On the eve of Eric Brakey’s Constitution Day announcement of his run for Congress, I talked to him about wars – foreign, drug, and trade. We also discussed generational challenges, Tulsi Gabbard, and Saudi Arabia. What the ninth amendment says about vaping. His proven record of advancing liberty in Maine – and where he goes from here.
TLR: This is Gary Doan talking to Eric Brakey, former Maine State Senator, who is actively exploring a congressional house run in Maine’s second district. Were he to run and win, it seems likely he’d be a congressman in the mold of a Massie, an Amash, a Sanford or even a Ron Paul. Thanks for talking with me again.
EB: Oh, pleasure’s all mine.
TLR: Last time we talked, you were the Republican nominee for US Senate in Maine running against Angus King. What are the greatest lessons you learned from that race?
EB: Well, first of all, it was… I was blessed to carry the torch in that race for US Senate. It was a big uphill climb running against someone who was a former two-term governor, an incumbent US Senator… an institution in the state of Maine. And yet even still, with our strong grassroots energy, our strong message of freedom and liberty… in the midst of a blue wave we performed stronger against him than anyone else has ever run against him in state history.
When I ran for State Senate, I could knock on every door in the district. When you’re running state wide, for US Senate, you can’t really do that. You need a lot more financial resources to get your message out there on TV, radio, through direct mail.
And so, as we’re launching this campaign for Congress, we’re launching with both feet forward, making sure that we are raising the resources necessary to win.
TLR: Speaking of raising resources – during that run, you partnered with Coinbase to become the first politician in Maine to accept cryptocurrency donations. Do you plan to provide the same option in any potential House run?
EB: We looked as some ways to take cryptocurrency donations. Actually we tried to work with Coinbase for a long time, but they never really were very responsive at getting to work with us on getting everything up to the federal Federal Election Commission guidelines. So we’re actually at this point in time still struggling to figure out if there is a viable way to set up to be able to receive cryptocurrency donations from people while also making sure we gather all the necessary information that’s required to report donations with the FEC.
TLR: According to Social Security’s own trustees, this year the program’s costs will exceed its income. This year. From previous trustee reports and basic math, we’ve known these imbalances were coming. What could have been done to avoid this, and moving forward what could be done to keep Social Security separated from the general fund?
EB: First of all, Congress shouldn’t be able to raid the Social Security fund and use it to pay for pet projects. That’s put us in this situation in the first place. How do we get out of it? Well, first of all, we have to look at where can we find funds to shore up the promises that we’ve made to our seniors. And the first place I would look is ending a lot of these trillion dollar foreign wars, bringing bringing our troops home, and bringing the money home to invest in priorities here… like repairing our crumbling infrastructure, like shoring up promises to our seniors.
In the long run, we probably will have to look at reforms. Reforms that wouldn’t affect anyone near or in retirement currently, but perhaps might affect people in my generation. The millennials. People, you know, maybe under the age of 35. That might involve raising the retirement age in the long run… it could involve several different kinds of reforms. Ultimately, I’d love to see people have more choice and control and power and how they plan for their retirement, not just surrendering our money over Washington, DC politicians, where they spend it as they see fit.
TLR: So this week is the first in which people who were born after the Twin Towers were hit can sign up to fight in Afghanistan without parental consent. Osama bin Laden has been dead since they were 10 years old. What exactly will they be fighting for?
EB: That’s the question and nobody in Washington, DC seems to be able to tell us why the Afghanistan still continuing on after 18 years. It is the longest war in American history. And it’s very much underscored by the fact that the youngest soldiers going over there now, have been born after the war’s beginning. They’re taking over the patrol routes of their parents.
It is beyond time for the war in Afghanistan to end. Beyond time to bring our soldiers home. And I think that if you ask our veterans what they think about the war in Afghanistan, what they thought about the war in Iraq, they would say… super majorities of our veterans say these wars were a mistake, and it’s time to come home. I think a lot of politicians talk every two years, every election cycle, about supporting our veterans and standing up for our veterans… but it seems like very few of them actually take the time to listen to them. Because if we were to listen to them, we would know that these wars need to end.
TLR: Another kind of war… you said in the past about Trump’s trade wars, that he wanted to broadcast that he wouldn’t be the first to flinch. China doesn’t seem to be flinching either. And it seems unclear what concessions Trump even hopes to receive. Was it a mistake for Congress to concede so much trade power to the executive? And is there any hope that Congress would reclaim such power for themselves?
EB: Well, I certainly think that constitutionally, it should be Congress that decides these matters, not any president, whether that’s Barack Obama or Donald Trump or anyone else. The Constitution gives this power to Congress.
