Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson
  • Hoover Institution: Distinguished Visiting Fellow
  • Center for Security Policy: Former Board Member
  • Former Governor of California

Please note: IPS Right Web neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.

Pete Wilson, the former governor of California and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, has been an important Republican Party figure for more than three decades, having also served as a U.S. senator, the mayor of San Diego, and a California state representative. Best known for his eight-year tenure as governor of California (1991-1999), during which he pushed for hardline immigration reforms such as Proposition 187, Wilson has remained politically active since leaving public office. In addition to his post at Hoover, Wilson has served as an adviser to the hardline neoconservative advocacy group the Center for Security Policy and as an honorary chair of the 2012 Mitt Romney presidential campaign.

Wilson has also served in various official capacities for Republican administrations. He served on two advisory boards during the George W. Bush presidency, including the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board (DPB), an advisory group that provides policy advice to the Defense Department and which was chaired by Richard Perle at the time of Wilson’s appointment. He also served on President Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.[1]

Wilson has been a strident supporter of the national security policies of Republican administrations since his time in the U.S. Senate (1983-1991), during which he served on the Armed Services Committee. While his fiscal conservatism in the Senate earned him the label “watchdog of the Treasury,” he was also a staunch advocate for the early implementation of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, later known as Star Wars, which in some ways was a precursor to U.S. plans for a national missile defense.[2]

Immigration and Foreign Policy

Pete Wilson’s most enduring legacies have been the extremely restrictive policies on immigration that he pursued as governor of California. However, Wilson’s immigration views have largely focused on Latino immigration and have not been characterized by the same Islamophobic fervor of other right-wing foreign policy commentators. In 2014, for instance, he defended a local Republican political candidate in California who was attacked by his opponent because of his Muslim faith.[3]

In the run-up to his second term as governor, Wilson championed Proposition 187, which would have denied undocumented immigrants access to public education and social services if courts hadn’t overturned the voter-approved law. Despite the backlash from California’s Latino voters, anti-immigration politics became the keystone of Wilson’s ill-fated 1996 presidential campaign.[4] Wilson’s positions bolstered the anti-immigrant movement but cost the governor politically. As co-chair of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial campaign, Wilson was widely perceived as a threat to Schwarzenegger’s moderate image. The Los Angeles Times reported, “many Latinos are wary of Schwarzenegger’s ties to the governor who pushed what some saw as a racist proposition.”[5]

While the Republican Party under President Bush and his advisor Karl Rove sought to court the Hispanic voters, Wilson remained unrepentant about his position on immigration and openly critical of legislators concerned about being labelled racist. “I think a great many Republicans have been intimidated, and I, frankly, am quite disappointed,” Wilson said in a 2006 speech at the Hudson Institute.[6] Wilson takes a nativist view, arguing that illegal immigration threatens U.S. security and culture. He is a strong proponent of building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.[7]

Despite his considerable differences with John McCain on immigration issues—McCain, like Bush, has supported a path to citizenship for some unauthorized workers—Wilson nonetheless endorsed McCain for the 2008 presidential race after the candidate he first endorsed, Rudy Giuliani, lost the Republican primary.[8]

During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, Wilson made headlines again as journalists compared his positions on immigration to those of 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. A July 2015 article in the Los Angeles Times noted that Wilson’s “short term gain” with Proposition 187 “was soon outweighed by a devastating Latino backlash that turned California into a Democratic stronghold.”[9]

The piece added: “So there was a flashback quality to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hour-long denunciation of illegal immigration at a campaign stop Friday in Beverly Hills.”[10]

Foreign Policy Track Record

Wilson began to receive pubic attention for his foreign policy views during the presidency of Bill Clinton. He criticized the Clinton administration for not moving fast enough to build a missile defense shield, which became a priority for the George W. Bush administration. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Wilson said that missiles would be “the most certain form of delivery of weapons of mass destruction” and therefore needed to be defended against. He also criticized the decades-old assassination ban that was put in place by President Gerald Ford, following a congressional hearing on the issue led by then-Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Frank Church (D-ID). “The Church committee, Wilson said, ‘undertook to sanitize American intelligence activity.’ Wilson said this signaled terrorists that ‘our first concern is not to dirty our hands,’ when the signal should be that the United States will ‘effectively retaliate against them and crush them.'”[11]

