By Chelsea Schilling
As a former Secret Service agent who was tasked with protecting President Obama and President George W. Bush, Dan Bongino saw things most people never see in Washington.
"I am so fed up with insider politics, games and insulated lifestyles and political celebrities," Bongino told WND. "You know there's that saying: If you don't decide to change it, you are destined to be ruled by people lesser than yourself. I was very upset at the direction in which the country was going. And I felt that it was time for action."
So Bongino quit his lucrative job to run as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate against Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, who is ranked as the third most liberal Senate Democrat. He's been endorsed by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah; Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and other leading conservatives.
"I wanted skin in the game, so I decided I was going to shake it up," Bongino said. "I took a huge risk. I resigned, and I left everything. I'm not rich. I didn't win the lottery. I'm just a middle-class American."
He's also a former NYPD officer with master's degrees in business and psychology, and he now owns a small Web-design business with his wife, Paula, a naturalized citizen from Colombia.
Going "rogue' to help save America
Bongino had been a Secret Service agent for 12 years. He spent five of those years with the presidential protection division: Three years with President Bush and two with President Obama.
"Being inside, there are obviously certain things, out of a code of honor, I'm bound to not say," he explained. "But I'll say this: One of the things that bothers me the most is, I find this president tends to surround himself only with people of like minds. And they tend to be academics only. I call them the bow-tie wearing crowd."
Bongino said there are catastrophic consequences of Obama's choice to surround himself with "academic" advisers and "yes" men.
"I think we've seen it in his foreign policy and his domestic policy, which, by his own metrics, has been a catastrophic failure," he said. "With President Bush, I had some disagreements with him as well on economic policy. At least he and President Clinton brought people in who would give the other side of the argument -- not that they would always take it -- but at least they heard it."
Bongino continued, "This president doesn't do that. He surrounds himself with "yes' people who look to him like he has some kind of powers of intellect you don't have. There's no contrarian approach taken to his ideas to say, OK, maybe not every tax is a good idea, or maybe government-run medicine isn't a good idea. There's none of that. It's just "yes,' "yes,' "yes,' "yes.'"
He said, "When you surround yourself with "yes' people, this is what you get. You get disastrous domestic and foreign policy that have had real, material consequences and life or death consequences for Americans."
"When the economy hurts, I hurt'
Bongino believes his real-world experiences are better qualifications for office than those of seasoned politicians who, he says, tend to be out of touch with real Americans.
"I find that most people running for office have led relatively insulated lives and have long political resumes. Problems tend to be academic for them," he said. "For example, unemployment: It's just a number to them. They read it in a book -- 8 percent, 6 percent, 10 percent. To them it doesn't matter. It doesn't really affect them personally. It doesn't read for them like it does for me because it's not real.
"I'm a middle-class man with a wife and two kids, and when the economy hurts, I hurt. When the health-care system is broken, it breaks me and my family. When the education system struggles, it affects my kids. Most of these rich, insulated politicians who have somehow gotten wealthy in office, none of these problems affect them like that."
As for Obama's statement declaring, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that," Bongino has a few words for the president:
"We built that!" he said. "We built the roads, too! Those are our tax dollars. There's no such thing as public dollars. Those are private dollars confiscated by the government, vis-à-vis tax policy -- some for good causes and some for not -- but he didn't build that."
Bongino pulls no punches when talks taxes.
"I say outright: If you want to pay higher taxes, I'm not your guy," he said. "There's a fiscal cliff coming in January. Your income tax rates, your state taxes, you name it: You name the tax, it's going up. I will fight it until the day I leave office. I will not let that happen."
Only 2 options to escape soaring debt
Asked about America's ever-increasing debt ceiling and soaring national deficit, Bongino explained, "No one wants to tell you the truth. There have been folks on both sides of the aisle who have failed to tell you what's really going on here."
