Interview with Senator Wallop, Part Five – Conclusion

Helen: A lot of people seem to be more concerned about what their neighbors think than what’s in their own hearts.

Senator Wallop: I have had one guiding principle in politics. That is, to come to a conclusion and then live by that conclusion. For instance, if you are on the side of life in the abortion argument, then you never equivocate about it. What I have found was, once you made it clear what your stand was, everyone moved on. I didn’t have any problem being pro life in a state that had some ambivalence about it. Unfortunately, by being straightforward, I couldn’t get things like bridges built and get other funds for pet projects, because everyone knew how I was going to vote anyway. I seldom had much to trade.

Peter: One of the political drawbacks of not being ambiguous.

Senator Wallop: However, people would ask me how I dealt with the pressure, and I never had any. I don’t really recall any real political pressure at any time in my political career. Sure, people would call and say, “That’s nuts. I wish you wouldn’t do that.” I’d reply that, “I’m sure there’s more than one side to this issue, but this is my side.” It made for a very comfortable career, but it didn’t get the state of Wyoming very many bridges or hospitals.

Helen: This reminds me of the ideal that’s creeping into society that “we’re all supposed to get along.” You even see it in TV sitcoms, where someone says, “we’re all adults so we can get along and work this out.” What that implies is that we should all compromise. I give up some of my values, you give up some of yours for the sake of “getting along.” When we compromise our principles just for the sake of getting along, it seems to be, little by little, eroding those principles.

Senator Wallop: There is a missed presumption in that reasoning, though. You don’t have to be nasty to disagree. You can just disagree. The reason some people feel the need to compromise is that they think they’ll be viewed as nasty if they don’t, and it doesn’t have to mean that. You also don’t have to argue about your principles. If someone doesn’t agree, you go your way and let them go theirs.

I lecture at Heritage and Frontiers on certain things. I make my position clear and let life hang on to you, or cast you aside, as it chooses.

Helen: Yet, when we meet at the UN, it doesn’t work that way. It’s “agreement” or “consensus” they want. A few months ago we were talking to someone whose field is religion and diplomacy. He said even in dealing with the most fundamentalist of any religion it’s been of tremendous value to state what he believes firmly. Then he gets much more respect, rather than giving up some of his beliefs for “peace”.

Senator Wallop: What it comes down to is that you really don’t have any choice, if you want to live in a world where you can hold your head up. You’ve got to stick to your principles. You can’t exist with your head up, if you’re always sticking your head in a hole.

Peter: Another way of saying that would be, that you should be damned for who you really are, instead of being damned for some mistaken impression you’ve created by equivocating or being ambiguous about what you believe.

Senator Wallop: I’ve often said in my speeches that, “It’s no good playing ostrich, because once your head is in the sand there is only one part out, and that part will be kicked.” Not saying what you believe is sort of like lying. Once you’ve told so many lies, it’s hard to remember what you’ve said. Once you’ve compromised so many times, it’s hard to remember which one is closest to your principle. For me, it’s a matter of comfort.

Peter: Comfort with your own conscience in a way? It’s easier to get along if someone is not nagging at you to change your mind. They know you’re not going to change it. Also, for my own purposes – when going forward in life, as I still plan to do – being comfortable with your own conscience frees up a lot of energy to focus on what your real problems are, instead of creating these nagging doubts that linger behind you and drag you back.

Senator Wallop: One of the great tenets of Christianity is that God gave us free will. It’d be a hell of a sin to abandon that gift.

Helen: So how long will this Great Experiment last?

Senator Wallop: It think it will go on and on. It’s incredibly powerful, when you think about it. We plagiarized all the old democracies, including the British, and we continue to add things to it. I don’t, for the life of me, have any idea where the grace of the Founding Fathers came from. Their wisdom was graced and they had to have been totally comfortable with that idea, because they never stopped talking about it all during the Constitutional Convention. There are so many pieces of wisdom in our founding documents. Just the idea that Wyoming should have the same number of Senators as California became the obvious answer to why we weren’t a colony. If we had to have Senators based on our population we’d have shared one with North and South Dakota and California would have had six or eight of them.

There are all kinds of little pieces of genius like that in it that have been mis-characterized. The Bill of Rights is just such an amazing document, but even the Supreme Court has misinterpreted it. And it’s written in relatively simple language. How someone, who reads the whole Constitution, can find a “right to privacy” in there is amazing. You might be interested in looking back at some of Clarence Thomas’s hearings. When he stated talking about the “natural law,” no one on the Senate Judiciary Committee knew what he meant! Really, look at the questions asked of him; one of them is, “What do you mean, natural law?”

Peter: Did he have a 25-words-or-less response or did he just roll his eyes?

Senator Wallop: He basically said that we are, by our nature, guaranteed certain rights. That’s what the natural law is. That’s the whole fundamental nature of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

Helen: In another interview someone suggested that the Founding Fathers were really attempting to do God’s will.

Senator Wallop: That’s why I think this Experiment will go on We toy around with abandoning it, but we don’t ever quite get there. If we do ever abandon the concept that our nation is based on natural law, then I do think the Experiment will die within decades.

