Former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville was elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama this month, and he'll take office Jan. 3.
Tuberville spent part of last week in Washington, D.C., going through orientation for his new job.
These questions and answers, from an interview he granted Wednesday, have been edited for length.
Question: Hey, Coach, how are you?
Answer: Oh, it’s just a beautiful day and rainy here in Auburn. Rain from the hurricane today.
Q: How did orientation go? I know you were in D.C. Were there a lot of senators up there, new senators like yourself?
A: Yeah. We all had to go through at the same time, Republican and Democrats, and it was fun, a good group. They pretty much jam three days into a day and a half because of the COVID. You know, you go up and and it's a typical organization of ethics and rules and offices, which I’ve got a temporary office, everybody does until they get finished with who’s going to be in the majority and then they kind of move you around depending, but it’s good. I got to speak to the (Republican) caucus, introduced myself and go over things that I was concerned about for the people of Alabama.
We had a variety of things, I started interviewing people for the staff. You’ve got kind of three tiers of your staff that you have to hire. I’m going to do my first tier early, which is a chief of staff, your communications team and your scheduler and then everybody else kind of falls in after that.
Q: What’s your approach to staff?
A: You know, you’ve got time, but I don’t have a lot of time with those three positions. I want to hire a chief of staff, scheduler and my comms person in D.C., and we’ll get a comms person in the state, probably two. You can’t start with everything else until you pretty much get the scheduler, comms and your chief of staff, then all three of those are in with you on schedule and things that want to meet people and in what direction you want to go.
You know, the top level for me, the No. 1 prerequisite is Alabama ties. There’s going to be some areas that you won’t be able to do that, but I want as many people that know where, you know, Dothan is at as compared to Muscle Shoals. Then the top tier group will be pretty close to 10 years experience on the Hill in Washington, D.C.
You have no shortage of names. It’s no different than what I did six or seven times, being a head football coach. You’re going to get all the help you want, but you got to do as much of it as you possibly can, especially the top groups like your coordinators. You get those guys and then those coordinators help you do the position coaches.
Q: Speaking of organization, what committees have you been thinking about? Are you aiming for any right now and the reasoning behind that?
A: Well, you know, there’s several committees that I want to try to get on. Obviously the Armed Services and Ag committees. I think it’s important in Alabama that you represent those two groups because we got, what, four or five military bases. We’ve got all these defense contractors, shipbuilders, we have 370,000 veterans in the state. I mean, we’ve got a lot of people that are connected to the military. It’s a large part of our GDP that needs to continue to grow and we need to represent them.
Q: You gonna go campaign in Georgia, help them out?
A: Oh, yeah. I’ll go over there at least a week or two and campaign myself, along with a lot of people in my former campaign staff. We’re raising money for them, the whole caucus is. You know, I had my first caucus meeting yesterday and Vice President (Mike) Pence was there and spoke to us about the next two months. I got to get up and introduce myself and tell everybody, you know, why I’m here and what I want to try to get done. It was very good, had a lot of good reception.
Of course, setting up an office to work. Right now, it’s a temporary office. Now, it is five rooms, it’s huge, there in the Dirksen Building. But it’s something that gives you somewhere to work out of, whether it’s interviewing, whether it’s fundraising like we’ll do for Georgia. It gives you a place to work. ... I’m back in Auburn today and I’ll be back there most of next week handling all the major interviews for the top-tier positions.
Q: Majorities (in the House and Senate) are going to be razor thin. Do you think the Democrats are going to have to work with Republicans and Republicans are going to have to work with Democrats? You see that being possibly a more productive situation?
A: Yeah and that’s how our government was set up. You know, our government wasn’t set up for one group to have all three of branches of government. It wasn’t set up that way, our three branches, the House, the Senate and executive.
