Editor's Note: The following is Part 1 of 2 in an interview the Daily Mountain Eagle had with U.S. Senate Republican candidate Tommy Tuberville. The interview can also be viewed in its entirety on the DME YouTube page.
Tommy Tuberville, the former head football coach at Auburn, is one of several GOP candidates vying for the U.S. Senate nomination on March 3 to run against the incumbent Democrat, Doug Jones, in November 2020. Tuberville sat down with the Daily Mountain Eagle to discuss a variety of issues affecting the state.
Tuberville was in Jasper on Monday to speak to the local BamaCarry chapter. He also taped a Daily Mountain Eagle podcast recently when in town to speak to the East Walker Chamber fo Commerce.
On immigration, Tuberville said, "Well, first of all, we've got to put up a wall," echoing the president's stand. Noting visits and connections in Texas, he said immigration is out of control, with up to 30 million illegal immigrants here. "There is talking of any type of reform until we get the wall up, because we don't know who is here." He said many are here not for their families or, but instead "to change the country and take it in a different direction." He said the purpose of Congress is to protect the citizens of the nation, which he said is not happening.
As for the children being detained at the border and kept in detention, he said President Obama did as much and that it was not controversial then. He said this is a country that loves other and has taken care of millions of people, sometimes to rebuild after wars. However, he feels the nation's leaders are responsible to protect its citizens. "We need a wall so we don't have any of that separation," he said, adding funds were approved under Obama but that nothing was done.
Tuberville said the biggest concern he has heard in the past six months of traveling has been about the loss of healthcare.
"We really don't have any," he said, adding Obamacare was basically something that tried to set up government healthcare. "If you want to see government healthcare, all you have got to do is look at the VA," he said, calling it "atrocious" as it sometimes takes six months to get an appointment. He said many hospitals are closing down in rural areas of the state "because we don't have internet" and because of a lack of reimbursements from insurance companies.
He said the answer will not be found until people go back to "being a capitalistic healthcare system, where we have more than one insurance company" to spur competition. He also said systems were needed to help rural areas, as well as ways to fund them.
Tuberville said a mental health plan is needed to address the mass shootings in the nation, adding it once had one. Now he says the plan is to release prisoners to the streets.
"There is not a gun problem. It is a people problem," he said. "There's been guns here forever. I'm not for any form or fashion of gun control. There are not taking my guns, because what happens is they are not looking to take guns because you want to hunt and do some casual shooting or target practice. They want to take your guns away so they can control you. In this country, we cannot do that. The Second Amendment says we are allowed to bear arms."
He said education and mental health efforts are needed through the government. He said drug addictions are also creating mental health problems, saying 70,000 people died last year in the nation due to overdoses but that he sees no education efforts any more.
"Eighty precent of drugs come across the border in this country," he said. "That's another reason we need a wall up." Tuberville added this is becoming a "lawless country" and that he has seen that in the colleges and high schools.
He said opioid companies are "paying a price" for past practices as they are being sued. The situation can be controlled through education," and government can restrict what can be sold through doctors over prescribing.
"I saw that being a coach. We had kids I coached ending up in the last 10 years being hooked on opioids simply because they were pain killers," he said. "It all goes back to educating people what you can do, what you can't do, what drugs you are taking. It is really out of control," but he said that also includes heroin, meth and cocaine.
On climate change, Tuberville said is first thought on climate change is that "there is one person that changes climate in this country and that is God." Even with gas and coal burning, "we are a very small part of that. Look at China," where he said the Chinese have 2,000 coal fired plants - and growing - while the U.S. has 40 or 50. He said coal, mining and gas emissions are not the problem.
"We don't have climate change here," he said. "You might have a little bit of change. It might change a little bit over the years." He said poloar caps have been melting for years, which is not a change. "You do have a little bit change of weather. But somebody needs to prove to me that it is because we are burning coal or we have cars driving on the streets." He said experts indicate the situation "won't change enough in the next 400 years to affect anybody. But it is a talking point on the left that gives them an opportunity to scream and yell that this country is not going to last but 12 more years."
He said he has heard since he was a child that the world would not last if people kept doing one thing or another. "Everybody wants to scream wolf," he said.
Tuberville backed the president's tariffs, saying other presidents "kicked the can down the road and they have put us in a huge bind. Our farmers know that. Our farmers know President Trump is out there fighting for them every day." He said farmers was a better, more consistant price, and that he has talked to farmers across Alabama "through the Alfa representatives and they are behind President Trump. They understand what he is trying to do, and they are behind him 100 percent."
He said there was more compromise and working together on solutions in Congress, which he thinks is good. However, he said there is now a stalemate in Congress, with the number of bills sharply declining as attention is turned to "going after the president." An exception has been in the Senate confirming of over 200 judges, which he thinks is important.
"I'm used to working with people," he said, "I'm used to getting people to communicate. I'm used to getting people to trust people. The whole thing about being a football coach is listening as much as talking, understanding problems and working those problems out, and at the end of the day, winning." He said he could encourage people to talk.
Tuberville noted the country was built on capitalism and not socialism. "Donald Trump to me is the only guy right now - and we even have some Republicans that are not standing in the way right now of socialism. We have people who absolutely want to transform this country," he said. "That is not what this country is built on."
He noted his father died on active duty at age 53 in the military, after earlier being awarded five Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart in his youth during World War II. "He fought for God and the National Anthem and In God We Trust and all that. So I am a true believer that we have to fight for the fundamentals of this country. The fundamentals to me are God, family, and education."
He said God has been taken out of the schools and replaced with metal detectors. "How is that working for us?" he said. "Not very good." He said families have gone on welfare and students have been taught that they don't have to worry about working, as the government will take care of them if they will vote for socialism.
"And it don't work. All we have to do is look at Venezuela," he said. "California is a broke state, because they have turned that into a socialist state, and they are completely out of control. They won't even let the power company go into the trees and the woods, and put their power lines underground because they will disturb the landscape. And now they are on fire."
He said he is afraid many people are confused for the direction of the nation. "But I am telling you, if we will follow God, family and education, we will get this country on the right track again," Tuberville said.