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Sam Clovis IFFC Spring Event 4-8-14
Photo credit: Dave Davidson –

1.  What’s the most rewarding job you’ve held?

Sam Clovis: “I’ve had two extremely rewarding jobs. The first would be the commander of the 70th Fighter Squad at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Geo. It was a fantastic opportunity and a great job. It’s what every fighter pilot strives for. The other was serving on Project CHECKMATE at the Pentagon. I was there for four years serving as an operations analyst and really had a remarkable opportunity and worked on a tremendous number of projects that were extremely rewarding and even today still have a long-term impact. I was the architect of the joint warrior course that’s still inexistence today. Every general or flag officer who is going to take command of combat forces goes through that course.”

2.  First job you ever had?

Sam Clovis: “Picking strawberries for Mr. Truitt. He was a neighbor in the little village where I was raised. I was probably nine or 10 years old. I’d go out and spend all day picking strawberries for 10 cents an hour. I did a lot of work for him in the yard too, for several years until I was big enough to start working on the farm. Between my junior and senior year of high school I worked at a gas station. That was a great job too.”

3.  Describe your worldview and what role that would play in your decisions as U.S. Senator:

Clovis:“There’s no simple straight forward, two-word answer. My worldview is one that I think is one focused predominately on my experience, education and background and deals with where I see us in the world. I think a lot of that is predicated on my faith, which has become such a big part of my thinking over the last 10-15 years. Twenty-some years ago I was asked to send kids off to war and I hadn’t really been in my faith. I always tried to be a good man, but never really based it on any semblance of faith. I was raised evangelical and converted to Catholicism. I was married, raised a child Catholic and then I drifted away from everything. When I had to make that decision it really was a crisis for me that night. I had to get down on my knees and pray because I just could not simply come to that decision with a secular view. It sparked in me the notion to start to get back into my faith and started picking up the Bible again and I always flew with the Bible. This is God’s truth, every mission I flew in my career I had a New Testament somewhere on my body. I never took off when I did not have a New Testament with me somewhere. My mom gave it to me and I felt that was as much a part of my uniform as anything else. I really drifted away from it, but 20 years ago I started to journey back and picked up on a lot of things trying to understand why I had been in the service and all the other things that were important to me. What happened was I started studying faith and saw its influence on our founding and realized faith was an important element of that. I see America as an exceptional nation, but without God we really have no nation, and we’re not exceptional. It’s unique in history. Because of my understanding of the Constitution and history of this country, that’s really what shapes my view and will influence me as a U.S. Senator. I will always place that as a foundation. There are principles of faith and principles of governance and the two are not incompatible, in fact they’re congruent.”

4.  What is the purpose of the federal government?

Clovis:“It depends on what we ask of the government. I studied economics a great deal and economically we ask the government to take care of the free market failures when the free enterprise will not or cannot supply the goods or services the citizens demand. We require the government to deal with negative externalities like pollution and economic issues to provide for the common good and common service for the people. I think those are the things we expect out of our government from an economic view. The Constitution is clear on three areas —social structure, political structure and economic structure. If you study the Constitution it’s easy to find those in there and that really provides us with a road map of how to govern. The federal government should be limited and only be allowed to do what is necessary to comport with the Constitution of the United States. Anything outside of that is an over reach and frankly violates the very principles in the Constitution and our founding.”

5.  What books, family influences and/or historical figures have had the most influence on you?

Clovis:“My father was clearly the person who had the most influence on my life. He passed away in 1982 and I was relatively a young man in my 30s when he died. We certainly had a strong family and great parents. I had a wonderful brother and we had very strong, nurturing parents who always supported us. They built the boundary there, though. My mother was a devout evangelical Christian. She had a tremendous influence on me from that aspect. Dad, not as much, but he was still a man of faith and tremendous character and great depth. I’ve measured all other men by him. It’s just hard to describe the strength, the will that he had and he passed that on to me I think. I’ve worked with a lot of great men and women in my life and they’ve all contributed to who I am, but I’d say he’s certainly the one with the most influence of anyone.”

