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Hunter Outlines Iraq Strategy, Immigration Plan

In the newest in a series of interviews with presidential candidates, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., details his ideas for handling illegal immigration in the United States and discusses how his experiences as a veteran shape his views on Iraq war policy.

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    Now, another in our ongoing series of conversations with Democratic and Republican presidential nomination contenders who are competing in the primary contests. Judy Woodruff has tonight's.


    And we are joined by Duncan Hunter of California. He is a 14-term Republican congressman from San Diego and the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Congressman Hunter, it's good to have you with us.

    REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), California: Well, great to be with you, Judy. Thank you.


    Fourteen terms in Congress, that's a lot of flights back and forth from southern California to Washington, and you are still introducing yourself to voters, is that fair to say?


    You know, that's true. And the funny thing in this presidential race, you fly over cities, and you see hundreds of thousands of houses below you, just specks. And you think, "I've got to communicate with all of those folks." It's a big challenge.


    What do you say to people when you first go out, whether it's in Iowa or New Hampshire, South Carolina, what do you want them to know about who Duncan Hunter is?


    Well, first, I tell them what I stand for. And they kind of get to know you depending on what kind of event it is. But, you know, in this business, when you've got the presidential debates, for example, you've got eight, nine, ten guys, you've got to become the master of the compact statement, that is, tell people what you're doing, what you stand for in a very short period of time.

    That's kind of the nature of this electronic world that we live in. You've got to be able to give a 30-second sound bite or a one-minute sound bite.

    But, you know, I tell people about my background. I'm a guy who joined the U.S. Army after I'd done two years of college and went off, served in Vietnam, came back, got into law school with only — I found one law school in America you could get into with two years of college education. That was in San Diego.

    I met my wife in Idaho. In fact, I had a farm in Idaho when I came back from Vietnam. And we came down to San Diego, went to law school. I hung out a shingle in the barrio on the waterfront in San Diego about five blocks south of Chicano Park. In fact, my first office was half of a barber shop there in the barrio. And I went back to see it the other day. It's been changed back to a barber shop. So there's no trace of Duncan Hunter in the barrio anymore.

    But I practiced law there for four years. And I served largely the Hispanic community. It was a heavily Democrat congressional district, 29 percent Republican. And one day my dad walked in, the greatest man I've ever known, and said, "You could win this congressional seat." It was 1980. And I said, "Gee, dad, maybe I ought to run for assembly or city council." He said, "No, you'll just make enemies on the way up." He said, "You've got to run for Congress." He said, "Ronald Reagan is running for president. The issue is going to be defense and jobs in San Diego." And he said, "In San Diego, defense does mean jobs, because of the aerospace industry and the shipbuilding industry and all of our defense-related economy."

    And so I ran for Congress in 1980, got elected, got on the Armed Services Committee. And the last four years, I've been the chairman until this last year. So it's been a wonderful opportunity to serve America, and I have enjoyed it a lot.