The New Fight for Freedom

COMMENTARY Conservatism

The New Fight for Freedom

Jun 14, 2023 34 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Kevin D. Roberts, PhD

President

Heritage Trustee since 2023
CRobertson/Getty Images

The American political landscape has undergone a radical transformation in the last few years. Gone are the days of "may the best idea win." Instead, Americans have been left with a system mirroring the banana republics of Central America, in which the long arm of the law is arrayed against the government's opponents.

Gene Hamilton—Vice President and General Counsel of America First Legal—joins The Kevin Roberts Show for a conversation on our new system of government, and what Americans can do to fight back against this encroachment on their freedom.

Conservatives are going on offense, and Americans like Hamilton are leading the charge.

Gene Hamilton: There really are two standards of justice, as you said, and it depends on who you are. And if you’re an opponent of the elite and this liberal elite ruling class that we have in this country today and you threaten what they stand for, they will stop at nothing to tear you down.

Kevin Roberts: Welcome back to The Kevin Roberts Show. Here we are in the middle of 2023, in the middle of a year in when we’re in the process of taking this country back, and that’s what this episode is about. We have a very special guest here. Every guest on this show is special, but this guest is particularly special because when you talk about men and women who are implementing the plan to revitalize this country, to do what I call as a football fan, the blocking and tackling of putting the country back together, this gentleman, although he would take no credit for it, is vital to it.

And so we’re going to talk about some plans that he and Heritage and a bunch of people across the conservative movement have been working on. But first let me introduce and get kind of the personal story of our Heritage friend, Mr. Gene Hamilton, Vice President and General Counsel of America First Legal. Thanks for being here.

Hamilton: Thanks for having me. Absolutely.

Roberts: So Gene, we are going to talk about this, people who have the good sense to watch this, rather than just listen to it, they’re going to see Project 2025, the Mandate for Leadership. But you don’t have to be watching in order to appreciate that we’re going to talk about the whole project. We’re going to talk about the chapter that you spearheaded on the Department of Justice. So anyone who’s tuning in, who’s really interested in not just us complaining about what’s wrong, but us talking about how we’re going to solve the problem of the administrative state, this is the episode to tune into. But as you know, because you now live in Georgia, from this southerner, we always have to get everyone’s story. So how in the wide world of sports did you end up sitting with me in the middle part of 2023? Why do you do what you do?

Hamilton: That’s a great question, Kevin. And I think at this point in my life, looking at the world, surveying the world, I have to routinely ask myself, “How did I get here? What in the world am I doing in this place?” But it’s been incredible honor and a privilege to be a part of starting America First Legal, serving during the Trump administration, and serving in a lot of roles before that, all of which I think in my mind have been geared towards making the world a better place and to restoring things like the rule of law and pursuing justice. And it’s just been an incredible blessing.

As somebody who is constantly trying to think about what is the greater meaning of this moment in our time and in our history, and am I doing what’s right, and am I pursuing what God is intended for me to do? And again, I keep coming to the point where God puts people in certain places at certain points in time to do things and to do bold things, and things seem to be working out right now as far as that goes. And so it’s been great.

Roberts: Well, America First Legal is one of the new very good vital entities on the political right in the United States. Tell us why you started it and the kind of work that you do.

Hamilton: Absolutely. So Stephen Miller and I... Stephen’s our president... we lived every day during the Trump administration. We joke that we couldn’t hold a press conference without there being a lawsuit to stop it from happening.

Roberts: It’s unfortunately true.

Hamilton: I mean it really is. It’s no exaggeration. Every time we tried to do something to implement a lawful policy, particularly the area of immigration where Congress passed laws by significant bipartisan majorities, and you have an executive branch that was not doing its job. And so instead, if you were a rule-of-law person, if you were a person who believes that what Congress puts on paper and passes and the President signs has to mean what it says and that you have a duty to enforce it and to carry it out, you were disappointed as a human being for a long time until the Trump administration. Until we start trying to actually do the things that Congress said need to be done. And yet every time we tried to do something, again we were sued and enjoined, all kinds of personal consequences, lawsuits against us in our personal capacities, all kinds of things.