6.  What are the issues you consider non-negotiable?

Clovis: “First and foremost life and marriage are two issues I just won’t bend on. Those to me represent, if you have to have a line in the sand, I don’t know where else you’d go. It goes straight back to the whole notion of what constructs society and in the Declaration it talks about life and we know the building block of society is the family. The traditional family is the family that works best. I’d say another area is supporting legislation that violates the Constitution in any way, shape or form. If you can’t find the predicate in the Constitution it has no business being law and law must comport with the natural laws we have. Martin Luther King is famous for saying no law should be passed in this nation that does not support God’s law and God’s nature. Go back to anyone with a true understanding of our Constitution and that’s what we’re all about. National security — having readiness and training available and equipment and all of those things — guarantees national sovereignty. Those are unequivocal as well. But first and foremost is life and marriage. There’s no way I can find any intellectual argument to take me off of that in any way, shape or form.”

7.  What is the law and where does the law come from?

Clovis: “Law comes from God. It’s truly given to us by divine providence. Go back to the first documented social order established as the social norms, back to the Greeks and all of that. Really what we should look at is Mosaic Law. That’s the predicate of all the things we ought to be looking at through nature’s law. What we find in the Bible, both the Old Testament and New Testament — see this is more than just a nation, it’s about a society, a social construct. How do our laws fit into that template of Mosaic Law? Do we protect individuals so a person can pursue life? We have laws that do that. Do we protect the right of the individual of the family? I’m talking about those issues associated with honoring our parents and our families. Those are all things we go back to that are Mosaic Law. I studied Aquinas and that’s an important element to me. Aquinas provided me with a tremendous amount of intellectual rationale for understanding free will, natural law and natural rights. Extend that to political philosophers like Johannes Althusius and others of his ilk in the 17th and 18th centuries. All this built towards the notion the federal government is based on a covenant with the people and between the people to select a republican form of government that is representational. The word covenant is very powerful. That was what was in the Mayflower compact and it’s used almost 300 times in the Bible. Federal comes from the Latin word foedus, which means covenant. That is really the predicate for all of these things. These are things that precede all these other aspects and built the American system. I think you go back to that exercise of free will, liberty, protection of life — all these things come from Mosaic Law. That’s been warped a great deal in the last 70 or 80 years, but I think the essence of it is still there.”

8.  At what point do you believe a human life is guaranteed the legal protections of being an American citizen and what would you do to ensure those protections are provided?

Clovis:“Life beings at conception. I don’t think there’s any question. Science tells us life begins at conception and should be protected from that moment forward. In a perfect world I would support legislation or a Constitutional amendment that ends abortion of any form at all or any taking of human life. As you know, we have people who believe you can abort a child until they’re two-and-a-half years old. This is how sick this is. As a senator I’d work to find justices who would sit on the Supreme Court and in the federal court system who would support life and help us overturn Roe v. Wade. You have to go out and help and find the mechanism and create an atmosphere to protect the person. What we’re really talking about is a person — a person. That’s really the notion that has to come into mind that this is a person or an individual. Once that egg has been fertilized and the first cellular division occurs, that’s the point at which we must protect the individual. That individual should be guaranteed all of the constitutional protections anyone who is walking the face of this Earth.”

9. A lot has changed under the current administration with regards to the definition of marriage. What’s your position and what is your end game for the debate?

Clovis: “My focus on the whole gay marriage issue is there are several parts to it. I want to explain myself. I’ve looked at this a lot and I find this issue is a stalking horse. The LGBT community is using marriage as a wedge issue, but the ultimate goal is to gain 14th Amendment protections for LGBT individuals, which are 4 percent of the population. People often times do not see the connection here because what happens is if you are able to change the definition of marriage, you’ve accomplished a great number of things.

One is the further driving of a wedge between a God and a state recognized institution. Marriage is not only a religious institution but a state recognized institution as well. It deals with a lot of laws — issues of inheritance, taxes, visitation and all those other factors. I think again it’s all noise, all noise. The real issue is, imagine the arrogance of a group of people saying they want to change the definition of something and that’s it. There are no intellectual underpinnings for that. To say we now have marriages between two consenting adults is a fallacious argument because what happens is you want to define marriage from one man to one woman to consenting adults. What’s to say you can’t pass that on to other things? They want to deconstruct the fundamental institution of this country — the family. That is the reason for this.

If you deconstruct the family, which is the last bastion of community left, then essentially you place every individual at the mercy of the state, and that’s really the essence of what this is about. They want to get God out of town square and deconstruct the principle building block of society and take away the cohesion that comes from the traditional family unit. It’s all about forming some other enterprise and having the state recognize it, thus making it the state’s power and not God’s.