Helen: That’s one thing we’d like people to realize. That, if you don’t love it, you might get what you’re asking for.

Senator Wallop: We have this incredible concept that we’re created equal, but that didn’t mean to say that everybody ended up with the same share of the pie without having to do something for that pie.

Helen: It’s hard for people to believe in natural rights when they don’t believe in God.

Senator: Well… and that’s all right, if they want to go off and putter in the garden, without rights.

Helen: Then it becomes a laundry list of demands: I demand a house, an education, medical care, a job, to not have my feelings hurt, and on and on. Just look at the so-called ‘rights’ the European Union is coming up with in their Constitution.

Senator Wallop: That’s an absurd document. In the end, it won’t stand. They’ll keep adding rights to it until it looks like a McDonald’s menu.

Peter: We’re happy to hear that you don’t think the Great Experiment will die because the urge for freedom and individual liberty is innate and will always try to surface somehow. Would it be right to characterize your opinion of the state of the union as being “optimistic”?

Senator Wallop: Oh yes, but that doesn’t mean to say that it’s not doing some things I wish it wouldn’t. But that’s part of the natural law too, you know. If you look at America and any other nation in the world – including our friends the Brits – we’re the only one fundamentally guided by our Constitution. The others may have Constitutions, but their rights are granted by government. In our instance, they’re inherent in our nature. Our rights are not granted by government and can’t be taken away by government. They can be toyed with, but never taken away. That’s a fundamentally unique concept.

Peter: That sovereignty is inherent in the individual, not the state. Whatever rights, or powers, that are not delineated in the Constitution… whatever is left over devolves, naturally, to the individual states or to individuals.

Senator Wallop: When you go out into the country, in this country – just as when we were wandering around the Northern Neck of Virginia or wandering around Wyoming – you’ll find a very fundamental decency in Americans. Sure, there are some transgressions, from time to time, and bad things occasionally happen, but there’s a fundamental decency. There is far less racism, far less “class struggle” in America than there is in the elite rooms of major metropolitan areas of this country. Just incredibly decent people in this country. If you just get out of the elite press rooms and university rooms, you’ll find in the American people an enormous sense of pride and self assurance that only comes from people living free. It’s unbelievably invigorating, and very reassuring, to know the Great Experiment is in the hands of people who don’t even know it and isn’t in the hands of the people who think they hold it.

Peter: That’s a great ending. Thank you, Senator Wallop.

* * * * *

Malcolm Wallop is a descendent of a pioneer family from Big Horn, Wyoming and is the proud father of four children.

Both in and out of public office, Senator Wallop has been an outspoken conservative commentator and activist, working on such issues as tax reform, federal deregulation, energy policy, private property rights, and national defense. In 1978, Senator Wallop was the first elected official to propose a space based missile defense system, a program that later became part of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Elected to the Senate in 1976, Senator Wallop held his seat for eighteen years, retiring in 1994. During his tenure, Senator Wallop served on numerous committees, including Energy and Natural Resources, Finance, Small Business, Armed Services and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He was also the first non-lawyer in U.S. Senate history to serve on the Judiciary Committee. As the ranking Republican member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee from 1990 to 1994, Senator Wallop was an outspoken advocate of the multiple economic uses of federal lands and development of domestic energy supplies of coal, oil and natural gas.

Senator Wallop has a long and distinguished record of legislative achievements to mark his three terms in Congress. In 1981, Congress enacted his legislation to cut inheritance and gift taxes, an effort hailed as one of the major legislative achievements of the decade in tax reform. He has long been regarded as one of the foremost authorities on Western water law, and demonstrated his early commitment to halting federal encroachment into state affairs by successfully pushing for adoption of the so-called “Wallop amendment” to the 1980 Clean Water Act, barring federal usurpation of state control of water. He authored the Sunset of the Carter Era Windfall Profits Tax, the first sunsetted tax in history. He recognized early on the need to prevent Federal ‘taking’ of private property by sponsoring the 1977 Wallop Amendment to the Surface Mining Control Act. This directed the Federal Government to compensate, through purchase or exchange, owners of mineral rights whose right to mine had been denied by federal regulation of Alluvial Valley Floors.

For 16 of his 18 years in the Senate, Senator Wallop served on the Senate Finance Committee. There his major work was in energy taxes and incentives and international trade. He made several trips to Geneva for the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) talks. He also traveled to Britain, France, Belgium and Germany on trade related missions. In the Pacific Rim, he had sessions of both a private and public nature to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. He represented the American trona industry in both Europe and the Pacific. Known as a staunch free trade proponent, his trips were generally structured to meet industrial, financial, and government interests on issues of tariff barrier reductions.

One of the most important achievements of the Senator’s career was passage of his Energy Policy Act of 1992. This sweeping legislative initiative set forth an energy conservation and production strategy that not only furthers our national security interests, but has helped create jobs and lessened our dependence on foreign energy markets.

Throughout the eighties Senator Wallop served on both the Senate Arms Control Observer group and the Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe — also known as the Helsinki Commission. His extensive travel for these responsibilities took him to Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe. The issues of arms control in SALT II, INF, START I and START II were among the most complex international relations issues of the era. The human rights issues and western pressure surrounding them led ultimately to the liberation of the Baltics and Eastern Europe and finally to the CSCE treaty.

