FAIRBANKS — Joe Miller wants you to know he is not some “wild-eyed guy.”
The Fairbanks attorney and Republican nominee for U.S. Senate held a town hall meeting Monday night during which he criticized the media for portraying him as an extremist and mischaracterizing his positions.
Miller acknowledged that he supports abolishing the Department of Education because it is not authorized in the Constitution, but he said the idea is no more extreme than what was proposed by President Ronald Reagan while he was in office.
And Miller, who holds a master’s in economics from the University of Alaska and graduated from Yale Law School said that doesn’t make him anti-education, he just believes education could be more effectively handled by state governments.
The candidate, who took questions for about an hour from about 200 prospective voters who came to see him at the Carlson Center, also clarified his position on Social Security, which he said has been mischaracterized to make him appear as if he wants to harm the elderly.
“When you hear a politician mention ‘reform’ and ‘Social Security’ in the same sentence, all guns are on you,” Miller said.
Miller said the federal government must get its nearly $14 trillion in debt under control before any major changes are made with the retirement system, but warned that if federal spending is not brought under control, much more drastic cuts could be on the way.
Miller often returned to the idea of restricting the federal government to only powers allowed by the Constitution.
He called the idea of a living, changing Constitution “bullcrap,” and said he would support an amendment for term limits as well as an amendment repealing the 17th Amendment, which allows for the direct election of senators by the public rather than by state legislatures.
While Miller spent most of the meeting on domestic issues, the veteran of the first Gulf War also used a question from an Army wife to discuss foreign policy.
“We aren’t the world’s policeman,” Miller said. “We certainly aren’t the world’s government changer.”
However, Miller said the U.S. should be committed to fighting terrorism on all fronts, and in particular named Iran as a country that dislikes the U.S. and Israel and is trying to obtain nuclear weapons.
“One bomb in one city could end our Constitutional republic,” he said.
States’ rights and American exceptionalism — the idea that America holds a special place in the world above all other countries — were two other points Miller repeatedly came back to.
“When you have leadership in this country saying we’re like everybody else, we become like everybody else,” Miller said.
Miller also talked about the need to acknowledge states’ rights when discussing his acceptance of farm subsidies on Kansas property he owned in the ’90s.
The candidate said he was basically forced by federal government to accept the money, which also defined what he could grow there, a system he said creates inefficiencies and could be improved if states only gave farm subsidies as they see fit.
While Miller mostly stuck to issues at the town hall meeting, he mentioned his opposition to a bill sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski that would allow Sealaska Corp. to select lands from within the Tongass National Forest.
He said such interests were the main reason for Murkowski’s write-in candidacy.
Miller did not specifically mention Sitka mayor Scott McAdams, who will be on the November ballot as a Democrat.
Contact staff writer Chris Freiberg at 459-7545.