August 8, 2007 - Republican Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina is among the Congress members friendly to Turkey. Even more, she has blood ties with Turks because her son-in-law is a Turkish businessman, Mustafa Özdemir. She is the third woman in North Carolina history to serve in the U.S. House. She is known for her conservative values and she was also one of just 38 Republicans to score a 100 percent approval rating from the American Conservative Union.
Congresswoman Foxx is also a member of the Caucus on U.S.-Turkish Relations, which has 62 members. Foxx began her career as a secretary and research assistant at University of NC-Chapel Hill. Prior to serving on Capitol Hill, Foxx spent ten years in the North Carolina Senate. Since serving in the House, she has received attention for her energy and hard work. Her campaign finances shows how hard she works to fundraise. She received 66 percent of her campaign finance from individuals while the other members collected 53 percent.
She said her secret is making a lot of phone calls. Even if she used her Blackberry to write e-mail very fast while we talked, she complained about not writing as fast as she does at computer -- 90 words in a minute! She is not only an energetic, hyper active politician, but also thrilled about her grand children. She loves to talk about them and she says even though some people make fun of her, she insists on carrying very big pictures of Rana and Kenan.
While she was visiting New York, Foxx answered TURKOFAMERICA's Editor-in-Chief's questions, from the issues of PKK to Armenian resolutions, from the economy to Turkish-American relations.
The so-called Armenian Genocide has been an annual ritual in the House every term. This year also it will be important issue again. What will you do and what can Turkish people do about this matter?
If the Armenian resolution comes up for vote, I will vote no. I am talking to my colleagues who have not yet signed the resolution, encouraging them to oppose it. I have even talked to congressmen who have already signed the resolution to ask them to withdraw their names. Because I don’t think this is the right thing to do. Turkish people can write them, the members of Congress. First of all, they should write, if the members of Congress signed on, to explain why should take their name off. If they have not signed on they should say to them why they shouldn’t sign and why they should talk to colleagues about getting off the resolution.
Do you think sending e-mail or writing a letter is enough?
A phone call is enough too. A legible handwritten letter is the most effective thing to do. There is a problem about mail coming in Washington, D.C. in a hurry because mail has to go through security checks. So often there is a delay of 2-3 weeks. Also faxing is a good idea. Not a lot of members read their e-mails, their staff read e-mails.
Is sending the same letter to all Congress members effective?
That’s not effective. A personal handwritten letter is the key. If you write it in your own words. Just cutting and pasting and emailing, that seems silly. What people need is to get something that is personal and sincere. I get e-mails sometime, the same message 2000 times. That’s basically a form letter. It’s not a personal letter. It didn’t take any effort for the person to do. They just cut and paste it, then forward it. That’s why a personal letter is so important. A handwritten letter means you did that. You took the time to write that letter. You have an investment in that issue. If you just do cut and paste and forward, it’s easy. You have no personal investment in that issue. You might have a personal investment. You did not make any effort to do that. So you may or may not make an effort to vote.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is known as a pro-Armenian. Is this a disadvantage on this issue for Turkish people?
The Speaker of House is very powerful when it comes to appeals coming up to vote. The Chairman of the committee is very powerful. You won’t get a bill heard unless the Chairman wants to hear it. If the Speaker wants to hear it doesn’t matter what the Chairman wants. The Speaker is going to prevail. The Speaker is all powerful when it comes for voting. The Speaker sets the schedule for the bills heard in committee. The Speaker sets the schedule for the bill coming to the Floor and very few people of a party will go against what the Speaker wants.
Turkey has been battling the PKK since the 1980’s and the U.S. accepted that the PKK is a terrorist organization in 1987. After March 1st 2003, Turkey was a little distressed by the U.S. policy on Iraq. Will the U.S. make any effort to defeat the PKK? What should be done?
I met about a week ago with representatives from the State Department and they are quietly aware of the sensitivity in this area. They also want very much for Turkey to remain a strong U.S. ally. They understand how important the Armenian resolution is, and the issue of the PKK, to Turks. Also, they understand that the PKK is a terrorist organization. They want to help do something about that. I think it is appropriate for Turkey to continue to press on the issue of the PKK, but not to be discouraged by the current response, because there is a highest level great sensitivity on this issue even if there has not a lot been set about.
Do you think something changed after March 2003 because Turkey didn’t allow the U.S. troops to use its land to invade Iraq?
I have not heard that from anyone. It’s not come up as an issue. Turkey is a sovereign nation obviously. It has to handle internal political issues itself and we understand that. And I think that you can see by the way the President has been handling the Iraq situation that he has been doing everything possible to let the Iraqis make their own decisions without the U.S. making decisions for them. I think he has the same attitude for Turkey. We can’t go in and tell the Turkish government what to do. I have not sensed any feeling of retaliation on the part of the U.S.
