White House 2012 Interviews Republican Presidential Candidate Fred Karger

Bookmark and Share While he was campaigning in Florida, White House 2012 had the chance to sit down with one of the most controversial, soon-to-be candidates in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, Fred Karger. Fred is a possible candidate who is a definite long-shot and still in the exploratory stages of his potential presidential campaign. While few know of him and even fewer know that he may be running, he has been at it now for more than a year and is the first potential 2012 presidential candidate to actually run ads introducing himself to caucus and primary voters in in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Karger is an extraordinarily warm, easy to talk to, knowledgeable gentleman. You sense in him, a man who has not a mean bone in his body, a trait that if ones lack, they haven’t a chance in politics. But Fred Karger is no newcomer to politics. He has over thirty years of experience as a consultant, campaign director, press secretary and other creative and managerial positions in the campaigns of people like Maureen Reagan in a bid for a California U.S. Senate seat, the gubernatorial campaigns of George Deukmejian, and the campaigns of 9 presidential candidates, 3 of which, including that of Ronald Reagan’s and George H.W. Bush’s, were at the senior level. He even was one of the men behind George H. W. Bush’s infamous, 1988 Willie Horton ad campaign. And currently, as he thinks about making his campaign official and going up against people like Mitt Romney, he has made sure to take ownership of a few domain names that may come in handy, such as FlipRomney.com. So as nice as Fred is, he is not naive and can still make his way through the often cutthroat, nasty nature, of the political process.

In addition to Fred’s history with political campaigns, both in front of and behind the scenes, he is also a political activist on issues, especially gay rights issues. In fact, Fred Karger is himself openly gay and he is the first openly gay person to run for the presidential nomination of any major political Party.

Karger’s story is an interesting one and in May, his memoirs are slated to be published in an as of yet untitled book that he promises will be an interesting story of a colorful and emotional life led by a once closeted gay man, in the world of Republican politics.

The fact that Fred is gay is certainly not an advantage for him in a nomination contest that is strongly influenced by the hard right vote of a conservative oriented, Republican Party. Indeed on the day we interviewed Fred, he was actually hoping to be in Iowa, speaking at what was billed as one of the first presidential forums, an event sponsored by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. But because Fred is gay, the organizer of the forum literally banned Fred from attending. The episode is now before the Federal Election Commission who must look at the status of this group and their actions. Meanwhile, having given it what Fred calls “the old college try”, he optimistically hammers away at an aggressive exploratory campaign that has him crisscrossing the country to advance his cause, a cause which White House 2012 sought to define for its readers.

In this interview with Fred Karger, White House 2012 begins to unravel what that cause is and who Fred Karger is. In this, the first part of a two part series, we learn about everything from his views on the social conservative wing of the Party, to his conflicts as a Republican within his own LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community, and his surprising views of Sarah Palin.

We started off by asking Fred about the type of candidate he intends to be.

WH2012: Your exploratory campaign boasts with pride, the fact that if you enter the race, you will be the first openly gay candidate in either major Party to run for President. So are we to take it that it is your intention to run for President as the “gay Republican”, or is there more to your candidacy and campaign?

Karger: First off, I am still in the official “testing the water” stage. But the fact that I have never been elected to office and that I would be a historic figure in being the first openly gay candidate, to ever run in a major Party for President, makes it more interesting, more newsworthy, and so that is part of it. You know, I am not the “gay candidate” if I do run, but certainly it helps me in many areas and it’s a big part of me and of course my whole story of recently coming out publicly is of note and interest and that will be part of the discussion as well.

WH2012: Most people don’t see the words “Gay” and “Republicans”going together very well. Indeed the Gay community is seen as being almost monolithic in support of Democrats. Why do you break with the vast majority of gays when it comes to your political affiliation?

Karger: Well, you know, I was pretty much born a Republican. Both my parents were Republican. My Dad was a precinct chairman in our suburb and got me involved in Republican politics at an early age, but always from a more centrist, moderate side of the Party. That is just were they were coming from, and their parents. And so you know I grew up in a Party that was much more caring, more inclusive, that was more socially centrist than not and this was back in the 60’s when I first got involved. So I’m not for running anyone out of the Party. I’m for opening up the Party. And when we look at the last election, the exit polls show that over 30% of the gay vote went for Republicans and in 2008 it was 25%. So there are a lot of gay Republicans out there. Some that hold beliefs in smaller government, less government, less taxes, closing our deficit, government efficiency and personal responsibility and such Republican values.

