understand the necessity to preserve our sense of morality, and to hold us all accountable to our laws. Although there are negative incidents often documented in the media, there have by far been more examples of the compassion and generosity of the true national character of the American people in Iraq, than I have ever seen in my life. Several of the officers here have asked on our blogs for donations for toys, clothes and school supplies. The response from America was awe-inspiring. I am not worried about our image, I feel that when our mission here is done, we will be able to hold our heads high for the work we have done here. I know I will.
KJ: Being a veteran of the war in Iraq, you’d be in a unique position to comment on and craft legislation having to do with the War on Terror, homeland security, and how the U.S. military deals with future conflicts. Do you see that as a frightening responsibility, knowing that in a way many people will see you as a “spokesman” for the average troop in Iraq? Or is that something you want to step up to do?
RC: With all responsibility, there is a level of apprehension, but after having served here in Iraq, and been involved with the Global War on Terror since 9/11, I feel that my ground level perspective will lend itself to a point of view many of our lawmakers simply do not have. I’d consider it an honor if our troops in Iraq called me their spokesman, I fully intend to champion not only the work that our women and men in uniform are accomplishing on a daily basis, but also their sacrifices. Sacrifices that I do not think many people fully understand. There have been many service members honored for their individual actions, and service. The nation as a whole has shown humbling gratitude for the work we have done and continue to do here, yet the level of sacrifice cannot fully be appreciated for what these brave men and women actually do on a daily basis unless you have set “boots on the ground” here. Before I deployed to Iraq I saw the same visions of the war that everyone else did, I trained hard to make sure I was ready ro combat, and to discharge my duties here. My first actual patrol out in Iraq I felt completely isolated and virtually alone. I did not feel like I was ready at all for any of what was facing me. In time, this passed. To exist here in Iraq day after day, is something that I can only now begin to comprehend let alone explain.
No matter what capacity I serve I do plan to step up and be the voice of the troops, each and every American that serves in Iraq has a voice and a story that is worthy of hearing. There are unique sacrifices to the military family, young mothers and fathers suddenly become single parents, financial hardships must now be endured, separation anxiety, and the awful realization that a loved one might not come home. The collective military family shares this burden; Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airman have managed this burden since the birth of this nation, but the family remains at home that bears the greatest burden of all wars. One of my greatest concerns prior to leaving my wife was her health care, and how she was going to manage not only learning an entirely new language of acronyms, and processes. She was going to have to do it alone. I realized that my concerns were not unique; to me that was the a little unnerving. Before I left we had more questions than we had available answers.
Being a part of any legislation on how the War on Terror is managed will be a great honor and an awesome responsibility. To be a part of that process that will see our armed forces deploy into harms way will be duty I will not take lightly. For I know full well, that when the nation calls they will not hesitate. It then becomes my great responsibility to ask hard questions and demand answers. War is an ugly and horrific thing, and to ask our brave men and women to face it, and to accept that it will change them forever is a difficult thing. Iraq has changed me in ways I did not imagine and our work here is far form over. In future wars, our military will face even greater danger, as more and more nations seek to become nuclear powers, and as terrorist groups gain access to weapons that are more destructive and the means to deliver them. It is very clear to me that in order to keep our enemies on their heels we must commit ourselves to the Global War on Terror, and to protect our homes we must remain even more determined to fight fanaticism wherever we might find it, and do all that is necessary to prevent another attack on US soil. To that end and with the responsibility and firsthand knowledge of this new type of war we are fighting, I will gladly step up and tirelessly fight so that the voices of those putting their lives on the line for the safety of all Americans will not go unheard.
KJ: Let’s switch topics now. If elected, what will you do to help in the fight against left cornerstones like gun control and abortion?
