Capito ties support for Trump to WV economy, ‘pessimism’

LISA BERNHEIM | Gazette-Mail
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., tours the Craik-Patton House on Monday with Paul Zuros, the historic property’s executive director. Capito said that while she disagrees with many things Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says, she wants him to be president because she “cannot stomach” a continuation of the Obama presidency under Hillary Clinton. See video at wvgazettemail.com.

Unlike Donald Trump, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., does not think we should ban all Muslims from entering the country.

She does not agree with Trump’s proposal to pull back American support for members of NATO, an alliance that has been the foundation of European peace and stability since World War II.

She does not think Sen. Ted Cruz’s father had any role in the Kennedy assassination, as Trump has repeatedly insinuated (with zero evidence), and she can’t understand why Trump keeps talking about it.

But Capito wants Trump — a candidate whose proposals range from xenophobic (the Muslim ban) to globally destabilizing (NATO retrenchment) to downright racist (saying a judge can’t do his job because his parents are Mexican) — to be the next president.

“I am looking at our state, my state, that’s the principal-view lens at which I’m viewing this election,” Capito said in an interview at Charleston’s historic Craik-Patton House on Monday. “I mean, I’ve lived in this state my entire life. I’m 62 years old. I’ve never seen such pessimism, lack of vision for a future, really concern about where is that next generation going to go.”

She said she sees the candidacy of Hillary Clinton as a continuation of the Obama administration — a characterization that, with President Barack Obama popular nationally, Clinton would probably not contest too strenuously.

“I’m laying a lot of this at the doorstep — not totally, but a lot of this at the doorstep — of the policies of the last eight years,” Capito said. “I can’t, I cannot stomach that. For where I live, it’s not a good future.”

In many ways, West Virginia weathered the financial crisis and ensuing recession better than most states in the last years of the George W. Bush administration and the first years of Obama’s presidency. More recently, though, West Virginia’s economy has been in a tailspin as the population shrinks and ages, fossil fuel prices plummet and a combination of cheap natural gas, depleted seams and federal regulation decimate the coal industry.

Capito spent Monday touring Charleston historic tourism sites and small businesses, the kinds of places that she hopes could be part of moving the state’s economy toward the future.

She spoke at the Republican National Convention last week, one of the few elected officials to speak for Trump in prime time. She talked about what she called onerous regulations, a theme that Trump mentioned very briefly at the end of his 75-minute speech accepting the Republican nomination for president.

“We are going to lift the restrictions on the production of American energy,” Trump said, although he offered no information as to what type of restrictions he was talking about.

Production of American energy, with the exception of coal, is at or near all-time highs. The United States produced more oil last year than any year since 1972. It produced more natural gas last year than any year ever, and gas production has increased every year since 2006. Electricity from renewable sources is at record highs and nuclear electricity generation is about 2 percent below its historic peaks.

Capito, who had left Cleveland by the time of Trump’s speech and watched it at home, was modest in her praise.

“He basically went back to his original themes, or where his strength is, which is immigration; he talked a lot about law and order, he talked about getting people working again,” she said.

Many commentators noted Trump’s dark vision of America, in which he focused on crime and terrorism, said the nation is at a “moment of crisis” and promised that “I, alone, can fix it.”

Capito, who has met Trump personally three times, said she was not surprised by his tone.

“I thought it was too long, [but] I think he did a fine job on the speech,” she said. “He was yelling. It’s who he is, so it didn’t surprise me.”

Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” remains on his website, although he phrased it differently in his convention speech. But his current position is not a rollback of that policy. “In fact, you could say it’s an expansion,” Trump told NBC on Sunday.

Capito said she would prefer a “security test” for immigrants.

“I like that better than just a blanket ‘No Muslims,’ ” she said. “So, no religious or ethnic test, no.

“We’ve got to find a way to make it safer,” Capito said. “He’s tapped into, I think, a deep concern that people have about their own safety.”

The current process for admitting refugees includes multiple rounds of interviews, background checks and biometric screenings and usually takes a minimum of two years for an applicant to be approved.

On Trump’s potential pullback from NATO, Capito said, “I don’t necessarily agree with that, at all.”

“When he says things like that, I think he needs to rethink exactly what does he mean by that,” she said. “In the world in which we live, what you’re saying — words have meaning — and I think he has been used, over the last year of his campaigning, to be able to say things and then walk back.”

Capito, who voted last year for Trade Promotion Authority, so-called “fast track” legislation to ease the passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership, said she could not vote for the TPP in its current form, a position in line with both Clinton and Trump.

Trump spent the day after his convention speech talking about how Cruz’s father might have been an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald, a claim with no evidence to support it. Trump, in repeating the claim, cited the National Enquirer, which, he said, “should be very respected” and “does have credibility.”

“That’s useless,” Capito said. “I don’t know why he would get back into that.”

But the disagreements, the “useless” remarks, the casual tossing aside of 70 years of geopolitical agreements — it’s all outweighed for Capito by the possibility of four more years similar to the past eight.

“I have never seen our state in such a floundering situation,” Capito said. “So some of the statements that he has made, while I might disagree, I’m just going to support him for that very fact.”

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.

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