Radel on Congress, Immigration, and the New Daft Punk Album

Rep. Trey Radel is interviewed in his Washington D.C. office in June. 
National Journal
Chris Frates
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Chris Frates
Aug. 21, 2013, 3:05 p.m.

Earli­er this sum­mer, GOP Rep. Trey Radel sat down with Na­tion­al Journ­al in his Cap­it­ol Hill of­fice to talk about his time with the im­prov com­edy school Second City, his Valentine’s Day din­ner with Rep. Debbie Wasser­man Schultz and the new Daft Punk al­bum. Oh, and he weighed in on im­mig­ra­tion, bi­par­tis­an­ship, and press shield laws, too.

The in­ter­view with the 37-year-old Flor­idi­an has been ed­ited for clar­ity and length.

NJ: You’re a fresh­man. Why should any­one read this in­ter­view?

Radel: I’m a fresh­man. I have no idea what I’m talk­ing about. We’ll go ahead and wrap it up there. I think that this fresh­man class is markedly dif­fer­ent from the waves that we’ve seen in the past. It’s a roughly even split between Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans and I think that you are see­ing a move to­wards bi­par­tis­an­ship, at min­im­um, among the fresh­man class.

We also as a fresh­man class have signed on to a shared-val­ues let­ter that we un­der­stand that our prob­lems are not about an­ger or ra­cism or hatred, that our prob­lems are num­bers, are math­em­at­ics. I came here to find solu­tions and get something done and to do that you have to work with people, peri­od.

NJ: Why should any­one think that this class has the mak­ings for a kinder, more co­oper­at­ive House in the fu­ture?

Radel: The rhet­or­ic in the me­dia has some­what been toned down. You don’t see a ton of the over­heated state­ments and rhet­or­ic about how ter­rible the oth­er side is. I haven’t seen many of our fresh­man class mem­bers do­ing it. Two per­fect ex­amples of 2010 of what I saw as an out­sider, Alan Grayson and Al­len West.

I think per­son­ally they’re both good guys. I’d be happy to work with either one of them at any time. But I think that the Amer­ic­an pub­lic is sick and tired of the name-call­ing and they want something done and I think that our fresh­man class in par­tic­u­lar un­der­stands that.

I spent my first two weeks here in Con­gress reach­ing out to every Flor­ida Demo­crat to go shake their hand and say: I’m not here to yell out you. I’m not here to name call. I’m here to work with you. And that ended up with a Valentine’s Day din­ner with Debbie Wasser­man Schultz.

NJ: What did your spouses think of that?

Radel: My wife got a kick out of it.

NJ: You’re a former tele­vi­sion re­port­er. How has that in­flu­enced how you think about your own press?

Radel: One thing that has been pretty sur­pris­ing is how the In­ter­net has be­come like 10-year-olds play­ing tele­phone. When you say something like, “I can ap­pre­ci­ate the artist­ic side of hip-hop,” it gets changed in­to “Trey Radel thinks he iden­ti­fies with Chuck D.” It goes to some lib­er­al pub­lic­a­tion which then turns it in­to, “This guy who rep­res­ents Naples, Flor­ida, where there are golf courses and churches, thinks that he rep­res­ents the mes­sage from Chuck D.” That’s not fac­tu­al in any sense.

NJ: What do you think of the Justice De­part­ment secretly col­lect­ing tele­phone re­cords of As­so­ci­ated Press and Fox News re­port­ers?

Radel: It’s a polit­ic­al fish­ing ex­ped­i­tion that scares me and should scare every Amer­ic­an in this coun­try. And that’s why I’ve in­tro­duced, with a lib­er­al Demo­crat from De­troit, John Con­yers, le­gis­la­tion called the Free Flow of In­form­a­tion Act.

NJ: What does it do?

Radel: Raises the bar for when the De­part­ment of Justice, or any fed­er­al law-en­force­ment agency, wants to pry in­to the per­son­al or pub­lic life of a journ­al­ist.

