Tommy Tuberville coached college football for 40 years. After he retired, he decided to do something different—run for U.S. Senate.
Now in his first term in Congress, the Alabama senator explains what he sees as some of the greatest threats to America.
“China’s our biggest adversary,” says Sen. Tuberville, and federal pension funds should not be allowed to invest in Chinese-based companies, he argues.
Jan Jekielek: Senator Tommy Tuberville, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Tommy Tuberville: Thank you. Great to be here.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re obviously a first term senator from Alabama. A couple of pieces of legislation straight out of the blocks caught my eye, actually. One of them is, basically you call it the Prohibiting TSP Investment in China Act—basically talking about the Thrift Savings Plan [TSP], the military savings plan, and so forth. Why is it that you chose this particular piece of legislation as one of your first?
Sen. Tuberville: Well, number one, China’s our biggest adversary in the world. Number two, I’m part of that plan because when you work for the government, such as Congress, your money—it’s in your 401k—that you put in there every month is in the Thrift Savings Plan, along with 6 million others, whether they’re people that work for the government or the military.
I can remember last year, President Trump says—he sees what’s happening with this—and he said, “We’re not going to allow that to happen.” So he pulled the plug on it and said, “We’re not going to invest in China. I know what’s going on. We don’t want to enhance their military or their businesses.” And so we started looking at it when I got here, and there’s no plan past President Trump.
Basically, what it says is we’re not going to allow this $700 billion to be invested in businesses in China because, number one, you can’t control them. They don’t go by the rules. They do everything they possibly can to get around standards and regulations, and we’re enhancing their military and we don’t need to do that—$700 billion is a lot of money.
We basically said that we do not want any president, not just President Biden or President Trump, but any president in the future, do not allow them to invest in China with the money from the federal government. There’s no reason to do that.
Mr. Jekielek: Were you surprised that there was actually investment by some of these funds, like this one, in Chinese military-linked companies?
Sen. Tuberville: No, not really surprised because they’re a dictatorship, they’re communist, they control everything. Now, they can say that some businesses don’t have anything to do with the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], but they do. At the end of the day, they have to answer to whoever.
I just think it’s important that we do everything possible that we can here. We can’t do a lot to China, but we can not allow people to invest, especially the 401k money of the federal government. There is no reason to allow that to happen. President Trump didn’t allow it to happen.
Now, President Biden has made insinuations that he’s not going to allow some money to go over and be invested. He didn’t say anything about the TSP, the Thrift Savings Plan, but he’s brought it up, really in the last week. But this would not allow any president from now on—if we pass this bill—to have an opportunity to invest in China.
Mr. Jekielek: Do you expect you’re going to get bipartisan support with this?
Sen. Tuberville: We’ve got a lot of support. The problem, I’m trying to hook it to a bill right now as we speak. We’ve got this new frontier bill that’s out and we are, as we speak, trying to get amendments put onto that bill, and that would be one of them. But it’s hard in this Congress, in this Senate—it’s hard to get anything pushed through if you’re a Republican.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s this whole area of the Wuhan lab leak theory. This has been something that’s kind of been verboten to talk about for the better part of a year. But in the last, past weeks, suddenly people are talking about it, suddenly it’s fair game to discuss it, and suddenly it’s acceptable for it to be plausible. What do you think about this change?
Sen. Tuberville: Well, to begin with—all you had to do is look at it—it was something that they were using against President Trump during the election last year, the mainstream media. He obviously was blaming it on a leak from one of the labs, and if he said anything, the mainstream media basically went the other direction, said, “Well, it can’t be, it can’t be possible that this happened.”
Now that you get into a point where there’s a lot of information coming out, now we should have been able to get more information at this point than what we have, but we’ve had Dr. Fauci in front of our health committee. I’m on the health committee, and we’ve asked him a lot of questions. He’s denied investing in the labs over there, denied it.
And of course, now we find out that he has. There’s a lot of things that don’t match up. But it’s very unusual, and has been to me for last year and two or three months, that this virus comes out, President Trump and his administration tried to get people into China to try to help, to find out what’s going on, to try to save people’s lives, and they said, “No, you’re not coming.” Well, the red flag goes up right there. Something’s wrong.
You probably could look back then and say, “If we just stay with this and start investigating, we’ll find something that’s wrong here.” So I hope we find out what happened. We lost a lot of lives—3.5 million people on the planet died from this virus. And there’s going to be more people who’ll die from it, over half a million people in this country. And it’s just a shame that we can’t get to the bottom of it.
But I think we will. I think that the investigation is going on now. People are starting to open up, they’re starting to really realize that, “Hey, we made a mistake. We didn’t really look into this the way we should have.”
Mr. Jekielek: Well, from what I understand, there’s already quite a lot of intelligence that has been gathered that can be looked at. That’s a good start, but also at the same time, you know that there’s been samples destroyed and so forth by the CCP, the original.
