MT. ORAB — With the U.S. Congress in recess for the month of August, congressmen and women have been spending time with their families back home as well as meeting with their constituents and attending official events.
Brown County’s U.S. representative Brad Wenstrup has kept busy this month, returning home before taking a short trip to Israel. On Thursday, August 27, Wenstrup attended the groundbreaking for a future automall in Mt. Orab. After the ceremony, he spent a few minutes with the News Democrat and gave an update on a number of topical issues both in the national headlines and issues important to Ohioans.
The following has been edited only for clarity.
Georgetown News Democrat: What’s the latest on your efforts to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs?
Brad Wenstrup: “We’re trying to empower the secretary to be able to fire people and have a process in place that doesn’t drag on for years. It will give people a chance to stake their case and make sure that it’s a legitimate firing, but we’ve got a lot of people that have done a lot of bad things that have hurt patients and patients care. We want the secretary to be able to weed that out and get people in the VA that want to be there and take care of patients.”
GND: How do you introduce more accountability into that system?
BW: “In many cases, if you did something wrong, they would just move you into another VA. There was really no easy way to let someone go, and that’s just got to change.”
GND: Following this week’s shooting in Virginia, is it time to address gun control reforms at a federal or state level?
BW: “From what I understand, (the alleged shooter Vester Flanagan) bought his weapon legitimately and they did a background check. I think the bigger issue to address is mental health issues and access to mental health care. Obviously, if you saw and read his note, he had problems. Either they were unrecognized, or no one seemed to care, or he didn’t seek care, or care wasn’t available, those are the things I think we need to address as much as anything else. People that are affected are going to do bad things, one way or another, if they’re so driven. It’s how do we get them in a system that can prevent that.”
GND: What are your thoughts on the alleged Planned Parenthood scandal, and if it is de-funded, where should patients go to access the services that Planned Parenthood provides?
BW: “Lets first talk about the horrendous things that are being done at Planned Parenthood and the callous nature of which they exist. To me, they seem to have very little respect for human life, especially a young life like that. What we have seen, I’m almost at a loss for words because it just churns my stomach. I’m concerned that if we’re a nation that’s that cavalier about taking apart young human beings, we’ve got a problem, a bigger problem.
“About access to care, we were told apparently that the Affordable Care Act was going to solve all of that, that everyone was going to have access to care and would have insurance. Well we’re finding out that that’s not necessarily true. But there’s no reason the services that they provide can’t be done the same way any other physician or (health care) provider provides (to the patient). In my practice, I didn’t get government money to practice. They can continue to have those services and take care of people, but what we don’t want to fund, for me personally, I don’t want to fund any abortions, which it can’t, but also I don’t want to back anything related to this (scandal). If people feel so driven they can give to that agency, but I don’t think the federal government needs to be there.”
GND: What’s your take on President Barack Obama’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran, and how do you plan on voting on the issue in Congress?
BW: “I would vote against it, for sure. To me, it’s almost a form of hurting our own people. I served in Iraq as a surgeon, and our young American troops were being maimed and killed by Iranian weapons. Their aggression against the United States is not changing one bit, and actually we’re empowering it. I almost consider this a form of fratricide. If you can say you want to allow Iran to have the cash flow to continue aggression against America and American interests, and we do have troops all over the world that are vulnerable to Iranian aggression. This does nothing to address that.
“As far as the nuclear deal, it maybe slows them down, but I don’t think they can be trusted. There’s nothing they’ve done since 1979 with the Iranian hostage crisis that would have us think that they are a good player in this world. I think it’s a dangerous deal for the long term. In addition to that, we did not bring all our cards to the table and use them. When the president says it’s this or war, I totally disagree. There are more things we could have done diplomatically, especially with the other Middle Eastern nations that are concerned about (Iran) getting a weapon. Also, we should use our military as a deterrent. To say that we have to go to war, meaning battle, I don’t think is the case, and if the sanctions were working, increase them, if you really want to bring them to their knees on the nuclear deal. We did not do that. We didn’t use all the tools in our tool box.”
GND: You traveled recently to Israel. How was your trip? What did you learn?
BW: “From the Prime Minister (Benjamin Netanyahu), to the president (Reuvin Rivlin), to the opposition leader (Isaac Herzog), to retired military generals that we had the opportunity to speak with, they’re all against the deal and have grave concerns. On the Palestinian side, they seemed to be a little bit more accepting of it, but I didn’t get the impression that they loved it.”
GND: What else did you see while you were in Israel?
BW: “We visited the holy sites, and you know what was really interesting too? You go to the Western Wall and there you have Muslims, Christians, and Jews all praying together. It almost felt like there was more religious freedom there than here in a public square like that. It was really impressive.
“There’s many areas where people just want peace and are working together, and you have the terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas that are attacking the area and are certainly of great concern to Israel, but they are handling it remarkably well. They’re a start-up nation, they’re innovating, their young people, men and women, serve in the military, and I think that that makes them better as they go out in their careers later, and that’s what they will tell you.”
GND: Lastly, moving back stateside, what do you think of Ohio Governor John Kasich’s chances in the Republican presidential field
BW: “Well, I think he’s boosted himself in the polls and I think he’s done a lot of good things for Ohio. What I’m impressed with is the tremendous field that’s out there on the Republican side right now. We have a lot of people obviously willing to try and lead this nation and I think a lot of people that can lead this nation. I think he’s right there in the hunt with the other people and his numbers seem to be going up.”