We said, “Well, why is it that when there’s a Republican president, why is it when there’s a Republican kind of administration in office, we are constantly in court, we’re constantly getting stopped. Yet when the shoe’s on the other foot and there’s a liberal administration, there’s not the same kind of pushback. There’s not the same kind of momentum killers and kind of fight for what’s right.”

There’s been great organizations and there are great organizations that are out there that have been doing a good job, but a lot of the times they’re more kind of issue-focused, issue-specific. And nobody really was taking kind of the approach that, say, the ACLU does on the left, which was not always such a far left organization. But to go ahead and kind of take on what needs to be done and to advance America First principles and to advance conservative values across the country on whatever the issue may be, and to do so boldly, and to be aggressive, and to go on offense and not always be on defense.

And so we started the organization and it’s been a wild ride ever since. We do everything from challenging unlawful Biden administration regulations to suing universities and corporations that are engaging in discrimination. You name the issue and we seem to have our hands in it at the moment, which is great. It’s a real blessing.

Roberts: Well, I will say this and very sincerely, both from my time leading Texas Public Policy Foundation and also my tenure here at Heritage, that America First Legal is vital to the American right. And that is absolutely no disrespect to other organizations that are also focused on filing lawsuits on behalf of truth and conservative values. The point is we need more of them.

And what we at Heritage, particularly like about America First Legal is your mindset, that you want to be on offense. And in fact, I think the example you used about taking the approach of the modern ACLU, but obviously ideologically on the right, is what’s needed. That so many times well-intentioned conservatives, I mean really good people, these are our friends and allies, are too passive. They think that perhaps in a year or five years things are going to kind of settle down, or that when our men and women are in elective office, whether they’re mayors or governors or presidents of the United States, that they can play nice with the radical left.

And what I realized during the last administration, and I think this should be true for anyone regardless of what they think about President Trump as a candidate in 2024. I think this is a fact about the radical left, is that the time for playing nice with the left, especially in the courtroom is history. It’s not the present and it’s not the future. And in a lot of ways that’s governing what Heritage in this season of our life is doing. But the point of all of that is to say that America First Legal as it relates to the courtroom is really leading the way. So what’s your biggest success, whether it’s an example of a particular case, or the kind of case that you think really exemplifies this idea of being on offense?

Hamilton: Yeah, so there’s a few, I guess I could point to. Some of our early victories as an organization were against Biden administration programs that discriminated against Americans based on the color of their skin. And again, it was something that I didn’t think I would ever see growing up in America. I thought we were on this upward arc of progress towards treating people equally and correcting things in the past and going to a place where, as a society, we were in pursuit of true equality.

Yet you wake up one day and you realize that Congress passed a law that Biden signed that provided farm loan forgiveness to farmers and ranchers across America, but not if you were white. And I’m sorry that’s just, it’s unlawful. It’s just unquestionably unlawful. Federal law that’s been on the books for decades prohibits it. Similar program with the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Similar type of a thing with the Small Business Administration. We were able to sue on behalf of private clients and get those programs stopped. And it was tremendous victories.

And then the next big victory that I think that we had starting in the fall of 2021 was our defense of the Texas Heartbeat Act and the work that we did there that I think really helped pave the way and clear the way for a much greater decision, pro-life decision from the Supreme Court just last year.

So it’s everything from there to, we’re fighting every day in courts representing courageous state attorneys general who are trying to stop this administration from enacting its lawless immigration policies on the American people, to taking private corporations on who thinks that it’s okay to hire and fire and make employment decisions based on the race or the sex of their employees, which is just wrong. I mean, it’s just, again, categorically wrong. You have to treat people equally. You have to hire people based on merit.

These are things that were not controversial. And yet almost every major corporation and almost every major university and organization right now is making decisions based on quotas. And you have managers of corporations who don’t get their annual bonus if they don’t get their quota for their workforce put in place. And again, that’s just wrong. You cannot balance a workforce, a student body, or anything of the sort to look like the community in which you are without engaging in kind of invidious discrimination against people. Because for every person that you say, “I want to hire a person of this characteristic or this characteristic,” that means you’re closing your eyes to people who are of other characteristics who might even be better candidates.