Sen. Tuberville: Yes. Right now, we just don’t trust government. We don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s true, who to believe. You look at, just started back with the Russia collusion things that the mainstream media was pushing a narrative. You heard people in Congress saying things that were totally found out to not be true.
I’ve been up here, what, five or six months. You can understand it because everybody wants it their way up here, and you can understand the fact that the beliefs that you have. But don’t push a false narrative because sooner or later it’s going to come back on you.
This, the Russia collusion blew up in the face of the Democrats, and I think this is going to blow up in the face of the mainstream media. They should have pushed this narrative more and more because this was a nonpartisan, bipartisan virus. It didn’t care who you were—good possibility that anybody that got it could possibly die, and we didn’t do near the investigation that we should have. And I think it was because of the mainstream media.
Mr. Jekielek: Another topic that has been in the media quite a bit over the last many years is of course the border. You’ve actually taken trips to the border. And this was the other piece of legislation I was mentioning earlier that basically caught my eye.
And specifically you focus on the issue of the notices to appear, making sure that anyone that is basically let out into the country, makes sure that they have this requirement. It’s interesting to me, again, that you would choose this as one of your first kind of signature bills. Why is that?
Sen. Tuberville: Again, after going down there and spending some time on the border—I’ve been there several times before when I was back in coaching, I recruited all over Texas, up and down the border. I know a lot of people, know a lot of people that work there—the Texas Rangers—know people that work in hospitals on the border. The border has always been up and down, not really had total control. But the most control that we’ve had of the border is the last few years under President Trump by putting a border wall up, keeping people from coming across at their leisure whenever they wanted to.
Then we had the return to Mexico policy. Come across? We’re going to send you back. But when I went down there this time, you could just tell and listening to the customs agents, the Border Patrol, how frustrated they were. We spent a couple of days there. They’re coming across right and left.
We love people in this country. It’s not that we don’t like immigrants. We can understand they’re having huge problems down there, but we’re having problems. Number one, we got a virus going on, and just a few months ago when we were there, the virus was still going at a rapid pace.
And just watching them, we sat there and watched them walk across the river. I saw a dead person floating in the water when we were out in a boat. You don’t really understand and know the significance of it if you don’t live on the border.
Up here, we don’t see it much. If you’re all across the country, really if it does not happen to you and not affecting you personally at that time, then you can get away from it and forget about it. Those people down there, they can’t get away from it, and it is rapidly increasing. The problem is drugs. Drugs are coming across, the human trafficking.
Now, when I left there, I got on the plane flying from McAllen, Texas, to Houston, and then I was flying to Atlanta from there. I sat next to a 19, 20 year old. She had a little envelope with her. It had McAllen, Houston, Denver on it. She had a three or four-month-old baby with her. There were probably 150 on that plane. Probably half the plane was full of migrants, illegal migrants. And they were just brought, put on the plane, given that envelope of wherever they’re going, and shipped all over the country.
When I got back, I said, at least we need to do something to keep up with who we’re letting into the country because at that time, they’re not given any document that says, “Okay, wherever you go, you’ve got to show up. Here’s the phone number, you call it, and then six months, you’ve got to show up, and we’ve got to know where you’re at.”
But they’re not doing it to any of them, and so that’s the reason I came up with this bill of Notice to Appear. At least we can keep up with where we’re sending these migrants. We could help them. They could be out there and not finding anybody to take care of them, living on the streets. It’s just a bad situation.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s fascinating. People risk a lot, it seems. The risk of human trafficking—a lot of them from what we’ve learned through Charlotte Cuthbertson, one of our border reporters—basically, you have to kind of come through with these coyotes. It’s very unusual if you’re coming through illegally. They kind of run the show on the border on the other side.
It seems like these people are risking a ton to try to get in here. And so the counter-argument is, isn’t it very inhumane for us to try to stop these people from coming if they’re willing to risk everything to do it?
Sen. Tuberville: I agree. But there’s got to be some kind of plan put to it. And the reason that I put the Notice to Appear meant that, “Hey, if we get this passed, at least we got to give them some kind of document to know where they’re at.” Right now we’re just bringing them in, putting them on buses, putting them on airplanes, and sending them all over the country, thousands a day.
It’s really out of control, it really is. And I feel bad for them. This little girl sitting next to me, she cried the whole way, can’t speak English. You can imagine if they took you and sent you to somewhere in Mexico or South America, and you don’t know anybody, you don’t have any money in your pocket, you don’t have any family that you’re going to meet, and they’re just sending you somewhere to relocate.
It’s just got to be devastating, especially when you’re that young. There’s probably been 20,000 to 30,000 young kids from one, two, three years old, all the way up to 15, 16 years old that have been sent out with no adult supervision. It’s a bad situation. As you said, we don’t know how bad it is down there. It’s obviously real bad, but we have to control our border. We’ve got to know who’s coming in.
