Hungarian weekly news magazine Heti Válasz published the following interview with United States Congressman Chris Smith. Smith has been a strong supporter of the government of Viktor Orban which has been the subject of much criticm on the part of the United States government over the past four years.
Did you follow the elections?
I followed the elections very closely. It’s no secret that I was rooting for Viktor Orban, whom I hold to be a champion of human rights. I think it is great what he has done and is doing against anti-semitism. I am very familiar with his position because I oversee among other things the Congressional International Human Rights Committee. He stands up for human life and dignity by forbidding cloning, severely punishing human-trafficking, among other things. We share the same ideas on family values and patriotism. I know that Viktor Orban is concerned about the rights of minorities, including the situation of Hungarians living in neighboring countries, such as Romania and Slovakia. Coincidentally, I met with the Deputy Prime Minister of Romania just before doing this interview with you. I raised my voice in support of Transylvania’s Hungarians. Viktor Orban shows solidarity with other oppressed people, like the Cubans for example. In 2011, he nominated imprisoned human rights activist Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez for the Nobel Peace Prize. I organized the United States Congress’ nomination.
Were you surprised by the final results of the Hungarian election?
Pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t expecting such an overwhelming victory. The Hungarian people made it clear who they want to lead them in the next four years. I compare Viktor Orban to our great president, Ronald Reagan.
That’s a very flattering comparison, but aren’t you exaggerating a bit?
Absolutely not. I worked with President Reagan, and I know Viktor Orban very well. I think there are obvious similarities between the two of them. Both of them are strong leaders. Both know what has to happen for their countries to have a better future. No one and nothing could divert them from that righteous path. People mocked them, criticized them, and made baseless accusations against them. They both handled the campaigns attacking them with dignity. Both were re-elected with overwhelming support, Reagan in 1984, Orban in 2014, despite the media working against them.
Returning to the subject of the elections, what do you make of the strengthening of Jobbik?
I think it’s frightening! I hope Hungary rejects extremism. While the government can and must oppose these kinds of viewpoints, it depends on the whole country.
Are you surprised by the defeat of the left-liberal coalition?
Not really. I think they have no leader, no good program, and no idea about what needs to be done for the country.
The opposition parties called the election free but not fair.
I cannot agree with their assessment. The elections were free and fair. I heard about minor complaints regarding redistricting. Let me tell you, redistricting has been going on in the United States for a long time too, but that does not make an election anti-democratic. My original electoral district in New Jersey was a Republican constituency, and became Democratic constituency after the elections. I had no choice but to move. It was necessary because I wanted to stay in politics and become a representative.
Did you hear about the opposition not congratulating Viktor Orban on his victory?
I read their statements. Their behavior was not elegant in the least. By not congratulating Viktor Orban, not only did they attack him, but they also insulted those people who chose to exercise their democratic right and went to vote. On top of that, they completely disregarded the democratic process.
I lost the 1978 congressional election. I was disappointed, and I believed that the media attacked me without reason. But after hearing the results, I got into my car and rushed to my opponent to congratulate him. I can give you more important examples of this, too. In 2008, Senator John McCain, and even in 2012 Governor Mitt Romney immediately congratulated President Barack Obama, and offered him their support. This is how responsible statesmen should behave.
Are you afraid that like many other countries, Hungarians will take politics to the streets?
As I made clear in my statement to the public, I urge the opposition to actively take part in the legislative work. They shouldn’t poison the atmosphere by spreading their false interpretations about the elections. If there is cooperation, then they should stand up together against the antisemitic and anti-roma demagoguery.
Is it possible that anti-semitism and anti-roma sentiment could be manipulated for political goals or power struggles?
It would be very dangerous if that happened. Human rights need to take priority over the actual political agenda.
In America Viktor Orban is a considered a controversial politician who some have condemned as an autocratic leader and who is bad for the west.
First of all, critics most often don’t consider the facts or the deeds, but instead pass judgment based on the biased media. Let me tell you, Ronald Reagan would have never become President if it had been up to the liberal media. If it was up to the media, Republicans would never get elected. For example, I have been a Republican representative with conservative views since 1981. Despite the American media’s biased support of President Obama and the Democrats, Republicans were finally able to take back a majority in the House in 2010. The people cannot be mislead for a long period of time. They’ll eventually decide who is best to lead them. One more thing, those who attack Viktor Orban also attack the Hungarian people, because the vast majority of Hungarians voted for him!
Secondly, it appears (critics) are not familiar with the importance of elections in a democracy. Viktor Orban got a strong authorization from the overwhelming majority of voters to realize his program, to govern the country, and, if necessary, to make tough decisions. What do they want from him? To make the wishes of the opposition come true? After 2008 Barack Obama forcefully used his mandate. But did anyone call him an anti-democratic leader?!
Thirdly, America needs a strong, democratic NATO ally and stability in that impulsive region. Prime Minister Viktor Orban can guarantee us both.
The US government and American NGOs followed the first four years of the Orban government with a magnifying glass. Do you think this can be expected during the second term of his government too?
I wouldn’t think so. Viktor Orban has proven to be a real democrat and fighter for human rights. It would be nice if the baseless accusations were replaced with constructive criticism.