He said the current $16.4 trillion debt ceiling is practically "irrelevant" because the bond market will soon awaken to the fact that the United States is approaching "near-catastrophic levels of debt."
"People just stop lending us money!" he exclaimed. "If foreign lenders and United States citizens stop lending the government money, the debt ceiling doesn't matter."
Bongino warned, "We can either impose a real debt ceiling or we're going to have it imposed rather harshly on us. Let me tell you, that day of reckoning is coming. I think there are very few people out there who are really speaking the truth about the horrendous predicament we're in."
He noted that if the U.S. were to cut every dime of discretionary and military spending, it would still run a deficit this year.
"That should show you how bad of a situation we are in and how the time for real leaders is now -- or you'll rue the day you didn't elect them," he said.
Asked what the nation can do to address this alarming problem, Bongino said there are only two approaches: 1) serious spending cuts and 2) accelerated economic growth.
As for spending cuts, he said, "People ask, "Well, what department?' No, no, no! There's nothing that's off the table. Don't limit yourself to that question. Every single government employee, agency, office, building, has to start looking at ways to be more productive, to create more output with less input or the same output with less input. It happens in business all the time."
He also said America has no choice but to grow out of its economic slump.
"There is no option," he warned. "If we don't grow our economy and focus on growth first, it will take us 75 years, even under the most "draconian conditions,' we still would not be able to pay off this massive anchor of debt. So we have to grow. That's why I put out there the economic platform that focuses on growth first. Everything else has to be secondary. We just don't have a choice."
On a Maryland roadside, Bongino and a supporter brave pouring rain to spread his message of "Jobs Not Taxes"
"As much money as Obama can get'
As for those who claim the nation is facing "creeping socialism" under the current administration, Bongino argues that America is actually falling victim to "new socialism."
"Socialism is basically controlling the means of production -- government bureaucracy owning it," he said. "Traditional socialism was a joke. No serious person believes it works. It's been tried, and it not only failed but led to the deaths of hundreds of millions of people in the process, some rather violently.
"So now they think: Why own the means of production as a government body if you can tax the means of production at extremely high rates? We have the highest corporate tax rate of the OICD countries. We have the gold medal in a competition we didn't want to win. Then they regulate it to death. Why own it? The government already owns it!"
Bongino has a warning for those Americans who argue for so-called "fair taxation" and plan to vote for Obama this November.
"I think what Americans -- some who are voting for President Obama -- don't understand is that there's really no limit to what they perceive as "fair taxation,'" he explained. "They'll never give you a number, because the number to them is ever-increasing. That's why they won't put a cap on it, and they'll never really answer the question."
If anyone truly questioned Obama about his taxation plans and asked him what percentage each income group should pay in taxes, Bongino said, they would never get a straight answer.
"President Obama will never give you a number because he doesn't know the number," he explained. "The number to him is as much as he can get. He views your money as government money on loan. It's really public funds generated by a public pool of capital."
He added, "That's really absurd. It's nonsense economics. It's never worked. It's not what Americans have bled, fought, died for."
Freedom, Bongino said, is a "painful thing" that requires "tremendous responsibility."
"You know, people talk about freedom and liberty, and they forget that there are very real responsibilities and requirements for that. Freedom also means freedom to fail if you don't want to work and you don't want to produce."
Foreign policy? What foreign policy?
Bongino has traveled to 27 different countries around the world. In four countries, he served as the lead security representative for the United States. He said he's dealt with everyone from four-star generals in Indonesia to cab drivers in Jordan.
While he's well-versed in international affairs and politics, Bongino admits he still has one lingering question:
"Not to try to be smart about it, but what is the president's foreign policy?" he asked. "I'd love to know.
"The policy with Iran is what? Just leave it alone while we have an opportunity to affect change on a hegemonic regime?
Obama in Egypt (White House photo)
"Egypt, what was the foreign policy there? Hosni Mubarak, I'm not inviting him over for dinner, but under America-first foreign policy, at least he was an ally and kept the peace with Israel. He did nothing new. We allowed him to be deposed, did nothing, and now look what we've got over there. We've got our embassy being overrun.