And so ultimately what matters is equality. It’s merit. We’re doing a lot in this space. We’re trying to advance the ball. And I think that you’re going to see a lot more from us as we pursue this fight for equality for the American people.

Roberts: Well, I surely hope so. And just to key in on the first part of what you said about the arc of history. We all recognize that America as a society filled by definition with humans is imperfect. And it’s been particularly imperfect in certain chapters of our past and yet it’s inescapable. Just objectively it’s inescapable if you look at the opinion of Americans, that from our founding in the late 1700s to the 21st century, that this is a society that has desired to improve, in particular the equality of opportunity. So thank you for your work there. It leads me to a question that’s very much related, although I’m afraid it’s an even larger kind of Pandora’s box, and that is the Department of Justice.

Hamilton: Oh boy.

Roberts: Yeah, I know the Department of Justice is of course very much involved in the issue of inequality of injustice, unfortunately. That’s not being pejorative, it’s just true. So I’d love for you to speak about that generally, but it’s also the subject of where you’ve come to focus on this project, the Mandate for Leadership book, but more broadly, the Presidential Transition Project. That is the project of the entire conservative movement. This isn’t just a Heritage or America First Legal project, although y’all are vital. This is something on behalf of the entire movement.

You have really spearheaded the DOJ component. And so speak to us about both that component, but also why just in case there’s someone in the audience who doesn’t yet understand this, why the Department of Justice is such an enemy to the everyday American.

Hamilton: Well, those are really good questions and important questions for your viewers and listeners to understand. Because the Department of Justice has a real leading role. It should have a real leading role in fighting for actual justice and for actual equality and to defend the rule of law in the United States, and to strive for these goals of impartiality. And in truth what you see instead is contrary to what Merrick Garland said in his testimony before the Senate when he was going through confirmation hearings about there not being one standard for Republicans, another standard for Democrats. What the American people see is they see a weaponized Department of Justice. They see a Department of Justice that decides that FBI agents apparently need to go... The greatest threat facing America are people who like to protest outside of abortion clinics.

We have cartels under control apparently. We have terrorism fixed. We have every major crime, violent crime, everything’s completely under control. And now the most important thing for the entire federal government to focus on is going to pro-life centers and going after people for exercising their lawful rights to protest. And you see this, or you see the infamous memo that was issued in October of 2021 that said that there was supposedly this huge wave of threats against school board members. And so now we have to set a national policy from the Department of Justice that says, “Oh, well, there’s a lot of people who are there, so we need to set up all these task forces and all these teams to monitor this violence and this threat of violence against school board members, these public servants who are doing their jobs.”

And you sit there and you’re like, “Well, wait a second. Where is this epidemic? Where’s this wave of violence coming from? This whole thing doesn’t make sense. How has this happened that the National School Board Association sends a letter to the President of the United States on a Friday and by the following Monday or Tuesday, the Attorney General of the United States has issued an entire policy memorandum for one of the largest cabinet agencies that’s out there.” Something doesn’t add up here. Something’s not right.

And so the focus of this chapter and the broader focus for the American people, especially with transition stuff, is to restore the department to its core functions and to its core competencies. And that includes, in particular the FBI of course, which has strayed a long ways away from its original kind of focus and mission. But what the Department of Justice does affects everything the executive branch does. They’re the ones that are defending your policies in court. They’re the ones that are going on offense in terms of enforcing the laws that were passed by Congress.

And what the American people see, again, is a department that has just been completely and totally weaponized and transformed where they feel like... And you can look at the surveys, you can look at the polls. This is not a Republican and Democrat type of an issue. This is an American people, red, white, and blue issue where people recognize that that department is not what it was. It is not unbiased and that it is enacting, it is carrying out policies to favor its political allies. And it is using its tools and the things that are available to it to go after its political opponents. And that’s what we see in banana republics. That’s what we see in the Third World. And we never thought we would see in America, but here we are.

