Bob Block Transcript

Interview with Tea Party supporter Bob Block at his home in Dallas, Texas on July 20, 2010. This transcript represents roughly two hours of a more-than four-hour conversation. Full transcript of the conversation available upon request. — AB A.J. Bauer: So you’re from Queens originally. What year were you born? Bob Block: ‘36 — 1936. AB: And tell me how you got from Queens to here — military? BB: No, actually I, well I was in the military — I was in the Air Force for three years and then I got out and went to college. And I went into commercial flying — and my wife, I was living — for the first time in my life, around 1984, I moved or gave up my residence in the state of New York and moved to Greenwich, Connecticut. Now that’s a high-priced town. But I bought a condominium that they were building, brand new, myself. And my wife and I were dating at the time, and eventually she moved in with me and we lived there a couple of years. But she had mentioned to me — she worked for American Airlines, as did I. She worked in passenger service, and she told me she had always thought of transferring to Dallas — she had friends down here and she wanted to buy her own home, but couldn’t afford a decent home in the New York area. So I told her, you know, I said look I have no problem if you want to transfer. I could transfer — I was a pilot and working as a supervisor and instructor pilot, what have you, and I was dealing with pilots all over the system. So if you want to come down to Dallas I’ll go, I have friends down here. So on our days off when we were both off together we’d fly down here and stay with our friends in Colleyville and look around for homes. And before we made our mind up I said we have to check out the big apple — meaning Dallas — and we did and we liked it here. And we bought a home and moved in June 1986 — excuse me ‘87. So we’ve been here for roughly 23 years in June. So that’s how we ended up migrating down here. AB: Had you always been interested in being a pilot — what did you study in school? BB: Well, yeah — I mean I grew up right near LaGuardia Airport — Queens, Jackson Heights. And I always had an interest in aviation, but didn’t seriously pursue it until I was actually in the Air Force and I was going to go through Air Force pilot training, and while I was waiting to get into the program they increased the obligation on me and so I decided to get out and go back to school — which I did. And then I went into commercial flying. AB: And when did you become a commercial pilot? BB: 1960. And I retired from American Airlines in November of 1996. AB: So, in school did you go to public schools, private schools? BB: Yeah, public schools in New York. AB: What were some of your favorite subjects? BB: Oh, I enjoyed history, mathematics to some degree — but I did like history. That would I think, I’m trying to think back now — engineering type classes that would be relevant to my profession. Because as a pilot you get into a lot of that, especially years ago when you were flying different types of aircraft you really had to know the systems inside and out. It’s less so now, but back then it was pretty intense — but I enjoyed it. AB: And did you attend college? BB: Yeah, Embry Riddle Aeronautic University — two years. AB: What would you say is your first political memory? BB: That’s a good question — I discuss politics now, because my wife and I have never really been involved in politics to any degree before say a year and a half or two years ago. Although we did, my wife and I, when George Bush was running for his second term somehow, and I don’t even remember how, we ended up volunteering to work phone banks for the Republican Party up here. But we weren’t really deeply involved. And my parents, in discussing politics now, I honestly cannot tell you what my parents’ political affiliation was — reason being my father was 26 years older than my mother when they married. She was 20 and he was 46 — this was in 1926. By the time I’m going into my teens my father is already well up into his 60s and his health was failing. So our relationship was somewhat nil, because first of all he was quite sickly, and second of all he was very hard of hearing. And my mother was my primary parent, really — and my mother was a very sharp woman, business woman, and we’d discuss anything. But I don’t recall seriously discussing politics with her. And my mother passed away in ‘75 — my father in ‘58. So as an early voter in the New York area I was an independent voter — I still am. I am not a — I have in recent history voted both Democratic and Republican in some of these elections, presidential elections. So you could characterize me as an independent party-wise, but I am definitely lean as a conservative — I lean towards the conservative movement. AB: So, as you said you didn’t really get into politics as a young person. BB: No, not as a young person. AB: Do you remember the first time you ever voted? BB: I don’t remember specifically, but I started voting — I had to be 21 — back then it was 21 versus 18, so it was probably before I first got married — I’d say in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s. Late ‘50s — somewhere in that time frame. AB: But you don’t recall who you voted for? You just recall voting? BB: I voted for John F. Kennedy. I also remember voting for, let’s see — I know I voted for Kennedy; I know I voted for Bill Clinton, first term, not the second. I voted for George Bush Sr. first term, not the second. No, wait a minute — I voted for George Bush the first term, but not the second term. That’s when he ran and lost to Clinton. And I voted for Clinton his first term, but not his second term because by that time I had some serious questions about his character, and I don’t necessarily just mean his sexual exploits — but I do feel that a president has to be representative of constituency and I don’t think he did a very good job of it. AB: So, what are some political issues that — you say you’re an independent but conservative — what are some issues that have informed that conservatism? BB: Oh, well now — yeah, well fiscal responsibility. This administration, under president Obama, obviously things are going just totally out of control with the amount of debt we’re assuming now — but even before. I have strong feelings about our border protection or lack of. I am very strongly about that because I’ll tell you why. I have a great deal of admiration for the Hispanic community. And you can underline the legal Hispanic community. Because, as your lineage goes back to Europe, I’m sure. What’s your background? AB: Various European... BB: Bauer — you’re German? AB: Yes. BB: Same here — Austrian, German in that area. And we all came off the boat — I don’t mean me in particular, but our lineage, grandparents and so on and so forth. And they all made their way, and to me the Hispanic community in the Southwest, which encompasses a different Hispanic community than the North — New York is Puerto Rican. AB: Right, Puerto Rican and Dominican. BB: One of the first airlines I flew for was Trans-Caribbean Airways, and our primary routes were out of New York, Newark, Washington, down into the Caribbean — Puerto Rico and everything. So I not only flew into the Caribbean, spent a lot of time there in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, worked with a lot of Hispanics, Puerto Rican and from the Caribbean aspect. But here we have a different element — we have the Mexican and Central and South American coming up through Central America and into Mexico and up into this country. Now, the Hispanic community here has done wonders — I’ve been here 23 years and when I first moved down here, one of the first things that’s got to be apparent to you if you pay attention, is you go out to my front door and look at all the houses on my block — every house is different. The brick work is different, the style and workmanship and everything — the Hispanic people, the Mexican people, whether working as gardeners or general labor people or in the construction trades — they have come up from workers to owners — they’re going to medical school, they’re going to law school, they’re becoming the biggest and most powerful political power in the Southwest — as they should be. And I have a tremendous admiration for them — I admire that, just like I do the Puerto Rican people in New York that have come up to our country and assimilated and everything. But I have a totally different outlook on the illegal immigrant community that’s coming across our borders, and I sympathize — I don’t look upon these illegal immigrants as hardened criminals, because to be honest with you I’ve known a lot of them. And I don’t look upon them as people I have to fear as criminals — they’re here because they want to make a better life for themselves and I know they want to make better lives for their relatives back in Mexico, because when jobs were plentiful they would work very hard, and at times below scale wages because they were abused as illegals, and send money home. But the bottom line is I do feel that we have allowed this to happen. We don’t respect our own laws and these people are coming in and pouring across the borders where there are millions of people around the world who have spent a lot of time, a lot of money, to file, hire lawyers and apply to immigrate to the United States. And some of them have been waiting many years, and these people are just flowing across. I don’t believe that in any manner shape or form they should be given amnesty. They knew what they were doing when they came over here and I feel we need to protect our borders. Plus, it’s pretty obvious that 20 to 30 percent of those coming across our borders are not of the Hispanic community — from Mexico or Central or South America — but from other countries around the Middle East or something, and some of these people are coming in here for very subversive reasons. And I just feel that this is criminal that we’re not shoring up our borders. Fiscal responsibility, I feel we have to — we have to take back — I think the federal government, I truly believe going back 75, maybe 100 years, has abused the Constitution. A lot of people would blame Barack Obama — he’s only one of many presidents we’ve had over many administrations we’ve had that have abused the Constitution and states’ rights. And I feel like we’re losing a grip on who and what we are. I also feel, and if I’m going to fast... AB: I’m recording it too, so no worries. BB: Okay, and I also strongly believe that not only in this country but worldwide there is a terrible decay in the moral fiber of our society today in the world. A diminishing religious belief — and I think I’m not a deeply religious person, but I believe in God. And I believe in religion — I think it is the basic bedrock