Tom Tancredo isn’t going away. The former congressman and one-time presidential candidate may have upended the Colorado gubernatorial race with his third-party run, but he’s still not shy to air his controversial views on national issues. In a phone interview with TPM, Tancredo discussed the gubernatorial race, the Cordoba House project, and what he really fears about Obama. He also referenced a long-standing urban legend about the Obamas’ supposed war on Christmas.
“I remember a little thing, like Ms. Obama saying she didn’t want any Christian artifacts in the White House during Christmas time,” Tancredo said. Another problem, Tancredo said, is “hosting Ramadan events there.”
Tancredo’s recitation of the urban myth about Michelle Obama disdaining Christmas is just one of several instance of Tancredo ascribing an otherness to the Obamas.
When asked about a recent poll showing a growing number of Americans who believe Obama is a Muslim, Tancredo blamed the President. He said Obama has “done a lot to foster those kinds of concerns,” and pointed at some examples.
“The speeches he makes about America being this country with a big Muslim influence,” he said of Obama. “What is he thinking?”
Tancredo is a bit more forgiving of Obama (sort of) when it comes to a poll showing that a majority of Republicans think the President “probably” wants to impose Islamic law. Does Tancredo believe it?
“I have no idea. I doubt it. I don’t know,” Tancredo said. The real issue, Tancredo says, is that when it comes to Obama’s designs for the nation, “your guess is as good as mine.” It “frightens” him the the President wants to “thoroughly transform” the county.
“There is something about this [country] that he dislikes intensely, and he wants to transform,” he said.
And a planned Muslim community center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan? A mistake on the part of the developers, and an insult to the victims.
“The kind of slap in the face that this represents to them is, to me, incredible,” Tancredo said.
“I think that it is certainly a miscalculation on the part of the people who want to put it up,” Tancredo said. He called the Cordoba House project an example of people trying to express “political correctness” and said it “would help fuel the fires that already exist out there.” That is, the fires of anti-Islamic feelings. And what, I asked, about those who say the fiery debate over the center may help terrorists depict America as anti-Islamic?
“They don’t understand the nature of the enemy we face,” Tancredo said. “They are driven by a desire to indeed impose a sharia goal… They are not appeased by the construction of a mosque here or there.”
Speaking of terrorists, Tancredo reiterated his belief that Hamas is operating along the country’s border with Mexico, and he says Obama knows about it. He criticized Obama, “who says ‘I wont secure the borders even though I know that there are terrorists coming through the borders,” and he scoffed at the recent dispatching of National Guard troops and unmanned drone patrols. Tancredo said the country needed “far more” troops on the Mexican border, and to “unshackle” law enforcement. On the national level, Tancredo says the only answer is “e-verify for every employer.”
About his third-party bid for governor in Colorado — in which polls have shown Tancredo pulling Republican votes from nominee Dan Maes — Tancredo was determined. The TPM Poll Average shows Hickenlooper leading Maes and Tancredo 39.7-33.0-10.1.
Despite the trend lines, Tancredo thinks he can win, and he thinks Tea Partiers have been “flim-flammed” by Maes. When Tancredo told Tea Partiers last year not to form a third party and to work with Republicans — only to later challenge a Republican by joining a third-party himself, and anger members of his Tea Party base — Tancredo said that at the time, “I was hoping that there was a good reason to get behind a single candidate.”
But with Maes as the nominee, that’s just not the case, Tancredo said.
“Mr. Maes is a gifted salesman, that is his absolute best suit,” Tancredo said. “There was a lot of snake oil salesmanship going on here.”
“We ended up with Dan, and frankly I wish that there was somebody else in that position,” he said. “I’d give anything to have a different scenario play out here.”
But he disagreed with Tea Partiers who say he’s spoiling their party. “What I’ve done is part of the process, just not one that they agree with.”
He conceded that if he had to do it over again, he would have tweaked slightly his earlier call for Tea Party members to work with the Republican party.
“I guess I would have added a caveat: except if the candidate is not acceptable.”
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com