By Chris Faulkner
Former Vice President Mike Pence came to Fort Madison Thursday night (Aug. 31) for a town hall meeting at the Kingsley Inn. The Republican from Indiana made his case for returning to the White House, this time as the president.
“I'm running for president because I think this country is in a lot of trouble,” Pence said. “Frankly, Joe Biden has weakened this country at home and abroad.”
In terms of the economy, Pence stated that inflation is up by 16.6 percent and mortgage rates are up to a 22-year high.
Pence said he met with a group of pastors in Burlington earlier in the day who told him the requests at local food banks were up 30 percent.
"I hear that everywhere I go,” he said. “Families are hurting.”
He criticized President Biden's border policies, saying they “have let millions of people come across our border, not to mention the flow of Fentanyl that's claiming lives in every community in the country.”
He touted the achievements made by the Trump/Pence administration.
“In our four short years, we've rebuilt our military, we've revived our economy, we achieved energy independence for the first time in 75 years, we reduced illegal immigration at the southern border of the United States by 90 percent,” he said.
“In the midst of it all, we appointed three conservatives to the Supreme Court.”
He then opened the floor up for questions from the audience, with about 50 to 60 in attendance.
One attendee asked how Pence would balance the country's partnerships and alliances around the world with funding, while still providing for the needs of the citizens in this country.
Pence said that part of the solution is to have a balanced federal budget. “Fiscal solvency is the foundation of our prosperity and our security in the long term,” Pence said.
“We've got to be willing to talk about the principal drivers in federal spending today, which are entitlements.”
He said that 70 percent of our budget is Social Security and Medicare.
But, he said, “Let me be real clear: If you're in retirement today, or if you're going to retire in the next 25 years, we're going to keep all the promises we make,” Pence said.
“I'm not somebody who believes in changing horses in the middle of the stream, so I tell people if you're 40 years or older, we'll keep you in the same program we've always promised.”
But, he said, “To put our country back on fiscal integrity, I really believe we've got to say to Americans under the age of 40, we need to have a conversation of how we reform these New Deal programs, and Social Security in particular, and give you a better deal.”
He quoted the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 10 years ago as saying, "The national debt is the greatest threat to American national security."
“In the next year or so, we're going to spend as much interest on the national debt as we do on national defense,” Pence said.
A balanced budget will allow the U.S. to provide “the resources that we need to stand up to our enemies and stand with our allies,” he said. He also said he will make sure the country's allies will pay their fair share.
Another attendee asked Pence for his stand on biofuels and private property rights.
“I'm a great champion of personal property rights, the right of contract,” Pence said. “I'm incredibly proud of what we did when we got rid of the waters of the USA regulation."
Pence was challenged on his answer, and provided the following response: “We didn't kill it, but I promise you it will be gone, it will all be gone in the next Republican administration.”
“I'm an all-of-the-above energy guy,” Pence said regarding biofuels. “I come from Indiana, and I'm incredibly proud of biofuels and ethanol. I've seen incredible contributions to what they make. I was for ethanol before it was cool.”
When asked what his position was on wind and solar, Pence repeated his “all-of-the-above” stance. But the person responded that “big oil companies have been your favorite one.”
Pence said, “I'm for natural gas, I'm nuclear, I'm wind, I'm solar, I'm renewables. I'm all that. What I'm not is a Green New Deal guy. I'm not interested in using the power of the government and government mandates and subsidies that mostly go to China for batteries to force the American people into either electric vehicles or force the American people into fossil fuels.”
Another man said that President Trump “had the idea that we could invalidate an election. Where did that come from? Is there anything in the U.S. Constitution that supports that?”
“The short answer is no, definitively no,” Pence said.
He said somewhere in December of 2020, “there began to appear a theory, then propagated by some lawyers who came in and advised the president that I had some right to reject or return electoral votes. No vice president in history would have ever asserted that, and no one ever should.”
He said he understood the disappointment of the 2020 election. He punctuated his defense for certifying the electoral college votes with a quote from the Bible: "He keeps his oath even though it hurts."
Pence said, “I believe that I am the best qualified, the best prepared, and the most tested conservative, and I will be ready Day One to turn this country around.”