You voted no on the resolution about Iraq. What is the solution for Iraq? Why did you vote no?
The constitution is very clear. We have one Commander-in-Chief. That is the President of the U.S. The Congress gave the President the authority to fight the war against radical jihad. If Congress wants to stop the war, the Congress should vote to stop the war. Not a non-binding resolution. It’s a chicken’s way out or a chicken’s way of dealing with a tough situation. If George Washington had listened to his critics, if Abraham Lincoln had listened to his critics, if FDR or Truman had listened to the critics, we wouldn’t be a sovereign nation start with. We would be a split nation maybe speaking German. The President is never going to be at war if everybody does not support it. There are differences of opinion in our country. We have a way of dealing with that.
The way our constitution provides us to do that. That resolution sent a bad message to terrorists and our troops. I voted no because of that. I wish we would not be at war. I don’t know any American who wants to be at war but we are at war. We should prosecute that war as strongly as we possibly can. The President should have gone in and taken out the bad guys as quickly as possible. Something you start, better you finish it and do it as quickly as possible.
If the Iraq war continues in this way, will it have a negative impact on the 2008 election for Republicans?
It might or it might not. The 2008 election is 16 months away. A lot can happen in that period. The policy could work very positively and it’s looking that way and it will be very good for Republicans. I don’t expect the media to ever portray things going well in the war or accurately. Because the media are against the war, even if nothing bad is happening, they are going to find something bad. Since the surge began, it’s been going a lot better. But what did they do? They go find negative news in Afghanistan. Put that on front page. We will never get a fair assessment of the war from the mainstream media in the U.S. We don’t expect that. They will try to reelect Democrats.
Are you saying that, even if the Republican administration is doing good things for the economy, events in Iraq overshadow them?
We have the best economy we have had in 50 years. Everything good is at the top; every thing bad is the bottom. Have you ever read anything about how good the economy is? No, never. Also a study has been done about how the media portrayed the economy under Bush compared to Clinton. Same data under Clinton, the portrait is wonderful. Under Bush it is portrayed so negatively. Let’s say under the Clinton administration the unemployment rate is 5 percent. The headline would be “unemployment rate hits new low. Clinton policy is responsible.” Same thing happened under Bush administration. “Unemployment rate is 4.5 despite Bush policy.” New job creation -- we now have had 39 months of positive growth in job creations. But they said that they are not real jobs. They are service jobs.
Is it hard to get elected as a woman candidate?
It is hard, especially as a Republican woman. There are a lot more Democratic women in Congress. In the last election we lost some seats as well. An interesting thing about women in the House is in all history 290 women served in the House. All together, 90 of them are serving now.
If you are reelected in 2008, what will be on your agenda?
I’ll take my lead from my district. It depends on what things are important in my district. The fact we are called representatives is very important. We represent our area. My focus has to be on my district which I represent. I obviously have a national interest too. So I believe that we will still be dealing with, again, terrorists who want to destroy us. I don’t think that is going to go away in 2 years. I will always be concerned about the economy and how badly it affects my district and how it affects North Carolina. I will always be concerned about the general health of the U.S. in terms of where we stand. The number one role of the federal government is national defense. So that should always be the number one priority in the Congress. But what is good for the U.S., is going to be good for my district.
When I take a look at your campaign finances, in the period of 2005-2006, the total received was 2.4 million dollars. 63 percent of the money came from individuals. In the 2000 elections, winning U.S. House candidates collected 52 percent from individuals. Your average is higher than the other representatives. In addition your personal fund is 0. What is your secret?
I don’t pay attention to the ratio. I just try to raise money. The secret is making a lot of telephone calls. I do a lot of personal telephone calls. I am known as the hardest working person in the Congress. I work very hard for the Congress. That is, the policy issues; I also work very hard fund raising. We have a lot of very small fund raisers in people’s houses. We have 20 small fund raisers planned in my district or close to the district. I haven’t had many fund raisers out of N.C. but I will have if the opportunity appears. For example I will be in Miami to meet two different groups of people. They are not large fund raisers.
Do you have any advice for young Turks who want to get involved in political system?
The first thing to do is getting involved with a local party. Where you begin at local levels. Get involved on the local level. Possibly work for somebody’s campaign. You get on the inside and you see what it’s like to run a campaign. Stop paying attention to what’s going on nationally. Be involved with not only political activity but with business organizations. Networking is very important. Getting to know people when you start raising money. You go first -- what fund raisers tell you is go to the Christmas card list of your family. Asking them to raise money. The first time when I raised money in N.C. I had about 100 people, I raised 10,000 dollars. There were friends of mine everywhere, I wrote them letters asking them to contribute. Networking, which is something Turks do very well.