The Exchange continues its summer series of primary candidate interviews with retired U.S. Army Brig. General Donald Bolduc of Stratham. Bolduc is seeking the Republican party’s nomination to run for U.S. Senate next November. We discuss how his military career informs his candidacy and get his views on the pandemic response, the national discussion on race and criminal justice, and more.
Air date: Friday, July 17, 2020, 9 to 9:20 a.m.
This is a computer-generated transcript and may contain errors.
Peter Biello: From New Hampshire Public Radio. I'm Peter Biello and this is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on the exchange.Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc, Republican of Stratham, is hoping to win his party's primary in September and challenge Democrat U.S. Senator Jeanne Jeanne Shaheen in the general election this fall. We'll spend the first part of the program today with Gen. Bolduc and then turn to some of the week's news and your comments and questions are welcome. Of course, you can send them by email. The address is exchange at NHPR.org Or give us a call, 800-892-6477. General Bolduc joins us now by Zoom. Thank you very much for being with us today.
Gen. Bolduc: Well, Sir, it's an honor to be with you. Thank you. And I wish the best to all your listeners.
Peter Biello: Thank you very much. So given the national conversation we're having now about race, racism and equity, we wanted to start the program by asking you about one specific action you plan to take, if elected, to combat systemic racism, whether it's in housing policy, education, health care or criminal justice.
Gen. Bolduc: Well, thank you very much for that question. As you know, I served thirty three plus years in the United States military, one of the most diverse organizations in the country and the organization that was the first to desegregate in our country back in 1948. And so I don't look at people by the color of their skin, their religion, their sex, their orientation. I look at them as through a lens or the quality of their character, content of their character, the quality of the type of person that they are and the contribution that they make. So what I plan on doing when I go to Washington, D.C., is bring that kind of positive leadership to the U.S. Congress, which I believe is lacking. We have ineffective leaders there that don't know how to get past their differences. And this is what America needs. America does need, I believe, some changes in the education system and the criminal justice system and so that we educate our children better. And, you know, we we have a just law and order system that's fair across the board, regardless of who you are. But more importantly, we need leaders that deliver a message of unity, leaders that deliver a message of accountability and responsibility and transparency and build trust. And if we can do that, that will be the number one thing that gets over. When I have the diverse organizational structure in my commands that I had all the way up from a squad leader as a sergeant to a division level commander in the U.S. military, it is all about treating people fairly and being transparent with them and taking care of them. And that's what we need to do in America. And that's the message. And that's the kind of environment that we must create. It is really, I think, the root cause of our problems.
Peter Biello: Do you support the Black Lives Matter movement?
Gen. Bolduc: I support the Everyone Lives Matter movement.
Peter Biello: What does that mean because I'm not I'm not familiar with that movement. I'm hesitant to say it even exists. Are there marches for All Lives...?
Gen. Bolduc: It doesn't exist. And that's the problem. And I think when we when we categorize people and we put things in stovepipes, we're we're channeling ourselves in a way that's very divisive because nobody is going to be able to understand each other. The big thing is about understanding. I don't care if you're a Republican, Independent, Democrat, Libertarian, whatever you are. I don't care if you're black, white, Asian. It doesn't matter. We are in this together. Nobody gets out of life alive, and we need to realize that if we're going to achieve life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and help each other, we have to do it together and we have to overcome our differences, whether it is a parents, whether it's sex, whether it's religion. It doesn't matter.
Peter Biello: But are there not problems specific to the black community that you think black Granite Staters would want you as a senator to address?
Gen. Bolduc: Yes. What they want me to address is the fact that the color of their skin doesn't matter and it's the content of their character that matters.
Peter Biello: But are there not problems that are specific to people of color in New Hampshire and Black people in New Hampshire that that are worthy of addressing, in your view, specific to those those folks?
Gen. Bolduc: Sure. You know, there is I mean, we wouldn't be having this conversation if there wasn't, you know, racism existing in our in our nation and our country among groups and among individuals. And it requires education. It requires us to stand shoulder to shoulder and to look past all those differences. I don't think there's a program that you can create or a law that you can pass or legislation that you can do. These are ideas. These are things about about fairness and in developing trust and about a moral consciousness that our country has overcome to include our state. And where we see it, we need local leaders and state leaders and federal leaders and people that are are leaders in the community, lawyers and doctors and teachers. We need to beat this back in the classroom. And if we're not willing to do that and stand up for others and fight for others, which is what I did in my career for 33 plus years, then we're not going to go anywhere. There's no specific program out there, law or legislative agenda that is going to get over it. It is about people and people will fix this problem.
Peter Biello: There have been calls in recent weeks to take down Confederate statues and monuments in many communities across the country. There's some concerns here in New Hampshire about, for example, a statue of Hannah Dustin. President Trump has opposed their removal, concerned about erasing the country's heritage. What are your thoughts on the removal of such monuments?
