Mike Rounds makes rounds at LHS


Cathleen Weng

Senator Mike Rounds holds a question and answer session in the LHS little theater.

Cathleen Weng, Editor-in-Chief

Friday, April 26 – students pack into LHS’ little theater, awaiting the arrival of and subsequent Q&A with SD Senator Mike Rounds.

After giving a LHS senior Jack Elliott a commendation for his commitment to join the navy after graduation, Rounds gave a brief speech and opened the floor for questions.

“Don’t accept the idea that principle people cannot sit down with one another and work through their issues and find a compromise that moves our country forward,” said Rounds at the end of his speech, based around the idea of governmental compromise. “That’s the basis upon which it was formed in the first place.”

Here are a few of the questions Rounds answered:

Q: “My question is about the joint resolution in the Senate that called for ending U.S. support for the War on Yemen. So, considering that 75 percent of Americans support the resolution and what Saudi Arabia’s coalition has been doing in Yemen has already killed tens of thousands, I was wondering: Why you voted against the resolution?”

A: “The resolution that we’re talking about here, the joint resolution, what it said was the U.S. could not support Saudi Arabia in the war that they’re fighting right now with the Houthis. The Houthis are a local group that’s basically taken over Yemen. Yemen is a neighbor to the South of Saudi Arabia. They were firing missiles from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia decided they had enough and went in to attack Yemen. In doing so, there’s been a huge humanitarian loss there. It is really bad in Yemen for a number of reasons. Part of it is because of the war, part of it is because of the lack of any governing activity there in Yemen except for this group that’s there, the Houthis, which are backed by the arch-enemy of the Saudi Arabia government, which is Iran. So Iran’s got their operatives in Yemen, working with the Houthis, who are firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, which created a Saudi Arabia that wanted to go in and attack Yemen. There was put, into the House of Representatives and into the Senate, a resolution saying that the U.S. could not support them in that war. I voted against it for a couple of reasons. Number one, remember, this came at the same time that Mr. Khashoggi, the journalist, was killed in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey. And, it’s pretty clear that Saudi Arabia killed this guy. They got him in, they lured him in and they killed him. When that happened, part of the response to that was this resolution gained a lot of support, saying ‘we’re going to send a message to Saudi Arabia.’ I think we should separate the two. Number one, Mr Khashoggi’s death is absolutely unacceptable and there has to be direct action from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia’s government based upon what they get. Now, they’ve been an ally of ours, they’re going to continue to be an ally, but what they did was wrong. Flat out. A question for many of our members was ‘is this the best way to send a message to Saudi Arabia saying let’s pass this thing saying we can’t provide them with support in this war?’ And, what we were doing was number one providing them with aimings capabilities, the capability to actually hit specific targets, with “smart” munitions. Second of all, we were refueling several of their aircrafts during this time period. I felt that they had to separate the two issues. Per Khashoggi, yes, let’s go after that. But when it came to telling an ally that they could not defend their country against another outside force, who was shooting rockets into their country, I didn’t think we could necessarily tell them that they were doing that for the wrong reasons. We also felt, in discussions, and we had a number of classified discussions on this, where they came in and gave us specific information about what they were trying to do impact the attitude and the actual inner workings and operations of the Saudi military, most of us in the Senate felt that it was better to actually work with them to try and make sure that if they were going to attack places in Yemen that they do it as selectively as possible. And if we didn’t provide them with the ability to do selective targets, then what they would end up doing would be carpet-bombing type stuff, which would kill more civilians. And with part of that, we felt it necessary to continue participating with them to see if we couldn’t actually influence their behavior in their attack on Yemen. If we would have said no, if this actually could have occurred, and we would have been pulled out of it, they would’ve changed the way that they would have protected their own country and that they would have unleashed a significant amount of weapons in a more non-discreet way, which would have been even worse on the civilian population that was there. So, that was the logic behind a number of us feeling very concerned about walking away from this ally that we have, and we just think that we shouldn’t use Khashoggi to stop the War on Yemen, where they were trying to defend themselves. Khashoggi definitely, as we move forward, you will find more of us actually finding ways to send a message to the government of Saudi Arabia and what they did there was a separate issue and it has to be addressed, but not with the War on Yemen.”

Q: “How do we address the man-made islands that China is creating the South China Sea? What do we do to curb that?”