of our society. This country, definitely, we can go back to the Founding Fathers — we did that Saturday, you know — so the basis of our country was based on Judeo-Christian beliefs. And I feel that this is being lost in our politicians, in our business people. I feel that a lot of our financial and fiscal problems — this financial debacle that we’ve gotten ourselves into, just greed and corruption. Our politicians — both sides of the fence — have become the same way, they’re just — they’re a mirror of our society. And I resent that. I feel we have to get back to the basics. You were at that class Saturday you were there the whole class, right? [Block, and the subsequent conversation, is referring to a constitutional seminar held in McKinney, Texas on July 17, 2010. The seminar consisted of a series of video lectures by former Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarik — video lectures that may be accessed in full at.] AB: Yep. I left when Badnarik got there, but you had left before that I think. BB: I left right before that, because I saw you there and I walked out the door with my wife and the woman who was conducting the class asked me as we walked out, my wife and I, asked me would you like to meet him, he’s in the men’s room, he’ll be out in a minutes. So I said certainly. So he came out and came over and I introduced myself and I thanked him and told him I was very impressed with the program and then we left. Because we had an appointment — but what was your take on this thing? AB: The take you told me on the phone I think sounded about right. So the way I kind of broke it down in my mind was it was split up into kind of four pieces: so the first piece of it was kind of a Libertarian pitch — so the world’s smallest political quiz, why you need to break out of this idea of thinking Republican/Democrat — so the first hour and a half, two hours, was not at all about the Constitution — it had everything to do with the Libertarian Party, in my opinion. BB: Okay. See I didn’t pick up deep on the Libertarian in the beginning. AB: Well, I mean, I covered Michael Badnarik when he was running for Congress as a Libertarian — so when I heard his name I thought, oh Libertarian. So that’s probably why I picked up on it. So I saw that — then maybe the mid like three hours was about the Constitution and history, going through it not line-by-line but section-by-section and Bill of Rights. Then maybe the last third until maybe the last half hour was conspiracy theory — End the Fed, etc. which you talked about on the phone in particular. And then the last 30 minutes I felt was just advertising — he was going through all of these Web sites and all of these business opportunities that he has connections to one way or the other. BB: See, I guess we had already left — we left around 6:15. AB: Yeah, so the last part of the video is basically him saying here’s how you can buy this silver money from me and here’s how you can use this Web site that scrambles your e-mail and all these kind of things that he is or isn’t loosely connected to — which was basically just advertising in my opinion. BB: Now, did he — we left — did he come into the class and address the class? AB: Yeah — I left before that too. I had to get out back down to Plano, my stepbrother was leaving town the next day for Costa Rica and we were having a family dinner so I had to get back. But I’ve been in e-mail contact with the woman who was putting it on and she said that he spoke for a couple of hours answer questions. Which, I don’t know how people could sit around — that’s two hours — that’s a 10-hour day! BB: Yeah, more than that because we were there — we got there at 9-ish or something. AB: I mean that’s a long day. BB: Very long day. AB: I mean, eight hours, even if you’re interested in the subject matter, eight hours is a long time to sit and try to pay attention. BB: But you knew him? AB: I knew of him — I’d interviewed him once or twice. BB: Now, I can tell you this — my wife and I are active in the Tea Party movement, because we’re deeply concerned with where this country is going. I’ll be very honest with you, I was — when Barack Obama started running, seeking nomination, I had no use for him. I had a great deal of fear for him and his background, or lack of it, and who his playmates were. I was not — I have never been happy with Hillary Clinton. My first real impression of Hillary Clinton was when Bill Clinton won the presidency and they moved into the White House — you may or may not recall this — but one of the first things she did was accuse the whole White House travel department of being felons and stealing money and everything else and accusing them of criminal activity. Now the travel department of the White House, if I understand it, is not a political group — they’ve been there through many administrations — Republican, Democrat, they’re just doing a job. And all Hillary Clinton was doing was trying to get rid of them to make jobs for her cronies. Let me put it to you this way — if I saw somebody improperly accusing you of a felony — and you’re not a relative, you’re not a friend, but you’re a human being — and if I saw you being accused of a serious crime and I happened to witness you were not guilty of it, that person who was accusing you of a serious crime, I wouldn’t think very highly of them. Just to be very polite about it — I don’t do that. Now, Barack Obama, in running for president as a minority — I understand a great deal of the black community in being very excited in having one of their own as president. I myself would have been tickled pink to have a minority president — whether he be black, Hispanic — I happen to be Jewish. I’d like to have a Jewish president! But there are so many, so many qualified men and women that, whether they be black or Hispanic or whatever, that could have represented minority people — we, the white community, elected him. The black community in the United States makes up about 12 to 14 percent, tops. So white America elected him — now that’s, in a way, that’s — I’m glad to see that. I think they made a terrible choice, but I’m glad to see that white America doesn’t harbor these racist feelings that used to run rampant in this country. And I think we’ve come a long way but I think they’ve made a terrible choice in this gentleman. I just feel very strongly that we have got to get — takeover — as a conservative I’m praying that we take back the Congress and the Senate in November. But, I want to see, if we’re going to do that, I don’t just want to see a bunch of Republicans put in there. I want to see people who are morally straight — some people who are going to work in the best interests of this nation, period. Not my best interests, but the country’s best interest. And start getting back to the basics. I mean, as you well know we’re taking religion — all sorts of — any reference to religion out of the schools. The Ten Commandments, which basically is a foundation of our nation — it’s my foundation, I mean I didn’t grow up with a very strong religious background, but I was taught by my parents and whatever little religious training I had, to believe in the Ten Commandments and I can’t say I’ve been perfect, but I feel that I basically have done a reasonably good job of guiding my life and doing what I think it right in my life. And I don’t think I’ve gone too far off the track. And I’m very much — that’s what has really brought me to this point. And my wife, I can speak for her, have gotten us to a point where we are actively involved in trying to bring something about. This Tea Party came out of nowhere. And we first joined — we were invited to join the Carrollton Tea Party in February — a year ago February. AB: So ‘09? BB: I think it was around February ‘09. And we went to — a friend of ours who lives in Carrollton invited us to come, and this woman — as a matter of fact this friend of ours, a colleague of my wife at American Airlines — she is a refugee from Cuba, okay. And she, when Fidel Castro took over in Cuba, her parents took her, and I believe her brother, and literally put them on an airplane and shipped them out. They haven’t been back to their home country in 60 years. And she invited us to go to a meeting, and we did, and they were just starting up, a few people. And since that time we’ve met people from other local Tea Party groups, whether it be North Dallas, or Collin County, you name them, they’re all around here. And we’ve met quite a few of them and I’ve been very impressed with the people I’ve met because I find that first of all we all seem to have basically common desires and goals, politically. But I find these people to be very upstanding people with good values. In this administration, as you well know, race is brought up all the time, but to be honest with you I think it’s brought up and used mostly by the administration, as opposed to the non-black community. And the people that I’ve met in the Tea Party — I don’t think I’ve ever met one person that’s expressed any racial motivation for getting rid of Barack Obama as president, or anything like that, which I would find very distasteful. Growing up in New York as a Jew, I know what discrimination is, okay? First hand. And I’ll tell you straight out in 1973, the Yom Kippur War — within an hour or two of the Arabs’ attack on Israel, where they got sort of caught with their pants down initially. I volunteered — I called the Israeli embassy in Manhattan. And they were in tough straights and I volunteered my services and they said we’re very much interested. And they told me they may very well need my services, because I could fly supplies in and out of Israel and I was more than willing to do so. I had a young family then — ‘73, I had two young sons. I was living out in Long Island — living a comfortable life. And the idea of going and fighting a war — I was not overly enthusiastic about it but I felt very strongly that it was the right thing to do, so I did it. Back in 1968, you can take this for what it’s worth — 1968. The pinnacle of being an airline pilot is becoming a captain with a major airline — I mean that’s basically. I also went into management — instructor pilot and chief pilot and so on. But becoming a captain — in 1968 at a pretty young age, not due to any special qualifications on my part. You know, if works on seniority and I happened to be at the right place at the right time, when this airline expanded I became a captain. And I started making very good money and starting to, shall we say, reap my harvest, the product of my work and efforts. During that time in 1968 I also had, was involved in a corporate charter business, in addition to working with the airlines, which was at LaGuardia Airport, which was close to where I lived. And there was a black pilot who was a former New York Airways pilot — I don’t know if you remember New York Airways, but they were a helicopter airline that used to fly between Newark, LaGuardia, Kennedy and the Pan Am Building, for years. And they went out of business. And he was a pilot with them. And this gentleman was a very experienced pilot, a fine gentleman. And I knew him from the LaGuardia area. He used to hang around there. He was looking for a flying job and I knew him. He was not a social friend of mine, a close personal friend of mine, but I knew him quite well professionally and we were friendly. And he came into my office one day — up in the Marine terminal for the charter service I was running — and he came in and said hey Bob, I understand that Tran-Caribbean Airways might be hiring some new pilots. And I said you’re right. And he sort of looked at me, sheepishly I may add, and said well, what do you think? Or something like that. And I looked at him — I won’t use his name — and I said well, what do you mean what do I think? Do you mean do I think they’d hire a black pilot? And I said, look this is Trans-Caribbean Airways. They have a tremendous amount of Hispanic employees and they don’t have — the only had one Hispanic pilot at the time, but not due to any prejudice that I knew of. So I said, I don’t know that there’d be any problem — I said I don’t think it’d be a problem. And he said would you consider giving me a recommendation? And I said his name and I said I’m almost insulted that you would feel you have to ask me in that way, but I know you’re thinking of myself and maybe sticking my neck out. But I said I would be more than happy to get you an application and certainly give you a recommendation — which I did. Three or four weeks later, I happened to be over at Kennedy Airport at the flight office doing some paperwork and collecting my mail and so on and so forth. And an officer — well I won’t say an officer at the company, but somebody high up at the company happened to notice me and said hey Bob, you got a minute? Come into my office when you get a chance. So I went into his office. So he said, look I’ve got this guy so-and-so, I’ve got his application here and I see you’re recommending him. And I said right, absolutely. And right away he got red faced and he got sort of aggressive with me — verbally — and said well not everybody feels that way. And I said well I’m not concerned. This recommendation is from me concerning this individual. I think he would be a great asset to this company and that’s why I’m recommending him. And he said, well not everybody thinks that way. And he said you’re a new captain with this company, let me ask you something. If you were out on a group charter trip and you flew into some city and there was a scarcity of hotel rooms — how would you feel? And I said, what are you asking, would I feel upset sharing a room with him because he’s black? And he said exactly. And I said quite frankly I’d rather share a room with him than some of these people you have working in this company. Needless to say that red face went from red to purple and there were some expletives we won’t go into. But I said, look — and he said God damn it, if we do hire new pilots I’ll probably have to hire this guy because otherwise he’ll go to the NAACP. I said look, I don’t believe first of all that this gentleman would be going to the NAACP, secondly I don’t think he should have to go to the NAACP, because he’s more than qualified and he would be an asset to this company. So I am sorry, but that recommendation sticks, and I’m not going to withdraw it because I really believe he would be an asset to this company. And that’s the way I feel about it. Now, this individual could have caused me in my career a great deal of trouble — he didn’t. When I recommended this gentleman, I didn’t even think it would cause this much trouble. I can tell you right now that this wasn’t the attitude of the upper management of this company or the ownership of this company. This was this gentleman’s personal opinion and his own values. But he was still in a position to make things difficult for me — it never happened — but if it happened again today, I would not do one thing differently, because there is right and wrong. There is a black and a white in terms of what’s right and what’s wrong and that, with my volunteering in 73, I felt was things I should have done — and that’s what I do. And I feel very strongly. To me the idea of discrimination based on a person’s religion or color or sex is very offensive to me, because I have experienced it, so. Barack Obama being president — being a black president, doesn’t affect me one iota, and I must say that all the people that I’ve met in these different Tea Party groups — I don’t think I’ve ever heard one person make any kind of racial remarks or have had any kind of objection to Obama because of his race or color. And I think for the most part, Tea Party people I’ve met in general are basically good American people that have serious and valid concerns about the direction of this country. AB: So, kind of going back a little bit — you mention your parents weren’t too political. BB: I don’t know. AB: But you don’t remember hearing politics from them. BB: No. AB: From where do you derive your conservatism — when did you start recognizing yourself that way — what’s kind of your history of ideological affiliations? BB: As a young man the first thing that I would have been confronted with that would have been notable there would be abortion — Roe v. Wade. Now, I will tell you that back then — because I grew up in a generation where I knew women who for whatever reason if they wanted to get an abortion they had to go through horrendous — they couldn’t get a legal abortion. They had to go through all sorts of horrendous conditions in order to get — or had to find a doctor who would do it illegally, clandestine or whatever. At the time I felt that that was a good decision because now it gave women the opportunity to go to safe facilities if they so decided. Now, over the years — now I’m a young adult — but over the years, in listening to right-to-life people and pro-choice people, I’ve come to believe that pro-choice means it’s pro-convenience. And I don’t want to get into the legally technicalities of when life begins, but I do believe that a fetus is a human life — it is a life — and I feel we have to give more consideration to that fetus or life than just making it a matter of convenience whether or not a person — a woman — should carry that fetus to term and deliver that as a live living child. I do believe also — but I do feel under certain circumstances it can be a great hardship for people. Men and women — men too. Because if a man is responsible and he’s the partner of the woman who’s pregnant, or is the father of this fetus — there’s certain responsibility and concern on the part of the man. I don’t want to ignore the man, but the woman has to carry this. I believe, I just have come to sort of change my mind and I lean more towards pro-life. I think everything should be done to encourage women who might seek an abortion to give them other comfortable and reasonable alternatives, such as if they need help going through the pregnancy and all sorts of things, arranging for adoption. And I realize in some cases, especially with minorities, adoption is difficult. But, you know, I just feel that they should be encouraged. I hesitate to say that they should be hit on the head with a hammer and told that they will give birth or else — but it really almost comes down to that. It’s like, as an adult, we — any of the three of us — taking a human life — it may be convenient for us, it may be advantageous for us financially or something, but we know that the responsibility is an awesome one and we wouldn’t do it, unless it was to defend our lives or our families lives in self-defense — that’s something else. But taking a life and, this is a life. And I’ve just come around to — as far as the other aspects of my conservatism, as I’ve told you before, I have concerns about our society and the lack of values, integrity, that we’re — that I see on a diminishing basis. And I think a lot has to do with the lack of religion in the home and the parents teaching values — many reasons, but I’m not happy with that. I want my children to enjoy the freedoms and liberties that I have enjoyed my whole life. I want my grandchildren — I have two granddaughters, young, one of them is only two months old — I haven’t seen this one except on Skype — they live in South Beach. ... [A few sentences omitted here out of consideration for the privacy of Block’s family.] Anyway, but I want my grandchildren — I have a four-year-old granddaughter up in the Natick area — and I want her, these kids and any other great grandchildren I may have to enjoy the freedoms and the quality of life that we’ve been able to enjoy. And that I think requires us — I believe we are an exceptional nation. Contrary to what our president says — I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of this country. Anybody who needs to see proof of that, I can take them on a tour of the world and show them the cemeteries in Normandy and in the Pacific and all around the world where our men and women have gone to fight battles for other people’s rights — not only our own. And yes, we have in 230-some-odd years as a nation —234 years to be exact, I guess. We have made mistakes, but the reason that we have made mistakes as a nation is because we have been a nation of action. If you go out and do something 100 times, there’s a certain percentage of that time that you’re going to do it wrong. Well, we’ve done some things wrong — but we’ve done a heck of a lot more right than we have done wrong. And I am very proud of us as a nation. I resent deeply my president going abroad and apologizing for the actions of this nation. I truly believe we are an exceptional nation. AB: When you say exceptional nation, what do you mean? BB: I mean outstanding, above and beyond other nations. We are, in my estimation, a guiding light for the rest of the world. There are people all over the world who are only waiting for the opportunity to come to this country. There’s a reason for it. As I mentioned to you before, I’m concerned about the illegal immigrants coming into this country. Unlike other nations, we should be putting up walls. But we don’t have to put up walls to keep people in. I don’t know of anybody who’s clamoring to get out of this country. That’s why we’re an exceptional nation — because we have had exceptional values, we have been willing and have had the means, we’ve been fortunate, and I believe that’s God’s will, that we’ve been fortunate enough to be in a position where we can help other nations — even if it means shedding our blood. And I think that’s very important. AB: When you say we’ve made some