At 68, Duncan Lee Hunter hasn’t lost a political step since retiring from Congress in 2009 — ceding the East County seat to his son, Duncan Duane Hunter.
“Outside in front on the street, Duncan’s dad stole the show,” said Kent Smith after Saturday’s Town Hall at Ramona Mainstage.
Like the elder Hunter, Smith is a Vietnam veteran — but using a wheelchair for the past six years for a motor neuron disease tracing to his poisoning in the 1969 explosion and fire aboard the USS Enterprise.
Smith said of the hale-and-hearty looking former Republican congressman, briefly a candidate for president: “Everyone was happy to see him; they all seemed to know him.”
The Hidden Meadows resident’s last view of the proud father was after the meeting, “flushed with excitement, standing on the sidewalk waving at well-wishers. The man is a true pol with great personality.”
That was on display before the Town Hall as well, when he touted his son, 40, in an interview.
“I really like that sign [in the bed of a pickup truck] that shows Duncan coming back from his third tour in Iraq and Afghanistan — one of the very few combat soldiers in the U.S. Congress,” Hunter said. “That represents his policy — his attitude — that he’s a guy who serves.”
But did the son’s early backing of Donald Trump for president advance his career?
The elder Hunter retold his son’s campaign story.
“It’s like the day after we were attacked on 9/11, he just quit his job that day, went down and joined the Marines and went off to protect us,” Hunter said. “He doesn’t calculate as to whether he’s going to be safe or it’s going to help him. He does what he thinks is right.”
Then the former Capitol Hill veteran, wearing a straw cowboy hat, focused on the president’s promises.
“You know, we’ve sent 5 million manufacturing jobs to China now,” he said. “Trump said he’s going to bring them back. If we can bring back even half of those 5 million jobs … San Diego’s share of that is 60,000 jobs. If we can bring back half of those, that will be a successful presidency for Trump.”
Hunter dismissed concerns about Trump’s personality flaws.
“I thought my son had a great line when [he endorsed Trump]. He said: ‘We’re not hiring him to go out on a date with him. We’re hiring him for policy.’”
Asked whether Trump was compromising his own political goals by tweeting controversial views, Hunter said he hadn’t “read about that stuff.”
He said he looked at the big picture.
“If Trump can bring back 2 1/2 million jobs from China — successful presidency. I don’t care about the National Enquirer issues.”
Times of San Diego pressed Hunter about criticism of Trump for possible violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause — due to conflicts of interest involving businesses he hasn’t formally shed.
“Now you’re going nuts on me here,” Hunter said with a smile. “You’re kind of nutsy squirrel.”
Trump is a “brand-new president,” Hunter stressed.
“You know what we did when Obama got elected?” he said. “I remember going to our little Baptist Church two weeks later, and our preacher — a conservative who had campaigned against Obama — got up and led a prayer for his success.
“Why can’t the losers lead a prayer for Trump’s success — and say: ‘He’s our president. Let’s give him a chance.’?
“Where’s the ‘Lets’s give him a chance’ here?”