October 31, 2000
The following interview with the congressional candidate from the Libertarian Party, who is challenging Congressman "Sonny" Callahan for Congressional District #1 in Alabama, was conducted via e-mail.
A list of questions was sent to Congressman Callahan's campaign headquarter, per instruction of his chief of staff, Jo Bonner, in early September. The questions were: Question #1 -- Representative Callahan, you have experienced being a part of the majority party as well as being in the minority party in Congress. What are the differences between governing when your party is in the majority, versus when you were the opposition in Congress? Question #2 -- What do you consider are your major accomplishments of the last congressional term? Question #3 -- What are some of the issues that you consider important personally but were unable to get accomplished during the last congressional term? Question #4 -- You have been representing the 1st Congressional District from Alabama for more than a decade now. Since it is fashionable to run against Washington, D.C., how would you answer if your challenger should label you a part of the Washington establishment? Question #5 -- You have been a congressional representative for more than a decade, have you thought about that you should be doing something else now?
Rep. Callahan did not reply by press time.
Harbinger: Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Coffee: My name is Dick Coffee. I retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Col. after serving for 22 years. After retirement I worked as Director of the physical plant at Athens State College, and for Computer Sciences Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama. I moved to Mobile in 1985 with my wife, Ann. We have five children, twelve grandchildren, and a large extended family. I have worked here in Mobile for the last fifteen years as Director of General Services for the American Red Cross, from which I retired on August 1, 2000. I am a graduate of The University of Alabama, and attend St. John's Episcopal Church.
Harbinger: Please summarize the main points of your candidacy for U.S. Representative from the 1st Congressional District of Alabama.
Coffee: I am running for the congressional seat for the First District of Alabama for four reasons: 1) I am exercising my constitutional right to petition my Government in the most vocal and straightforward way I know how. 2) My opponent would otherwise be running unopposed. Our system is based on choice, and I'm giving this district real choice, not just between the Republicans and the Democrats. 3) I want to apprise the folks in this area that there IS a Libertarian party, and what it stands for. I want to sell my message well enough to enroll a hundred stalwart Libertarians into the party for future work at the local and State level. 4) And most importantly, I want to go to Washington to help slow down this great Conestoga wagon that is our government, which is pulled by the two major parties, and which is so out of control.
All political parties, other than the Libertarian, grant to government the right to regulate the lives of individuals and [to] seize the fruits of their labor without their consent. We hold that government must not violate the rights of any individual, namely: 1) The right to life -- accordingly we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others; 2) The right to liberty of speech and action -- accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedoms of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and 3) The right of property -- accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud and misrepresentation. As you can see, other Libertarians and I have a big job.
Question: Outline two or three specific issues in which your candidacy differs from that of Rep. Sonny Callahan.
Coffee: The primary tenets of the Libertarian Party are: 1) Smaller, less intrusive government. Among other things, this means no Social Security; a smaller, much more defense-oriented military; no departments of Education, Interior and HUD, and no IRS. Government will be small enough so that the income tax will not be necessary. 2) Unfettered personal and property ownership. No war on drugs, no war on guns, no war on sex, no wars on the people who own the government "of, by and for the people." 3) Personal responsibility to and for ourselves, to and for our communities. There is no free lunch. The price of Liberty is responsibility. Government's two main functions should be to defend the United States from external aggression through a strong focused military, and from ourselves through a more rational judiciary designed to follow the Constitution much more closely.
Harbinger: Rep. Callahan and the Republican Party say they are also for smaller government, and they support the right to own handguns. Until this convention, the Republican Party platform called for the abolition of the Department of Education, etc. Could you be more specific in terms of how your policies are different from Rep. Callahan's?
Coffee: The size of the government. The Republicans say that government should be smaller, but than what? I refer you to the current spending frenzy in Congress, and as proposed by Governor Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, dispensing the so-called surplus on the same programs the Democrats espouse but at a slightly lower level of expenditure. Libertarians believe in a government sized by the Constitution, excluding such Departments as Education, Interior, and Commerce, that would be so small that the oppressive income tax would not be necessary.
Social Security is a bankrupt liberal scheme, taking money from the young, against their will, at the point of a gun and giving it to the old. Mr. Callahan supports making it solvent while I and other Libertarians call for its abolition.
Foreign aid is another case of taking money from the American taxpayers, against their will, at the point of a gun (don't pay your taxes and you will notice the men who seize your property and/or take you to jail will have guns) and giving it to failing foreign governments...subsidy on a grand scale. The Republicans and Democrats both believe in subsidization of individuals, companies, and various governmental organizations, domestic and foreign, with American money. Libertarians do not. Compassion of any sort is not a governmental function. Neither the words compassion nor education are found in the Constitution.
In summary, there is almost no similarity between Mr. Callahan's politics and mine.
Harbinger: Why do you think your campaign has a chance to unseat an incumbent, Rep. Callahan?
Coffee: I think we Alabamians can see the great Conestoga wagon, roaring down the slippery slope of dependency on Big Brother government which started as a result of "the great depression." It is being pulled alternately by the Democrats and the Republicans; it hardly matters which, they are becoming so indiscernible. I think it scares us and we think it is wrong but are not quite sure what to do about it. Well, now there is something that can be done. Remember, folks: the lesser of two evils is still evil. Vote your conscience! It will not be a waste!
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