RC: I do believe in our right to keep and bear arms, I think that there are far too many laws in place now, and that our focus needs to be on enforcing the laws that we have. I have had many conversations regarding the 2nd amendment, and while I think it to be an issue that needs to be revisited, to address the weapons that we have at our disposal now, I do believe in the spirit of the amendment. It was so very important to preserve this basic right that it was added to the very document that defines who we are as a nation. This right must be defended, I do believe it needs to be refined, but defended nonetheless. There is great discussion on the left about an erosion of our personal freedoms by legislation such as the PATRIOT Act. Why then would anyone seek to target a personal freedom granted us by the constitution?
During my time in the military, I have seen some very horrific things. Seeing death has done one thing for me; it has reaffirmed my belief that life, all life is sacred. However, our right to make our own choices is sacred to me as well, and a woman’s right to choose must be protected. I know that a pro-choice stance doesn’t sit well with many Americans and I understand that but it has taken me nearly 15 years of personal growth, and life experience to reach this point where I can voice this openly. Here are some preemptive answers to some questions that may come my way. Would I support legislation banning near term abortion? Yes. Would I support legislation banning abortion? No. Would I support legislation making it more difficult to get an abortion? Yes. Would I support legislation making in mandatory for parental notification in the case of a minor? Absolutely. I believe in the right to choose, but the state should not pay for this right. I also believe in personal responsibility and exhausting all other opportunities before deciding upon the course of action from which there is no return. Yet, ultimately, this is a decision that is between a woman and God however, she may perceive him. Yet it is the right of a woman to choose not the decision to choose that I will defend.
KJ: Running for office opens up your entire life to be picked over and all your life’s decisions to be paraded in front of the public. Is that prospect a little daunting to you?
RC: When a person decides to enter public office, that person’s private life becomes public for consumption by all. If they are unpopular to a certain group then they become the symbol of what one side of an argument seeks to target. This is nothing new. I first ran for student council when I was in 7th grade, it was a popularity contest. My opponent was initially running unopposed that did not seem very democratic to me. So when I announced I would run against her I initially did not care if I won. It was not until that she said quite publically that I was only seeking to run against her because I didn’t like being “unpopular”, in that same sentence she said that when she beat me, she would still be my friend. I remember thinking how nasty that was to say. I felt hurt and humiliated, and then I realized when an opponent gets nasty they are afraid. I offer myself to the district for consumption. I have a commonality with the voters of the California 35th. I want all that the “American Dream” has to offer, I work hard, and I have dreams that all too often go unrealized. Yet, each day we all get up and do our jobs. Go about our lives and at night dream of a better life, the difference here is I want to help the district’s citizens realize their “American Dream”.
I have talked about this with my wife, and we feel confident that we can handle what may come, when people see who I am all that will be seen is that I am an American who wants to make a difference. I came from a middle class family from the Mid-West. I made average grades, was a shy kid who never dated much. I joined the military early to find myself. Settled in Southern California, finished college at a great school, fell in love, got engaged and married the best woman I have ever met. They will see a man that upon my return home and am campaigning has spent 20 of the previous 24 months away from his wife. A man that knows what sacrifice and service mean. I am a little intimidated by all of it, and daily when I see my name on a banner that says Currie for Congress, I am filled with the sense of the hard work and the uphill battle I face in the upcoming election. It is indeed daunting, but I look forward to it, no matter what it brings. I have made a choice to seek this office, and with choices, there is always risk; but without risk, there is no progress. Incidentally, I won that election back in 7th grade, and the lessons I learned about how I felt I have carried with nearly two decades later.
KJ: Anything else you’d like to say?
RC: I just want to thank you for taking the time to interview me; this is a tremendous opportunity for me to set the stage for my return from active duty. Upon hanging up my uniform and my release from service, I plan to hit the ground running, and do some very honest to goodness old fashion campaigning. Knocking on doors, and getting my message out to as many people in the district as I can, and this medium will go a long way to that end. While by law, I am prevented from campaigning on active duty, my wife and some very dedicated volunteers at home are laying the foundation for me to jump right into the thick of it when I return. May God keep and bless you all, and of course, God bless America!