Add in the 14th Amendment protection issue. If we add 14th Amendment protection issues to this where the LGBT community is granted the same class status as a person of gender, color, age, disability, religion or military service, then what happens when a preacher stands at the pulpit or an Imam stands in a mosque and pronounces their displeasure with homosexual behavior? That then is construed as hate speech because they’re now a protected class of people. This is where this is going.

This is one of the reasons I think people have taken their eye off the ball because this whole issue is the absolute elimination of religious influence on this nation. Essentially it’s the last brick to be pulled out of the wall and then they’ll have taken the wall down. There are a number of things that can be done.

One is we can do different things in the taxation area and create incentives for the traditional family. I’m a Fair Tax guy, so that’s essentially one of the things we could do. Also, create a corporate tax structure that allows for a stronger economy. All you have to do is take a look at data from the U.S. Census Bureau and people who live in a traditional household have income capabilities are multiple of other models. Another aspect is supporting DOMA and supporting justices who understand where this is all heading. This is where again, at a national level, we could pass another DOMA, it might have to be shaped differently and looked at differently, but we can use government grants and things to help people create more family-friendly operations and issues. One of the key things at the federal level, and it’s very difficult, a lot of it comes back to the local level in schools. A lot of it is built from the bottom up, not necessarily the top down. I think that’s a critical feature.

One thing is we must protect speech. We have to do whatever has to be done to protect the First Amendment. Imagine your preacher or my priest going in there and giving a lesson on the traditional family and then think about the fact the government will want to pull their tax exempt status because they preached something contrary to what this administration wanted. It’s a real challenge because the wind is not at our back on this issue when it comes to the institutional aspects because we don’t have a court system that allows us to defend these things and they don’t have the will in the senate.

If we get a majority in the senate, and that’s one of the reasons I’m running, then I’d do whatever it is I needed to do to join with (Sen. Ted) Cruz and (Sen. Mike) Lee and (Rep. Steve) King, (Rep. Louie) Gohmert and (Rep. Jeff) Sessions in the House to move this thing forward to where we could defend marriage again.”

10. What is your position on ObamaCare?

Clovis:“I was the first candidate to sign the pledge that if we’re elected we’ll defund the Affordable Care Act. It needs to be repealed even if it’s in full effect and takes us until 2017 to get a Republican president to repeal it. We have to do it. This is not about medical care, this is about the loss of liberty and that’s exactly where we are with this. We’re losing liberty every day to people who want to put all of our records into electronic files that we have no guarantee will be protected. We’ll have rationing and all of this goes to the fundamental undermining of individual liberty.

For the government to get between a patient and a doctor is egregious. This whole notion of a single payer system is population control. It’s the perfection of men. It’s a progressive dream to be able to go out there and create a system and circumstance where people get to figure out who lives, who dies and who gets what care and who doesn’t. What is happening is the modeling of somebody’s notion about a perfect society. That’s what this is about. We know what’s going on. Go out and take a look at the Affordable Care Act.

We have more people without health insurance today than we did when it passed. It’s costing us exponentially more than it did when it passed. All the promises that were made to us have been broken. We’ve been lied to. If for no other reason it should be repealed because we were lied to and sold a bill of goods. It ought to be repealed and we ought to start over. And the way you start over is you amend the Karen Ferguson to allow the interstate sale of health insurance and impose tort reform. That would change the equation overnight. Those two things alone might lead to a 50 percent reduction in the cost of health care. So, why not include that in the first part, it’s obvious. Because it would essentially gut the trial lawyer’s association and how they make all their money. It would allow them for free enterprise to work and we don’t want market solutions — at least Democrats don’t.”

11. What about illegal immigration and the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill?

Clovis: “My stance is it needs to never pass or see the light of day. I’ve made it very clear. The McCain-Kennedy bill never saw the light of day, mostly because we never learned our lesson from what happened in 1986. At that time we had twice as many people ‘come out of the shadows’ as were predicted and 70 percent of them used some form of fraudulent identity to gain access to benefits. The issues are out of our hands are public education and public health, there has already been Supreme Court decisions that lead us to having to support those and those came prior to the 1986 bill. There’s also a notion of chain migration, which is there. I’m most concerned about this bill because it does not secure the border, it only promises to secure the border. It does not ensure American sovereignty and does not enforce public charge, which means people must be able to support themselves to remain in the country. The bottom line for me is this Gang of Eight bill is asking the American people to look the other way when it comes to the rule of law and worse, it’s rewarding breaking the law. They are rewarding breaking the law with citizenship in this country, the most sacred, most valuable aspect of America is citizenship and we’re being asked to look the other way.”

