Trump critic: I am not afraid of Trump

Eufemia Didonato

Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – So many questions about COVID-19 vaccines Trump critic: I am not afraid of Trump OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan […]

Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – So many questions about COVID-19 vaccines Trump critic: I am not afraid of Trump OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA MORE says he isn’t scared of President TrumpDonald John TrumpDozens of protesters gathered outside home of Michigan elections chief Arizona legislature shuts down after Giuliani tests positive for coronavirus Trump election claims dominate Georgia Senate debate MORE.

Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran and lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, has garnered a reputation for being one of the few GOP lawmakers willing to push back on Trump. 

The Illinois Republican has been one of the most outspoken critics of the administration’s decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan, was one of the first in his party to recognize President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenDozens of protesters gathered outside home of Michigan elections chief Biden picks infectious diseases specialist to lead CDC: report Trump election claims dominate Georgia Senate debate MORE (D) as the winner of the 2020 election, slammed the president’s allegations of voter fraud on Twitter and has come out heavily against the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Many in the Republican Party have opted not to take on their outgoing president. A few like Kinzinger have. 

While he represents a district where Trump beat Biden handily, the Illinois Republican said he doesn’t fear the possibility of facing a primary challenge from the right. 

“If someone wants to primary me then do it — they’ve tried to do it every year. But, in my view, what matters is not whether I win or lose. Obviously, I want to win but it’s can you look at yourself in the mirror,” Kinzinger told The Hill in an interview.

He noted that he’s fended off challengers in the past and only plans to remain in Congress for as long as the people feel he best represents them. 

“I’ve been through a couple primaries right and I’ve won pretty handsomely every time. So, yeah, that’s the other thing, I’m not even convinced I’m even going to run again next year because this is what happens,” he added. 

“Every cycle I make the decision, it’s kind of a prayerful consideration before I have to drop petitions because I don’t want to be in a position where I’m running again simply because it’s my plan. And by that I mean, if I’m not the best person for the district, right?”

Kinzinger, a defense hawk who was first elected in 2010 and has managed, said his time in the military helped shape his decision not to hold back when defending his policy stances or pushing back on rhetoric he feels is wrong. 

“I understand how politics works, and I understand that you have to be political and I’m political right, but at the same point if you’re not willing to put your career on the line for a cause how can you ask 18-year-olds to do it for the country,” he said. 

Kinzinger said he has encouraged a number of his colleagues to be more vocal, but noted the backlash on social media and through technology has been intimidating for some.  

“I’ve been surprised by a lot of people, and, you know, I think the vast majority of members of Congress think probably like I’m talking, but they look at Twitter too much, and they see our Twitter mob and it’s intimidating or they get the text messages,” he added.  

“That’s a difference between now and 20 years ago it’s everybody has cell phones now and our perception that everybody hates you, feels real, but it’s like working at a McDonald’s, drive-thru — if you’re like the customer service line you’re going to get calls from people that had crappy McDonald’s, you’re not gonna hear about the wonderful Big Macs. I just wish that people don’t have to be as outspoken as I do, you know, but everybody’s looking to you.”

While his commentary hasn’t sat well with everyone in the GOP, House Republican Conference Chair Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Trump: Liz Cheney’s election remarks sparked by push to bring US troops home Biden’s lead over Trump surpasses 6M votes as more ballots are tallied MORE (Wyo.), a fellow defense hawk, said his voice has been an asset to the party. 

“I’m a huge fan of Adam — he combines a real depth of experience and knowledge on foreign policy and national security issues in particular with, you know, the courage of his convictions and, you know, he will always stand up and speak out for what he knows is right. He always tells it like it is,” she told The Hill in an interview. 

“… I think it’s also, he’s not somebody who speaks out all the time on every issue and so when he does speak,  it tends to be about these things that matter, particularly our national security and people listen — it makes a big difference.”

