New York City – Last week Bruce A. Blakeman, 54, the former Republican candidate for New York State comptroller in 1998, announced that he would seek to run against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in next year’s election. Ms. Gillibrand was appointed to fill Senator Hillary Clinton’s seat, and is considered vulnerable to a strong challenge in the next election. The New York Times recently ran an article on Mr. Blakeman.
Mr. Blakeman agreed to be interviewed by Rabbi Yair Hoffman of VIN News/Five Towns Jewish Times.
YH: Mr. Blakeman, we will be asking questions that are of interest both to New Yorkers in general and then to the Jewish community. Do you feel New York is ready to elect a republican senator now?
BB: I believe that the voters in New York State are angry, frustrated, and worried. Angry about what is going on in Washington – with huge huge deficits that will be left for them, their children and their grandchildren for years to come – a very, very serious issue; about the healthcare system which, for better or for worse, was working – being systematically dismantled by the Democrats in Washington. They are concerned about the economy and stimulus package. No one can point to any real jobs being created. The people are angry at the manner in which this administration has been conducting the war against terrorism. Angry about investigation of intelligence officers – who were only doing their jobs, listening to the directives of the government.. Angry about the terrorists being brought to New York City, which gives them a soapbox to spew. They voted for the Democrats. They thought they would get improvement with change they got change, but not what they bargained for. Things are much much worse. SO yes, I do think that New York is ready again for a Republican Senator.
YH: What kind of bills be sponsoring if you are elected?
BB: Firstly, I would sponsor bills that created job growth. You do that by helping businesses rather than punishing businesses. The health care debate has put businesses on hold. They cannot plan with predictability. They need to buy equipment, and then they can hire.
YH: Any other type of bills?
BB: Yes, I would push for tax relief. Bills that would increase our intelligence capabilities and assets, and also to submit a bill requiring that terrorists like the one being tried in NYC be tried by the military rather than civilian courts.
YH: Anything else?
BB: I would submit legislation to cap spending and reduce the deficits. We must learn to live within the revenue that we have – and not spend more than we take in. Just like every family has to do it – that’s what the government needs to do.
YH: Obama gave himself a B+ recently – how would you have graded the president?
BB: My grade for the president would be an “F.”
BB: Well, I think that the president’s stimulus program is a failure. His healthcare proposals are failures. His strategy for Iraq and Afghanistan is also a prescription for failure.
YH: But didn’t he push for more soldiers in Afghanistan?
BB: Yes, but I don’t hear the president talking about winning this war. He is talking about managing it – not winning it. When we risk the lives of our young men and women in the service – we need a goal and a plan.
YH: What are your thoughts about the bank bailout package?
BB: I think the bank bailout program was a failure. The money is not getting to the people that needed it the most. The banking crisis was not as profound as it was depicted. My position is bearing fruit now to the effect that many of the banks are paying back the loans because they don’t want the regulation or strangulation. The government must get out of the banking business and the auto business. It is not a good thing for America.
YH: Times Man of the Year – Ben Bernanke – a good choice or a bad choice?
BB: A curious choice. Ben Bernanke was on the job when we had the crisis. I found that very curious. Not as curious as Obama winning the Nobel prize, though..
YH: Speaking of the Nobel, what did you think of Obama’s speech at the Nobel acceptance ceremony?
BB: It was actually a very good speech. He said the right things. His words, however, frequently do not turn into his deeds. I find that often he talks the talk but he does not walk the walk. While I was grateful for the things he said, I did not believe that his record was in accord with his speech.
YH: What is your position on school vouchers for private schools?
BB: I support a school voucher program. Parents and children need to have choice and choice is a good thing when it comes to education.
YH: What is your position on keeping Jerusalem united?
BB: I am completely for a united Jerusalem. My position is that Jerusalem shall and must always remain the capital of the state of Israel. Israel may work out a solution regarding breaking up various responsibilities. For example, who would be in charge of various municipal function, police, garbage collection etc. To that extent I think it is up to Israel, but I am for a completely united Jerusalem.
YH: I see. What is your position on moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem?
BB: I think that the embassy should be in the capital of the country it is in. I am disappointed that it has not yet moved there as yet.
YH: I understand you received a Hatzolah “Lifesaver Award” at a Hatzolah dinner [Hatzolah is an orthodox Jewish volunteer ambulance organization] .. What are your thoughts about this organization?
BB: I am a big supporter of Hatzolah- I think they do a great job. I am all for volunteerism. We need this type of activity in this country. I have also worked to help H.A.S.C. [Hebrew Academy for Special Children] in the past.
YH: Wow. It seems like you know the Jewish community well.
BB: Yes, I am very familiar with the religious Jewish community. I am good friends with Rabbi Kamenetsky and I very much like Rabbi Billet from the Five Towns.
YH: Unfortunately Rabbi Kamenetsky took –
BB: Yes, I know, how is he doing? I hope he is recovering well..
YH: Yes, I believe he is steadily recovering. Anyway, it was a pleasure speaking with you.
BB: The same here. I hope we will be in touch..
The interviewer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org