Roberts: We are. And I lament saying this. I know you well enough to know that you do too. This isn’t something that you say or I say as partisan hacks. In fact, quite the opposite. We would look forward to the day when, to your point about public opinion on the Department of Justice, both people on the left, people on the center, people on the right, have faith in it. Right?

Hamilton: Right.

Roberts: That’s the whole point. That’s the whole promise of it. And it used to be the case that Americans had confidence that, regardless of the political affiliation of the President and his Attorney General, that justice would be meted out equally. But we have a two-tiered system of justice and self-appointed elites get very special treatment, which is to say routinely slaps on the wrist, if that. Whereas people, if they’re pro-life activists or Latin loving Roman Catholics, we have to be worried.

And I wouldn’t want people, even though I disagree with them wholeheartedly about abortion who happen to be pro-abortion, to have to live in fear about that. Right? I mean, we can disagree on the policy on it. But they shouldn’t have to have a different way of having security for their homes, or going through their daily lives. This is what plenty of people on the right have to do. And not just people named Donald Trump, although certainly involving him, someone could not want to vote for him not having had voted for him if a person says that and still be disturbed by the two-tiered system of justice.

That leads me to a question about the Durham report. We’re going to talk about solutions to the DOJ. This is one of the things we do on this show is talk about the problems realistically, but we always come back to the solutions. What was your sense of the Durham report? Because it seems to me as a layman, not as an attorney, that it really did show a lot of evidence about these problems.

Hamilton: Yeah, it was shocking. As you flip from page to page to page. Now, these are things that I think conservatives and people who supported the president kind of knew to be true. But it was one thing to hear it and kind of believe that. And it’s another thing to see it all written out and played out from the view of an independent auditor, of sorts.

Roberts: Who’s got the reputation of being completely independent and objective. Right?

Hamilton: Right. This is not a political hack. This is not the general counsel to the Republican party or something. I mean, this is somebody who is a respected prosecutor who’s been doing these things for decades. And reviewed everything that was laid out and did thorough review that took several years. And come to find out the entire thing was built upon a house of cards. The entire Russian collusion and investigation is exactly what people said it was, or certain people said it was, which the media then of course seized on as the absolute truth. And they were so blinded by their hatred for a fellow American, much less a political opponent of a lot of these folks that, “Oh, it must be true. It must be true. I believe it because I hate this person so much and I don’t like him so much that everything that is these people, these media outlets are saying has to be completely true.” And they just turn a blind eye to kind of objectivity and reason and common sense in favor of seeing something that’s going to advance their kind of political narratives and their objectives.

And so we have a situation. And the average everyday American can read this report, and I would encourage them to do so. I mean, it takes some time. It’s a little verbose. Take some time and read it and see all of the failures, all of the missteps, including the involvement of our supposedly premier law enforcement agency in the country, the FBI, the upper echelons of the Department of Justice, and the involvement and knowledge of senior actors in the Obama administration. And you see all of these multiple layers of failure, complete and total failure, to be objective and to be unbiased in their review of things and just ask second questions.

If it seems a little strange, maybe it is. Maybe ask a question about it. But apparently that wasn’t a thing. And so I guess my takeaway from it as an American, much less someone who lives and breathes a lot of this stuff, is that there really are two standards of justice, as you said. And it depends on who you are. And if you’re an opponent of the elite and this liberal elite ruling class that we have in this country today, and you threaten what they stand for, they will stop at nothing to tear you down.

That’s what they will do. They will lie, they will cheat, they will steal, they do everything possible to tear you down as a person and to use the levers of government to do that, which is what should shock the conscience of every American across the country. That you would have the government, that is only there by the consent of the people and set up this constitution, this whole framework and system of government, that you would be viewed and treated as an enemy of the state because you have people who are not willing to be objective, to be independent and to say, “No, I’m not going to do that. That’s not right. That doesn’t make sense. I’m going to ask some more questions about this before I go down this path.”