mistakes and you say... BB: Wars, battles, politics. I mean — like, if you want, the War in Vietnam. Should we have been in there at all? That’s questionable. The regime in South Vietnam was questionable. But the bottom line is, what I say, and I did fly in and out of Vietnam during the war by the way. But my question is, and my concern is, we went into Vietnam and we owe it to every one of our GIs, every man and woman that goes into Vietnam during that war, and puts themselves in harm’s way, to fire so many bullets at the enemy that they can’t lift their head and shoot back. And if we don’t want to give them that total support, then pull our troops out of there and then pick up your bongos and beat it. In other words, don’t fight wars for politics or political reasons. Life is too valuable. But, so that’s a controversial war. We were there — if we were going to be there we should have won the war. We should have made a concerted effort to win it and not politicize it. And I’m sure there’s been other political, and over the other 234 years, I’m sure we’ve made mistakes. But like I say, it’s a matter of averages and I think our average is very much on the plus side. And I’m proud of that. AB: So, when you talk about values shifting and that informing your conservatism. When did you see that start or when did you feel that happening? BB: You know it probably came with age. In looking at our business structure, our political structure from, shall we say, a more experienced eye and paying a bit more attention to things that are going on — I just feel that — I think our Founding Fathers did a fabulous job in setting up this republic. I think this Constitution that they drew up, defining the federal government’s position and the states’ position in our government was done beautifully and we have departed from it tremendously. Every day now — now it’s commonplace — as far as I’m concerned the Constitution is being abused. The laws are broken. One — I’ll just cite one thing very recently — government health care, socialized medicine. Where does it say in the Constitution that the federal government has the right to provide health care or control health care? And the Constitution says if it’s not specifically stated, it becomes a state right. Now, where does the federal government have the right to take over General Motors and get into the automotive business — getting in the banking business. That to me is a flagrant violation of the Constitution. AB: And switching gears slightly, talking about religion — you’re Jewish — was it a religious household you grew up in? BB: No. AB: Do you still consider yourself Jewish? BB: No, yeah I’m Jewish. Like I said, I volunteered to fight for the state of Israel. AB: Did you go over there by the way? BB: No, as a matter of fact within 12 or 14 — by the way the gentleman, in our first discussion on the phone, asked me how long it would take me to prepare to go. And I said about as long as it takes me to stick a toothbrush in my pocket. He did say he would call me back as soon as possible, which he did probably within 12 hours or less. He said things were starting to shift now a little bit and I still might be needed and if I would please be available. And fortunately I never had to go. Why did I do that? Because I grew up in a very non-Jewish neighborhood, a non-Jewish block in Jackson Heights — it was not a Jewish neighborhood. And when I was 11 years old, 1948, Israel first became a state. It’s the first time I’ve seen the Star of David flying in a national flag. Now, before that, in fact when that was occurring the so-called kids on my block, friends so to speak, we were young kids. I was taunted — “guns for the Arabs, sneakers for the Jews.” And when Israel in fact defeated the Arabs I came back to them and said where do you want those sneakers sent now? And I thought it was very important for a Jewish state to survive, especially after World War II and the Holocaust — a homeland. And I don’t want to get into politics as to who has a right to that area there, but I think it’s safe to say that the Jewish presence in that Middle Eastern part of the world has been historically defined for some 3,000 or 4,000 years. And — so that’s important to me. Yeah, I’m a Jew. I’m not ultra religious, far from it. And I do remember my mother telling me some stories about some experiences that she had and that my father had in their life — anti-Semitism and what have you. Not that forming the state of Israel ended it — it didn’t. But I think we’ve made the Jewish people have made a very specific presences. And regardless of what some of these militant Islamic states feel — the Jewish people have been basically very democratic and are facing horrendous lack of values on the part of their neighbors in the Middle East. And they have shown a phenomenal amount of tolerance. Other nations that have the power to do so, and Israel does have the power, could have literally destroyed some of these nations and they haven’t sought to do so. They’ve defended themselves when they’ve had to — but no, my religious. I’m not a religious person, but I know who I am. I would say to you or to anybody including myself, that if you are contemplating changing your religion, then before you can legitimately do that you must understand your own. In other words study your own — if you’re a Christian, whatever denomination, you should know it thoroughly before you consciously decide to leave it and go to some other religion. I would be responsible to do the same. The idea of changing religions — I am what I am and I don’t intend to change. AB: And, what kind of music do you like? BB: Well, I’m certainly — I like classical music — but not all classical music. I’m not into — I like large orchestral music. I like the type of classical music I really enjoy is lively — it’s lively music. It runs the whole gamut. I’m not into, what do you call it, small group. AB: Chamber music. BB: I like a little more lively. I like popular music — oh, Broadway music. But a lot of classical music has been integrated into Broadway. Back in the 1950s when rock and role first came out I liked some of it, not all of it. I like some jazz, although I’m not knowledgeable about it, I do like good jazz. My wife and I like to go up to Dallas and hear the Denton the North Texas jazz band. The lab band. Yeah we enjoy them when they put on a concert here it’s fun. I’m not a fanatic about it but I enjoy nice music. AB: And how about television, do you enjoy television? BB: I like History. I like good movies. When I say good movies I have to elaborate — I like some science fiction — I like some action movies, especially if they have some historical background. I’m not into the horror or junk, sensation movies just for the sake of sensationalism. AB: And how about books? BB: I used to read a lot. I haven’t in recent years because in 1990 I sort of had a little development with a little eye disease in my left eye and I lost part of the vision in my left eye — permanently. But I was able to continue flying by getting a formal waiver but the reading — I read varied books now. But I get tired, reading extensively and it’s a little difficult for me. I mean I still have good vision — I play racquetball five days a week, that’s a fast game. But reading, I used to enjoy a lot of fiction, mysteries. One of the series I really enjoyed was Hunt for Red October, what’s his name —Tom Clancy. I read all of his first four, five, six books. Things like that, but I do limit it now only because it’s a little uncomfortable. AB: What have been some books you’ve read in your life that have been formative for you? BB: I’ve read some historical books over the years concerning history — especially European history, because that precedes ours — and then eventually moving into, from the Western European theatre, and even Eastern European, with Russia and that area, into our own American history and the founding of our nation and what we did and the sacrifices we made in achieving the independence and the development of our nation. So I have come to admire, whether they be fact or fiction, some of the stories in that area — people’s willingness and to what ends they will go to preserve their freedoms and liberties and I have had some — I have personal friends that have suffered tremendously in war. I have quite a few friends of mine that were former POWs of the Vietnam War. One who’s a very close friend I have now — I play ball with — spent seven years as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton, and others that spent around the same amount of time. And these are average guys, people that have gotten caught up in things like this and yet they persevered and they sacrificed a tremendous amount in many ways for our countries and our people, and most of us they don’t know. [Bob’s phone rings.] AB: So we were just talking about the difficulty of the questions and this is another difficult one — but what does it mean to you to be an American? BB: Well, amongst other things, ever since I was a kid and I knew I was American and I knew America — I was born at the end of ‘36, so within four years we were involved in World War II, now I was only a kid. My uncle, my mother’s brother, as a pharmacist and he was drafted — went to OCS and was shipped over to the Pacific campaign. Starting out New Guinea and ending up in the Philippines and in fact he was standing on the beach at Lady Gulf when MacArthur came back. He said when he had to leave the Philippines I shall return, and he did return. And my uncle, in fact, I was told he was one of the officers who helped plan exactly where he would come ashore when he came back. And he was standing about 20 or 30 feet from MacArthur when he did so. So, as a kid, I don’t know how he did it, this was during the war, but we’d get packages and in this mail, these packages, amongst other things, there would be maybe some insignia — some American insignia, some Japanese insignia that were taken off uniforms and shell casings and stuff. So I was a young kid — that excited me. And then growing up we were a leading nation among nations in the world and I was proud of that fact. And what it means to me growing up is to enjoy the liberties and the quality of life we have in this country and all the things that go with being an American. When I started flying to Europe, which was 1962 — when I first started actually flying as a pilot to Europe the war had only been over for about 17 years — it was over in ‘45 and I started flying over there in ‘62. I saw some of the remnants of World War II and realized it in traveling around Europe that we had a great quality of life. Now, in the ensuing years we had somewhat equalized economically and so on and so forth, but for many, many years we were way above the rest of the world because they were re-building