Former major general running for U.S. Senate in GOP primary calls Kaine divisive, supports Trump
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bert Mizusawa formally joined the race last week with 66 percent of potential GOP primary voters undecided.
That means Mizusawa needs to move quickly to raise money in the nomination contest — which will be settled June 12 — that already features Corey Stewart, the chairman of the board of supervisors in Prince William County; Nick Freitas, a conservative state lawmaker from Culpeper; and E.W. Jackson, the socially conservative minister from Chesapeake who was the GOP’s candidate for lieutenant governor in 2013. Ivan Raiklin of Northern Virginia also is running.
What’s different about Mizusawa, and where does he stand on the issues and in the context of a divided Virginia GOP?
He is 61 and lives in Fairfax County. The former Army major general was a foreign affairs adviser to the Trump campaign and transition team. He said he’s conservative and empathizes with the tea party movement. He still wants to channel the movement’s anger and energy into productive work.
He sat down for an interview at the Richmond Times-Dispatch and said his background is a major point of difference with the other candidates running in the primary. Issues will change over the six-year term of a senator, he said, so the person in the seat must have the character and credibility to be trustworthy.
In his last military assignment, he was a two-star commanding general in Afghanistan.
“One of my issues with the Democrats is they tend to run on identity politics. I think it’s divisive,” he said. “They look like they’re inclusive because they keep hammering home how important diversity is.
“In my mind, diversity is not what made America great. It was meritocracy. Where you don’t really care about the color of someone’s skin or their gender or their sexual orientation. You basically look at what they can contribute, and you include them for those reasons,” he said.
“I think Senator Kaine had proven himself to be a divisive figure when he was asked to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate and accepted that offer. He campaigned with her throughout the country on her, what I consider, a very divisive message. … We all have a common American identity. I feel very strongly about that.”
As a former Trump foreign policy adviser, Mizusawa said people should judge the president not by his personality but by results.
“I think he’s an amazing individual. He has a lot of intellectual curiosity. He listens. I didn’t agree with him all the time,” he said. “But he did listen. And I did get him to change his mind. And it wasn’t necessarily easy.”
Mizusawa grew up in Hampton. His father was Japanese and born in Hawaii, and his mother Dutch. They met after his father’s brother was killed in the Korean War.
An Army policy ensured two brothers would not be sent to the same conflict, so Mizusawa’s father was stationed in Europe. “I credit my uncle’s sacrifice in Korea for my existence,” he said. His mother later became an American citizen.
He ran for Congress in Hampton Roads in 2010, losing in a primary in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd Congressional District. That year, Republican Scott Rigell defeated Rep. Glenn Nye, the Democratic incumbent.
Mizusawa is campaigning on his military record, as he did when he last ran for office. He was a professional staff member for the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and a civilian executive at the Pentagon. He has a law degree from Harvard. He was the valedictorian of his class at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
A key part of his platform, he said, is that Virginia does not have anyone in the Senate with a record of military service. Mizusawa said a deep understanding of the military and how wars are fought is important, not only for military success but also for not wasting money.
“If you don’t know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be spending money on it, throwing more money at it,” he said.
He said he would bring new clout “not only for Virginia but for our national security strategy and spending that I don’t think anybody else can bring.”
Mizusawa was one of eight foreign policy advisers to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“That story unfortunately continued because two of the young civilian advisers were Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, whose names have been caught up in the Russia investigation.”
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to lying to FBI agents in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of whether the Trump campaign worked with the Russian government to influence the presidential election.
Mizusawa said Mueller’s investigation is “just kind of sort of made up” and a way to try to delegitimize Trump’s win.
“I was on the foreign policy advisory team, so I know both Carter Page and George Papadopoulos from the very onset of their participation,” he said. “I kind of know the inside story there, and I see how much taxpayer dollars we’re wasting on the Mueller investigation, and I see how much of our intellectual and emotional bandwith has been taken up by it, on radio and TV and in the print media. I don’t think it’s serving the American people well.”
Mizusawa also advised Trump during his transition.
“He was being criticized for being unpredictable. And I said, ‘Mr. Trump, you always want to be unpredictable. You never want to divulge your strategy to the other people.’ I gave him that advice, and he was a good listener.”
Does Trump deserve the 35 percent approval rating he’s getting in Virginia?
“I realize that Mr. Trump has an interesting personality. I happen to appreciate it,” he said.
“I basically say that we’re all products of our upbringing, and we’re prisoners of our personality. I will tell you one thing about Mr. Trump that I think is probably the most important thing I can see.
“He loves America, and he loves his country, and he sees that it wasn’t being run well. He didn’t have to run. He put his reputation and his money at stake. His privacy at stake. And I believe he wants to achieve the results that he thinks are going to make America better.”