Deep state. Thousands of Obama appointees trying to take down Donald Trump from the inside as part of an Orwellian government that controls us.
An intelligence community, FBI and Department of Justice “that have been infiltrated by seditious Obama folks that want to go after the President.”
Or how about defending Judeo-Christian values that we have in this country. And then there’s “The Hunter Plan” for US security: “It’s called you kick ass and you leave.”
Years of “gutting the military.” Taxes filled out on postcards. No guaranteed health care because state block grants will take care of the poor and uninsured.
Not to mention, “There’s people coming in from China, from Pakistan, from Libya, from Afghanistan, from Iran, from Syria, from Turkey, from a lot of places you don’t want them coming in from. They’re coming in from the southern border…We are trying to help them but they have to want to help themselves.”
However, one must be brave as well. “I condemn anti-semitic bombings, any bombings and I condemn the death threats against me, too.”
No, you haven’t fallen down Alice in Wonderland’s Rabbit Hole. You have entered the alternative, fact-free universe that was Rep. Duncan Duane Hunter (R-50th District) during an often-contentious, sometimes bewildering and immensely entertaining 75-minute town hall at Ramona MainStage Saturday.
Of course, in Hunter’s alternative universe, he claimed it was 1 1/2 hours, but that’s a minor detail when so much went so awry.
In retrospect, Hunter maybe was served best by ducking town halls as he had for the past six months. As soon as he went unscripted, it became clear that he was living in a different universe from we mere mortals.
Setting the scene, and it was a scene folks, Ramona’s auditorium only could hold about 250 people. Another 750 people overflowed the exterior areas and a nearby park, an outside crowd that included Hunter’s dad, Duncan Lee Hunter, a 14-term congressman representing parts of the fabulous 50th before redistricting in 2010.
Inside, the scene was tumultuous to say the least with frequent crowd reactions ranging from boos and outright hostility to bewilderment and even amusement.
Questions had been placed in a box to be pulled out at random with the person asking them called to the front of the room.
The fact that three-quarters of the people attending couldn’t make it into the room meant long periods of calling out names with no response.
For a while even, the box was discarded and people just wandered to the front and asked questions. However, in the chaos that epitomized the Hunter extravaganza, the box returned and procedures reverted to form well enough.
In all, constituents got in about 10 questions all but two of which grilled Hunter on subjects ranging from his numerous campaign finance violations to health care and foreign policy.
In-between, Hunter also sandwiched in some opening and closing remarks — although he had trouble getting in much with the crowd commenting so loudly — and a strange cameo visit from Dr. James Veltmeyer, a Republican who lost to Rep. Susan Davis (D-53rd District) in 2016 with 97,968 votes to Davis’ 198,988 votes.
Hunter called Veltmeyer to the stage to discuss Obamacare, but the good doctor went on a weird tangent about immigration until he was hooted off the stage with town hall attendees chanting “answer the questions” and “we want to hear from you, not him” at Hunter.
That was by far not the only bizarre moment in a bizarre morning’s journey into noon when at least it’s considered OK to imbibe.
When asked about Trump lieutenant Steve Bannon and whether he condemned Bannon’s views, Hunter replied simply, “No.” Hunter also defended Bannon, adding, “I don’t think Steve Bannon has anti-semitic views or genocidal ideas either.”
At another point, Hunter accidentally called Trump “tramp” and then back-tracked as he, and the room, laughed with nervous energy. As for Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban, Hunter affirmed it, and went even further as if that were possible.
“If the President (Obama) let you in as a refugee, we need to vet you,” Hunter said. “Let me change that, extreme vet the people that are already here. I full-heartedly support Trump’s executive order. And follow up. Put it into law. Don’t just have an executive order overwritten by the next president.”
As the remark gathered a chorus of boos and hisses Hunter added: “Once again, why don’t you want to be safer?”
Other Hunter moments and quotes ranging from the subliminal to surreal included:
— “Over the last eight years, you haven’t even had to jump the fence, you simply walk up to an ICE agent and say I’d like to come into America and the ICE agent says come on in. That was the Obama policy.”
— “My original plan was to play ‘We are the Champions’ by Queen whenever you’re doing that (booing) but they told me not to.” However, about 10 minutes later, Hunter indeed sang an off-key chorus from the song at a seemingly random instance.