You know, we’re up there to help the people of the country. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat. And there’s so much division that I see right now on the Democrat side, not the Republican side. You’ve got groups that are far left and you got groups that are not as far left and you got your staunch Democrats that are closer to the middle. So I think the big problem they’re going have is getting their people on the straight and narrow. Now, that’s just my opinion. Just looking at it, I think we probably are closer as a group then they even thought about being. And they never dreamed — they thought they were going to have a blue wave, and obviously we’ve actually won a couple of House seats that kind of blew them away just the last couple of days.
... It looks like we’re not going to gain any Senate seats, but we’ll probably lose one. But it looked a whole lot worse than that a month ago. If you look at it, too, they spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to take over state elections in terms of the House and the Senate and Republicans actually gained two, which was a total disaster across the country for Democrats because they they had planned on taking over, you know, more state government and went the opposite way. ... We voted in our leadership yesterday and I got to participate in that vote. (Senate Republican leader Mitch) McConnell held on to that along with John Thune as our whip, whether it’s majority or a minority, just depends on ... what happens in January.
Q: You campaigned on supporting President Donald Trump, being a solid vote for him in the Senate. I know that there’s still some challenges and recounts going on, but it looks like we’re probably going to have a President Joe Biden. How does that change your posture in terms of how you campaigned versus how you can govern? Can you work with a Biden administration?
A: Well, first of all, I think it still is still up in the air who’s going to be the president. We do have a system to go by. And, you know, I just don’t understand why we get the media so involved and thinking, whether it’s President Trump or Biden. When we’re in a situation where it’s totally different in the election than we’ve normally had because we had seven or eight states come in and they change the election rules, supposedly because of the virus, but they had all these mail-in ballots and they can’t get them counted and they can’t get them counted the right way. So instead of waiting like what should have happened, the media just jumped the gun. And of course, they gave Arizona to Biden last week, and now the president looks like he’s got a great chance to win that state after the election.
So, you know, the media has got to stand down on all of this because they’re creating so much havoc. I remember in 2000 Al Gore was president, United States, president-elect, for 30 days — 30 days — and after 30 days, it got to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court says, no, George Bush is going to be the president. That’s the problem we’ll get into when we do a lot of guessing, and that’s all it is right now.
... Now, if — if — Joe Biden gets elected, obviously, we’ve got to do what’s best for the country. ... I’ll follow the lead of McConnell in terms of how we have the Senate and how we set our schedules up and all that. But there’s a lot of things we've got to get done, one of them is these elections. We cannot allow this country to go through what we’re going through again. I mean, we’re an advanced country and we’re sitting here a week after the election and we don’t know. We have no clue, and that’s wrong. Alabama, within three hours of closing the polls down, had a winner in every race. And some of these states don’t have the population that we have. So to me, it’s just chaos, organized chaos, and I don’t know why we have this. We’re a better country in this.
... So, we’ll see what happens. Whoever is president, if Joe Biden is a president, you know, of course, we’re going (to work with them). You know my beliefs. I mean, I’m a Christian conservative and we’re not going to get away from those values on my vote. But, you know, it is what it is when you get to that. And so if we can work with the House, we surely work with the president if it’s President Biden.
Q: You won your race, and so that’s obviously a big takeaway. Other than that obvious point, what kind of takeaways did you take from the election, both state and nationally? What do you think voters said?
A: Well, it’s a little concerning to me that, just as a citizen this time last week, I look at it and I see what country I grew up in and what it’s meant and the direction that we were going, and it’s concerning to me that a guy can run for president of the United States and have an opportunity to win when he leans more to a socialist type of government, you know, one-payer system in health care, raise taxes 20%, when the other half the country is basically voting for freedom, let us control our own lives, stay out of our life. And that’s concerning to me that we’re to the point now where we’ve got almost half the country voting for something that this country wasn’t built on.
Very concerning and, you know, as I tell people, my dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of socialism. Today, you look at this election, we have half this country that made some kind of movement, now they might not believe in it 100%, but they made some kind of movement toward socialism. So we’re fighting it right here on our own soil. We’ve got to decide, you know, over the years which direction we’re going, and that part’s concerning to me.