Sen. Tillis pushes offshore energy, blasts Iran deal

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Sen. Thom Tillis had harsh words for President Barack Obama, vowed to protect the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg and defended offshore energy exploration in a lengthy interview with WNCN.

Tillis, in his first term in the Senate, spoke Friday in Raleigh with WNCN reporter Beau Minnick.

He praised the North Carolina General Assembly, where he had been Speaker of the House, for putting the state in a strong financial situation. And he called the debates in the Republican race for the White House “entertaining,” though he did not endorse a particular candidate.

Here is Tillis on the issues:

On President Obama and foreign policy:

“I think the first thing we do is start leading. I think the president’s position of leading from behind just doesn’t work. …

“A lot of people have forgotten that the president wants to do the same thing in Afghanistan and I think with the threat of the Taliban, the rise of Isis in Afghanistan, the last thing we need to do is be retreating.”

“The problem with the Iran deal is I think the Iranians got the better deal. If I were the Iranians, I would support this deal because they’re going to continue to sponsor terror.”

“I get why we want to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon. It’s not like I don’t want a deal. I just don’t want a bad deal.”

“I was in a meeting in the Senate Armed Services [committee}, I asked everyone on the panel, do any of you trust Iran? No. Do any of you think that they will cheat on this agreement? Yes.”

On the Veterans Administration:

“The root problem is not on the ground. It’s not generally with the people providing care to veterans. It’s a bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that has some 900 1-800 numbers that veterans may call to get services. How about a concept of having one?”

“It needs to be systematic. It needs to be a strategy that transcends administrations.”

On the future of the 440th Airlift Wing at Pope Field:

“Fort Bragg is the home of the Global Response Force. When the president says you have to put a thousand people on a plane and be somewhere in 24 to 96 hours, that happens on the green ramp.”

“It is arguable without question the most critical operation that our armed services have and I’m going to do everything I can to protect it.”

On the U.S. economy:

“The economy, in general, is just getting along. On any given day, you could feel good or bad. We’ve got to do a lot of things with tax and regulatory reform if we’re going to get it moving quickly.”

On offshore energy exploration in North Carolina:

“It’s critically important, not only to our national security, but to the state’s economy. We are talking about creating thousands of jobs.”

Asked if it could negatively impact tourism, Tillis said: “I think if you look at some of the other states that have offshore, they are some of the most visited states in the nation.”

On concerns about the avian flu:

“What we’re trying to do is learn from what happened in Minnesota and Iowa this year. It was devastating. Our state of North Carolina is probably better positioned to deal with it.

“Let’s just pray that we don’t have to deal with it this fall.”

On the race for the GOP presidential nomination:

“We have a lot of people with diverse views. We’ve got some great candidates. I think the debate right now is entertaining.”

On Donald Trump:

“I think that there is an appropriate place for the discussion that Mr. Trump is stimulating. What we need to do is recognize that we need to win the hearts and minds of 50 percent, plus one, of the American voters.”

On the North Carolina General Assembly:

“Look at where we are. In 2011, we had a two-and-a-half billion dollar structural debt. Now we have a $400 million surplus.”

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