NJ: Do you want to see im­mig­ra­tion-re­form passed, and if so what should it look like?

Radel: Right now, I’m open to everything. However, the Sen­ate bill does not go far enough. I don’t even think it would have a shot in the House. [Re­pub­lic­an Rep.] Mario Diaz-Bal­art, he’s my neigh­bor, he’s a long­time friend and ment­or, is work­ing with Demo­crats in the House right now and they’re just try­ing to shape up a policy that I think has a chance.

NJ: Who’s the most fam­ous per­son you met at Second City?

Radel: Rachel Drech, she was on Sat­urday Night Live. I just took some classes there. I wasn’t a per­former or any­thing.

NJ: Are you us­ing your act­ing classes right now?

Radel: No, it was im­prov com­edy, though some would look at Con­gress as pretty com­ic­al.

NJ: Rep. Paul Ry­an en­dorsed your primary op­pon­ent. Have you spoken to him since? You guys boys now?

Radel: We ab­so­lutely talked. Paul had a per­son­al re­la­tion­ship with a guy I ran against. Look, they’re friends, and I totally un­der­stand. And I talk with Paul Ry­an al­most every­day that I’m here in Wash­ing­ton. Paul Ry­an is fant­ast­ic and part of the fu­ture of the party.

NJ: You re­filed your fin­an­cial dis­clos­ures after the elec­tion to in­clude your trust funds. Does that mean you’re a trust-fund baby?

Radel: On a ser­i­ous note, I had my grandma and my mom die very close to each oth­er. My mom died at my wed­ding. And I’ve been put through hell in the past last few years. My mom lit­er­ally died on my wed­ding re­cep­tion floor, right after my wife and I were mar­ried. It was a freak ac­ci­dent; she choked. There was a para­med­ic in the room who couldn’t save her.

When I launched a cam­paign I was still deal­ing with my mom’s situ­ation. And what we missed and screwed up on, and I take full re­spons­ib­il­ity as the can­did­ate, was when my ac­count­ant filled out the [Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion] re­ports, he didn’t know that stuff in pro­bate, it was not settled, we didn’t know that had to be dis­closed. It was just an hon­est mis­take.

NJ: Tell me one in­ter­est­ing thing about you that folks don’t know.

Radel: I played gui­tar in a rock band, and I used to have hair down to here [points to his shoulders]. We did some clas­sic rock; we did Cream, Neil Young. Pearl Jam, Nir­vana. It was the ‘90s. I picked up a gui­tar when I first heard “Smells Like Teen Spir­it.” I can still do those chords today.

NJ: You said you could ” kill it” in an old-school hip-hop match­up with Sen. Marco Ru­bio. So throw down the gaunt­let right here in the pages of Na­tion­al Journ­al. When and where?

Radel: You name the time and place, we’ll let Na­tion­al Journ­al spon­sor it. I don’t know how many read­ers are go­ing to be in­ter­ested in a hip-hop trivia con­test between Marco Ru­bio and Trey Radel, but we can see what we can do.

NJ: You talk about mix­ing your own beats. Are you a DJ?

Radel: I like to pro­duce mu­sic. I like to make hip-hop beats and house mu­sic. I am by no means good at it. I love it. I really en­joy it. And I just use my Mac at home. As dis­ap­poin­ted as I am by their new al­bum, I’m a huge Daft Punk fan.

NJ: Are you dis­ap­poin­ted by that al­bum? It’s no “Dis­cov­ery,” but it’s good.

Radel: For me, though, I guess I still need to keep listen­ing and I need to re­move the pre­tense that I’m look­ing for beats. I think some of it is kind of clunky. When I think about what I like, I love the song with Phar­rell. It is a jam. What I liked off “Dis­cov­ery” is like “Face to Face“, which is kind of like the sound that they’ve got on this new al­bum. But the new al­bum is just still kind of like, I’m just look­ing for it to lift off some­where.

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