(Des Moines, IA) Matt Whitaker, one of currently five Republicans vying for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, reached out yesterday to a small group of influential homeschoolers to answer questions and receive feedback. Fifteen homeschoolers met with Whitaker for an hour at his campaign headquarters. The topic of focus was primarily education, but did divert into other issues.
Whitaker introduced himself by sharing that he grew up attending First United Methodist Church in Ankeny, IA. Whitaker and his family now attend Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church (WELS) in West Des Moines. In an interview with Caffeinated Thoughts prior to the meeting, Whitaker said that his Christian faith and belief in American Exceptionalism informs his worldview. He echoed that during the meeting later in the afternoon. He said he prays for wisdom and strength daily during this campaign; especially for wisdom in balancing work, campaigning and his family life.
He’s not interested only accomplishing incremental change and identifies himself with the new crop of Senators affiliated with the Tea Party. “I am going to join the new movement and fix the big things.” Whitaker also said that he plans to work with the new voices in the Senate and “unwind as many things as we can.”
He plans to remain a citizen legislator vowing to continue to live in Iowa and commute. He has also promised to limit himself to two terms. He plans on emulating U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley by visiting all of Iowa’s 99 counties every year holding town hall meetings. He said he wants to continue to be involved in the community and, if possible, continue to coach his son’s football team.
When asked about education he said believed the U.S. Department of Education, as it currently exists, is unconstitutional. “5000 bureaucrats should not tell me how to educate my kids… We need to roll back the Department of Education and eliminate it if possible,” Whitaker said. He acknowledged that there will probably need to be a mechanism for states to talk with one another and possibly for an idea clearinghouse for education at the Federal level. He reiterated that he believes education decisions and policy should be decided at the local level with parents having influence. He stated Washington should promote school choice options, but stay away from top down initiatives such as the Common Core State Standards.
Whitaker said he believed the Common Core State Standards will “stifle education.” “I am against one-size-fits-all policies,” Whitaker said. “I am disappointed that Iowa has not been able to root (the Common Core) out already… I don’t see how we can focus on one set of standards and believe that it will elevate all kids. Kids learn differently.”
He was asked what his top three priorities if elected to office would be. He stated that his first priority would be dealing with debt, and get deficit spending that contributes to it under control. His second priority would be to push policies that will help kick start the economy like curbing nonsensical regulations, modest taxation and a sound currency. The third priority would be to pursue policies that strengthen the family.
Whitaker was asked about U.N. treaties such as the U.N Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the U.N. Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC). He first stated that UN treaties do not trump the Constitution. “Anything the UN passes I’m going to inherently think it is against the US. So I am against it unless proven otherwise,” Whitaker said. He added that the United States shouldn’t offload policy decision-making to the UN.
He was asked his opinion of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). He stated that he didn’t believe in extending special protections to gays and lesbians. “The extension of rights to people due to behavior is dangerous,” Whitaker added. He noted that we are called to treat people with respect, but had religious liberty concerns with that piece of legislation.
A veteran in the group asked him his thoughts on recent decisions by the Obama administration dealing with military personal – specifically the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allowing women in combat roles. He said he’s against the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “I don’t want to see our military treated as a Petrie dish,” Whitaker said. He believed that most personnel decisions in the military should be handled on an individual basis and not based on gender. He said he believed there are women who quite capable to handle combat roles and wouldn’t be comfortable calling for the repeal of that decision. He said he was appalled seeing recent stories where military chaplains were facing a loss of religious liberty.
He believes that Congress needs to stand up to President Obama’s executive overreach. Whitaker was disappointed that more Republicans didn’t join in shut down battle over Obamacare. “John McCain is on the top of my list,” he added. He didn’t agree with tying it to debt limit though.
“People need to have confidence that we will pay our bills,” Whitaker said.
“America is the greatest idea ever conceived. We need to get it back to where it once was. We need to reject European socialism,” Whitaker stated.
Prior to the event Whitaker gave Caffeinated Thoughts an exclusive interview. You can watch it below: