Saturday, June 14, 2014

In his own words: one-on-one with James Lankford (part 1)

I recently conducted a telephone interview with U.S. Senate candidate and 5th District Congressman James Lankford. Due to the length of the interview, I am breaking it up into two parts.

The following is a transcript of the phone interview, taken while Lankford was on the road in western Oklahoma:

JF: What are three things about your personal background that you think voters need to know?
JL: I would say, the first thing people need to know is that I’m happily married, dad of two beautiful daughters, and terribly normal. I didn’t come from a political background; I came from a ministry background, so my perspective is very different as I approach political issues. Being in the House of Representatives the last three years, it’s been fairly obvious the people that have been a decade or more in politics kinda think different, or they grew up in politics, and they think of the political issues as a sport, or as a direction to get to celebrity status rather than problem solving. So, for me, just the background is very different to have come from directing Falls Creek and working with thousands of people every single week, problem solving and trying to form solutions and actually help people long-term. Obviously, my perspective in ministry, and that I come from a Biblical Christian worldview, that’s who I am. That doesn’t change because I’m elected; that’s who I am at home, in office, and in my personal life.

JF: What do you think are the top three issues facing America?
JL: Budget is incredibly high. Whether these are all three co-equals or not, I couldn’t tell you. There’s a clear need to be able to get on top of our deficit. Our debt is not something you’re going to solve in a year. Anyone who tells you that it’s some simple thing that you just take out one agency or stop doing foreign aid, is trying to make an incredibly difficult solution over-simplified. Even if you removed all foreign aid, you’re not close to balancing the budget. In fact, you could remove every bit of our national defense, and still not balance the budget. It’s just not possible to do in a simple, straight-forward way. That is a major issue we have to deal with.

After that, we have to deal with the difference between federal control, and state and local control. Over the past several decades, there’s been a constant push from the states to the federal government, and the federal government is glad to have that, they’re glad to take power from people and states. We have to be able to find a way to push power back to the states. Some of the states don’t want that authority, obviously in Oklahoma we do, but those states say “we don’t want to mess with it”. They would rather have the federal government deal with it, because the federal government can add debt. So we have to solve that.

The third big issue is we have to resolve what the role of government is in our daily life. Not just states and federal government, but what is the role of government, at all. If we can’t resolve those simple principles, of how big our debt is, what is the role of the state, and what is the role of government at all in our daily lives, a lot of the other things aren’t going to matter.

JF: What is your position on term limits?
JL: I do believe in term limits. I’m a little more aggressive on this, I think, than some. I’m not meaning anything about other people in this race, I don’t know where they stand on it, but I believe we should have term limits on the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. We already have term limits on the executive branch. I think all three branches should have term limits. I think the judicial branch should be long, I think that follows the intent of the Constitution, but there’s no way you’re going to tell me the Founding Fathers assumed that someone would be 60 years on the bench or 50 years on the bench, because the life-span wasn’t as long in their time period. So I think there should be term limits on the judicial, should also be term limits on the legislative, as there are on the executive.

JF: What is your position on immigration reform?
JL: This is a very long question, so let me come at it a couple different ways. A lot of people are running from immigration reform, saying it’s too hard and too political. It’s easier just to talk about the problem and say there is a problem than it is to actually engage. It’s been one of my great frustrations in the House of Representatives, how many people are scared of this issue, and so they won’t actually engage and try to solve the problem. One of the things leaders need to do is lead. Now I have no optimism that this President, this Senate, are partners to actually get real immigration reform. They’re not. They’ll talk about it, but they don’t want to do anything. But we do have to lean in, as conservatives, that if we see a problem, you can’t just ignore a problem, you have to solve it.

I deal with several things in my worldview. Number one is, every person is created in the image of God. Every person has value, and what we do and how we speak about people should show that that person is created in the image of God and that they have value in the eyes of God. Second thing is, every person is under the law. There is no exception to that. Every person has rights and responsibilities in the country they’re from, that they’re a citizen of, and in every other country in the world they’re a guest. So, a person cannot walk into the United States and demand the rights of American citizens; they’re not an American, they’re a guest in our country. They’re not legal in our country. And so that’s pivotal in it. So for me it’s treat people with respect, but also honoring the law.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the interview. You can learn more about James Lankford and his campaign for U.S. Senate by visiting

I'd like to thank James for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview with me. I offered the same chance to T.W. Shannon, but after numerous contacts through several different means, he and his campaign refused to get back with me. He would have been asked the same questions as I asked Lankford.


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