— Proposal to be able to fill out one’s tax form on a postcard while falsely stating that the US had the highest corporate and income taxes in the world. He followed that up with a call to buy and make American, while neglecting the Trump family’s own foreign-made goods and businesses.
— “Trump is going to build the military back up. North Korea is not going away and Iran is going to have nuclear weapons. We’ve had eight years of gutting the military.”
— “Obamacare is simply a takeover of the health care business by the US government….The Democrats goal when they passed this was make the US Government control your health care.”
Oh wait, there’s more
How could there not be?
Hunter had various disjointed comments to make about health care and a long, rambling and first-time, never before heard explanation for his spending of over $60,000 of campaign finances contrary to law for personal expenses.
Part of that explanation included his contention he was doing taxpayers a service because some of those expenses were spent on driving to events that he didn’t claim for official congressional reimbursement.
“Here’s what happened,” Hunter said. “Last year I found out that there were mistaken charges on my campaign and I found out in the report that we come out with every year. As soon as I saw those, I paid back immediately $12,000, then did an internal audit on my campaign finances — an internal audit.
“We then payed back another $50,000,” Hunter continued. “That includes everything. We paid back about 130 percent of what my own internal audit came out with. I announced it prior to the election. We’ve been transparent about the whole thing. These were mistakes that were made by my campaign that I paid back immediately.
Hunter added: “Let me put it this way. I am going to be the only congressman in the last two years who hasn’t taken any mileage reimbursement. (Crowd buzzes.) No, literally, the only congressman in Congress with no mileage reimbursement.
“I would charge my mileage on my card. Instead of charging on my personal credit card, I would charge it on my campaign card when going to campaign events. The campaign finance stuff, I was not watching close enough. I have fixed it now. It’s all straightened out. I’ve taken responsibility for it. I’ve fixed it. End of story.”
Not actually, for later Hunter was asked about why he voted in the Republican House Caucus to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics that was investigating his campaign spending. He came up with some novel theories and defenses on that one, some of which were plain wrong.
“We have the Office of Congressional Ethics.,” Hunter said. “Number one, it was created by Nancy Pelosi. That’s all you need to know.”
As the crowd booed loudly, Hunter continued, “Number two, it is a fairly liberal group. The OCE stuff on me they were feeding the Union Tribune which is owned by the L.A. Times. I don’t think the way they go about business is a good way to go about business.”
Hunter said the Office of Congressional Ethics was “a Nancy Pelosi group just airing grievances on one side without having it looked at objectively by the guys who actually are elected to do this.” He said the House Committee on Ethics should do any investigating, “so you don’t have a Nancy Pelosi group throwing people under the bus.”
Actually, the Office of Congressional Ethics says it “is an independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against Members, officers, and staff of the U.S. House of Representatives and, when appropriate, referring matters to the House Committee on Ethics.”
As for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) known popularly as Obamacare
Hunter called for repeal and replace, but didn’t have a clear replacement model in mind. He criticized, in advance, the Congressional Budget Office score, a non-partisan budgetary scoring mechanism that indicates costs and benefits/harms of proposed legislation.
“We’re arguing with the CBO score how they’re scoring this right now,” Hunter said even though a score was not expected to be issued until next week.
“Once you get rid of government mandates, health care gets way less expensive and insurance will be less,” Hunter said. “We’re not guaranteeing health care for everyone. We’re guaranteeing access to health care for everyone.”
Needless to say, that was confronted with another round of booing, but that was the name of the game Saturday. In case that weren’t fun enough, when pressed on another town hall, Hunter said he would do one, but couldn’t commit to a time, adding, “I couldn’t even tell you what I’m doing tomorrow.”
His questioner then said, to applause, “You’re such a confused representative.”
And that’s the way it went through several more issues that will be presented in an annotated column later Sunday.
While Hunter looked frazzled throughout, he ended, as George Costanza famously said in a classic bit of “Seinfeld” advice, on a high note.
“I don’t know if you could tell this,” Hunter said. “I enjoyed this. I know you’re yelling at me. But I’m telling you what I think. Let me just close. What makes this great is that we’re able to talk and yell and talk and yell and chant but that’s what makes our country great.
“Hopefully,” Hunter continued, “you’ll leave here knowing you’re either really against me or really for me. You like some of the stuff, you don’t like some of the stuff. But I’m here to represent you. Whether or not you voted for me, I’m still representing you.”
And that’s the way it went, March 11, 2017 at the Duncan Hunter town hall, Ramona.