"Libya? Now we choose to get involved, but only in a limited role in which the president takes credit. Our foreign policy in Libya seems to have collapsed there.
"Syria, well what was the foreign policy there? Do nothing?"
Bongino said Obama's foreign policy has him completely stumped.
"My only guess -- and this is my version because he doesn't really have a foreign policy -- is it's to extend our hand, have it slapped away and then find a reason to apologize for them slapping your hand away.
"We had a Bush doctrine, a Truman doctrine, a Nixon doctrine, and you may not have agreed with them. That's fine. This is the United States, and we should certainly criticize poor foreign policy. But in this case, what's the Obama doctrine? I think the answer is nobody really knows."
As for Israel, Bongino has a deep fondness for the nation. He declared himself "an avid, open and public supporter of Israel."
"They are our only true ally in the region," he said. "Anyone who says otherwise has either never traveled the world or has lived their lives in an academic institution and has no interest in reality. Arabs in Israel have more freedom than Arabs in the Arab world. They are an ally, and that is unquestionable."
Obamacare: Based on rationing principles
Bongino told WND he refuses to support "government-run medicine."
"I don't, and I never will," he said. "I will always support patient-driven options. It's based on real data and real experience with health-care economics."
As for Obamacare, he said, "We have to repeal it. It's based on flawed economics. It's based on rationing principles."
He said Obama is failing to explain to the American people that there are only two ways to allocate resources.
"A doctor's time is a resource. I don't think any sane-thinking person disputes that. A doctor usually works more than eight hours a day, and there are two ways you can see the doctor," Bongino said. "You can pay, either through the health insurance company or directly, or it can be rationed, where the government picks who gets to go to the doctor and who doesn't. If you can suggest to me a third way, I would recommend you for the Nobel Prize in economics because there's not a third way. That's it."
Bongino explained the differences between the two approaches.
"There's a board of 15 bureaucrats that are going to be appointed -- keep in mind, not elected, appointed by more government bureaucrats -- and are going to set prices and say they're using a price model, but they're not.
"Let's say a hip replacement is $7,000. What they're going to do when they run out of money -- because they can't control prices in the rationing system -- they're going to set the price for reimbursement to $6,000. What doctor is going to take that? None of them! So you just de facto rationed those products.
"If you use a price model and competition, and you allow seniors 55 and younger to choose between traditional Medicare or a premium support model where they can pick the same health insurance that members of Congress have, all of the sudden, you introduce competition. That forces doctors and hospitals and everyone else to provide quality service to people who would otherwise be relying on their benevolence instead. "
Bongino is a devout Catholic, and he said his faith in God has always guided his decision-making.
"I remember even as a kid praying and asking the Lord for guidance," he said. "He has a way of tapping you on the shoulder and telling you what direction to go, but it's up to you to go in that direction.
"He's chosen my path, and I always ask Him just for the strength to pursue it. I pray on any decision of significance. For me, there's nothing more important."
However, Bongino disapproves of the Obama administration's treatment of certain religious groups.
"If you're of a Christian or Jewish faith, you get to be a back-bencher, but if you're in one of the selected groups that he seems to choose, all of the sudden you move to the front of the line," he said.
As WND has reported, under Obamacare's contraception mandate, all employers -- even religious institutions -- must offer contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs to employees. According to the Congressional Research Service, companies that do not comply may be hit with a federal tax of $100 per day for each employee.
Meanwhile, American courtrooms are bursting with lawsuits brought by businesses and religious groups. The American Center for Law and Justice is representing 79 members of Congress with friend-of-the-court briefs filed in 12 separate lawsuits brought by more than 40 Catholic organizations suing over the requirement. Just 17 days before Election Day, American voters of all faiths plan to take to the streets in the name of religious freedom and protest the mandate.
