New York City Councilman Dan Halloran is looking to pull off a BobTurner-like victory as a Republican congressional candidate in a predominantly Democratic Queens congressional district (the newly redistricted 6th CD).
Halloran, 40, is a lawyer who worked in private practice and as a prosecutor for several district attorneys before being elected in 2009 to the City Council. He recently spoke with The Jewish Press.
The Jewish Press: How did you get your start in politics and what attracted you to it?
As an attorney I'd always been peripherally interested in politics, interested in the policies that drive our legislation. I grew up in a very tight-knit Irish Catholic family with roots in the political world. My father was a deputy commissioner in the Koch administration, my great-grandfather was a chief of police, and my cousin, Lieutenant Vincent G. Halloran, an FDNY First Responder, died on 9/11. But in 2009, one year into the Obama administration, I became very concerned about the direction in which our country was headed.
You're a Republican who has been endorsed by the Libertarian party. Though much of fiscal conservative and libertarian philosophy overlap, there's a sharp difference when it comes to foreign policy. Can you explain your views on both?
I'm what's called a right libertarian or constitutional libertarian. I believe very firmly that our economic policy has to be market driven; that over-taxation will be the death of the republic. I believe very strongly in the Constitution itself and staying within the four corners of that document. I think we have expanded the commerce clause to mean almost anything and it's absurd. That's the libertarian side of the coin.
But as a right libertarian, my perspective on foreign policy is that the world is such a convoluted place right now that what we should do in the ideal is not practical. We give seven times as much money to Israel's enemies as we give to Israel. And you can't wonder why Egypt has an authoritarian Islamic regime when we're the ones who helped topple a stable, albeit non-democratic, regime. Now we see the fallout in Syria, in Yemen, in Libya. Once we've destabilized that region we see what the consequences are. We have an ambassador dead, our embassies stormed…. And threats continue.
Do you feel the policies of the Obama administration, particularly during the Arab Spring, increased those threats and what advice can you offer to address them?
It wasn't a spring; it was the beginning of a winter. Obama ushered it in under the feigned promotion of democracy – one man, one vote. And what it's been is one man, one vote, one time. After that you will not see democracy; you will see theocracy.
There are things we can do about this crisis. America should maintain its military presence vis-à-vis Israel and we should keep the fleet there to ensure that the trading waters are open for business. Foremost, we need to cut off economic aid to any country that defies our foreign policy perspectives, and that should include humanitarian assistance. Look, I understand the notion of fostering amity, but there's a bottom line. And the bottom line is if you want our help, you have to play on our team. And if you're not willing to, then go your own way. Because what happens is that when you give them humanitarian aid, they're able to divert the resources they do have to war and violence.
Hamas is a perfect example of how through bad foreign policy we've armed the enemy, given them legitimacy, and now a stage to act on, an appearance of being legitimate. Yet all we've done is undermine Israel's national security, which in turn undermines ours because it's the only stable, democratic rule-of-law government there…. There's a perception in the world that we no longer stand with our allies and that we will only pay lip service to longstanding relationships.
You traveled to Israel this past summer with the International Committee for the Land of Israel. Can you describe how seeing the facts on the ground affected your perception?
It made it more real. But I've always been a hawk. In that respect I am a right-wing Republican. I've always supported settlements, because if the rule of law applies, then whether you're black or white, Christian or Jew, it shouldn't matter where you live as long as you lawfully purchase property there. For us or the UN to say unilaterally you may not buy land there because you are a Jew would be the equivalent of my saying if you're Catholic you can't move into Williamsburg because you're not an Orthodox Jew or you're a black man you can't move into [a white neighborhood]. Really? Would that stand up in some court of law somewhere in the United States? That would never be tolerated. Yet when the world community tells Israel the very same thing, somehow it's okay because it involves Islam.
What is your view regarding the proposed two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians?
You can't have a two-state solution when one side doesn't want the other state. The Palestinians have never acknowledged the existence of Israel. The platform of the PLO has always contained this notion that Israel shouldn't exist.
In Northern Ireland President Clinton was smart enough to realize you have to disarm before you come to the peace table. The reality is that Hamas controls the politics of the PLO and Hamas is a terrorist organization and is not willing to disarm…. Look what happened in Gaza. At what point do we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask if we're being realistic?
What in your experience as a councilman has prepared you to be a congressman?
My hands-on and real-life experiences. Our constituent services office is the number one constituent services office in the entire city. We hear what's going on. We know what the pulse of the community is. It's also my struggle to get to where I am. Nobody paid for my education. I went to law school, got a half scholarship and took out student loans, which I'm still paying off. I bought my house through the sweat of my equity. That's the American dream. That's what you want from a representative.
I have no desire to stay in Washington to be a career politician. Career politicians are what's killing us. We need people to be politicians who have real jobs to get back to, who want to go back to their community. Hopefully that would be something I would bring with me to Washington – that notion of citizen politics.