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LEE: I think there’s a growing reluctance on the part of Americans for having government in the business sphere, for having government picking winners and losers in business. People are realizing that our national government has not done a great job of managing a whole lot of things, whether you’re talking about its management of veteran’s health care, its management of funds supposed to be set aside for social security or Medicare. It has done a bad of a lot of things and we shouldn’t be giving it more power. We shouldn’t be turning it into a business; that’s what business is for; that’s what the free market is for.
GILLESPIE: You in a lot of your past or continuing comments take aim at a lot of Republican policy mistakes as well as Democratic ones. Do you see the Obama Administration as, more or less, a continuation of the George Bush years in terms of growing government interference in the economy, reckless foreign policy, and reckless disregard for America civil liberties? You’ve outspoken in excess on the NSA, you refuse to vote in favor of the national defense reauthorization because it did not actually protect people from basically being killed by the president if he so chose. Do you see a lot of continuity between Bush and Obama and characters like you standing up with a different set of politics?
LEE: I would certainly say that civil liberties have suffered under this administration. A lot of people who were complaining about the direction we were heading in were on the last administration. I think we’ve seen more government surveillance under this administration and I think it’s troubling to a lot of Americans. I was one of the first Republicans to join the effort to oppose the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, I voted against the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act and I did so at a time when there were very few Republicans willing to do that. We weren’t even allowed to talk about all the reasons why we were voting against it, because it was still classified. Now that lot of that information has now become declassified, it’s become a little bit easier to talk about.
GILLESPIE: Is Edward Snowden in your mind a patriot or hero or is he a traitor or does it not matter what he is as long as we have the information that he’s helped make available?
LEE: He’s not my focus. My focus is on the policies. My focus is on the fact that Americans have reason to be concerned about a government that wants to spy on them, that wants to monitor them. Americans are understandably concerned about having their metadata collected, on the scale that it is, on having the content of their electronic communications also subject to collection and subject to subsequent review.
GILLESPIE: Do you think the Republicans are going to take over the Senate in the fall and hold the house? Will we be looking at another GOP Congress come November?
LEE: I do think that’s going to happen. It’s going to be close but I think that the odds are very much in our favor for the Republicans taking over the Senate.
GILLESPIE: What has to change? Obviously the Republicans lost the senate within recent memory and they lost and then regained the house. What is the Republican message that is going to resonate with the American population?
LEE: I think what resonates with the public is that we’re there as a party, we’re there to fight for the American people, we’re there to address America’s growing opportunity deficit. This deficit shows up in three entry levels of our economy. It shows up in the form of immobility among the poor and security among the middle class and croyist privilege at the top of the economic latter. I think that as Republicans, as conservatives, we will fight for economic opportunity, fight to get government in the right space so that the American people can do what they do best.
GILLESPIE: Do you primarily identify as a conservative, not as a libertarian, and is that a meaningful distinction to you? What’s the problem with libertarianism?
LEE: Generally I call myself a conservative, sometimes a constitutional conservative, my focus is on the fact that when we maintain a consistent effort to restrain the government’s power and influence to those powers identified in the constitution, that’s where we strike the right balance between what kind of government we need and what kind of government we don’t want.
GILLESPIE: You’re written in a book that you’ve published in 2011 as well as your continuing work about an important aspect, which is what level of government should be administering what. Assuming a program makes sense or a policy makes sense, should it be at the federal level, should it be at the state level, should it be at the local level? Talk a little bit about your Federalism principles because in certain issues you’re like, “The federal government should not even be involved in this. This should be a state and local issue.” For instance recently you said that the definition of marriage should be remanded to the states or lower levels of government.
LEE: It’s not that it should be remanded to the states. It’s that that’s a state power. It always was state power. It never was or should be federal.
GILLESPIE: What about things like drug legalization, drug policy, or online gambling? You recently introduced a law saying, “No, that’s something that the federal government should really dictate online gambling policy,” and that seems to be a kind of contradiction. I assume you think its ok for the states to decide on gambling if it’s horse racing or something like that.
LEE: States should be the entities that decide issues of gambling that takes place within the state. But where you’ve got gambling that takes place online, in the online world, is an interstate and an international network of wires and that’s why it really becomes an interstate exercise the minute you take it online and so really if you think about it, this is actually a necessary step to take to respect each state’s right to decide whether or to what extent to allow gambling and that’s necessary in order to preserve each state’s right to decide that. Otherwise, you could have one state here or there authorizing gambling and if no one is able to prohibit internet gambling, then people in every state would be able to gamble.