Gen. Bolduc: So my thoughts are first and foremost, I make a plea to everybody not to vandalize anything whether it's statues, businesses, anything. It's the wrong thing to do and it's the wrong approach. So please, let's not do that. If you have an issue, intelligently and articulately, bring that issue forward and we can have a debate about it. I am concerned about erasing our history as well, because if we erase history, then we forget what we've learned from history and how we move forward in this country, in my opinion. And I've been to three quarters of the countries of the world and I've worked inside them. And I've worked in countries that needed to heal through civil war and the reasons that they didn't heal properly and they continued their violence, well, after the civil wars is because they forgot about the history. They forgot about what got them there. They didn't move forward. They didn't try to forgive. They didn't try to to codify the reasons why they got into this situation and why they ended up killing each other, just like in our civil war. And sure, if we need to take a look at statues and move them into museums, or we have to do other things in order to be able to move forward as a country, we should do that. But we should do it peacefully. We should do it collectively. And we should do it with the consensus of everybody.
Peter Biello: It is that what you would approve of, moving a Confederate statues, for example, out of public settings and into museums? Would you support that?
Gen. Bolduc: Well, you know, I would have to you know, I really have to look at this. It's the nature of the community. It's the nature of of of the geographical area of our country. You know, one of the things that our reconstruction did, although it was not perfect, as you know, we study it, it allowed our country to heal. And we recognized heroes on both sides in order to move forward. We didn't disarm on both sides.
Peter Biello: Heroes on both sides, one side being a rebel side?
Gen. Bolduc: One side being a rebel side. Listen, we deal with it in our own military history, right? We had, I believe, 241. You know, I may be off a little bit on number, but 241 West Point graduates that were officers who fought for the union. Another 141, I believe, or so, fought for the Confederacy, right. And we still honor West Point as our premier military institution and place that produces our officers today. If we dwelled on the fact that some fought for the Confederacy and some fought for that for the Union, and we didn't get past that, our military wouldn't be as strong as it is today. We wouldn't have the United States military academy. Would we have the opportunity to develop leaders? We wouldn't have the Naval Academy. We wouldn't have the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Maritime Academy, the Coast Guard Academy. So we got to get past these things and move forward.
Peter Biello: I want to ask you something related to the pandemic, because this pandemic is not the first that we've seen. Probably won't be the last. So assuming there will be another one, how can we as a country better prepare for the next one?
Gen. Bolduc: Well, you know. There is no question that we were unprepared for this and we were unprepared for it on many, many levels. First of all, I think a real audit and a real investigation of the CDC and where their money goes, what they do with it and how they're organized and how they're preparing nationally for this. We need to look into the Federal Emergency Management Administration and see how they're doing things. And we need to bring manufacturing back to the United States from outside the United States. That is key for us to be able to respond to pandemics so that we're not waiting for and spending millions and billions of dollars paying other countries for for equipment that we allow them to manufacture for us overseas. And we need to do a real good look and a real good accounting of what that will require in order for us to get strong. The other thing that we need to do is take advantage of the things that we saw, you know, emerge from from this that we didn't foresee before or weren't leveraging before. One of them is telemedicine. One of them is is expanding our broadband Internet, particularly here in New Hampshire, so that it is it is wide. The breadth and depth of it, you know, from top to bottom and bottom to top is in place and we don't have any issues and we can readily transition. We need to do leverage the creation and the creativity we've seen in how we use our workforce and how we commute to work and who needs to be in work and who needs an office, who doesn't need an office, who can work at home. I think we need to look seriously at the flexibility and options that we have for teaching our our children.
Peter Biello: Would you be in favor of a mask wearing mandate?
Gen. Bolduc: A mask mandate? No, I would not, I would not. I am unapologetically of the opinion that the masks cause more problems than they solve.
Peter Biello: How so?
Gen. Bolduc: Well, I believe that they collect bacteria. I believe that that they get dirty. I believe that people use the same mask over and over and over again. And they don't change it. They don't change it out. We've had a huge littering problem with masks and rubber gloves, and that's creating a problem.
Peter Biello: And do those problems outweigh the scientific benefits, in your view, espoused by by Dr. Fauci, for example, who say that the mask prevents the spread of a deadly disease?
Gen. Bolduc: Listen, I'd never get into a scientific argument with Dr. Fauci, but I listen to other people outside of Dr. Fauci. And I do believe that the masks in in the proper setting, like hospitals are necessary. But outside of hospitals, I believe that they're ineffective. They're not made of the right material in many cases. They don't breathe adequately there. It's just, it's not going to do what... Social distance. wash your hands. keep your places clean, clean up after yourself, all these things that we should have been doing in the first place, are more effective than than mandating the wearing of a mask.
Peter Biello: Can I ask you about health care? Because you've said that the Affordable Care Act is a bureaucratic mess. Republicans in Congress have been pushing for its repeal. The ideas of what would replace it have been few and far between. Do you think it should be repealed? And if so, what should replace the Affordable Care Act?