Roberts: And just in case someone thinks that you’re exaggerating by using the phrase “enemy of the state,” it was the Attorney General of the United States who called parents who had the gall of going to their school board meetings domestic terrorists. This isn’t language that you and I make up. This is language, once again, that the radical left uses, and the only way to combat it, first of all is to get them out of power. But until that happens, to make sure that we’re confronting them in the courtrooms, obviously in state legislatures and Congress, and that’s what’s happening.

So I mean, ultimately, at least as you and I write what is going to be the current chapter of this battle, there is a forward- looking aspect to it that has a lot more hopefulness than say six months or 12 months ago. But ultimately, I think the real hopefulness rests in winning the election cycle of 2024. By that, every election. By people who are common sense.

And if they’re common sense democrats, common sense members of other political parties who want to be part of this revival, awesome. Heritage is truly a nonpartisan entity, ideologically conservative. We say that in spite of the fact that the FBI hates it when we say we’re ideologically conservative. And we’re not mad about it, and we know we’re going to prevail because truth always prevails in America.

But it brings me to the question about the Project 2025 book, and even beyond that, the larger transition project involving personnel, which we’ll get to. But let’s hone in for a moment, Gene, on the chapter that you wrote on the Department of Justice. Give us a little inside baseball view into that process. Why? But ultimately, I’m sure what our audience really wants to hear from you is what are the big solutions to this? They want to have some hopefulness that if our guys and gals are in power, that they’re actually going to do something to change what’s going on.

Hamilton: More really good questions. Kevin. I’m reminded of a speech that we were both at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th Anniversary recently where Tucker Carlson was talking about this time and this moment in America. And he made the point, and forgive me for not getting this precisely correct, verbatim. But he made the point that if you think that we’re in a place as a country where we can just create two competing policy papers and may the best policy paper win, you’re not with the times. You don’t recognize this moment today.

And so what this book and this chapter is about is not about competing ideas, and it’s not about, “Hey, it might be kind of nice if we did this and such,” or “If we pursued X, Y, or Z policy.” I mean, you have to be invested in actual change in policies, in personnel, and things to restore the department to its core competencies, to address its focus, and to restore its integrity with the American people.

Because if you get to a place as a country where we are, I think today, where you have significant portions of the American people who don’t have any confidence in the Department of Justice, who don’t believe that it’s objective, and that who don’t have any faith in what the FBI is doing, you’re in a bad place. You’re in a really bad place in terms of trust in society, in terms of where we are as a country. And it all goes downhill from there. I mean once you erode the trust of the public in the institutions of government, history repeats itself.

And so this chapter was particularly important because of the importance of the Department of Justice that we talked about earlier, which is they do everything for the government in court. They defend all of the policies. So if the Treasury Department wants to do something, the department has to be there to defend it, and they have to be willing to stand up and be bold and recognize that they’re part of a broader executive branch that is controlled by the President and that they answer to the President, that they’re there to serve the president and the president’s lawful policy objectives.

But it’s not just about defense though, right? It’s about offense. It’s about actually doing things, and again reforming and restoring the department to what Congress actually wanted it to do. And when you look at the history of the Department of Justice, which did not start at the founding of our country, and you track its evolvement over history over centuries, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well, same kind of deal. It was formed to solve a discreet set of problems for the country, especially the FBI. So you’re talking the early 1900s. And it’s still not the era of modern communications, and it’s a big country, and yet there’s crime that crosses borders. And so how do you take that on as a country?

Well, you get a federal crime-fighting institution and you work them up. And yet you fast-forward a hundred years, 120 odd years, and you look at where we are today, and some of this is due to the shifts after 9/11 and the models and things that the bureau had to pursue to protect the American people at the time. But it’s now shifted from this premier law enforcement agency to an intelligence agency, an intelligence agency that is not focused on, from the American people’s perspective, the threat actors, the bad actors that are there. And that’s not a disparage to the good men and women in the field. Quite the opposite.

They need all the support they can get and they need all the empowerment that they can get to actually go after the real problems. The real problems that are confronting this country, in a country where you have entire cities, where you have rogue prosecutors who have said, “Not going to enforce that law. Nope, we’re not going to go after these laws. We’re not going to go after those criminals. We don’t believe in that. We believe in social justice.” And you think to yourself, “What an elitist perspective.”