Bongino argues that the debate has "nothing at all to do with contraception."
"It has everything to do with the ability of religious groups, with whom you may or may not agree, to practice their faith as they see fit -- not as the president sees fit," he said. "I have news for the president: They don't care what his version of Christianity is, because the president is a man. That's it. The Catholic Church, he may not agree with it, but, the point is, that's not for him to say."
He continued, "We are a country founded on a document that collectively prohibits government from interfering in your religious beliefs. If you don't like it, you are more than free to move anywhere else. No one is stopping you. Go somewhere else where they tell Christians and Jews they can't practice their faith. There are enough countries in the world that will do that."
U.S. immigration system: "An absolute disaster'
Bongino's wife, Paula, a naturalized citizen who came to the U.S. from Colombia, owns a small business in a high-tech field. Paula is what Bongino called "a value-adder to America by any metric."
"My wife came here the legal route," he said. "The legal system, having lived through it, is an absolute disaster. I can't think of any other way to say it. She's not a net taker of taxes. She's a net producer of taxes. We would be creating more jobs right now for Americans if the government would just get out of the way."
Many leftists frame the illegal immigration debate as a situation of Republicans against all immigrants, Bongino said, but nothing could be further from the truth.
"Nobody I know in the Republican Party -- no one -- is making an anti-immigration argument," he said. "My wife is a female, immigrant, Hispanic, conservative Republican. These people are not "these' people. They're us. There's no group of automatons called "the Hispanics' or "black vote.' They're just people who happen to be Hispanic and who may or may not vote according to your political beliefs."
Bongino said he supports construction of the U.S.-Mexico border fence and use of E-Verify to perform background checks on workers.
"We do have concerns about terrorism and human trafficking," he said. "It's not the 19th century anymore, where immigration and the explosive technology hadn't advanced and terrorism wasn't as huge of a concern as it is now. We have to have a realistic policy."
He added, "We can't absorb 12 million people in one country. We just can't. The social costs are too much."
However, Bongino said a good, targeted immigration policy would attract the "world's best and brightest" to the U.S.
"We would be, by far, the most prosperous country on earth for the next couple of centuries," he said.
To do that, Bongino recommends a points-based immigration system.
"There are areas right now where we need people, and the immigration system is so broken we can't get them," he said. "For example, we need engineers. We can't produce them. We should be able to. There's a longer education argument to be had there. But my point is, if we move to a ranking system that allows some people who have either capital to invest here or intellectual capital to invest here to the front of the line, it would benefit everyone. "
Bongino on social issues
As for social issues, Bongino said he opposes abortion.
However, on the issue of same-sex marriage, he has what he calls "a libertarian perspective."
"Marriage as we know it is really a pre-political institution," he said. "It's a sacrament in the Catholic Church. Honestly, the Catholic Church doesn't care what the law says. The Catholic Church marries people as a sacrament. This happened long before the United States was ever even in existence."
Bongino argued that there's a big difference between civil marriage and religious marriage.
"The government has no role whatsoever in telling a church who they can and cannot marry," he said. "If you want to start a church and it's legitimate, and in your church, you want to engage in a religious ceremony where homosexual couples can get married, then we live in the United States and you are free to practice your religion. I don't think the state has a role, per se, in sanctioning relationships. "
Bongino signed a petition to put Maryland's new homosexual marriage law on the ballot in November, which will provide a final opportunity for voters to repeal the controversial law.
"I signed a petition to put the gay marriage referendum in Maryland because I don't think the government should be sanctioning relationships at all," Bongino said. "Because really, where does this expansive definition end? It's not me taking a stance against gay couples. I just don't think that we should be expanding government's role into the sanctioning of relationships. I just don't support it. I think our government should be pulling itself out of sanctioning relationships."
Bongino said he's a supporter of Second Amendment rights.
"I've been a police officer and federal agent for 17 years," he said. "I've never once arrested someone with a gun who had the gun legally."