their countries, you know, especially in Western Europe because a lot of these countries were bombed and destroyed. And I saw that, a lot of that, in Europe — I saw that destruction. But I’m also proud that we played a great role in rebuilding Europe — the Marshall Plan, what have you. We’ve never been paid back for that — we’ve got a couple of trillion dollars due us that quite a few of these countries still owe us — and I think it’s time we collect [laughing]. No, but we’re very proud of where we’ve been as a nation. I think we’ve been very humanistic nation — a very compassionate nation. I can’t think of any general situations where the United States as a nation hasn’t been very compassionate and feeling in dealing with other nations — I really can’t. Even our enemies! We fought World War II — we occupied Japan during the war with General Macarthur in command, yet we helped rebuild Japan and as soon as it was practical we left — we no longer controlled it. We did so willingly. Germany — we helped rebuild Germany. So even our enemies we’ve been very good with — and rightfully so. Maybe in some cases I don’t think that the enemies deserved it — but in general I think we have a lot to be proud of, like I said, as a nation we have a tremendous amount to be proud of. That’s why it upsets me to have our president today go abroad and apologize for the mistakes we’ve made around the world. I think that is a crock of crap, simple put. That is despicable, and I think the great majority of people in America, if you asked them today, would agree with me. They are very upset that our representative, that our president would do such a thing. I don’t know where he’s coming from. AB: And, kind of the inversion of that question — what does it mean to be un-American to you? BB: Un-American. Well, do you mean as an American citizen — do you mean that if you as an American citizen what would it take for me to observe you and consider you un-American? As an American citizen? AB: Right, I mean ‘not-American’ would be somebody who’s, say, from Germany, has never been to America, is German, right? But un-American would be something along the lines you’re talking about. BB: Yeah, if I saw — I believe people who would work against the betterment of this country. Now I don’t mean differences of political opinions, but on the other hand — let’s put it this way, we are a republic. The foundation of our nation is the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and we have states’ rights. Let’s put it this way, if I saw an American person working to turn us into a socialist nation or a communist nation — in other words to weaken us, destroy us, sabotage us — that would be an un-American thing to do. To be a Democrat versus a Republican or as we saw Saturday or a Libertarian or whatever, that’s not un-American. That’s what America is — we’re a nation of different beliefs and feelings. Whether you’re liberal or conservative, that’s fine. But I believe we need to work together for the welfare of this country. AB: That’s interesting — as you mentioned we’re a nation of different political beliefs: liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat. But one of the things you say is un-American is socialism, which is a political belief. So I guess, what about socialism is something that you view as un-American as opposed to just a difference of political opinion? BB: It’s a difference in political opinion until you go about — I would object to a socialist trying to sabotage our republic, to weaken our Constitution and our way of government. Now, just having some socialist views, I mean as long as — you know like at one time in the ‘50s we had the McCarthy era, Communist Party, the witch hunts and everything else. Now, they were an arm of Soviet Russia. They were an enemy of the United States. And these people were people who were in actuality actively seeking to demean our nation in favor of communism. They’re un-American — they’re treasonous! That I don’t — I can’t include that in my, shall we say, views of having people, having it be perfectly okay to have a difference of opinion. I don’t think it’s a crime to have socialist, some socialist views or some socialist ideas. But we have what I think is the greatest nation and the greatest form of government on the fact of this planet and I would hate to see it destroyed from within. AB: So this is question I wish I could ask more people — you’re of an age where I can ask this and you might even remember — so back say in the ‘50s like you mentioned — socialism and communism were very much considered to be Soviet ties, right? BB: Absolutely. AB: Like you were saying with McCarthy — being a socialist back then meant being someone who was viewed as on the side of Russia, and therefore treasonous. BB: Communist — people didn’t talk about socialism back then. They talked about communism. And then communism was directly related to the Soviets, the Unions of Soviet Socialist Republics — the USSR. And I think some of our, shall we say, lawmakers and people who were involved in this, went overboard in demeaning the rights of Americans — accusing people of being communist. Like, let’s say you’re invited to go to a meeting — and this happened — hey they’re having a meeting here, somebody invited me, you want to go? And you go and it turns out to be a communist meeting. And you’re there and you sign an attendance sheet. The next thing you know you’re questioned about being a spy, a communist, being guilty of treason — stuff like that. It got pretty nasty. And so we, I think, went too far there, I think. But I certainly agree that people acting as communist agents — trying to literally destroy and undermine our government and our country — that to me is un-American. Very definitely. AB: But the question I was going to have, though, was given that — since it was tied to the Soviet Union back then, that’s another country, that’s subversion — how does that compare to now, when say there is no socialist or communist power that’s trying to subvert? How does that change your impression? BB: We have socialist governments in Europe. Okay, and they’re our allies — or semi-socialist style governments. And that’s why I say having socialist leanings or consideration, I don’t think is a crime. I’ll listen. In other words, if somebody has educated or deep feelings about socialism I’d like to hear it. I’d like to hear why or how socialism would be a better form of government in this country. Like, to be honest with you, I’ve had some experience traveling a lot to Europe. Socialist medicine — England, Ireland, in fact until recently this house right here, many years ago, I’m trying to think how many years ago, 15 maybe. A couple moved in and they were both physicians — MDs, husband and wife — and they were opening up a new practice over here [intersection omitted in consideration of privacy]. We got to know them just before they opened up the practice — they were born and raised in Ireland — educated in England and Ireland, and they practiced medicine in Europe and got so disgusted with socialized medicine that they went to Canada. And they had a very successful practice I believe in Toronto and then guess what? It followed them. So they came to this country, and they were excellent. They became not only our friends but our family physicians. And they were excellent physicians — they were educated very well. They did far more than you would expect a typical American GP to do. I have a tendency — a light complexion — for skin cancer, because as a kid I was out in the sun roasting. And just to give you an idea — anything I needed or my wife. If I had anything I wanted taken off I’d call them up and they’d say come over for four o’clock and they’d lay me down, they had a little operating thing there in their practice, and they’d take off the growths and send them out for biopsies and do everything that a dermatologist would do, and treat it accordingly. On the other hand, if I had a joint that might become inflamed and there was some question it might be gout — they wouldn’t hesitate to take a needle and go into my knee and take out fluid to send it out for culture — because that’s the only real true test of gout. One is a blood test, for high levels of uric acid, but that’s not a positive test of gout — it gives you a reason to be suspicious, but the true test is to take fluid out of an inflamed joint — do a culture on it and see if the gout crystals develop. Well after they left and went back to Europe I found another GP here right across Preston Road and I could walk to her office. Unfortunately one time I walked into her office with an inflamed knee and I wanted her — it was a Friday, and I asked her would you please take a fluid sample and send it out for a culture? She looked at me in shock — no, I can’t do that, I’d have to call an orthopedic specialist. And hang on a minute — she said, oh let me call. She said oh he can see you on Tuesday — it’s Friday, but Tuesday this thing’ll be gone. The bottom line is, what I’m pointing out is that these European doctors were very well-trained. But the medical system in socialized medicine in Ireland and England is pathetic. It is pathetic. They want us to revert to this? This is disgusting. In fact there was a hospital in downtown London called Staph General. Why? Because if you went into that hospital as a patient you were almost guaranteed to come out with a staph infection. If you had some cancer or you needed and MRI you might have to wait three, four months or five months, unless you were willing to pay a private clinic to do it, and then you were on your own — then you weren’t under socialized medicine — you had to pay through the arm. So the idea of going to this type of — just to me, like I said I believe it’s against the law. I believe it’s unconstitutional. And they know they’re doing this and they could care less. They took over General Motors! They didn’t hesitate for a moment. They take over banks. Where in the Constitution does it say that the federal government will be in the automobile business, in the banking business or the medical business? And you might say, rightfully so, you’re over 65, aren’t you on Medicare? Yeah, I am. Do I think it’s right? No, I don’t think I should be on a government health plan. Do we need changes in our health system, with insurance companies and the like? We have greed and corruption as I mentioned before — yeah there has to be changes. We have to allow insurance companies, or maybe even encourage insurance companies, to offer medical insurance in all states, so that there will be lots more competition and better rates. And we have to cut out the corruption that’s within our medical system now because of my knowledge not only with this couple — these physicians — but also because I have a cousin that was instrumental