Former college football star and four-term U.S. Representative JC Watts was playing both roles Tuesday, visiting Florida for an event at the Tallahassee Quarterback Club and speaking to Leon County Republicans about the current direction of the country.
“That World War II generation gave us the safest, the healthiest, the freest, most prosperous nation in the world and we have literally squandered it,” Watts said. “And we have adopted an ideology in America that I call ‘graceful decay.’”
Watts said he believes the GOP will take over the house in November, but expressed words of caution, suggesting that Republicans could look like hypocrites if earmarks continue under Republican leadership, and if representatives continue to defend their districts’ sacred cows from spending cuts.
“For ever dollar we bring into Washington, we spend a dollar and forty cents. Under Republicans, ever dollar we brought into Washington, we spent a dollar and twenty-two cents. We are spending over $1 billion per day in interest alone on our national debt. That’s why I say we’ve got to look at all of it. All of it needs to be on the table,” Watts said. “I had three military facilities in my district; I think defense ought to be on the table.”
Watts, who is an ordained Baptist minister, also spoke to candidates in the room about the intoxicating nature of the political arena, which he compared to his time as a quarterback for the University of Oklahoma Sooners.
“I saw people come into Washington thinking it was a cesspool and after being there for two months, thinking it was a jacuzzi,” Watts said. “Regardless of what arena you’re in, the cheer of the crowd can be so seductive.”
The experience helped convince Watts to step aside after representing Oklahoma’s fourth district from 1995-2003.
“I am an adamant supporter of term limits, and I recognize you get the good with the bad if you adopt term limits, but I say let’s start down that track and protect all of us as elected officials from ourselves, because the cheer of the crowd is just too intoxicating,” Watts said.
Watts, the last black Republican in Congress, chose not to join the left-leaning Congressional Black Caucus, and when asked by Battle ‘10 whether he had any advice for GOP African-American candidates Allen West, Tim Scott, or Ryan Frazier, said each, if elected, should make a personal decision based on what he wants to accomplish.
“I would encourage each member to make that decision based on their own agenda, their own values, where they want to go. I never felt compelled to go to Washington to prove my conservative credentials or my black conservatives credentials,” Watts said. “It was kind of nice to be the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and reporter of the Republican black caucus — I didn’t have to go to anybody else for decision-making.”