Drawing on his experience as a college wrestler, when he used to watch tapes of opponents before a match, self-described “rock-ribbed conservative” Pete Snyder admits to a grudging admiration of former President Bill Clinton.
“I try to study the enemy,” he explained in an exclusive interview this weekend with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner, “and I've got to tell you, when it comes to getting things done, you've got to watch Bill Clinton.”
With regard to Bill Clinton, Snyder continued, “if you want to talk about government reform, I don't really cast him as a true government reformer, but he was able to get in under the hood of government and see what was going right and what was going wrong.”
The former president, he said, “in many wrong ways, exploited” what he learned about the inner workings of government and “did it in a way that connected with people.”
Over the years, he added, “I've watched a lot of tape of the opponents, so when I want to watch tape, I watch tape of Bill Clinton [and] what he did.”
As for politicians who are more aligned with his own conservative principles, Snyder said he is a big fan of the late Jack Kemp, the 1996 GOP vice presidential nominee, cabinet secretary, and longtime New York congressman.
Kemp, he said, was “someone who is principled as the day is long, conservative, [who] brought new ideas to the table and did it in a sunny, optimistic way. Jack spoke to me when I was in high school, [when] he ran for president. I had my little 'Jack Kemp' signs. He didn't make it too far, but he's been a true inspiration for me.”
To earn the votes of libertarians in his campaign for lieutenant governor, Snyder said he would be “standing up for our Constitution," noting that “Virginians penned the Bill of Rights.”
Recalling the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut, last month, Snyder said one result was “you have the liberal media trashing the Second Amendment while hiding behind the First.”
For his part, he said, “I'm going to defend the Second Amendment, but you know what? I'm actually going to stand up for the First, as well. I'm a constitutionalist at heart. When Congress made a play [to weaken] the Fourth Amendment a couple of weeks ago” in provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA), “I'd be out there protecting that as well. Liberty is something that we need to treasure, and you start by looking at the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and making sure that you're protecting and defending that every single day of the week.”
Policy, not rhetoric
In terms of reaching out to gay and Hispanic voters, Snyder said “you need to focus on issues that matter for everyone. I firmly don't believe that different demographic groups vote single issues out there.”
As “the only job-creator in the race,” he said, “I'm going to be focusing on those issues and I think that's going to touch every single demographic and do it in a way, à la Jack Kemp, that has a little bit of energy – actually a lot of energy -- and a sunny face to it. as well. It's policy-driven, not rhetoric-driven. Policy-driven.”
On the specific issue of immigration policy, Snyder spoke critically of “the rhetoric that's been coming out of this party,” which “hasn't been right.”
Speaking from his experience in the technology industry, he wondered why, after “hundreds of thousands of people, [who] are the best and the the brightest of their country, flock to America because our higher ed is the best in the world, [who] stay here for four years, [and] get educated in American universities – then we kick them out.”
Why, Snyder asked, “can't we look at our laws and take folks who deeply care about America, can add tremendous firepower and value to our country, and have them be teaching in our schools, serving as doctors in our communities, being the next entrepreneurs out there, instead of going back to their home country and being doctors there, being the next entrepreneurs [there] – [the] Steve Jobs of their home countries?”
Snyder, a first-time candidate for public office, has been endorsed by Oliver North, who lost a U.S. Senate race in Virginia in 1994. He said his approach to being lieutenant governor would not change “one iota” if he was elected alongside a Democratic governor rather than a Republican one.
“My principles are my principles,” he said. “The agenda that I'd be pushing forward on big ideas of education reform, cutting spending in Richmond, and making sure that all parts of our Virginia economy are humming on all cylinders, would be the same under – hopefully – Governor Ken Cuccinelli or whatever miserable candidate the Democrats happen to serve up.”
He concluded: “I'm principled. I'm not going to change for anyone.”