in a small syringe company here in Little Elm, Texas called Retractable Technologies — taking on the big boys in syringe manufacture and these companies that provide all the medical supplies to hospitals. They’re corrupt — they won’t let you in. You can’t provide services and material to these hospitals, even though this syringe with this retractable technology has the safety syringe. It’s the safest syringe in the world — in fact I could show you one. It actually. This is a syringe where you take it out of the wrapper and you take off the protective cover, plastic cover, and what you do is you — gee how does this work, I’ll have to get one. You take the needle, put it in the vial, take the fluid out of it, and now I’m going to inject the fluid into your arm. And I put it in your arm and I squeeze the syringe, injecting the fluid into your arm. But what I do now I keep squeezing, and I go a little bit beyond the empty position to the next detent and it literally retracts the needle out of your arm and into the body of the syringe, okay? Impossible to get an accidental needle stick — absolutely impossible. The only way you could possibly get it was if somebody went ballistic and before you could squeeze it or make it retract or they fought you and stuck you. But otherwise, 100 percent. You can’t do it. In fact I’ll show you one if you want — it’s amazing. Now, Becton Dickinson, the largest manufacturer of syringes in the world — they’re out of New Jersey — they’re spending millions to keep this company out of business. Well my cousin is a writer and an investigative reporter — lives in Manhattan. But he got a call from this company because he once did an article on them for Business Week about their product. And they called him and said would you consider coming to work with us as a public relations director? Well, he had just left Business Week and he never did anything like this but he went and worked for them for eight years and was instrumental in getting this whole thing on 60 Minutes and filing suits against Becton Dickinson as well as these purchasing agents. And I think they got judgments to the tune of $200 to 300 million because of what my cousin did. But he was the one who educated me as to how corrupt these purchasing agents and companies like Becton Dickinson are. Yeah there’s problems with our medical system — there’s corruption in it, there’s problems with it — do I want to change it? It needs a Band-Aid, it doesn’t need an amputation. Now that’s my opinion but I revert — I go one step further. Others might feel otherwise, but I go back to where does it provide within the confines of our laws to allow this? The federal government to get in the health business — I’ve read the Constitution backwards and forwards several times — I don’t see any place where it specifies that the federal government is allowed to be in the auto business, banking business, medical business, health care business. I have problems with this. AB: So changing gears again. Do you feel a stronger cultural identification with your country, state, class, religious group, ethnic group, etc? BB: That’s a difficult question — I don’t know that I feel any real allegiance to any more to my country than to my state — because I actually put the two together. Look, I’m a New Yorker. I was born and raised a New Yorker in New York. But the bottom line is I’ve lived in the state of Texas for 23 years — I admire the state of Texas; I’m a Texan. I respect the state of Texas and I respect its position within the confines of this union. It’s part of the federal system, the federal government, the state government, local government, city government, you’ve got an election here for governor and you’ve got Perry against White and you did have Medina. Now Medina, my wife and I went to the first debate when the three of them were debating — and we went down here to Trinity Mills, there’s a restaurant, I think Buffalo Grill, and they opened it up to this talk radio show and invited people in for $10 you get to come in, sit down, order food and listen on TV listen to the debate. We did that and it was a packed house — I don’t know what the capacity is, 100, 200 people, 300. I don’t know. Anyway, the debate was over and the talk show host came up — I don’t know who it was, I don’t know him. Anyway he came up and said just by a show of applause or whatever, I’d like to get your ideas of who you thought won. Now the first name they called out was Kay Bailey Hutchison and nothing. And the second one was Perry and there was some applause, you know. Then they called out Medina’s name and the crowd roared — and my wife and I agreed, she won it hands down. We were very impressed with her. And there was somebody there — she was running as a Republican actually; she wasn’t running as anything else. And we were very impressed with her. In fact my wife agreed to take a sign, I think, and put it in our front lawn. I don’t think we ever did it — or do something. Anyway, we took a sign but we didn’t actually put it out — I don’t know why — but anyway, as you know she started climbing the polls and she was creeping right up the behind of Kay Bailey Hutchison. And she was about to pass Kay Bailey, I’m sure of it. But then she was interviewed by Glenn Beck and I listened — I didn’t listen to it at that time, but I listened to it later and he did not set her up or anything else. He started off by saying hey there’s been some talk about, I don’t know what she was talking about some kind of conspiracy or something, and she sort of chuckled, and he said then well let me ask you directly, do you think the government had any part in the bringing down of the World Trade Center? And then she went into this thing about there’s a lot of evidence to that effect and for three or four days she stuck to that story. Finally somebody hit her with that hammer and she said, oh I didn’t mean that. Forget it; she was down the tubes. I understand she has libertarian background, but she wasn’t running as a libertarian candidate. But hey, we thought she had a lot going for her. But she ended it — people are not looking for that, that radical — like what we heard Saturday. We can get to that a bit more in a little bit when you get what you need to. But some of these conspiracy theories — I can give you a little idea on some of it. But Medina sunk herself. AB: Kind of a follow-up question — so you volunteered to fight in the Yom Kippur War for Israel. You’ve also expressed a lot of sincere feelings in being an American and what that means to you. How — not that they’re irreconcilable — but how do you reconcile that dual sense? Is one stronger than the other? BB: Israeli versus American? AB: Right, Israeli or Jewish versus American. BB: No, no. No I have — like I say I feel very strongly about the state of Israel and I feel obviously very strongly about the United States of America. I feel that Israel is the strongest ally that the United States has anywhere in the world — not only a more reliable ally, but in the Middle East the only real true ally. I think president Obama is doing everything he can do destroy the relationship between the United States and Israel. I happen to think very possibly that president Obama is very sympathetic to the Islamic cause. I don’t know to what degree, but I know he has an educational background in the Pacific — he went to an Islamic school for three or four years, studied over there. And in fact I’ve heard and seen on documents, seen him say in certain documents that his religious faith back then as a youngster he was Islamic — he was a young man, but I don’t know. I can’t distinguish between American and Jewish — Jewish is a religion. I do feel very strongly towards Israel as a Jewish state but I’m an American first. [Block’s friend motions to stop the recording. Recording re-starts mid-thought, with Block discussing Kennedy and the role of religion in seeking the presidency.] BB: ... Catholic president that the Vatican would be running the American government. We also had with Romney — now I think very highly of Romney. I think he’s a very bright man, very articulate, a good leader. But, I don’t know to what degree it hurt him the fact that he was a Mormon. I voted for Kennedy, so obviously the argument that the Vatican would be running the United States government didn’t affect me anymore than I think Mr. Romney would be influenced in any way by the fact that he’s a Mormon. Now the Mormon religion, church of the Latter Day Saints, is probably one of the least known general religions in this country. I’ve spent some time in Salt Lake City, I’ve had some opportunities to go over to the Mormon Tabernacle — many years ago — and they had these film classes you could walk into and sit down and learn a little something, which I did. This was years ago, in the early ‘70s — I’d arrived in Salt Lake City at noon — what do you do in Salt Lake City at noon? And so I go there and if I was really lucky, I love to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — they used to broadcast on WOAR in New York, Sunday mornings I think, if I’m not mistaken 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning. I liked to listen to them, so if I was lucky I’d get to Salt Lake City and I’d go to the tabernacle and they’d be practicing. You know, I don’t — with certain reservations — religion doesn’t enter into my concerns about political candidates or anything. AB: And I hadn’t meant to imply — so there’s kind of the Jewish religion versus Jewish culture or Jewish nationalism — I mean I know that they’re intertwined, but some people draw a distinction between the two and I didn’t know if you did. BB: No, I don’t. In fact, my wife is not Jewish — she’s Christian, she’s a Catholic, and in fact with the problems that the church has had in recent years with pedophiles and this and that, my wife was very discouraged. She’s a second generation Italian — her parents came from Italy. And big family, big Italian family, Catholic — and my wife was very upset with what was going on with the church and she actually — I remember sitting here at this table one day, sitting right here and seriously considering giving up her Catholic faith and going to a different Christian church. Prestonwood Baptist was one consideration — we’d been up there many times for different things and she enjoyed that and other churches. And I told her — I said look, before you really seriously consider changing your religious faith, you must understand that regardless of how bad this gets within the Catholic church, that these crimes are the crimes of man, not the religion. They — even if it goes right up to the Pope, he is a man. The priests, the bishops, the cardinals, they are men and women in the church. If they falter or fail you that’s one thing, but that’s human error. That’s not the faith