But that aside, looking at the strategy of the policy itself, all I can do is kind of retain hope that we will see good outcomes with China like we have seen with several other nations, that the leverage that Trump is is is using over them will lead to more free trade between our nations. And I will say I guess it does seem to me that we are seeing signs that China is starting to flinch. I mean, with the Hong Kong riots going on, their economy on kind of shaky ground… You know, we have seen in recent weeks, some indications that they are willing to come to the table. I hope that that’s genuine and serious. And ultimately I hope at the end of the day, whether we agree or disagree with the means, to the end, I hope that we arrive at an end which is more free trade on both sides. For America and our trade partners.
TLR: Does Tulsi Gabbard’s exclusion from the most recent debate and her treatment by the DNC in general bring to mind any experiences you may have had as a state director in Maine in 2012?
EB: I think the parallels are very apparent. You know, Tulsi Gabbard has a foreign policy message actually that’s… in a lot of ways similar to Donald Trump’s ‘America first’ foreign policy message. And it’s very clear that the Democrat Party, which once claim to be the party of those skeptical of war is no longer. It is a party of the war machine. It is the party of the neocons and the neoliberals who have taken over and wants us to continue abusing our soldiers and deploying them across the world in wars that never end.
So yeah, I can see why Tulsi Gabbard does not have a place in the New Democratic establishment. They’ve never been against the wars. They’ve always been for the wars. And if anyone on the debate stage… the most recent debate stage… somehow makes it to the White House? You will know that the wars will continue.
TLR: After six people died using black market made and distributed vaping cartridges, Trump made a move to outlaw certain legal vaping cartridges, pushing them into that same black market. Is such a move likely to save or cost lives?
EB: Prohibition never works. It doesn’t work with firearms. It hasn’t worked with marijuana. It hasn’t worked anywhere it is tried. What prohibition does, is it makes things more dangerous and it pushes people into unregulated black markets.
That’s exactly what a ban on flavored e cigarettes will do. It will push people to the black markets… and if we’re concerned about black market vape cartridges getting people sick? Well, then the last thing we want to do is push more people towards the black market. It is a completely counter productive policy.
And on top of that it’s unconstitutional. You know, I support the ninth amendment. Our ninth amendment right to keep and bear flavored e cigarettes. Our ninth amendment says that just because some rights are listed in the Constitution– they aren’t all listed– doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to exercise them. All rights are retained by the people. That President certainly doesn’t have unilateral authority to ban something like this. And neither does neither would Congress if they tried.
TLR: That’s sort of what that inkblot looks like to me. Probably the preface to questions that Republican candidates hate the most is “yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted”.
So yesterday he tweeted,
“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and what terms we would proceed!” Exclamation mark at the end, of course.
So my question to you is, when did Saudi Arabia take the power to declare war from the US Congress?
EB: Yeah, our men and women in uniform signed up to defend America, not Saudi Arabia. And I’m a little sick and tired of claims being made in the Middle East, on who attacked who and obligating our soldiers to go off and fight in these wars, when our own government won’t even provide us the people with the evidence to back up their claims.
They’ve done this multiple times in Syria trying to entice us into a war over there. They’ve done this with the recent oil tanker explosion, the Japanese oil tanker explosion. They said it was Iran. The Japanese said it wasn’t. We don’t ultimately know. But we’re just supposed to take it on face from these deep state government officials who tried to overturn our democratic election of Donald Trump for president. We’re just supposed to take it on face that they are telling us the full truth and we don’t need to see the evidence.
Well, I think we need to see the evidence, and even if the evidence was that there was, whoever the actor was who perpetrated this against Saudi Arabia. That sounds like Saudi Arabia’s problem.
You know, Saudi Arabia, you know, the declassified pages in the 911 report of show that Saudi Arabia had, the government of Saudi Arabia had more connections to the attackers of 911 than any other government in in the Middle East. The fact that we treat them as our favored allies, the fact that we fight their wars for them that we act as their air force in the in the illegal war in Yemen. This is very troubling. And it’s about time that we reconsider our relationship with Saudi Arabia and reconsider giving them carte blanche and acting as their military.
TLR: Tomorrow’s Constitution Day as well as my father’s birthday. Is there anything else of importance one might expect to happen on that day?
EB: Well, tomorrow on Constitution Day, I will be formally launching my campaign for Congress in Maine’s second congressional district. It’s a district that Trump carried by 10 points, but flipped from red to blue by a very slim margin in the blue wave last year. With Trump on the ballot running for reelection, I don’t expect my Democrat opponent is going to find a blue wave to carry him back into office like he like he experienced last time.
I’m going into this as a strong, proven liberty conservative with a history of getting results. In the State Senate. I passed constitutional carry, I reformed welfare, I passed right to try for terminally ill patients to get access to potentially life saving drugs. I expanded medical cannabis, so that our veterans with PTSD and individuals with severe epilepsy disorders can get access. I’m all about freedom.
I believe in a free Maine and a free America. That means putting Washington DC back in it’s place, having them follow the Constitution again. And that’s my message that I’m going to be carrying into this race for Congress and with the help of people across Maine and people in the Liberty movement across America, I’ll carry that message directly to the halls of Washington DC.