However, he said there's a difference between the right to bear arms and the right to legally bear arms.
"If you're a criminal who wants to use a gun in a crime, I don't even think the most avid Second Amendment supporter thinks that's a good idea," Bongino said. "I think the liberals tend to conflate illegal gun possession with gun possession, just like they like to conflate illegal immigration with immigration. They are completely disparate topics."
Rep. Allen West endorsed Bongino
Bongino is a solid conservative in a Democrat stronghold. According to a Gonzales Research poll of registered Maryland voters, Obama is leading Romney 55-36 in the state.
Likewise, the poll found Bongino's Democrat opponent, incumbent Ben Cardin, is carrying 50 percent of the vote while Bongino has 22 percent and independent Rob Sobhani has 21 percent.
Cardin was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2007. Prior to that, he represented Maryland in the U.S. House of Representatives for 20 years. No Republican senator has held a seat in Maryland since moderate Sen. Charles "Mac" Mathias Jr. retired in 1987.
Nonetheless, Bongino is convinced he can pull an upset victory.
"We're in a three way race. All we need is a plurality, not a majority," he said.
"We've got three debates coming up. I think they're going to be fantastic for us to get our ideas out there.
Bongino is optimistic about his chances this November. He said Cardin's cash advantage is dissipating.
"He was out-raising us 100 to one a year and a half ago. I'm pretty sure we're going to out-raise him this quarter," he said. "National groups are rallying behind us. In a three-way race with two multimillionaire, out-of-touch opponents both running a left-of-center campaign, I don't only think it's possible. I think it's probable we're going to win this."
On Aug. 20, Sarah Palin urged Maryland voters to support Bongino on her Facebook page:
Though political pundits often dismiss conservative candidates running in deep blue states, I don't believe in ignoring good candidates simply because they're fighting uphill battles against the odds. In fact, I find such candidates incredibly brave and especially worthy of encouragement. In many cases, they are often the most articulate and courageous new conservative voices out there.
In 2012, we must cede no ground in our effort to win back control of the Senate and secure the House. We must fight every race to make sure we equip our next president with a wise Congress ready to work for all Americans. We also owe it to voters in every state -- even the deep blue ones -- to support good candidates for office so that they have a genuine choice in November. That is why I'm honored to announce my support for Dan Bongino in his Senate race in the "deep blue state" of Maryland.
This is more than just a race of Republican vs. Democrat or conservative vs. liberal. It's about taking our country back from the career politicians in both parties who have spent us into debt, nearly taxed us to death, enriched themselves, rewarded their cronies at our expense, and have no vision to help the private sector create the jobs we need to get this economy moving again. They are the reason why Congress' approval rating is at an all-time low. In supporting Dan Bongino, we are offering Maryland voters a clear choice either to continue with the failed policies and crony capitalism of the permanent political class, or to shake things up with Dan Bongino and cast a vote that helps put our country back on the path to prosperity.
WND asked Bongino: "Can you assure voters that you will be their voice in Washington first and foremost and not let the political culture change you into a D.C. insider who doesn't represent their interests?"
Bongino replied: "If you think I left my job and put my financial security and my family's financial security on the line to become what I hate most -- to become like one of them, what I ran away from -- then you've got another thing coming.
"I'm not running to spend a career behind those walls of Congress. I'm not interested. Remember, I lived this life for 12 years inside the White House and around the White House. I was ultimately sickened by the insulated bureaucracy.
"I'm not interested in their Christmas parties. I'm not interested in their Air Force One rides. I'm not interested in their chauffeured limos and their fancy dinners.
"I'm interested in walking up onto Capitol Hill and saying, "I don't represent you. Don't try to cut any deals with me, because I'm not interested. I represent us, and that is it. I'm not going to be a career insider. I am a genuine outsider who is firmly, completely, 100 percent committed to shaking up this nest.'"