As senator, Liljenquist promises to pursue a more cautious foreign policy. He lays down as his first principle the belief that “the president should not get us into conflicts unless there are clear and present dangers to U.S. citizens.” He adds, “I don’t think it’s particularly effective to force democracy into tribal societies, and I don’t think that’s our role.”
He believes the U.S. involvement in Libya was hard to justify: “I did not see a clear and present danger. . . . I was opposed to the Libya conflict as I would be opposed to a Syria conflict.”
On Iran, he’s more hawkish. “If they end up having a nuclear weapon and we take them at their word that they intend to use it, that certainly would be a threat,” he says. And as for Afghanistan, Liljenquist says, “With the killing of Osama bin Laden, it appears that much of the clear and present danger has been removed, although I don’t have access to all the information.” The president’s declaration of a timeline was not “inappropriate,” he says, because “maybe you give a timeline so the government can transition and take over.” With respect to the president’s approach toward that war-torn country, Liljenquist concedes, “I would have done something similar.”
Liljenquist decided to run against Hatch in 2009, when the senior senator met with the state senate to discuss federal matters. When Hatch began to publicly decry the Obamacare legislation, Liljenquist remembered that the senator had sponsored a bill including an individual health-care mandate, that he had supported an extension of the children’s health-care program SCHIP, and that he had voted for Medicare Part D.
“I don’t have a problem with the prescription-drug program in Medicare,” Liljenquist says. “What I have a problem with is, we didn’t have a way to pay for it. That was the height of irresponsibility.” And he’s not letting Hatch live it down. In the run-up to the state convention, Liljenquist hit Hatch for his support of Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind.
Nonetheless, Hatch showed remarkable political strength. Through April 1, the senior senator had raised $6.4 million to fend off Liljenquist, and he had $3.2 million in cash on hand, with no debt. Liljenquist, on the other hand, had raised about $469,000, with $242,000 in cash on hand and $300,000 in debt (a loan from himself).
“Will we raise as much money as he’s raised?” Liljenquist asks. “No, but it doesn’t matter. From the last election cycle till now, he’s spent $8 million just to have this reset. There’s a saturation point that you can reach on the airwaves. I think he’s at his pinnacle.”
Going forward, Liljenquist hopes to combat Hatch in a series of debates. He’s challenged the senator to a debate on each of eight college campuses, including Brigham Young University and Utah State University. Because the state’s population is small, 2.8 million, and there’s only one media market, Liljenquist argues that he’ll raise just enough money to remain competitive.
The most important issue, Liljenquist says, is the fiscal irresponsibility in Washington. “Our party is always pointing to the Democrats, saying, ‘It’s their fault.’ Now, it’s our fault. And I don’t think Senator Hatch will lead. He’s gone the wrong direction all these years.”
And if Liljenquist wins the primary on June 26, he promises to be the man who reverses course.
— Brian Bolduc is an editorial associate for National Review.