Since getting to Congress, Kinzinger said the decisiveness has become more evident in recent years and he’s been disappointed in both parties often voicing support for and expressing outrage over things they wouldn’t have during less divisive times.

“I mean we’re advocating for crap now that I never would have imagined you know when Trump says he’s gonna in essence recklessly pull out of Afghanistan. There’s only a handful of us that even say anything about that,” he said. 

“If [former President] Obama would have done the exact same thing, we’d be outraged.”

While some have accused Kinzinger of being “anti-Trump” due to his criticisms and not having endorsed him in 2016, the Illinois Republican said that isn’t the case, telling The Hill he likes “Trump personally, I think he’s hilarious.” But he feels the tone of the Republican Party needs to change. Kinzinger said he voted for the president in the 2020 election and agrees with a lot of what the administration has accomplished but would like to see a less divisive tone in politics. 

“A lot of the foreign policy stuff was good. I disagree with pushing NATO aside, NATO is really important. But, you know, potentially, we could get some more out of it. I think his policy on Russia was great, but his words weren’t. To this day I don’t understand why he can’t say a bad word about Putin, but his policies were really aggressive,” he continued. 

Kim Jong-unKim Jong UnNorth Korean hackers targeting pharmaceutical companies working on COVID-19 vaccines: report US analyst: North Korea’s Kim, family inoculated with experimental Chinese COVID-19 vaccine North Korea puts further restrictions on seawater entry to fight pandemic: state media MORE — well the reason we didn’t start a war in North Korea is because you were really nice to Kim Jong-un. So to say your accomplishment is that you didn’t start a war, well I could always not start a war, it’s the Reagan line of, you know, ‘There’s a way to have peace and have it tomorrow, surrender,’ right?  So there’s a lot of good, some bad, but the biggest thing to me isn’t the issues, it’s the tongue. And it’s that we’ve become unable to talk.”

Kinzinger,  member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus who has become known for his willingness to work across the aisle, said, “There will constantly be a fight in the party…But I think ultimately people are going to recognize the tone has to change.”

Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonTrump critic: I am not afraid of Trump Battle for Pentagon post in Biden Cabinet heats up US national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration MORE (D-Mass.) said he has found Kinzinger easier to work with than the majority of members across the aisle despite not always seeing eye-to-eye on policy. 

“I always know that when I go to Adam I can find a reasonable voice, someone who will listen, and someone who I don’t always agree with, but at least has a lot more courage than most people around here,” he told The Hill. 

“He’s absolutely easier to collaborate with because he believes in facts and principal, and it doesn’t mean that we always agree, but at least we can have a reasonable discussion, and he’s genuinely interested in doing productive things and getting things done. And that’s what this job should be about.” 

While Kinzinger says he plans to continue to speak out when he feels it’s necessary, he asserted it’s not motivated by an urge to raise his profile to run for higher office. 

“I get asked by people all the time. Are you doing this because you want to run statewide, you know, are you trying to set yourself up and the answer is no because I don’t think that’s a smart move to do if that’s what you want to do. It’s because, to me, the misinformation, the lack of common facts, where my party has been pulled to is, and you know frankly, the left as well, is massively detrimental to the future of this country,” he said.  

“There is the stuff that we complain about that we’re passionate about right now, you know like, I disagree with your, whatever — that is going to pale in comparison to if this whole thing falls apart, and you can’t get your blood thinner medicine.” 

And while his tweets may not be the reasoning behind his decision to buck party lines when he sees it necessary, he wouldn’t rule out a bid or moving into a cabinet position if the right opportunity presented itself down the line. 

“If it was in the administration then I’d love to be secretary of Defense or of course secretary of State. I think it would be really cool because you do a lot of really neat things,” he said. 

“I’d love to be president, that’s not my goal, but not because I want the power and trappings of it that you can just make an impact and I think a president sets a cultural tone and not just the issues, but just how people treat each other. Outside of that, I have no clue.”

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