MONTVILLE, NJ – Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen visited Montville Township High School and called Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “out of control” and “not his fifth choice” for president.
Frelinghuysen (R-NJ 11th) spoke candidly in teacher Scott Riotto’s Advanced Placement Government and Politics class on Oct. 17 for about an hour. Topics included cyber security, Affordable Care and Trump.
“Donald Trump was not my first choice, perhaps not my second or third choice,” Frelinghuysen said. “I did make a commitment, as a Republican, and 14 million people voted for Trump. We can’t be dismissive of all those people.”
Frelinghuysen said he was surprised that Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz were out of the race and admitted to a “certain degree of awkwardness” regarding Trump’s run.
Frelinghuysen said he thought both candidates have the highest unfavorable ratings of any race, and “that’s not a great thing for our country.”
“Between Wikileaks and Trump’s making some stupid, outrageous comments about women and others, it’s incredible to think we’d be treating [the race] as such a spectacle,” Frelinghuysen said.
Frelinghuysen said Trump is thumbing his nose at the Republican party, and the Republican party has some “well known fractures.”
There is more unity in the Democratic party, but Frelinghuysen thought there were more people who preferred Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. He said that having served with Sanders in the House, he found Sanders to be “perpetually disgruntled.” He found it interesting that Sanders had become such an icon within the Democratic party.
Frelinghuysen said he found it “bizarre” that several Republican leaders are supporting Hillary Clinton for president. He reiterated that Trump was not his first, second, third, fourth – or even fifth choice as a candidate, but the people had chosen.
“I think loyalty is pretty important,” Frelinghuysen said. “I’m not blindly loyal, but I like to keep my word. I wish things were better, such that one former president would be willing to support the [Republican] nominee. If you look at the issues, besides the sex scandal and all that, this election should be about jobs and the economy – where [you students are] going after college and the $15 minimum wage. We have a world in crisis here. We’re moving on Mosul, and there’s a 1,000-year conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, with no easy solution. We should be talking about those issues. I wouldn’t dismiss Trump’s ability to be a good commander in chief despite whatever he’s said about some other issues and other people.”
When asked about “Trumpism,” Frelinghuysen said he thinks that there’s a lot of people who are “angry with where they are in life, in terms of their jobs and opportunities.”
“People can call it what they want to call it, but he’s latched onto something, where a lot of people feel that their problems aren’t being addressed,” Frelinghuysen said. “He may be the worst person to carry the message, because he can’t control himself. But I think he’s latched on to some anger that’s out there.
“Let’s be blunt. He’s very different. He looks different, acts differently, and his opponent epitomizes the status quo. [Hillary Clinton] has honorable service, but she perpetuates, in the minds of many people, the status quo,” Frelinghuysen said.
Frelinghuysen told the students the purpose of his visit was to encourage them to run for office.
“Government is not a spectator sport,” he said. “You cannot sit and complain that these are horrible choices running for office. A lot depends on your involvement.”
The students asked a range of questions, including whether he reads every bill that crosses his desk. Frelinghuysen admits that he reads only the bills he authors, after they’ve been vetted by parliamentarians.
“There was an issue because the Affordable Care Act was voted on quite late at night,” he said. “It’s a 3,000-page bill that was not read, and then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ‘we’ll know what’s in it after we pass it.’ It’s a quote she regrets.”
Frelinghuysen said bills cross his desk that are 1,000 pages long, or have missile defense language, space architecture, or medical terms in them, but staff members read them and keep him informed.
Frelinghuysen answered a student’s question about the government’s role in economic growth stating that it’s still the American dream to own a home, and it’s the government’s job to “get out of the way and not overtax” so that that is affordable.
When asked about cyber security, Frelinghuysen said it was “mind-boggling” that while the government has long warned businesses and banks that they were vulnerable to attack, it had not been protecting its own systems.
“Every governmental agency has its own ‘cyber-czar,’” Frelinghuysen said. “It’s a total mess of competition [between agencies] that is costing taxpayers a hell of a lot of money. We’re trying to get it under control and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job.”
Regarding Affordable Care, Frelinghuysen said the government basically controls spending.
“We need to look at ways to improve the law [because] there’s a very high level of dissatisfaction. That’s not to say more people aren’t covered, but – you’re paying for it. You’re paying for the 15 trillion people who weren’t covered, and still we don’t have everybody covered. I don’t apologize for voting on occasion to repeal it. It was pushed down people’s throat without people reading it,” he said.
Despite 21 years in Congress, Frelinghuysen still sees the good side of government.
“I’m pleasantly surprised by the remarkable tenacity and knowledge that my colleagues have, even the ones who don’t look like they have any. At times I wring my hands, but I do my best to put a positive view of Washington before my constituents,” he said. “It’s an interesting time to be in politics and government."
“It’s difficult to counter the view that everyone in politics is corrupt,” Frelinghuysen told the students. “You would be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the men and women I serve with. I came here to encourage you to be involved in politics.”