Former state legislator Barry Loudermilk’s first term in Congress, representing the 11th District, included a trip to Israel and energetic opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.
The Cassville resident’s eight years in the Air Force included service in the Persian Gulf War. He founded and heads a data networking and information systems company in Marietta, Innovative Network Systems, and founded and was an owner of a flight training business in Rome.
Like challenger Hayden Collins, he is involved with the Civil Air Patrol. He and his wife of 33 years, Desiree, have three grown children.
AJT: Why should the Jews in your district support your candidacy? What do you feel you’ve done for the Jewish community?
Loudermilk: One of the things that I have done in the last year to help me better understand the Jewish community, besides a shared heritage, being a Christian myself, is having a shared heritage as well as our entire form of government. As our founders stated, they went back to the Old Testament and the forms of government that Jethro, James and Moses had in the desert. That was the model we used.
For the past two years I’ve made trips to Israel. I had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as several other members of the government there and other department heads. One trip was on a counterterrorism task force, and the other we were there for 10 days really just getting to learn the culture and the challenges the people in Israel face.
Being a strong supporter of Israel prior to going, it actually firmed up with me. I got to have Shabbat dinner with a family over there. Seeing the challenges with the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority showed just how important it is to continue our support with Israel.
AJT: Democratic Congressman David Scott recently advocated increasing the amount of U.S. foreign military financing received by Israel from the current $3.1 billion a year to $7 billion a year. What level of U.S. financial aid do you feel Israel should receive?
Loudermilk: Well, I support everything we’re doing right now but also continue to look at investing in Israel on several fronts. One, military aid is very important. You know, we have helped very much with the Iron Dome, but we also have to look at continuing with David’s Bow, David’s Arrow, David’s Sling, to make sure that there is adequate anti-missile, anti-aircraft protection, because, as you know, Israel is very vulnerable in its geographical location. They’re surrounded, for the most part, by adversaries, and the defenses that are needed to protect Israel are unique in that sense.
I think we need to continue to invest in technology as well as foreign aid money in defense structures. As I said, with David’s Arrow and David’s Sling, they’re being developed, as well as continuing with the Iron Done, which is been very successful. So we need to continue to support with military hardware, and I have recently co-sponsored a bill that will allow the U.S. military to help secure Israel energy assets off shore. Because the only stabilizing force in the Middle East is Israel, and if we weren’t investing in Israel and the defense of Israel, then there would be U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in the Middle East, bringing that stability. So every dollar that we invest in foreign aid and military support to Israel is just a fraction of what we would be spending to bring stability to that area of the world. So not only being our closest ally, a shared heritage with the United States as the only really free society in that entire area, it’s economically viable too.
I think we need to look at further enhancing trade with Israel. There’s a lot of technology that’s been developed out of Israel that American companies are using and utilizing, and I think we need to continue to foster that relationship — not just for the foreign aid, but also for more openly free trade with Israel.
AJT: Could you elaborate on your time in the Homeland Security Committee and how that has informed your opinions?
Loudermilk: It has greatly because I was selected as a freshman to a special counterterrorism task force. It was only eight members of us on that task force, and we spent several months really deeply investigating the challenges that we face in stopping foreign fighters as well as deterring terrorist activities here in the United States as well as U.S. interests abroad.
We did do an eight-country tour in 10 days a year ago, in May of last year, and the first three days was in Israel. The reason we chose Israel first is because it’s the first, most successful (nation) in deferring foreign fighter travel, and we wanted to see how they were doing it. We’ve actually taken a lot of the information that we gained from meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the counterterrorism specialists there in Israel; we brought back to craft the direction we’re going here in the United States.
For one instance, what the prime minister is doing is when does leave from Israel to fight with ISIS, they’re coming back with solutions. And so what they’re doing is taking them and their parents and using them by putting them up on television and radio to try and deter the radicalization of others by them telling their story of what it was really like.
I actually traveled over into Oman from Israel with the Palestinian Authority there. Again, that brought to realization that the Palestinian Authority, in my opinion, is not acceptable to the establishment of a Jewish state. We’re never going to get peace there until the Palestinians agree that the Jewish people have a right to a state and that state is in Israel.
AJT: What do you think is the solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians?
Loudermilk: You know, it’s one of those things: How many thousands of years have we been trying to get peace in the Middle East? I wish there was a silver bullet. This is one of the things that one of the generals in the Air Force told me while we were there: His mantra is that there is no silver bullet. It’s a multitude of solutions. I think the biggest problem is, it isn’t just Israel. A lot of the complaints that we’re hearing now are as the Palestinians call it “Israel settlements” on the West Bank, but it’s just not. It’s Israelis in the West Bank that is part of Israel that are building neighborhoods that are safe neighborhoods.