More recently, Senator Wallop led the congressional charge against the “War on the West”, the Clinton Administration’s effort to “colonize” western states through increased federal regulations and encroachment on states’ rights. Wallop was successful in beating back the Administration’s assault on Western mining, grazing, and water rights, viewing the attack as a harbinger of broader efforts by the federal government to limit economic development and the rights of states and individuals.

Senator Wallop has long been a vehement opponent of unfunded mandates and established his own “Red Tape Award” in 1993, a less than coveted honor which exposed abusive federal regulators.

The Senator is the author of the 1984 Wallop-Breaux Sport Fishing Restoration Act, a program that raises revenue for boating safety and fish habitat conservation through user fees collected on motor boat fuel and fishing tackle. Wallop-Breaux is unique not only because it is a user fee which directly benefits those who pay for it, but also because the role of the federal government in the program is minimal. In 1994 Wallop-Breaux generated over $170 million to state fish and game agencies.

An early supporter of volunteerism, Senator Wallop’s legislation establishing the Congressional Award program was approved by Congress in 1979. The Congressional Award honors the nation’s youth for community service and personal achievements. It is privately funded and is the only award given in the name of Congress.

A staunch advocate of a strong defense, Senator Wallop is considered one of the nation’s most knowledgeable experts on defense policy. He and Dr. Angelo Codevilla co-authored The Arms Control Delusion, a provocative critique of the arms control process which argues that arms agreements with the former Soviet Union only served to undermine America’s military strength while reinforcing Soviet Strategic capacity. Senator Wallop has written numerous articles on defense and foreign policy. In addition to addressing the Oxford Union, he has lectured extensively at a number of America’s most distinguished defense universities and academic institutions as well as in England, Belgium and France. He is currently a Senior Fellow with the Heritage Foundation where he writes and speaks on issues of foreign policy and national defense.

The Senator has also written for a number of distinguished publications, including the Strategic Review, National Review, the Notre Dame Law School Journal, the Detroit College Law Review, Policy Review, Orbis, National Interest, the American Spectator and Insight along with editorials for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Washington Post, USA Today and New York Times, among others. He has appeared on such TV programs as FoxNEWS’ The O’Reilly Factor, Nightline, the Today Show, CBS Morning News, and McNeil-Lehrer. His radio appearances include G. Gordon Liddy, Armstrong Williams, Larry King and Jim Bohanan.

He has also made major addresses to such groups as the American Petroleum Institute, Burlington Resources, CATO Institute, Heritage Foundation, Edison Electric Institute, Interstate National Gas Association, The Hans Seidel Stiftung in Munich, Center for Strategic and International Studies, MIT and Hillsdale College.

He is the recipient of a legion of honors, among them the American Conservative Union’s John Ashbrook Award and Ronald Reagan Award, the National Energy Resources Organization’s National Leadership Award, the Center for Security Policy’s “Keeper of the Flame Award,” the Congressional Award’s Leadership Award, and the Fund for American Studies’ Congressional Scholarship Award, and Citizens for a Sound Economy’s Jefferson Award, along with consistently being honored throughout his congressional career with such annual honors as NFIB’s Guardian of Small Business, the National Taxpayer Union’s Taxpayers’ Friend Award and Watchdog of the Treasury, Inc.’s Golden Bulldog Award. He has also received the highest award of the American League of Anglers and Boaters for his work establishing the Wallop-Breaux Sport Fishing fund and the National Cattlemen’s Association and Public Lands Council for his work to protect the West from federal intrusion.

The Senator, who has built a reputation as a tireless promoter of individual freedom and small government, now chairs Frontiers of Freedom, a non-profit organization he established in January of 1995 immediately after retiring from the Senate. In its first year, Frontiers of Freedom established itself as a public policy organization with an edge. Its agenda includes preservation of property rights and reform of the Endangered Species Act, the privatization of Social Security, protection of civil liberties and the defeat of such big government initiatives as the antiterrorism bill and the national ID card legislation, and reform of the Food and Drug Administration. In February, he established the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a 501 (c)(3), designed to study and research issues pertaining to limited government and Constitutional freedoms.

Wallop sits on the boards of Hubbell, Inc., El Paso Energy Company, and Sheridan State Bank.

In February of 1996, Steve Forbes asked Senator Wallop to be the General Chairman and Executive Director of his presidential bid. The immediate affect of his arrival led to specific changes in strategy and tactics which, in turn, led to primary victories in both Delaware and Arizona.

Graduating from Yale University in 1954 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Senator Wallop served in the US Army as a First Lieutenant from 1955 to 1957 and was a member of the Wyoming Legislature from 1969 to 1976. His extensive business career includes management of the Wyoming ranch holdings he owns and establishment of a feedlot. He jointly ventured oil and gas development projects in Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming. Senator Wallop was an active real estate developer and investor. He continues to be a Wyoming rancher, businessman, and international consultant.


This husband and wife team – freelance writers and speakers – teach a philosophical approach to conservatism. They are also real estate agents in the Washington, DC area.