itself. And I would be very reluctant and think very hard before you give up something that you’ve been born into and lived your whole life with. To make a long story short she’s still a member of a Catholic church and she — my wife is what I would consider not only a good person but a good Christian — what a good Christian should be. And she takes it seriously, and so no, my religion is — I’m proud of the Jewish heritage. I’m aware of some Jewish history, which some of it is pretty bleak, you know, over 2,000 years and even beyond. But no, I’m an American first and I had the opportunity — when I was in the Air Force I didn’t fight any wars. I was on active duty for three years and there were no wars during that period of time — later on, in the 60s, in flying with the airlines, as many airlines were doing, the airlines were providing the main air lift into Vietnam — troops, supplies, equipment. And I was flying out of a lot of these places in Vietnam. And you know, I didn’t enjoy it, going into these combat zones, but it’s what I did — that was my job. I did have the opportunity if I felt so upset I could have quit — but this was my career so I did it. And I had the opportunity to see a lot of things while doing it. But, no I have a lot of pride in being an American and part of that pride is knowing that American doesn’t mean just being a white Anglo-Saxon protestant or a white Jewish person or something or a black or Hispanic. I do resent the effort by some in the Hispanic community that would associate some sort of resentment towards the Hispanic community because I feel the boarders should be sealed and preserved and the illegal people deported. My feelings about that have nothing to do with the Hispanic people — even those that are illegal I don’t look upon them as dangerous criminals, but they’re here illegally. And they are sapping our resources in a tremendous way and I don’t think it’s right. And the rest of the world — I know for a fact — is laughing at us. I know because I’ve spent so much time in other countries, and how they treat people who are in their countries illegally. In fact, Mexico. If you’re in Mexico and you’re caught entering the country illegally, like from the South — you’re treated very harshly. If you’re lucky you end up in some Mexican prison, if not worse. And if you’re an American living in Mexico as an ex-pat in some of these American communities. If you take a part-time job in Mexico and you don’t have a permit to do so you’re going to get thrown into jail. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. So I sort of resent the President Calderon coming into the United States and addressing Congress and reading us the riot act on how we’re treating Hispanics. I don’t see that! I don’t see; I mean you’ve heard and I’ve heard this ‘wetbacks’ and all this ‘spics’ and all these names — and I know that Hispanic people were discriminated against not only in the Southwest but also all over — like everybody else has been discriminated against. Is it wrong? Absolutely. Do I condemn it? Absolutely. In fact when I hear these kind of remarks about any group of people it sort of makes my skin crawl. I just don’t have any place for it. Maybe it was my parents — like I said I can’t speak of my father because I didn’t have much intercourse with him, but my mother certainly was very open about that. I mean my mother owned a business for 30 years in New York, in Forrest Hills, Queens Boulevard. To give you an idea — I don’t know if you have any interest, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Did you ever hear of Ralph Bunche? Dr. Ralph Bunche was a black man — secretary general [sic] of the United Nations in the ‘50s. He lived in Forest Hills and guess what? He had the audacity to apply for membership in the West Side Tennis Club — now are you familiar with the West Side Tennis Club? AB: I’ve heard of it I think. BB: Okay, the West Side Tennis Club is in Forrest Hills, behind Continental Avenue — if you go south on Queens Boulevard past Continental Avenue you run into the West Side Tennis Club. They used to put on the U.S. Open, on grass — for years, for their history. Very, very WASP organization. Dr. Bunche and his wife applied for membership — he lived in Forrest Hills. Secretary General of the United Nations. They refused his membership. Well, there was an uproar in New York and all the surrounding area — maybe in the rest of the country, I don’t know — but the bottom line is there was so much uproar that the West Side Tennis Club said oh, this is just a clerical error. By all means, Dr. Bunche would be welcome. Well, Dr. Bunche said thank you but no thank you. And right after that, my mother used to supply trophies to the West Side Tennis Club — she was in the jewelry and gift business. Right after that, the president of the women’s club of the West Side Tennis Club came into my mother’s store — in one of the front windows of my mother’s store was a very nice photograph of Dr. Ralph Bunche, “To Goldie, A good friend, best wishes, Dr. Ralph Bunche.” It was very prominently — for years — in one of her front windows. Well this woman, the president of this women’s club of the West Side Tennis Club, came in one day and she told my mother in no uncertain terms that under the circumstances maybe it’d be good for her not to have that picture there — and according to my mother, she told me that at that moment she told that woman that she wasn’t good enough to kiss that man’s ass, and that if she didn’t like it don’t let the door hit her in the ass on the way out the door. So you get an idea where my mother — now my mother has a man who did floor waxing. A lot of the business on Queens Boulevard — he’s a black man. And I’d met him many times because I’d come in the store and I’d see him — a nice man. He had two daughters and he used to invite my mother — he lived in South Jamaica, which is a predominantly black area. And he always invited my mother to come because his kids were young and growing up and they were talented and to come to his church and see his daughters perform or something in the neighborhood. So at some point my mother gave up driving — it didn’t make sense, she lived in Jackson Heights, took the subway to Forrest Hills when she gave up her car. So guess who the chauffeur was if I was around? Me. So I used to take her on Sundays for one of these concerts — I’d take her and drop her off and pick her up later and so on and so forth. And she did that for years — that’s the kind of woman she was. She didn’t look at this man and his family as just black people — he was a businessman that did business with my mother. He waxed the floors in my mother’s store and she respected him and she liked his family and his daughters and she went to these concerts — she didn’t give a shit what people thought or cared about. I mean, that’s just the reality of it, that’s who she was. And I suspect that — and by the way, in his day, my father was a pretty successful guy. He made signs for movies. It was not printing, but embossing — and I won’t go into detail. But he used to make — the old movie theatres used to have a ticket counter, and then they had glass cases outside and you’d have pictures — Coming Attractions: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. My father made those signs and shipped them to movie theatres all over the country — even in the ‘20s. And even during the Depression people liked the movies because for a nickel they could go in and get a little entertainment — take the burdens of the world off their shoulder. And my father did that, and he made a very good living. And I know when my mother and father were married in 1926, they lived very well and they traveled around, they knew a lot of people, celebrities and stuff. They did some interesting things until I came along 10 years later and slowed them down a little bit — but they did. But I think my father was probably very much like my mother. I can’t really be as specific about him. He was born in 1881 — 16 years after the Civil War ended. If he were alive today he’d be 129 years old. And they were interesting people, my parents. Like I said, by the time I got to be 9, 10 or so his health started — he had emphysema, long time, life-time smoker. But anyway, no they were the kind of people — I grew up in an element even as a young adult — and there was the time I bought my first house when I became a captain I lived in Elmhurst by the way when I first got married — on Elmhurst Avenue, Broadway. And in 1968 we bought our first home, moved out to Westbury Long Island, that area, and a lot of the people we socialized with were Jewish, because it was a big Jewish community out there but I must tell you, to be honest with you, when I heard Jews talking in derogatory terms about other people, non-Jews or blacks or something — it didn’t make me. I didn’t feel comfortable with them either. That always graded on me. I didn’t like getting called names and I didn’t like — I grew up — well, I give my parents credit for formulating my initial values and just basic common sense, maybe on my part to some degree, just common sense in maintaining these values. AB: And changing topics again, what is your primary source of news? BB: Oh, oh, are you kidding? There’s only one source of news! AB: And what source is that? BB: Oh come on, do I have to tell you? You’ve already written it down — how did you spell it; it’s a three-letter word. Fox. AB: So there’s only one? BB: No — we have a serious situation, I make light of it, in this country. We have a mainstream media is very left wing, very biased and they no longer report the news. And to me, while Fox News can be slanted to, they have some good people that I believe report the truth. Now, some of the — Rush Limbaugh comes to mind, he’s a big guy so he’s a big target, but the bottom line is that the man is extremely bright. He must have an excellent research department. And I think what he generally talks about and what he states is the truth. And some of the other Fox News people — but I subscribe to the Dallas Morning News, and what else do I? I’ll tell you the truth, I only listen to so much Fox News — my wife listens to a lot of it. I’ll tell you why I don’t listen to too much of it. Because while I do believe, and I can distinguish, not that I have to very often — I think that basically the people on Fox News are trying to tell the truth. But, I turn it off because it can get to you. Because there’s a tremendous amount of conflict in this country now — just on a day-to-day basis. It manifests itself in many ways with many people — whether it’s just road rage or hypertension. People are really upset about the status of this country. There’s a lot of conflict — a lot of people hated Bush, and they hated him to the point where they blame him for everything and they’d