Hunter blasts Dems' Iraq debate, pushes better trade deals

CONCORD -- Rep. Duncan Hunter said Congress has wasted time debating an increase in U.S. troops in Baghdad because the 82nd Airborne is already executing the plan.

Hunter, a California Republican, said the debate about the escalation is misguided and insults the troops in the field.

"The idea that Congress pulls the rug out from under the soldiers as they’re actually carrying the mission out, by condemning this mission ... I thought it was a disservice to our soldiers. There is a right way to leave Iraq and that is to continue to rotate Iraqi battalions that we’ve trained and equipped into the fight."

Hunter visited first-in-the-nation primary state as part of his campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. The former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said he would focus on a strong national defense and a self-described conservative message.

"I don’t have to hire consultant to develop a conservative image because I am a conservative," Hunter said.

He stopped in Concord to meet with state party officials and then planned stops with Dartmouth College Republicans, state Republican legislators and a gun rights group. Throughout his two-day trip, he planned to talk with voters about the growing threat of China.

"Not only do we have a bad trade deal with China but they’re cheating on the one we do have," Hunter said. "China is cheating on trade and they’re using our trade dollars to buy ships, planes and missiles. They’re becoming a super power and stepping into the shoes of the Soviet Union."

He also promoted the anti-immigration fence along the southern U.S. border, an idea Hunter has sought for decades.

"If you want to start coming to America, you’re going to have to start knocking on the front door," he said. "That fence is going to be up, that back door is going to be closed."

Hunter, first elected to Congress in 1980, has anemic poll numbers in New Hampshire. A statewide poll released this month shows 68 percent of likely GOP primary voters don’t know him.