If you had a functioning Federal Bureau of Investigation and a functioning Department of Justice and you had a city that was besieged with violent crime, you would devote federal resources to taking on violent crime in that city. Those are American citizens. They don’t deserve to suffer in a wave of violent crime. They deserve to be treated with compassion and respect and to have the law enforced the way that it was intended to be.

And so doing these things and restoring the department’s integrity, whether it’s in the issues of crime, whether it’s in kind of civil enforcement, whether it’s in just the policies and the way that things play out in the department, requires a lot of discreet actions and a lot of big picture actions. All of it is bold. I think that’s one takeaway I would ask your viewers and your listeners to really think about and hone in on is the boldness of what’s in this chapter and what we’re asking for. Because it’s once you get people in place, those people have to do things. You can have a Republican so-and-so official, but if they’re unwilling to pursue the actual things that need to be changed, and to put a stop to bad policies, and to get out bad actors out of the belly of the beast, you’re not going to get any different results.

And so the approach that we took with this chapter was really trying to hone in on what are those things that we can do? What are those things that you can do almost entirely within the purview of executive power to restore the department and to say, “Hey, you know what? Violent crime’s kind of a thing that maybe we should focus on. I don’t know, I mean maybe we have a problem with cartels and drug smuggling and fentanyl flowing into the country and an unsecured border. So there might be something that we want to do something about.”

And so it’s everything from that to advancing true equality under the law. The Department of Justice plays a leadership role in our courts. Even if they don’t have a direct role in suing somebody or suing some corporation, they set the tone. And there is a completely weaponized civil rights division within the Department of Justice to a degree that we have never seen before.

It’s always been conservatives always kind of looked at it and said, “Oh, there’s a shiny object. It’s kind of a weaponized civil rights division. Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to change something about it.”

Roberts: But they wouldn’t do anything.

Hamilton: They wouldn’t do anything. And so that’s what is so great about this book, and this chapter, and this whole initiative that Heritage is leading, is that we have a coalition of organizations and individuals come in together to say, these are the things, these are the bare minimum things that we expect you to do in this next conservative administration. These are the things that need to be done that must be done. It’s not optional. It’s not optional to kind of restore the integrity of the FBI. It’s not optional to abandon the pursuit of real true justice in this country. These are musts and these are must-dos.

And if you are a person who cares about your country and you are a person who cares about the future and you want to serve in the next administration, whatever it may be, these are the things that you need to start thinking about, of how you’re going to do this, how you’re going to carry out your role on a day-to-day basis to pursue these policies in a town that is not your friend, to make life better for America, for the people from everywhere, from Idaho to California, to Texas, to Maine, every Georgia, everywhere in between.

Those are the people who are counting on you and they are counting on seeing these policies and these changes enacted so that they can place their trust in this Department of Justice to be what they thought it was, and what they grew up to understand the Federal Bureau Bureau of Investigation to be.

Roberts: Thanks for that summary, because I think it’s very helpful for our audience, especially people who are wondering what can I do to contribute to this? And that’s often one of the questions that I asked toward the end of episode. So we’ll make that the second to last question for you.

And to start that list, Gene, it sounds to me like you’re saying if you’re someone, whether it’s the Department of Justice or another department, the first phase of this Project 2025, this Presidential Transition Project is this book, this very heavy book. And you contributed to that heaviness, my friend. But the second phase, which I know you would argue is even more important, is to have the personnel, the people who can implement those policies, whether they be in the Department of Justice or another department. And someone can right now be submitting their resume and their information at project2025.org.

On that point, because you’re someone who’s served on the inside, what’s that like? We go around the country encouraging people to do this, and many people because they love this country and they want to participate in a very revolutionary, in a philosophical sense, presidential administration say, “Okay, I’m there philosophically, but what’s the day-to-day like?”