Soon after September 11, 2001, Wilson was appointed to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a group that advises the president on the quality and role of the country’s intelligence. With his appointment Wilson joined a long list of Bush political supporters and family friends including Chairman Brent Scowcroft; Robert Addison Day, a Bush fund-raiser and chairman of the money management firm TWC Group; Ray Lee Hunt, of the Texas Hunt Oil fortune; Alfred Lerner, chief executive of MBNA who with his wife donated $500,000 to the GOP; James Calhoun Langdon Jr., a Texas lawyer and another Bush fund-raiser; and David Jeremiah, a retired admiral who served on the DPB, the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs board, and as consultant to several defense contractors.[12]

Wilson was appointed to a second Bush administration advisory board in 2001, the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. Wilson was among several members of the Stanford University-based Hoover Institution who joined the 28-member DPB after Richard Perle was appointed chair in early 2001. Defending the position that the United States should if necessary act alone in places like Iraq, Wilson in 2002 told the San Francisco Chronicle, “The most foolish thing in the world would be to give up some kind of strategic or tactical advantage to secure the nominal contribution of partners who won’t contribute much and who seem, almost ironically, to have an unlimited capacity for temporizing.”[13]

Share RightWeb

Please note: IPS Right Web neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.

Sources

[1] See Hoover Institution, “Pete Wilson: Distinguished Visiting Fellow,” http://www.hoover.org/profiles/pete-wilson.


Federal Advisory Board Database, “Defense Policy Board Database,” updated March 5, 2008,http://fido.gov/facadatabase/committeeslist.asp.


[2] See Hoover Institution, “Pete Wilson: Distinguished Visiting Fellow,” http://www.hoover.org/profiles/pete-wilson.


[3] Seema Mehta, “Former Gov. Wilson says Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is unfit for office,” Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2014,http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-pete-wilson-donnelly-office-20140515-story.html.


[4] Daniel Hernandez, “The Return of Wilson, Prop. 187,” Los Angeles Times, September 5, 2003, p. B1,http://articles.latimes.com/2003/sep/05/local/me-wilson5.


[5] Daniel Hernandez, “The Return of Wilson, Prop. 187,” Los Angeles Times, September 5, 2003, p. B1,http://articles.latimes.com/2003/sep/05/local/me-wilson5.


[6] Gebe Martinez, “Ex-California Governor Says GOP Timid on Immigration; Wilson Claims Lawmakers Fear Being Called Racist,” Houston Chronicle, June 13, 2006, p. A6, http://www.chron.com/news/nation-world/article/Ex-California-governor-says-GOP-timid-on-1892360.php.


[7] Remarks of Pete Wilson, “Illegal Immigration: Past, Present, and Future,” Hudson Institute, June 12, 2006,http://ww.ctbookstore.org/files/publications/PeteWilsontranscript.pdf.


[8] States News Service, “Former California Governor Pete Wilson Endorses John McCain for President,” February 3, 2008.


Michael Blood, “Former California Gov. Pete Wilson Endorses Republican Rudy Giuliani in Presidential Bid,” Associated Press, September 27, 2007, http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/former-california-gov-pete-wilson-endorses-republican-news-photo/77065138.


[9] Michael Finnegan, “On immigration, Donald Trump takes a page from Pete Wilson’s 1994 playbook,” Los Angeles Times, July 11, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-0712-trump-california-20150712-story.html.


[10] Michael Finnegan, “On immigration, Donald Trump takes a page from Pete Wilson’s 1994 playbook,” Los Angeles Times, July 11, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-0712-trump-california-20150712-story.html.


[11] Philip J. LaVelle, “Wilson Speaks out for Missile Shield as Vital to Defense,” San Diego Union Tribune, October 10, 2001, p. A7.


[12] David Corn, “Who’s on PFIAB—A Bush Secret … Or Not? UPDATED,” The Nation, August 14, 2002,http://www.thenation.com/article/whos-pfiab-bush-secretor-not-updated/.


[13] Robert Collier, “Group at Hoover Helping to Steer Administration’s drive toward Iraq,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 15, 2002, p. A14, http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Group-at-Hoover-helping-to-steer-administration-s-2797329.php.