12. Can we prevent more mass shootings at schools, malls and movie theaters through legislation while preserving the Second Amendment?

Clovis:“I’m not sure that’s an accurate premise. The issue of gun control and mental health only is if we have people who are mentally ill who have access to firearms, then that’s an issue and probably a slippery slope. How do we go about doing that without violating individual privacy? What happens then if you have a gun control crazed administration put word out to doctors that to get any reimbursement a doctor must inform the government about the mentally ill and block them from getting guns? Imagine what would happen. Imagine how veterans might be treated. Anyone in combat comes home not the same. This is a very treacherous slope.”

13. What about the EPA, climate change, cap and trade and that issue?

Clovis:“I’m a skeptic. I’ll put it that way. I’m not convinced the science is proven. I just simply see too much of what’s going on day to day. It goes back to the whole premise of what progressivism is about and that’s using a relative snapshot in time in order (to make new rules). If progressives had their way they’d be out there managing the weather. That’s nonsense, utter nonsense.

This whole issue of global warming or climate change and cap and trade and all the other legislation is simply a mechanism for transferring wealth from one group of people to another. Take a look at who has benefitted most from this. The hypocrisy of people like Al Gore is so incredibly difficult to accept because this is a person who has made millions and millions of dollars off this whole climate change episode that we’re going through and he’s gained great wealth off this. He’s created a carbon footprint for individuals, which is egregious. One thing I hear often out of progressives when it comes to climate change is Americans only compromise X-number percentage of the Earth yet we consume 25 percent of the energy. Well, we also have 25 percent of the world’s economy. Again, it’s a false premise that energy ought to be distributed per capita. It’s nonsense. High production requires high energy use, that’s simply the way it is.”

14. What about the IRS?

Clovis: “I think the tax code reform is critical, certainly from an income tax level. I’d like to see us go to a Fair Tax or a consumption tax as opposed to a production tax. We ought to modify corporate tax rates to eliminate a lot of the subsidies and grants that goes to business while at the same time lowering that tax rate to 10 percent and also making it 10 percent for what’s repatriated from overseas. We have to give companies incentive to produce here and the way that’s done is lowering the cost of opportunity. If opportunity costs are lower, that will bring production back to this country because we have the workforce and infrastructure. All of those things will lead to incentive for businesses to expand here and it reduces the uncertainty of the federal government. Then you don’t need 20,000 extra agents, you can probably get by with a very small office and maybe 1,000 or so people to effectively handle those issues. That can be done in the Department of Treasury and then you won’t need a separate agency for this.”

15. Have you ever supported raising a tax and if so which ones? Are there any current taxes you would support increasing?

Clovis: “No. I can’t think of one. I’m not even sure I’m wired that way. I wouldn’t even know how to consider that.”

16. What about the NSA and balancing security with our right to privacy?

Clovis: “One of the things is that’s where oversight comes in. I don’t think we’ve had adequate oversight. Both parties have been surprised at the level of intrusion that has taken place. We have people who are very much national security oriented like I am, but I also understand and am much more civil libertarian (on this) than some other things.

Individual liberty and the right to privacy are paramount. There has to be probable cause for this kind of intrusion and without probable cause it’s simply hovering information out there which is incredibly bad and wrong and frankly goes against every tenant of freedom and liberty we have in this country. Really the way you get their attention is take their funding. The best way to go about it is telling them to get back on the ranch or their money is gone. That’s exactly what I would do. That’s how you deal with these agencies, you take their money away. You just defund them and say that’s it. If you can’t behave and can’t operate in the interest of the American people you don’t get any money, therefore you don’t exist. You can stay on the books all you want, but you won’t get any money to pay anybody or do anything, how’s that? We don’t do that near enough.”

17. What about the situation in Egypt, which has brought to light the issue of foreign aid?

Clovis: “I think we should fund governments that are supportive of us. The other thing is every once in a while you may have a situation, going back to the 1970s at Camp David where we were able to get Egypt and Israel to the table and we really were able to gain a measure of peace there, but we had to pay both sides. Again, there’s a pragmatic, practical aspect of this. This is an area where there may not always be absolutes, but as a general principle, we only support nations that will support us. It’s not always as clear cut as that, and I think we’re naïve to think it is, but that’s the general rule.”