Here’s what I brought to the attention of the Palestinians authorities when we were in Oman: As we were discussing a resolution to the problems there, and of course they were saying Israel is the problem, I said, “Well, what’s interesting is that I have been all throughout Israel and the strip, and I’ve just been traveling in a bus, a regular bus, but when I came to Ramallah, it had to be in an armored vehicle car.”
One of the other things is, we’re going to have to deal with Iran. Iran is an instigator in that area, supplies Hamas and Hezbollah with the rockets they’re firing into Israel. This is a problem. So quite often we just focus on the Palestinian Authority and Israel. We look at Lebanon, Gaza, but the reality is the radical leadership of Iran is one of the reasons that we have instability there because of it being the largest state supplier of terrorism. They are supplying the money, the means, the ability and the weapons that these terrorists are using against Israel.
AJT: Conversely, what do you see as the primary domestic policy challenges of the next decade?
Loudermilk: Well, they’re numerous. After eight years of this president, of course, we have definite foreign policy challenges that we’re going to have to overcome. But our domestic policy challenges — I would say the most significant that we have is our debt, our growing national debt. But also there are the issues like the cuts to our military have been very devastating, and so it’s going to have to be innovative ideas coming into the new Congress.
The thing I think I’ve done this year that is the most significant is drafting a balanced budget amendment to require the Congress to operate under a balanced budget. It gives us a 10-year window to get there, but it also reclaims the power of the purse to actually constrain the growth of government.
We’ve got to incentivize the economy, and the way to do that is to get these regulatory agencies off the back of our businesses and individuals. We have to reform these regulatory agencies to get them under control. The EPA, for one, is just out of control. There are ever-evolving regulations. The Department of Labor has just put in new regulations that have stifled the growth of small business. We have to deal with Obamacare. It is on a path of destruction, so we’re working on the reforms for that.
So when you package it all together, we get the economy going, and it raises revenue. You pass a balanced budget amendment, and you live within your means. We get back to a surplus, where we can pay the debt off. If we don’t deal with this debt, within five to six years, the interest payment on our debt will exceed our entire defense budget.
AJT: As you know, Gov. Deal vetoed H.B. 757, the religious liberty legislation. Do you see religious liberty as being threatened?
Loudermilk: I do think there is a threat because one of the key elements for our founders was the freedom of religion: the freedom of religion, not the freedom of worship, but the freedom of religion. There are many reports of Judaism’s influence in the founding. In fact, I was reading a story recently about a Fourth of July parade led by rabbis and led by pastors during the early days of America.
We have always given the freedom of religion in this country. Where we are today is we have empowered the government to the point where the government dictates what morality is, and it forces that definition of morality on the individual. What we’re seeing right now with the bathroom debate is the government is deciding, “All right, this is our new standard of morality, and we’re going to force you into that.”
Whether it’s forcing a baker to do a wedding for a gay couple — it’s not discriminatory if they say: “You know, actually participating in the wedding violates my religious beliefs. I can find them someone else; there’s plenty of bakers around here.” But the real issue is the government enforcing what the government has defined as morality upon the people. That’s where we have to provide the protection. That’s where the Founding Fathers said it’s the job of the government to protect the right of the individual. The government constraint should be to stop the imposition of ideas onto individuals. It’s not discriminatory in the least, and you’re protecting the deeply held religious beliefs of someone.
AJT: Finally, what do you think inspired multiple fellow Republicans to run against you?
Loudermilk: I think it is just opportunity. If you look in any election, when it’s your first re-election, that’s when you’re the most vulnerable, and because what I have done while I’ve been in Washington, D.C., is challenging the status quo. I’ve challenged leadership on many occasions. We’ve brought in new leadership, and we’re actually reforming the culture up here in Washington. So I have been very busy working up here, and I’m not one of these guys that spends most of my time fundraising, and that showed I was vulnerable.
They just have a desire to be in Congress. From what we’ve seen of the campaigning, they’re willing to do or say whatever it takes to get in Congress because most of what they’ve said in ad campaigns is not true. I’ve said many times you shouldn’t get your facts on Facebook. You should look at the paper, and you will see the things they’re accusing me of. They’re false. This is what high-paid consultants tell them they have to do to get elected.