Hamilton: Yeah, yeah. So it’s a really good question. The day-to-day, I mean, it can kind of depend on where you are, but it’s a combination of just this kind of rush of energy, at the same time, a tremendous feeling of obligation and duty. To recognize that you are there for a limited period of time, by definition. No matter what department, what role you’re serving in, you have a limited window of time from the day that you get there. Maybe that’s January 20th of whatever year that you’re coming in until the president says he doesn’t need your service anymore or the president’s gone. You have a very narrow window of time to actually do things.

Now some people, and we’re not going to name names or point anything, fingers or whatever, but it’s been a thing throughout history from conservative and liberal administrations. Some people go in thinking this is like a resume padding exercise, right? “Oh, if I can just be the deputy assistant secretary of such and such, oh, I’m going to get this really great corporate job and it’s going to be this great stepping stone to whatever.” Which, fine, if that’s your perspective.

I mean, I can’t hold that against you too much. But what I can say is that you’re in it for the wrong reasons if that’s what you’re there for. And on a day-to-day basis, it is such an honor and privilege to serve in one of these roles and to be trusted by the president or by one of his cabinet secretaries to advance their policies, and to carry out the will of the American people.

Not every day is a movie waiting to be written, right? I mean, there’s some monotonous times of doing real detailed hard work that has to be done. But every day that you get to wake up and go into a building, whether it’s at the Department of Justice, whether it’s at the Department of Commerce. Every day, that you get to wake up and be a political appointee who is there to advance the will of the President of the United States and the American people. And if you’re a conservative, you’re there to also advance the rule of law, and remember, your common American, your common man, your common woman.

It is an amazing experience, just irreplaceable. Something that, look, I mean, you’re not going to get rich from doing it. No one gets rich from government service except for members of Congress, which is a whole other story.

Roberts: But least one president comes to mind.

Hamilton: Yes.

Roberts: That’s the topic for another episode.

Hamilton: Yes. Yeah, that’s another episode, that’s right. But really and truly, I mean, it is an amazing experience and it’s an amazing type of an encounter. And so if you are an American who’s sitting at home today, you’re thinking, “Oh, this Project 2025, that sounds pretty neat, but I’m sitting here in small town USA. How could I possibly contribute anything? I don’t know anybody. I don’t know anyone. I don’t know anything. This is not for me.”

And I would say to that person, “You are exactly the kind of person that we need. You are exactly the kind of person who’s in it for the right reasons. You’re not part of this swamp. You’re not part of this town. Your duty and your allegiances are to your family, to your country, to your faith, to your God.” Those are the kinds of people that we need to be serving in the next administration, people who are in it for the right reasons, who are willing to act boldly, willing to carry out the things that need to be done, and not the people who are just thinking about what gig they’re going to get in Washington DC next.

And so I would just say the types of things you get to see and do as a political appointee, depending on where you are, are amazing. Amazing. And every day that I was at the Department of Justice that I walked the hallway on the fifth floor of the building there, and I’d see the name plates on the doors, outside the doors. “Why am I here? I mean, that’s so-and-so, and that’s so-and-so, and that’s this lawyer, and that’s that lawyer. These people are brilliant.” Or, “That woman is amazing, or that guy is amazing. Why am I here?” And you can get a real kind of an imposter syndrome type of a feeling, I think is what some people describe it as.

But you are there for a purpose. And regardless of what your individual faith perspective is, I can tell you, God has you there for a reason, and you are there for a limited period of time to do something great. And it’s on you to do it. It’s on you to act boldly. You will make mistakes. It happens, we’re human. But you learn from your mistakes. That’s how you grow. That’s how you know that you’re making a difference. You learn from your mistakes and you continue to move forward to try to advance the ball for the American people.

Roberts: What a wonderful exhortation to the audience. No, truly, I had very high expectations and you exceeded them.

Hamilton: Great.

Roberts: Not that you need to hear that you got an A plus from me, Gene, but you did.

Hamilton: Great. I like it.

Roberts: And I know members of the audience would say the same thing. We’ll get to the final question here momentarily, but I would say that how we get from here to there, where great American men and women, of all ages I will say, of all experiences, of all backgrounds, say, “I’m going to tithe. I’m going to tithe back to a republic to which I can never repay fully.” Think about the gratitude we should all have as Americans. My time and my talent, and I think we’re going to get there in ‘25. That’s a very special moment in American history. We haven’t had a lot of these opportunities, and it’s not guaranteed.