18. What role should the federal government have in public education?

Clovis: “Virtually none. My personal experience is one area where the Department of Education is most helpful, and that’s ensuring civil rights of students are upheld. My stepson was a special needs student and we went through a great deal of difficulty getting the education for him required by law in a school district in the state of Iowa. I had moved heaven and earth to do this. I became an expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Act. (Recently) downstairs in the basement I ran across a four-inch binder that had all my notes and props in it for dealing with this very issue and it was jam packed full.

I had read it all, I knew it all and I knew the law. I had to go to the Department of Education’s civil rights bureau and have them go to the individual school district to impose on them the notion that if they did not comply with the law the state of Iowa and the U.S. government would fall on them like a safe out of a fourth floor window. That’s what it took and the change that occurred was overnight, dramatic and positive. We got out of that what we needed, but that’s what it took. It took the weight of the government to fix a civil rights issue. Beyond that I find no reason for having a Department of Education at the national level. And from the civil rights aspect of that, it could probably be handled by the Department of Justice. Another aspect of this is because now the federal government has been involved in all of the various aspects of the student loan program, it’s far more into higher education than is appropriate.”

19. What’s the role of the courts and what is or what are some of the worst decisions in the Supreme Court’s history?

Clovis: “There are multiple cases I think that are really bad. I could go all the way back in history to Dred Scott and before the Civil War started. Plessey vs. Ferguson was a horrible decision and it took another 60 years to correct that with Brown vs. Board of Education. Roe v. Wade clearly is one of the worst decisions ever on the part of the Supreme Court. I also think the Kilo decision on eminent domain and property rights was horrible.

The latest we had with the decision on DOMA and the decision on the Affordable Care Act, those were not the brightest lights for the Supreme Court at all. There are probably dozens of others. I think the main focus of what the justices should be in the court system of America is an originalist view of the Constitution. They did until about 1937, and then we started to see the courts change and shift to more of a living document mentality than the originalist intent.

Over the last 25 years the court has been very checkered and schizophrenic when it comes to being consistent in one direction or the other. I don’t think the court should legislate from the bench ever. If Congress has aggregated their responsibility then they need to tell Congress that. They should also go back and say this is unconstitutional but they should not offer a solution, they should say these are the things we looked for and legislation needs to be shaped this way.

Go back to the state of Iowa’s decision in Varner. That should’ve never been a remedy. They should’ve kicked it back to the legislature with what was wrong and in order to comply with the Constitution this is what needs to be done. The court should’ve never ever been able to legislate from the bench. And if they do then we need a system where, overtime, we’ll replace those justices. Mark Levin just wrote a book and he talks about imposing term limits on justices. I’d probably support that.”

20. Favorite politician in U.S. history?

Clovis: “I would say for the intellect and understanding of things Adams and Jefferson at our founding. Adams, of course, was a pit bull. He was a dogged conservative and a remarkable individual. Jefferson may have been one of the brightest politicians to ever live. He was a great servant of this nation but very much a contradiction in life in his view of things.

Another I have to give a lot of credence to is Lincoln. Lincoln was a great president, but I think he was a president who rose to the occasion. Had circumstances been different, he may not have been the most notable president we’ve ever had. But I think he gave two addresses that, to me, give insight into what kind of person he was and how great of a president he was. One was his Gettysburg Address, which was remarkable in its simplicity and straight forwardness. The second was his second inaugural address. That’s perhaps one of the greatest speeches ever. If you read the text you’ll find insight into this man that very few people really appreciate.

I would say for the reason of significance, Woodrow Wilson. He’s not one of my favorites, but he had a significant impact on this country and not in a positive way. Also, take a look at some aspects of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration.

From an iconic perspective look at John Kennedy. He’s still the gold standard for the progressives even though today he’d be a Republican. It’s one of the great ironies of life. He’d probably be a Republican.

I would say in modern times, at least in my view, I cannot talk about conservatism without talking about Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. I was alive to know them; I’ve met Barry Goldwater and talked with him. Those two men probably more than any others have helped establish the conservative movement as viable in its set of principles that could help and govern this nation across the social institutions, security institutions and government institutions. They’ll have an enduring legacy. Men and women who hold conservative views and values will always be able to find harbor in Reagan and Goldwater.

Intellectually Russell Kirk to me is a great mentor. He was a great conservative intellect of the 20th century and I’ve read everything he’s written. I find he’s probably had as great of an influence on me as Johannes Althusius.”

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