vote in a monkey or a chimpanzee rather than have George Bush. That type of hate and conflict I thin is very detrimental to our country in many ways. But I don’t want to listen to too much of that. I listen to music a lot on the radio — I love, what is it, 96.7, KLUV — I listen to that, oldies and mixture. But I do that intentionally. AB: To get away from the news saturation. BB: Yeah, I don’t want to get saturated, but we do have a problem here. Where would you — I’m going to ask you a question. Where would you go to get true news reporting? AB: I don’t believe in objectivity in news reporting — I don’t think it can exist, everybody comes with their own pre-existing biases. So I think the only way to get at the truth of what news is to read very widely. BB: Like what? AB: Well, look at everything from overtly conservative stations such as Fox, Drudge Report to Huffington Post... BB: ABC, NBC, CBS. AB: NBC, CBS, ABC — I don’t even really watch because I don’t own a television. But in terms — I read the Times, I read... BB: The Wall Street Journal? AB: I’ll occasionally read the Journal — I don’t have a subscription to it though. BB: I like, in fact I may — I think it’s a good paper. ... [A portion of the conversation is here omitted due to the participation of one of Block’s friends, who declined to officially participate in the interview.] AB: What was the primary factor that got you involved in the Tea Party movement? I know you said for a while that you weren’t too involved in politics. What got you involved? BB: The direction of this administration — the direction that they’re taking. And up until that time, that the Tea Party came into existence, most American conservative or concerned people in America felt that they had no voice because the mainstream media wasn’t going to speak for them. And there was a few like Fox News and some smaller entities — but the bottom line is the American people, those that were concerned, felt who’s going to speak for them? And all of a sudden — the best way I can explain it to you is, I have a friend of mine who’s the ultimate pessimist. He calls me every morning. I know this guy since 1965, okay? 45 years — he’s also a retired pilot. The ultimate pessimist, he calls me in the morning before I leave for racket-ball to tell me the bad news of the day. But I’m not — and I’m not the ultimate optimist, but I say to him my favorite saying to this fellow is, hey, Ken, listen to me. You never know what’s coming over the hill tomorrow. Well, before this Tea Party started — and it came out of nowhere, just a bunch of people who were frightened and upset, just American good old-fashioned American people who wanted to try to do something, and they came out of nowhere. And I said to my friend Ken — two weeks ago or a month ago would you have thought there was going to be something called the Tea Party? I said, Ken, you never know. And it maybe, just may be God’s work. And I’ll tell you the next thing that happened. Want to know the next thing that happened? ACORN. ACORN. To me that’s an insult to the American people and who — this is the right arm of Obama, he worked with them as a community activist and what have you and they’re accused of voter fraud in 18 states and all this other crap. But they’re being funded millions and millions of dollars — and who would have thought anything could slow them down? But the all of a sudden, same thing, Ken calls me — I said Ken, who would have thought that two young kids, in their early 20s, with a camera and a microphone could have brought these people to their knees? At least temporarily — and then again, you never know what’s coming over the hill tomorrow. And maybe, maybe it’s the work of God. AB: You mentioned that people were very fearful and upset — what do you think in particular? Because people have been fearful for years, right? During the Clinton administration there was somewhat of a backlash against his policies and things, what do you think cause this specific movement to rise up when it did? Was ACORN the thing that got you involved? BB: No, not ACORN alone — this administration. President Obama and the people he’s bringing into his cabinet — former terrorists, the Wright, Reverend Wright. Obama admits he sat in that man’s church for 20 years and says he didn’t hear a racial epithet or anything racial in his preaching. Barack Obama, to the best of my knowledge, does not, is not hearing impaired — or his wife. And this was his mentor, and I use his own words. Reverend Wright was a mentor of his? I’m sorry. People got very concerned — he comes into office and right away he starts with the banks and this and that and we’re going down a very slippery slope and people were really starting to get fearful of what this man was doing. And that’s where — I told you before. I felt that it’s absurd to nominate this man as president — he was hiding his background, whatever it may be. Even his citizenship comes under question. And I think there may be some valid reason to question that — but that’s neither here nor there. But everything with him is a secret. And the people he associates with and the community advisor — I mean that business. But the bottom line is people were upset, they were frightened — that’s where the Tea Party came from. Fear — being frightened — being concerned about the direction this country was taking, and that’s really where — where else did the Tea Party come from? You know, there’s an old Jewish saying — we refer to these people altakakas — the old people — where do these people come from? They’re just basic people. These are not radical people. These are not, you know, racist bigots. They’re not, what do you call some of these far right people in the hills. AB: The militia? BB: Right, the militia, you know the craziest and stuff — these are just John Q Public, like Joe the Plummer. Why did Barack Obama — I mean it didn’t mean anything per se, but Barack Obama was showing his true colors when he attacked that man right in his own neighborhood right in front of his own house. But the man asked a simple question and Barack Obama came down on him — well the bottom line is Joe the Plummer is a Tea Partier. I mean seriously! When I voted for president, I voted for John McCain. Let me tell you right up front I was very upset with my choice. AB: Who did you support in the primary? BB: God, there was such a list of them. I — you know, I don’t really know. I had not settled in on one, but I did not want John McCain. By the way — you know John McCain was a POW, he was shot. And I happened, like I said, I’m quite friendly with quite a few POWs that shared some cell space with John McCain at the Hanoi Hilton. And I’m going to tell you something, some of the people I used to speak to about McCain long before he was running for president or anything. When I would ask them about John McCain they never said a derogatory thing about him but they weren’t quick to make any positive statements about him. And some of these people I have a high regard for. And I don’t think — I have no reason to believe that John McCain did anything or created any dishonor to his service as a POW — in fact he was pretty severely hurt and had an opportunity to be free because his father was an admiral and the North Vietnamese wanted to make some points and they offered to release him. And he said I’m not going home until my comrades go home, which was commendable on his part. But I don’t think he was any shining knight. [Bob’s phone rings.] BB: I’ll be the first to admit — now I have a tremendous regard for Sarah Palin, because she’s a very multi-faceted person. Is she a rocket scientist? Is she as bright as me? Not even close, but I’m a genius. No seriously, all kidding aside, she’s not a rocket scientist. She’s a bright woman. She’s a hardworking woman. She has great values, I think, as a person — great family values. She is driven. She has accomplished a lot to fight her own party, the Republican Party, and win the governorship up there and clean out the corruption there — which some of it was the result of her own party. And she was doing, I think, a very commendable job as governor, and when she came in as VP running mate with John McCain, I had known a little bit about her before and I was very pleased and still think that this woman would be a great asset to this country. The belittling and the harassing by the left wing, of this woman, having 30 or 40 reporters up there looking for any piece of crap or dirt on her — they certainly didn’t do that to any of the liberal candidates or anything, but the bottom line is I think this woman has great potential. And to be honest with you, given a little, shall we say not training but a little on-the-job training, she’d make a great president or VP — anything she did I feel 150 percent confident that this woman would do the best possible job she could do. She’s a highly motivated and driven woman. And with her values she would do what she possibly could do to influence in a positive way this country. Would she be 100 percent correct and make no mistakes? Probably not; she’s a human being. I haven’t elevated her to sainthood yet. But seriously, I think this idea that she’s just some dumb broad who doesn’t know — bullshit. Bullshit! And she has more assets than this president Obama has or will ever have. He’s not a stupid man, don’t get me wrong. But she has a lot of things going for her that I don’t think president Obama will ever have. And she has a rare combination — I think she has a dedication, a motivation, a drive. And she has the family values — and they’re, when I say family values, they’re fairly simple. It is what we are — this is what America is. I think this is what the heartland of America is. And this is what I think you — and I don’t know your family background — but I think basically this is what I was, this is what Michael is and probably what you are. AB: When you say family values, what do you mean? BB: I mean just good, sensible, simple family values — hard work, no entitlements, just good hard work. You succeed when you make the effort. Your basic core values based on whatever your religious beliefs are. You know, I mean, respecting your fellow man and trying to do best for your neighbor as well as for yourself. You know, I don’t have to elaborate on what family values are — I’m sure that probably you and your family and most American people share these values. And she exemplifies what they are. And I think, in fact I’m convinced, that she’s extremely sincere in those values and what she says. I don’t think she’s working as a, shall we say, a tainted politician. I don’t think that’s what she is. I don’t think that’s what she’s about. I think what you see is what you get — and I like what I see. — Interview conducted by A.J. Bauer —

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