Gen. Bolduc: So the Affordable Care Act has some things in it that we need to keep. First of all, prenatal to postnatal care, pre-existing injuries, I think, are hugely important. And if you're going to change health care in the United States, you need to change the whole idea and paradigm. And I've talked to a lot of doctors and nurses and medical professionals about this because I'm not an expert. I'm not. I'm going down there to represent people and do the best thing we possibly can, because, quite frankly, the big problem with health care in our state is it's the number one cause of bankruptcy, personal bankruptcy. And we owe people of New Hampshire and people of America, a health care system that's not going to bankrupt them. And that's the problem. And I think in large part, that problem is because the government controls too much of it and we need to get the government out of it, deregulate it, privatize it, make it more competitive. So we drive prices down. So on. So forth. You know, those kind of things. I think we need to change the way we view health care in this country and make health care and make good health something that we value.
Peter Biello: Is there a way that you can name that would explain how you would drive the cost of health care down to prevent those bankruptcies?
Gen. Bolduc: Yes, sure. Well, first, you know, first and foremost, if you want you want to drive the cost down for health care, you have to do a couple of things. One, you have to have more choices and more choices lead to more competition that drive costs down. That's not available in the current in the current health care system. I think that we need to get control of the out of control money making pharmaceutical businesses. It's out of control and we need to drive those prices down. We need to make it affordable. I just talked to a woman the other day whose insulin the cost of it is prohibitive. It doesn't make any sense. Other countries pay eight to ten dollars for insulin and and we end up paying eight hundred dollars for for insulin. I mean, that is just, you know, that is wrong.
Peter Biello: So are you thinking of a regulation that a government regulation that would help bring the cost of prescription drugs down?
Gen. Bolduc: Yeah, I think if we if we stop allowing pharmaceuticals to control our political system at the benefit of politicians in Washington, D.C., that's going to go a long way. Right. A lot of them are benefiting from the special interests and lobbyists of big pharmaceutical companies. And so, yeah, I think we do need reform in order to be able to drive these costs down. That only makes sense. We have to have more flexible plans, like, for instance, auto insurance. Right. We need to go from disease management to health management, and we need to reward good health all the way through. And if we do that, if we change from disease management, a pill for every ill. and we manage your health, we're going to have a much healthier society and we're going to have much lower cost because people aren't going to be pushing the easy button and going into the emergency room for everything. That costs a lot of money. The other thing that we're not making premium in our health care is dental care, dental care, gum disease, oral health. It is so important. It reduces heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, heart attack, stroke. And we need to put an emphasis on that. Among our veterans dental care is is a huge problem, right? And in our society. And we need to look at how we're maintaining our health and prioritize that inside a private system that requires competition. Because a free market system will deliver lower prices.
Peter Biello: General Bolduc, since you mentioned veterans and we've been talking about health care, you've been very open about your own struggles with post-traumatic stress. What more could the Department of Veterans Affairs be doing to help veterans struggling not just with post-traumatic stress, but with any ailment?
Gen. Bolduc: Well, I think that the first thing that the Veterans Administration needs to do is get control of veterans care across the board. They are missing the boat. The bureaucracy is too big. They're ineffective. You talk to any administrator in just about any veteran medical facility inside communities and you'll find that the bureaucratic structure is what gets in the way and ineffective leaders. And so what I want to do when I get to Congress is sit on the Senate Veterans Committee and I want to roll up my sleeves and get to work on this huge bureacracy we have across Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Department of Labor and Department of Housing and Urban Development and make sure that that money is inside a system to protect our veterans and deal with the problems in the communities without all this, you know, infrastructure and bureaucracy that gets in the way. I want the veteran affairs out of the primary care business.They are ineffective and this is a big change.
Peter Biello: Even even even though most veterans overwhelmingly find that they are quite happy with the services that they get at the Department of Veterans Affairs. You still still believe that?
Gen. Bolduc: I still believe it. Yes, because I talk to veterans not only here, but all over the country. And yeah, sure, there are veterans out there that are happy with the care they get. But there are veterans that are not happy with the care they get. And there are horror stories that I deal with every single day as part of my wife and I's veteran advocacy that we do. And I can tell you that the veteran affairs, you know, the people that work there are awesome. They want to do great jobs for our veterans. I see it every day. I get all my care at the Manchester V.A., but it's not enough. And I got a clinic right down the street from me here that I can't go to because it's not on the V.A. list. Right. So I have to travel further for, you know, something I may need that I can get less than a mile away from my house. So the veteran health care isn't what it should be. The V.A. isn't delivering the level of primary care to our veterans. That that they that they should. And they're not dealing with the root causes of suicide with 60,000 suicides between 2008 and 2018. We're not getting there. And we need privatize this, so that we get it closer to home. They don't have to go anywhere. They can do it. And we can save our government a tremendous amount of money. The V.A. needs to be involved in veteran issues, not down at that level.
Peter Biello: Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc thank you.
Gen. Bolduc: I appreciate it, and I look forward to coming back. Thank you.
Peter Biello: All right. We're speaking with candidates in a variety of races ahead of the September 8th primary. Hear previous conversations and stay up to date with new ones by subscribing to the exchange podcasts wherever you get your podcasts. Check out NHPR.org. I'm Peter Biello.