The leadership of the LGBT community is way more progressive, way more democratic and so this is kind of uncomfortable, unusual, for them and so it’s interesting trying to mix the two. But many of them realize the value that I can bring to the table, I’m the only full equality candidate in either Party if I run. So there’s been some great interest there.

WH2012: Well on that note, as you said, the relationship between, and reception you receive, from the LGBT community is interesting. Being a conservative gay Republican myself, I have my own interesting experiences in that area and I would like to know how well the community has embraced you as a Republican candidate, because as you suggested, they themselves are predominantly to the left?

Karger: Well that has been a real challenge. Because the leadership particularly, …..the funders, and the leadership of the organizations, are all pretty democratic, I would say. Although it’s interesting, there was also a split there. You know a lot of the leadership was for Hillary Clinton—-very stridently so. So they kind of reluctantly came around to Obama, so one of the reasons why I could even consider this Anthony, was the fact that there’s a lot of dissatisfaction within our community, with Obama. He was a big disappointment initially and has continued to be. You know his views on gay marriage are evolving, he says. I mean he use to be for it. I told the Huffington Post he’s the only person I have ever heard of whose switched from being for gay marriage, to being against it. It’s usually the opposite way around. And so there’s a lot of disappointment with him and in the two year window in which Democrats controlled the universe, and the two houses and the presidency, very little happened [on gay rights].

It wasn’t even Obama’s doing that Dont Ask-Don’t Tell got repealed during the lame duck session. That was really Harry Reid. So there’s plenty of disappointment with him [President Obama] so I’ve got a job to do to get them excited about me because the Republican Party has historically been the gay bashers. I did a chronology of the events that took place in California, where all the anti-gay measures came from Republicans ……they’re from John Briggs and John Schmitz and Pete Knight, and it’s all the Republicans that have done this.And I understand that I am somewhat tarnished by their name but I want to change things. I want to bring the Republican Party back to where it was the one with a heart and looking out for people and particularly one that is a leader in civil rights as it was for many generations.

WH2012: Well that is a good segue in to this next question which comes from one of our White House 2012 writers, Friday. He states and then ask the following; Many Republican voters consider family values and social conservatism to be a top priority for them. They have few allies on the left. If you run for President, will you be running against the social conservatives in the Republican party? Or will you be able to advocate for this significant segment of the party?

Karger: Well …..I like to look at things that people have in common, first. And as I approached Steve Scheffler of the Iowa Chrsitian Coalition Alliance, who said some terrible things to me and left me out of his forum which is tonight you know I want to meet with him. I am sure there are area we share in common. More than we disagree on. And you know, you’re never not going to disagree with anyone …..your spouse, or certainly candidates you’re going to support, they’ll be differences. So I want to put faith on the LGTB community for a lot of social conservatives who figure someone like me doesn’t exist, who has worked in the trenches for Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and happens to be gay. And I’ll tell you it was very difficult for me, for 35 years in politics, to keep that part of me secret. It was a miserable existence. And to be able to be open and honest about myself now and I am hitting bumps in the road where I get excluded from things that I would not have been excluded from had I not come out of the closet, it’s difficult but it’s the way I have to live my life. It is something we are seeing social conservatives getting used to. We are seeing people coming out even in the best of families like the Cheney’s where you’ve got two very conservative parents but they love their gay daughter and they embrace her and her partner and their two grandchildren. So I hope to bring the dialogue up to a much higher level. I am trying to show that certain people who are bigoted in their beliefs, I don’t think should be involved in that type of belief. I think that’s outdated. I think we’re in a new millennium and I think the Republican Party should embrace everybody. And I hope to help persuade people to do that.

WH2012: Well it is my sense that with the rise of the TEA Party movement and Republican frustrations with government, there is a conservative constitutional movement of sorts which has more people saying, “you know what, the gay issue and ones personal life are not things that limited constitutional government should be involved in. What’s your sense?

Karger: Absolutely. Yeah, we’re seeing it in states where they are electing TEA Party candidates who are more interested in the deficit, the economy, and taxes and less on the social issues. And hurray for that. We should be working to grow our numbers, not to attack people and dissuade them from being Republicans. I worked closely with Lee Attwater under Ronald Reagan and he worked at bringing people in to the Party. He was a conservative South Carolinian but he realized if you’re a minority Party, you have to build a big tent and welcome everybody in to the Party.