That’s the reason President Trump won his election in 2016. I think that one thing, right there, was, “Listen, I’m going to control the border, I’m going to put a wall up. And we’re going to let the immigrants come in, but we’re going to know who’s coming in and when they’re coming in and where they’re going.”
But right now we don’t have borders. The cartels are controlling the border. People are dying every day. I’ve got a friend that works at a hospital on the border, and I’ll call him up to find out, “Hey, how’s it going?” “Well, we got people this week coming in from Guatemala” or “this week we got people coming in from the Middle East.” “This week we got people coming in from somewhere in South America.”
It’s usually a different group coming in. It’s just, they come in waves, but this country was built on immigrants, on the backs of immigrants, working hard to build the country that we have. We want people to come, but we want them to come in a manner which we can control because the American taxpayer, as we speak, is having to spend millions of dollars a day to take care of people coming across the border. We’re having a tough time taking care of ourselves right now.
Mr. Jekielek: Thank you, Senator. You’ve been obviously in education for decades, and I guess I’m curious if, this is a topic that we’ve covered a lot on this show, the issue of critical race theory and woke ideology and so forth. I’ve noticed you’re taking a strong position on this, and I’m curious why, in this letter that you and many other legislators signed to the education secretary.
Sen. Tuberville: It’s the number one reason I ran for this position. I didn’t need to run for this, I didn’t need a job, and as I told everybody on the campaign trail, I’m running to help. I’m not going to, I’m not an ego person. I’ve had a great life. I’ve got a great family. I don’t want to see our country go down the drain. The last 10 years of coaching, I’ve looked at thousands of transcripts. I’ve been in hundreds and hundreds of schools, been in classrooms, talked to counselors.
At the end of the day, in the last 10 years, we’re losing our country through education. Our education system used to be one if not the best in the world. Today, we’re 37th in math in the world. I mean, that’s wrong. There’s no reason for that. We’ve changed curriculum. We’re teaching things in our schools now that make no difference in terms of a young man or woman having an opportunity to learn and grow and work towards a great career in the future. It’s all changed.
Now we’re teaching this critical race theory. We’re teaching a history of 1619 that is absolutely being debunked by historians all over the country. So this is not true. We weren’t a country until 1776. Didn’t start in 1619. I do understand why people can get to a situation where they think that they might want to believe that, but you got to read history books, but we’re not teaching history in our schools.
President Trump went back to the 1776 teachings. We got away from the 1619. Now President Biden’s come back and pushing the critical race theory in the schools all over the country, and we’re losing. We’re losing our country because of this. We’re teaching things that are not correct to kids, and that’s not what education is about. Education is about learning from your history, the good and the bad, and taking that and becoming a better person, a better citizen.
So why would we push things that are not true, especially in education, to young people? It’s really scary. Again, this didn’t come out until after I really got out of coaching. Now, when I was in coaching, I just saw the slowly, the degrading of our education in our junior highs and our elementary schools.
We’re not teaching kids like we were taught years ago—math, history, reading, writing. There’s a huge majority of the kids in this country that can’t read over the sixth grade reading level. And if you can’t read, you can’t learn, and if you can’t learn, you can’t take what this country gives you. It owes you one thing, an opportunity. You can’t take that opportunity if you don’t have that education that we also promised because we were proud of our education system in this country, but we’ve almost lost it.
Mr. Jekielek: The proponents of critical race theory purport, they say, “We take this approach because we want to right past wrongs because we want to fight racism,” essentially. So what would you say to them?
Sen. Tuberville: Yes, sure. There’s racism. There’s racism in color, religion, economic backgrounds. These are all kinds of racism. People, for some reason, push that on other people. Now, I worked in coaching for about 40 years, and I dealt with a huge majority of minorities in this country. I treated everybody the same.
Very seldom did you see any problem through that with kids working towards a common goal of winning as a football player, working as a team. I think there’s a lot of people out there trying to push this to try to make some kind of gain for themselves, it has to be. Again, we’re a country that we’ve had problems in the past. We need to learn from those problems. We don’t need to wash those away and say it didn’t happen. We need to learn from those.
We need to let our kids that are growing up in this generation understand that we’ve corrected a lot of those, and we’re on a better road for a better country and a better future for a lot more people. And if we’ll do that, we’ll survive, but we can’t divide this country.
And I’ve, not in my lifetime, not seen the division that we have today because of pushing things like the critical race theory and things that divide not just kids that are in college or high school, but kids at a younger age. It amazes me. We were a better country than that. We’ve got to overcome that, or we won’t make it as a country that you and I have had the opportunity to grow up in.
Mr. Jekielek: Senator Tommy Tuberville, it’s such a pleasure to have you on.
Sen. Tuberville: Thank you very much.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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