Politics & Policy

King On The Hill

A conversation with congressman and novelist Pete King.

Congressman Peter King is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Long Island. He is currently serving his sixth term in Congress. King is the author of a new novel, Vale of Tears. He e-mailed with NRO editor Kathryn Jean Lopez earlier this week about his most recent book (it’s his third).

NRO: Another novel! What inspired you to first write in fiction and what keeps you going back?

Rep. King: As a Congressman and public figure I have been up close to historic events–with nothing having more impact than Sept. 11. Writing historical fiction is my way of trying to make sense of what I’ve observed.

NRO: So, super-cool Republican fictional congressman Sean Cross from Long Island–he based on anyone we know?

Rep. King: Sean Cross’s experiences are based on mine. In the interest of historical accuracy, I try not to make him particularly heroic. In the interest of vanity, however, I also try not to make him a jerk!

NRO: Scenarios like you map out in Vale of Tears–future terror attacks in New York, most especially–how real of a worry is that, in your estimation? And, why hasn’t it happened already?

Rep. King: Future terrorist attacks against New York are a very real possibility. Indeed, the scenario I lay out in Vale of Tears–Al Qaeda joining with local terrorists to attack trains–is exactly what appears to have happened in Madrid. No one can say with certainty why there hasn’t been an attack since 9/11 but the likely reasons are (1) Al Qaeda attacks require great coordination and the president’s aggressive foreign policy has disrupted al Qaeda; (2) the combination of the Patriot Act, interrogating prisoners at Guantanamo, and more aggressive law enforcement is paying off; and (3) NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has done a truly phenomenal job to protect New York.

NRO: Among your constituents, do they feel like we are still at war, do they live their lives as if we are at war, or has some of the post-9/11 awareness and pain and anger faded?

Rep. King: While some of the 9/11 fear and anger have receded for many of my constituents, it is still just below the surface.

NRO: You’ve really gotten a hard time, in real-life non-fiction, for telling it like it is when it comes to some Muslim groups in the U.S. that apologize (or worse) for terrorism. Why hasn’t there been more of an outcry among moderate Muslims against these extremists? Do you hear from a lot of them–the moderates?

Rep. King: Probably 99 percent of Muslim Americans are loyal and patriotic. Unfortunately, too many of their leaders–for whatever reason–deny reality and come out with nonsense such as [insisting that] Mohammed Atta was not one of the hijackers, that Muslims did not attack the World Trade Center, and that there is a worldwide Zionist network. These leaders are the same ones who are attacking me.

NRO: Do you view the election results in Spain this weekend as a win for terrorism?

Rep. King: The defeat of Aznar’s Popular party was a clear victory for the terrorists. Unfortunately, in the face of attack, the Spanish electorate opted for appeasement.

NRO: Are you worried about terrorists trying to have the same kind of impact in our November elections?

Rep. King: All democratic societies–particularly our own–must be concerned about Islamic terrorists attempting to disrupt the electoral process.

NRO: Did 9/11 change your view of the Irish Republican Army? Would you take back anything you’ve said in the past about Gerry Adams–some of which you jostled with NR a little about?

Rep. King: I have known Gerry Adams for more than 20 years. I became convinced during the 1980s that he was committed to a peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland and that he could deliver his community. I think events have proven me right. Certainly the American government and the British government believe he has kept his word. As Vale of Tears makes clear, however, once the political process was put in place in 1994, there was no rationale for any further IRA violence.

NRO: John Kerry’s always got firemen around him–do the firefighters in your parts have a different take on the election?

Rep. King: The overwhelming majority of firefighters I know–particularly those who lost a family member on 9/11–are passionately for President Bush and strongly supported his 9/11 commercials.

NRO: Do you have a favorite Saint Patrick’s Day pastime?

Rep. King: For the past ten years every St. Patrick’s Day has been spent attending meetings with the president, the Speaker, the Irish prime minister, and all the Northern Irish leaders–but all this is against the background of very relaxing Irish events.

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