As a freshman Congressman from Pennsylvania, Kelly has served on the House Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Government Reform, and Education and Workforce committees. He participated in committee hearings on the “Fast and Furious” case and the Solyndra investigations. He has also worked to reform the U.N.
I met Rep. Kelly at an event in Los Angeles and the first thing that struck me about Kelly was how “real” he was. He is definitely one of my new favorite breed of politicians, people who are simply fed up with business as usual in Washington and feel an almost desperate need to do something about it. He didn’t need to run; he had a very successful car dealership and was doing just fine. Mike Kelly ran for office for the same reason our Forefathers did—out of necessity. We should all be very happy he won.
A-M: Who is your current political hero, and why?
MK: I really like Paul Ryan, I like Kevin McCarthy—I get along with those guys very well. I think the Speaker [John Boehner] has a lot on his plate right now. He’s strong; he’s trying to hurt an awful lot of strong egos but I like the way he’s playing it. We’ve got a game plan in place. The main thing is to make sure we keep our majority in the House, split the Senate and get another person for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We’ve got to get Barack Obama out of office. I like Governor Romney because he’s worked in the private sector and he’s also been in an executive position as the governor.
A-M: What (or who) do you believe is currently the biggest threat to America, and why?
MK: First of all we have absolutely no foreign policy. I had an opportunity to go to Israel last summer with a good friend, Allen West. I think the one thing we came away from our trip to Israel is that Israel is now starting to wonder, ‘Where is America? Where is our commitment?’ We’re still flying military aid but there are some chips now in that once really solid foundation. They’re starting to wonder ‘do we have that commitment?’ And if you were to look at that part of the world, we’re no longer the leader. We’re always trying to build a coalition instead of being the leader in these different situations. You talk to the people in Egypt or people in any part of the world; they’re wondering where does the United States stand? Can we rely on the states the way we always have in the past? I think we have had such a lack of leadership, and unfortunately we’ve got a person right now who loves running for office but he’s very uncomfortable being in that lead seat. He doesn’t lead well. He’s a great guy; I’d like to see him go back in the classroom. I think he did a lot less harm; that way he only hurt like 20 people at a time, not 310 million…
A-M: What do you think it will take to get America back to being that ‘shining city on the hill’?
MK: You know all it’s going to take is strong leadership going back to our Judeo-Christian beliefs, understanding what made America exceptional pretty basic. We’re a country that welcomes all and allows everybody to think what they want to think. But at the end of the day, we’ve really had these strong Judeo-Christian beliefs. We knew how to live our life, we have very high morals and we expect people to live up to those type of standards. And when you start to get cloudy on those things, when it’s not as clear to people and they start to wonder why we’re not as sure, that’s when we start to get hurt.
And I’ve been saying to a lot of people, this is not an option for us now. And if we thought the war of 1812 was important, the war of 2012 is critical. This country is really past the midnight hour; we’ve got to get strong leadership back. We’ve got to get people who not only understand a foreign policy but also an energy strategy, an infrastructure strategy and are going back to really strong leadership and a core values that America wants to see. It’s the uncertainty that’s killing us right now. We just don’t know where we’re going to be 6 months, a year, 2 years from now. So we have to have the ability to have actual believe in the people who we elect.
A-M: What advice can you give to Conservatives wanting to make a difference in their communities?
MK: I think that’s very easy—go to your school board meetings. Go to your town halls. Go to your city meetings, whatever your municipal make sure that you are all totally committed to our way of life and our form of government. If you can do that at a local level, and we can make sure that we’re controlling the things at the local level then take a look at your state and federal politics. Really what it comes down to is us being totally committed to maintaining our way of life. I think that for too long now we thought ‘it would be just fine’, it would still be alright because it was. But now we’ve got a test. For my generation this truly is; this is our test. For my parents it was World War II. For my grandparents it was World War I. And I just think that right now this is the greatest threat we have is losing our way of life and type of government. So just get totally committed—not involved, totally committed and make sure you’re way in it. Not one single person sitting in any of these seats that just walked in and sat down; they ran for office, they got elected; there’s a lot of good people out there. It’s time—it’s time. Get involved. Get totally committed.
A-M: What are your 3 must-read books for Conservatives?
MK: I’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately. One of the things I’m reading right now is a book on the Fair Tax. I’m trying to understand fair tax, flat tax…I’m serving in Congress with a guy named Robbie Woodall who has some good things. The other thing I’ve been reading is Ron Paul’s End the Fed—I think there’s a lot of common sense and he understands why we are where we are. And then I have a little pamphlet that was written back in the 20’s by my wife’s great uncle who was in Congress.
And this is going to be surprising to you, but he’s talking back in the 20’s about the threat of progressivism and how this country was going to fall because we’re going away from our representative republic and going too much toward a progressive congress. He said way back then we have to constantly remind ourselves who we are, how we got to where we are and how what made America great? And I’m thinking my gosh, they had these problems way back then! These progressives are like toxic waste, it never really goes away. We think we’ve buried it, then it surfaces again. So we’ve gotta make sure we’re keeping our eye on the ball.
A-M: Will you ever run for president? If so, when; if not, why?
MK: Oh my gosh (laughs). I’m flattered but really for right now, I’m really concerned about doing the very best job that I can possibly do in my first term in Congress. I’m learning an awful lot. The biggest problem is the protocol, knowing how the system actually works. I’ve a tendency to get impatient because I want it to happen faster. I want to see more cuts; I want to see more things reformed so I have to learn to be a little more patient. But right now I can’t say yes.
A-M: Name one event that changed your life.
MK: People talk about the wins in their life; I think most of us when we look back at our life the things that stick with us more than anything else are the times we’ve lost. It could be the loss of a parent, it could be the loss of a sibling, a grandparent, but what really sticks in your mind are the times you’ve lost. You think what if I could have done something more? What if I could have spent a little more time doing this, or doing that, would I have made sure that maybe my business didn’t go out? Maybe my kids didn’t go a way I didn’t want them to go? What could I have done differently? So I’m thinking right now we’re in danger of losing our country. And I think it’s that bitter taste of defeat that will drive us beyond exhaustion, beyond pain, to do what we have to do to maintain it. So I think that’s the one lesson I’ve always learned—you’ve got to hate losing and you’ve got to understand in your lifetime that you will be called upon to do something you never thought you were going to be called upon to do. And you’ve got to be ready for that moment and you can’t walk away from it; you can’t shirk that responsibility. You’ve got to go after it with all your might and all your tenacity and you’ve got to say I am just not going to quit. And I think that’s how you win—you just refuse to lose.