Share RightWeb

Pete Wilson Résumé

Affiliations

  • Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation: Board of Trustees, Member
  • Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundations: Former Board Member
  • Pacific Council on International Policy: Former Chairman, Japan Task Force
  • 2012 Mitt Romney Presidential Campaign: Honorary Campaign Chair

Government

  • President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board: Former Member
  • Pentagon: Defense Policy Board, Former Member
  • State of California: Governor (1991-1999); Representative (1967-1971)
  • U.S. Senate: Senator, R-CA (1983-1991)
  • City of San Diego: Mayor (1971-1983)
  • U.S. Marine Corps: Marine (1955-1958)

Business

  • Pacific Capital Group: Managing Director (2000-2002)
  • Bingham McCutchen: Of Counsel
  • Bingham Consulting Group: Principal
  • Fleishman-Hillard: International Advisory Board, Member
  • Morgan Lewis: Principal

Education

  • Yale University: BA, 1956
  • University of California, Berkeley: JD, 1962

Related:

Pete Wilson News Feed

Sturgis Brown graduates 130 | Local News - Black Hills PioneerWill America Follow the Left Coast’s Lead? - The Wall Street JournalWeek In Politics: How The New Wave Of Abortion Laws Will Play In 2020, The First Republican Calls For Trump Impeachment, New Presidential Candidate Announcements And More - 89.3 KPCCGOP pollster says Pete Buttigieg's policies are in line with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren - Fox NewsFormer US Interior Secretary Manuel Luján Jr. has died - Chicago Daily HeraldWhite House hopefuls swarm rival’s home turf of California - Washington PostSome guys have all the luck. Just ask California Gov. Gavin Newsom - Los Angeles TimesAmerica Isn’t Doomed to Follow the Left Coast - Wall Street JournalFerry, Tran earn silver in doubles tourney | News, Sports, Jobs - Williamsport Sun-GazetteAbortion Fight or Strong Economy? For G.O.P., Cultural Issues Undercut 2020 Message - The New York TimesA governor who puts family at the heart of the state budget - San Francisco ChronicleRobert Kraft files new motion seeking permanent muzzle on video evidence - Yahoo SportsGov. Pete Wilson: California had a plan to store storm water, but Democrats blew it - Los Angeles TimesIn Depth: The dream of an unparalleled public transportation system in Los Angeles - FOX 11 Los AngelesDISTRICT 2: Reese, Maiocco earn tops seeds - Sports - Citizens Voice'I am competing for every vote' | Democratic presidential hopefuls swarm California for campaign cash - ABC10.com KXTVThe Progressive Roots of Trump's Trade War Politics - Progressive.orgHappy birthday, Pete Wilson. And thanks: You made California what it is - Los Angeles TimesTrump could be turning Asian Americans into reliable Democratic voters - Vox.com2 seats, 2 candidates for Falmouth School Board - The Forecaster

Right Web is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

The Right Web Mission

Right Web tracks militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy.

For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

Featured Profiles

The brainchild of Sears-Roebuck heiress Nina Rosenwald, the Gatestone Institute is a New York-based advocacy organization formerly chaired by John Bolton that is notorious for spreading misinformation about Muslims and advocating extremely hawkish views on everything from Middle East policy to immigration.


Conrad Black is a former media mogul closely connected to rightist political factions in the United States who was convicted in July 2007 for fraud and obstruction of justice and later pardoned by his friend President Trump.


Rupert Murdoch is the head of News Corp, the parent company of Fox News, and a long-time supporter of neoconservative campaigns to influence U.S. foreign policy.


Bret Stephens is a columnist for the New York Times who previously worked at the Wall Street Journal and the neoconservative flagship magazine Commentary.


Donald Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr is the focus of a growing controversy over the Robert Mueller report because his decision to unilaterally declare that the the president had not obstructed justice during the Mueller investigation.


The Republican Jewish Coalition is a right wing Jewish advocacy groups that promotes an aggressive pro-Israel and anti-Iran policy.


Erik Prince, former CEO of the mercenary group Blackwater, continues to sell security services around the world as controversies over his work—including in China and the Middle East, and his alleged involvement in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia—grow.


RightWeb
share