Mark Sanford, 2020 Presidential Candidate vying for the Republican Party Nomination, sat down with 71 Republic’s CEO Matthew Geiger on a campaign stop in Columbus, Ohio, to discuss a variety of economic and foreign policy issues. Sanford is the former Governor of South Carolina, as well as a former United States Representative. A transcript and audio file of the interview is available below.
Geiger: Nice to see you, Mark. I want to touch on some of the foreign policy planks of your campaign, namely, beginning with something that’s more recent, the withdrawal of special forces in northern Syria. Could you comment on this issue? If you were president, would you have withdrawn those special forces?
Sanford: I think it was disastrous what the President did because what you don’t want is policy – foreign policy, in particular – that’s conducted in a capricious manner, and that’s fundamentally what he did. He caught allies across the world by surprise, he caught the Pentagon by surprise, he caught allies on Capitol Hill by surprise. That’s not the way in which foreign policy should be conducted. So regardless of where one is on the issue of the Middle East and us having troops there, if you’re going to bring them home, do it in a measured and real basis. Don’t do it because somebody wakes up in the middle of the night and says, ‘I think this is going to be my next move.’
Geiger: Got it. Moving further east to China and Hong Kong. If you are currently the president, would you take any definitive action to support or deter the current action that’s going on in Hong Kong?
Sanford: I think you need to be declarative because words matter with regard to your support for basic levels of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights in Hong Kong, which fundamentally is what the protests are about. Whether or not you can actually step into a sovereign country invites a much bigger question. But I think the first step has to be declarative, and I don’t think this administration has done that.
Geiger: And then again, on the topic of China, they’re currently developing 5G internet and cell usage and distributing it through their state-run corporations to countries in Europe, and potentially they may even extend it here to the United States. It’s a huge foreign policy concern amongst many American foreign policy experts. If you were president, how would you encourage American telecommunication companies to build 5G infrastructure?
Sanford: They have certain advantages in terms of efficiency in the way that they can direct from on top and say, ‘this is what we’re doing.’ And we have a market-based system that’s quite different and doesn’t allow for that. What I would say is two things. One, it highlights the danger of America increasingly looking inward versus outward, because somebody will fill that void and more often than not what we see in terms of foreign policy and international trade is the Chinese are more than glad to step in where we depart.
So I think it invites a bigger commentary on where we going with this increasing inward “America first” look that is the opposite of what folks put in place in the wake of World War Two, wherein they said, “look, this – you know beggar-thy-neighbor” approach trade and other has led in a lot of bad directions. We’re going to look for ways of engaging with the rest of the world. It’s accrued to America’s benefit mightily given the fact that we’re 5% of the world’s population but about, you know, a little shy of 25% of the world’s economy. And if we again, step away, what’s happening with 5G is just the tip of the iceberg.
Geiger: And then I guess all the other media companies that were here were asking you the same old questions about, you know, “why are you so fiscally conservative? Why are you trying to bring the Republican Party back to its foundational principles?” What I think 71 Republic and a lot of people in the country want to know is, what are you going to do going forward if elected president? There is a notable candidate on the Democratic side of the aisle, Andrew Yang, whose main economic policy is universal basic income. What sort of innovative policy proposals do you have to stimulate the US economy besides deficit cuts going forward if you were to be elected president in 2020?
Sanford: See, that’s the big issue. I mean, that’s the giant elephant the room that nobody’s talking about. So you can get, you know, a $1,000 a month stipend. It will pale in comparison to what’s going to happen to your pocketbook or your wallet, given the deficit that we’re running. It has much bigger implications in people’s lives. I’ll give you two off-ramps. One, we ought to move to a system of personalized Social Security accounts for young people. You know, Fleming versus Nestor was a 1960’s Supreme Court decision that said that none of us have any legal claim whatsoever to our own social security money. And young people are more likely to believe in a UFO than to believe that they get the full value of their social security taxes. It’s a bad system.
If you want to build wealth in this country, you have to have capital that compounds and grows while you sleep at night. That’s not the case. I mean, you have presently an investment guaranteed to make you poorer at the end of the day, guaranteed to give you a negative rate of return. So I’d say something for young people is to say, how do we reconfigure and transition our Social Security system so that it is a true wealth-building exercise and insurance policy for young people. I would say, similarly, on the healthcare side, what we propose was when I was in Congress was a bill that was the alternative to the Affordable Care Act that said, “why don’t we make low priced insurance legal again,” because the fact of the matter is, at your age, you don’t have half the aches and ailments that I do in mind.
Geiger: I think you and I are pretty much the same age.
Sanford: And so what we’ve done is we’ve prohibited young people from buying a scaled-down insurance policy that fits with the needs that they have in terms of health at a younger age. And so if I said to you, “I’ve got the perfect mortgage for you…perfect insurance policy for you. It’s a $2 million policy. It’s got all these bells and whistles, you won’t believe how good it is.” And you’re like, “well, I don’t need a $2 million policy. My house is worth $200,000. I just need a $200,000 policy.”
No, no, this [$2 million policy] is the best version. It gives you all these bells and whistles. My house is worth $200. And so the idea of correlating one’s age to the benefits that they need, actually would lower costs for young people. I mean, I think that there are a lot of different things that I would propose. But a centerpiece for me is certainly the way in which this is going to hit your generation a lot more than it’s going to hit me.
Geiger: One final question for you. What’s the future look like? Throughout the press conference we just had you talked a lot about how you’re kind of maneuvering your way through this Republican primary. You’re not necessarily expecting to win but you’re raising the concern of the United States national debt. Looking forward past 2020 regardless of if you win or lose, what does the future for Mark Sanford look like in politics?
Sanford: No, this is a swan song for me. I mean, I’ve invested 25 years of my life into these kinds of issues. The night after my primary loss last June, a buddy called and said, “God just cleared your calendar for a reason, and I know what it is.” I’m like, “I’m so glad you got the direct connection.” And his point was, you need to primary the president. I’m like “you’re completely out of your mind. That’s preposterous.”
Geiger: Do you think you’re out of your mind? Is this crazy?
Sanford: It’s certainly crazy at a pragmatic level, given the scale. I mean, it’s like looking at Mount Everest and saying, “how do you climb that without any ropes?” But I think it’s important. I’ve got four sons and the kind of country they’re going to inherit is going to be very much impacted by what comes next financially. I mean, let me be clear, I think we’re walking into something as great as the great depression.
I mean, we’re talking about a generationally life-changing impact. That’s what the numbers suggest, and that’s what nobody’s talking about. So, to take some number of months and invest it in this way trying to do, you know, strange things like getting in the car and driving across the country and have press availabilities as we go along. We either prove to be a worthwhile exercise or completely useless exercise, I don’t know. But in life, all you can do is all you can do. And I do feel convicted to try and raise the issue, and so I’m trying to do so.
Geiger: Always great to have you, Mark, and we appreciate it.
Sanford: Thank you.