An Exclusive Interview With Sean Parnell
Recently, Executive Editor Buck Sexton sat down with Sean Parnell – Afghanistan combat veteran, Republican Candidate for the 17th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, and a past contributor to American Consequences – to talk about what happens next for
President Donald Trump, Iran, China, and the 2020 election…
One of Iran’s most powerful national security figures and terrorist figures, Qassem Soleimani, is dead. What do you think about this decision by President Trump?
Sean Parnell: I think it was exactly the type of decision that he should have made. He’s the president of the United States. As the commander in chief… [he made] the decision to pull the trigger on this guy Soleimani.
Iran has been the No. 1 state sponsor of terror for decades. They’ve killed Americans, men, women, and children for decades. And they’ve long run around and done it with politicians treading carefully around them.
So when they see the president make a decision like this to go after Soleimani, I think it’s good for our country. It sends a message to our enemies that if you mess with the United States of America, there will be hell to pay. Soleimani being dead makes the world a better place. The world’s a little bit safer today because of President Trump’s decision.
Some of the people who oppose this decision to take out a terrorist – who was also a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – are saying that this will put our troops more in harm’s way because of the retaliation from the Iranian regime. What do you say about that?
Sean: We’ve been at war with Iran for decades. Just because we don’t want to admit that we’re at war with Iran doesn’t mean that they’re not at war with us.
I was in combat for 485 days, Buck. We fought against an enemy [the Taliban] that used Iranian-made weapons, and had Iranian-made armor-piercing rounds, Iranian-made RPG9s that would penetrate the armor of our trucks.
In fact, in January 2007, we built the very first combat outpost in Afghanistan. And we were attacked by 300 well-trained insurgents. Now we killed every single one of them, but we did what’s called a sensitive site exploitation (“SSE”) after the fact. And we’re walking among the dead on the objective and we’re seeing that they’re carrying brand-new AK47 PKMs [machine guns] with Iranian serial numbers from Iranian warehouses.
So I’ve seen up close and personal what Iran can do and has done to the soldiers on the battlefield. And the fact that we targeted this guy and took him out makes the world a better place, and the president was absolutely right to do it.
Do you think we’ve learned the necessary lessons from our experiences thus far as a nation in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Sean: I’ve been at war my entire adult life – since the day I graduated from college. All I’ve done was train to lead soldiers in combat until I was medically retired. But I’m still in the fight and our U.S. military is still in the fight. All those leaders that were young platoon leaders with me – men and women who have experienced direct combat – are now leading the United States. And I think that’s a very, very good thing for our country.
The fact that generals have actually been on the ground and experienced combat is good. I think that over the next 10 years, our military is going to be stronger because the ground combat leaders are going to be making strategic decisions for the U.S. military. I think we’re in a good place. I think we have a good, strong president who’s decisive. And we have a strong military that has been at war for 20 years and knows how to kick butt and take names on the battlefield.
Today, you’re running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district. From a national security perspective, what do you see as the biggest threats facing the U.S.?
Sean: China from a geopolitical standpoint is America’s biggest threat. The Chinese military is massive, right? And that just can’t be understated. I think the president has taken the right tactic with China. I think that the tariffs that he has put on China have hurt the Chinese economy far more than they’ve hurt the American economy.
For example, I talked to a business owner here in Western Pennsylvania who makes 2000-pound JDAMs [guidance packages for smart bombs]. Probably some of those JDAMs saved my life on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The tariffs hurt his bottom line. He knows that. But he also said, “Look, I’m a businessman. We had to rip the band aid off with these tariffs at some point.” He’s saying this would be better for the country in the long run, which is kind of selfless and remarkable when you think about it.
Yes, these tariffs have hurt businesses in the short term, but every business owner I’ve talked to said it needed to be done to help the American worker and the American economy in the long term. So China is absolutely our No. 1 geopolitical enemy. But I think our president is doing a great job.
I also think we have to always keep Islamic extremism on our radar. It’s extraordinarily difficult to combat. They only have to be right once, while we have to be right 100% of the time. We stop a lot of attacks, but these Islamic radicals and Islamic extremists that I faced on the battlefield, this is a long-protracted fight to them.
And I think lastly, another grave threat that we face is our debt and deficit. We have to do something to figure out that problem. I don’t want to oversimplify it, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t have a revenue problem. This country has a spending problem and we have to do something in Washington to curb our spending. I think the answer to that is lowering taxes, lowering regulations to grow the economy, and an unprecedented cut in spending in Washington. And the hope is that the economy at some point will consume this crippling debt that we have. Thus far up to this point in our country’s history, we haven’t been able to tackle that problem. And I think that my generation – the next generation of American leaders – it’s going to be our responsibility to figure out an answer for that.
What are your thoughts for the economy this year and how that may affect the race that you’re in specifically? And also, of course, the national level of possible reelection of President Trump?
Sean: At the end of the day, people are going to vote with their pocketbooks. Even if people, including conservatives, don’t like the president’s comportment, they like his policies.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean by that. One of my buddies is a staunch pro-life conservative. He didn’t vote for President Trump the first time around because he didn’t believe that the president was a true conservative. Well, this time around, he is all on board with President Trump because he has seen what his policies have done for his family. He has seen what his policies have done for the country. And so I think that the economy is going to keep growing – it’s going to keep chugging along.
You’re a veteran, a warrior, and trying to be a statesman in the U.S. Congress. What would be the single-most important issue that you would want to focus on in your first term in office?
Sean: Well, as I mentioned before, the debt and deficit is going to be something that my generation of leadership is going to have to tackle. I think that presents a very grave national security threat for our country and future generations of Americans. Many people have tried in the past to attack our debt deficit issues here in this country and many have failed, but my generation can’t afford to fail. So that’s going to be something that I’m going to tackle.
And also I want to make sure that we do everything that we can to keep this economy going. I’ve been all over my district and talked to people from all walks of life, including Democrats, union Democrats, who are working more now under this president than ever before. And most of these are lifelong Democrats. But they’re going to be pulling the lever for President Trump because of this economy.
So the more we can keep taxes low, the more we can cut regulations so that small businesses can be successful, and the better off ordinary, middle-class Americans will be. And I think you know that right there is the job of an elected official – to be a voice for the people you represent. That’s what I’m seeking to do here in PA 17. And when I win, I’m going to do just that.
Sean Parnell spent 485 days fighting along the Afghan-Pakistan border, leading a platoon that became one of the fiercest and most effective American fighting units in modern military history. A full 85% of his platoon received Purple Hearts for wounds incurred in battle, and it remains one of the most decorated Army units since 9/11. If you’re interested in learning more about his campaign for Congress, click here.