WH2012: This next question comes from JSmashouth, another White House 2012 contributing author. He asks , what do you feel is the #1 issue going into the primary season?

Karger: Well, the number one issue is certainly jobs and the economy. We’re in a difficult position. With all the turmoil in the Middle East now and the uncertainties with our oil supply, it’s going to be even worse. President Obama has gotten an “F” in that. Here’s a guy whose credit reportbefore he was elected President,……… I’d love to see his credit report ……….. Here’s a guy who couldn’t even rent a car in Chicago before the Democratic convention in 2000.He had to go to2 different car rental desks and2 turned him down. That’s the only story I have ever heard about his abysmal credit. So we put him in charge of the largest economy in the world at one of the worst economic times, and he committed himself to nothing but the economy the first 2 years he was in office. Well, that was nothing but a broken promise that he spent two weeks on to pass the stimulus bill and then went on to other things like the healthcare bill which we can’t afford. So I want to weigh in that. I want to weigh in particularly on outsourcing. We are sending so many of our jobs to other sections of the world, which is wonderful for these developing countries but we need to keep our jobs here. And I am sick and tired of getting on the phone and speaking to someone who can’t handle the specific situation I am calling about, in India or Pakistan or the Philippines. It’s frustrating because I know who I am talking to has an American job that is gone. So we need to come up with something that is an incentive for companies to keep jobs here.

WH2012: Since we are on the primary season, let me ask you, aside from yourself, of the potential Republican field that you may be competing against, who do you feel is the biggest threat and frontrunner for the nomination?

Karger: I would say sitting here today, it’s undoubtedly Mitt Romney. I was a big fan of his father who was very prominent in politics when I got involved. It think his son is not quite up to his dad’s level, especially in areas such as his consistency, but certainly he is a very formidable candidate. I mean I have followed him very closely, he has done everything right. He’s got business experience, he’s got fundraising ability, he’s done a tremendous amount of work these past four years supporting candidates all over the country through his political action committee. So it’s his race to lose at this point.

He’s trying to reinvent himself again, he’s trying to look casual but it just looks phony.It’s just not him. He’s more comfortable in a suit or around a boardroom. But they’re trying and they’re trying to reshape his image I think. But he is definitely the strongest candidate.

WH2012: What is your impression of Sarah Palin?

Karger: Well, I met Sarah Palin in Alaska about 16 years ago when she was Mayor of Wasilla.It might have been a little sooner than that,………. running for Lieutenant Governor,…….. and I was just so taken by her then and I still am. I like her. I hope she enters the presidential primary. I think she will really liven up the debate. And I think she brings a lot of value to the Republican Party, has a huge following, and seems a little more open on some of the social issues. I am encouraged by some of her tweets, and I just like her as a person and her husband, and I think she will add great value to the field if she decides to enter and I certainly hope she does.

WH2012: Well I’m glad to hear you say that. Back in early 2008, I along with Adam Brickley, was a part of the draft Palin for Vice President movement before most people knew who she was.

Karger: Oh really? Well she is a very effective spokesperson with a huge following and has handled herself well. She’s had a tough time and people were gunning for her. She’s grown a lot, learned a lot and been in the national spotlight. And you know, it’s interesting, she has everybody else kind of waiting for her decision. She’ s the 800 pound gorilla.

From this first part of the interview, I gathered that Fred Karger is really trying to make a difference more than a name for himself. He has no dreamy eyed expectations but he does have conviction and passion, passion for the issues and the Party he calls home, even if some choose not to welcome him in it. But Fred Karger also realizes that while he may have some differences with his own Party, no group of people can change his commitment to what he sees as his Parties purpose. For Fred that is a Party which embraces all people regardless of their differences, and attempts to resolve those differences instead of ignoring them. That is part of the reason why he is thinking about running for President and trying to make sure that he is heard.

He understands that there are divides within the Party. But he also sees ways to bridge those dividse and move ahead with a small government, low tax, pro-freedom agenda that is represented by the type of conservatism which believessees all peopleas beingcreated equal and deserving of equal treatment.

In part two of this interview, we will learn more about Fred Karger. We will discuss everything from his views on drugs and debt, to whether or not a President Karger would bring with him to the White House, the nation’s first, First Partner.

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