A: “What we have right now, China, over the next for 45-50 years, will be our primary competitor economically and militarily. And it’s going to be up to China as to whether they want to be an aggressor when it comes to military, or whether they want to be a peacekeeper, like what the U.S. tries to be. Now, China has decided that because they have a long, long culture, that they have not been respected by the rest of the world the way they think they should. President Xi is now sending the message that he is now president for life. He doesn’t have to get re-elected anymore, and he now has 25 year plans and part of what they’re doing is a belt and road economic policy, which says the belt is the economy of China, is going to take a belt all the way down the South Pacific, around India and back up into the Gulf and into Africa. And then the road, as they call it, the one belt, one road, is across Asia, through Russia, into Europe, and so forth. And, they want them all to lead back to China, to where they are the major worldwide economy, similar to what the U.S. is today. They’d love to have their money be the international money of choice. They want to be the center of worldwide attention, and they believe, based on their population, that they can be. But in doing so now, what they’re also saying is is that they don’t have the same basic built-in rights and wrongs that the rest of the traditional order of the world is today. They disagree with the idea of intellectual property being something you can own. They don’t believe in patents. They don’t believe in copyrights. And they know they have to change that attitude, but right now, to them, they don’t understand how anybody can own an idea. They think that ideas can’t be owned, so they don’t see anything wrong with someone who has a patent, and stealing it. There’s nothing wrong with that because you can’t own it. Well, in the South China Sea, what they said is ‘this is going to be a shipping lane that we’re going to control. And, if you want to ship through here, you’re gonna have to know that we control it, that our military is watching. We’ll let those through that are appropriate, and we don’t intend to let those through that are not appropriate. We will make that decision.’ So, what they started doing was stepping away from the mainland and coming back out to reefs and so forth, and they started building those reefs up. And, on some small islands that actually, according to the world […] are actually owned by island states, such as the Philippines, they’ve gone and they’ve said we disagree with the world […], we’re gonna take them, and by the way, for peaceful purposes, we’re going to start building bases here and seaports and so forth. What they’ve actually done is they’ve built them up, bringing in the sand and the rock and so forth and they’ve made long bases where they are now putting in military type operations. They’re putting their warships at those locations; they’re making military bases. We’ve told them very clearly that we think that they’re wrong and we’re not going to accept that out of the empire of China and we’re going to continue doing what we call premium navigation to send our ships right out by those islands, even though China says that’s an aggressive action. We can’t let them continue to push their way out into the South China Sea and take over that as if it’s an inland sea of China. So that’s the point that we’re making. And, the best way we can do it is, number one, we have to continue to tell China we’re going to stand right by there, and you better not stop anyone from coming through that area, that’s an open sea And second of all, we’ve reminded them that, unlike an aircraft carrier, which can be hidden and difficult to find in the vast expanse of the South China Sea, as well as the Pacific, those are fixed agents. If they ever become a military threat, they are most certainly at risk, and there’s not much you can do about it. So, we do two things: Number one, we let them know that we will not accept that in terms of aggression toward other countries in the area who are our other allies, and second of all, you can continue down the path of being a part of the integrated rest of the world, or if you decide you’re going to try to do your own thing based upon your rules, which the rest of the world does not accept, we’re going to have a problem. And, if that’s the case, we will be able to, and we will respond to you and we will stand up to you, and that’s one of the reasons why you see a repurposing of our military back from just fighting terrorism to what we call fighting major power competition, where we have major powers in Russia and in China both, both of whom who have extreme capabilities within cyberspace, within space and then on air or in sea, with nuclear weapons, including inner arsenals that they have continued to upgrade and expand the capabilities of. So that’s the reason why you’re seeing a significant build-up in our military; it’s because of the types of actions that you’re seeing with China and the South China Sea. Now we have to find ways of getting to those […] because they will eventually put missiles on them in order to attack our aircraft carriers that are out at sea and that’s the risk that we have and the reason that we can’t stand back and simply let them do it without confrontation.

Q: “So as we looked at 2020, we saw a lot of Democratic candidates and, actually, in 2018 as well, who swore off campaign contributions from PACS and Super PACS, and that’s not necessarily something we saw in the Republican side of the aisle, so as a prominent member of the Republican party like yourself, why do you think there exists that discrepancy between Democrats and Republicans on that issue?”

A: “There’s different ways of financing campaigns. One way is you can go out and ask for direct contributions from individuals. The other way, in South Dakota you can’t get business contributions, in congressional activity, you can get Political Action Committees, which is where individuals of a particular business can band together, put all their stuff together into a Political Action Committee and then they can give that to you. A lot of the Democrats that are running, most of them in the U.S. Senate, and they just said, look, we’re going to take it directly from individuals, we’re not going to go to the collective program of a Political Action Committee to get that money. I think most Republicans will tell you that Political Action Committees were originally established to compete with labor unions. And, when labor unions would put their dollars in years ago, they would support, in many cases, more liberal leaning policies, many of which were Democrat, who were receiving those funds from the labor unions. Republicans, on the other side, were more business-oriented in many cases, or they were seen that way, and they didn’t see those business owners being able to band together, similar to what your labor teams did, with the labor union programs. So, they did that when they created the reform, they created this opportunity for a Political Action Committee to be formed, made up of people who were in business, or organizations that associated different types of beliefs. That became, and is today, one of the major sources of income coming in for political campaigns. Both Republicans and Democrats have had PACs. Now there’s been differentiations between all sorts of different PACs […] that have been established, but in essence, Republicans have used PACs more than they have labor union dollars. Democrats, in many cases, those who are more left-leaning, have said, ‘I wanna just go directly out to the people, and I wanna […] get my money directly from the people.’ They think it’s politically advantageous for them to say “I’m not gonna take from PACs that are associated with a particular business,” for them they think it’s more politically correct and more popular to be able to use it as a campaign talking point to say, ‘I’m going to get it directly from an individual rather than through a Political Action Committee that that person might be participating in.’ And Republicans just haven’t seen that type of an uproar among Republicans […] like more liberal leaning members of the other side are trying to get some of their more moderate members on the Democratic side, to get pushed into a corner, and so for them, they see it as a talking point, and they see it as a way of differentiating themselves from other individuals in their own party.”