But my point, the additional point, is about how we can perhaps make it more likely, we can’t guarantee it. And that is as presidential candidates across the political spectrum are coming to your state, a caucus state like Iowa, a primary state like New Hampshire, South Carolina, go on and on and on. Candidates will visit most states. Drive them to be specific and substantive on the policy.

In all due respect to all of them. All of them. We have to do more than just talk about change. We need to use this plan, which the conservative movement universally has come around to endorse as the substantive plan, that one step at a time, one day at a time, but with unfailing resilience takes this country back. And that also requires great men and women with spines.

Hamilton: Yes.

Roberts: And you know what? While America does have some warts and it’s imperfect, I know its greatest asset remains its people and its people who care deeply about it. So all of that fittingly leads to the very common last question on this show, Gene, and that is, in spite of all of America’s imperfections, why did you wake up optimistic today?

Hamilton: Look, I woke up optimistic, and I could get into all kinds of personal reasons and things that I’ve gone through in my life, but I won’t. But what I can say is that as dark as it seems now, and as dark as the future seems now, 79 years ago, there was a bunch of young men who faced a very dark scenario in front of them, which was this Nazi-controlled territory, and in an enemy that seemed not unbeatable, but very difficult. And everyone knew what was going on. At the same time, we had a completely other fight going on the other side of the world. And yet these brave men got out of boats and got onto the shores in D-Day, and they fought for something and they defeated that evil.

And look again, as you’ve said and you’ve pointed out, it doesn’t mean that we’ve been perfect since then. But we’ve had problems before and we’ve had brave men and brave women who have been willing to step out out of that boat. And sometimes it’s literally, and God bless everyone who’s served and who’s shed blood for this country, or it’s figuratively. But it takes people who are willing to look at that task and to say, “You know what? At the end of the day, God’s in control, and I can play some small role in this broader fight, in this broader effort to defeat this evil and to advance the common good and to leave the world a better place for my kids. If I can say that I had some small role in doing that today, tomorrow, then I’m good. I’m mean, I’m incredibly blessed and honored to do that.”

And so that’s why I wake up every day optimistic, is because I know that as bad as it seems now, it’s been pretty bad in the past. And you have to respect history, and you have to be willing to learn from it and recognize that we are at a very unique point in our time, in our nation’s history. We have a real opportunity here to really advance the ball in some ways that we’ve never done before as a country.

And so if I can say that I’ve been a part of that, that I’ve had some small role, or that I can set out as my goal that each and every day to have some small role in doing that, and to working for the greater good, then man, if you’re not optimistic about that type of a mindset, I don’t know what I can do for you. There’s no drug, there’s no amount of money that’s ever going to make you happy. You have to be able to look at that as a great opportunity. So I’m sorry it’s a long-winded answer, but that’s why I woke up optimistic today.

Roberts: It was not long-winded. It was perfect. And I love your reference to D-Day, which we celebrate as we sit here and record this episode. Of course, we can celebrate D-Day and American military heroes every day of the year. We ought to do more of that. It’s great to see a real focus on that this week.

Gene Hamilton, great patriot of our age. Thanks for everything that you do for America. Thanks for your friendship with Heritage. Thanks for everything you’re doing at America First Legal, and thanks for your time today.

Hamilton: Thanks for having me on, Kevin, and thanks for everything y’all are doing here. It’s been a real pleasure. I’m real proud to be a small part of it.

Roberts: Well, thanks for being a big part of it.

I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did with Gene Hamilton. More to come from him and Stephen Miller and America First Legal, and more to come from Project 2025.

If you didn’t figure it out, Gene and I are really optimistic about 2024, and very importantly, even more important than some of the details surrounding the next election, the perseverance, the fortitude, and the cheerfulness of the men and women who are going to help us reclaim this great country. In the meantime, take care.

The Kevin Roberts Show is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. The producer is Philip Reynolds. Sound design by Lauren EvansMark Guiney, and Tim Kennedy

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