Immediately after Lou Dobbs left his high-profile job at CNN last November, speculation began to swirl around the longtime news commentator. There was talk of a challenge to U.S. Senator Bob Menendez or a run at the White House in 2012. For now, Dobbs, 64, continues to host his daily three-hour radio show, which is syndicated to more than 400 stations nationwide. A Texas native who grew up in Idaho, Dobbs and his wife, Debbi, have lived since 1984 on a 300-acre horse farm in the Sussex County town of Wantage, where they have raised four children. New Jersey Monthly wanted to know what the future holds for their dad.
How’s life on the farm?
We’re breeding what are called European warm-bloods for show-jumping. I’ve got an 11-acre pond. I go out and watch the horses play in the streams and in the pond. It’s just a beautiful setting. It’s good for the soul.
When will you decide whether to challenge Bob Menendez for his Senate seat?
It’s going to take a little while. A number of groups have asked me to think about politics and have tried to persuade me to get involved in various campaigns. What I want to do right now is focus on dealing with the two basic public policy issues that I think are really important: the economy and job creation, and illegal immigration and border security.
Regarding your possible candidacy, Senator Menendez told the A.P., “I’m focused on jobs, not Dobbs.” Should he be taking you seriously as a potential challenger?
I don’t understand why Menendez does lots of things. I have no complaint with how many times he tries to rhyme in a sentence. So far, his focus on jobs hasn’t created many. He and President Obama and the rest of the Democratic party are going to be held responsible come November—of this year, not 2012.
Might you run for president in 2012?
Who knows? I don’t leap at things. I make careful evaluations and I make grown up, responsible decisions.
You seem to have softened on amnesty for illegal immigrants—why?
I have always said that I want a rational, effective, humane immigration policy. But, over the course of the past year or two, I’d permitted myself to be drawn into a debate that is more rhetoric than an attempt at being constructive. And I’m going to change that. I don’t believe that you can meaningfully reform immigration law in this country, or policy, unless you have the capacity to control immigration itself.
Have you been misunderstood by the Latino community?
Yes. But it wasn’t an accident. That was [the result of] the effort of far left-wing groups identifying me that way in the Latino community. It’s also my responsibility because I did not go specifically to the Latino community in this country and say, “This is who I am and this is what I think.” And that is what I’m changing now.
How will the Obama health plan affect New Jersey?
The Obama plan will do almost nothing to reduce the cost of health care over the next ten years. Indeed, the state’s Medicaid costs are expected to rise almost 10 percent as a result of his plan, and the financial burden on employers and middle-class families will also rise.
On Bill O’Reilly’s show you described yourself as a “wiser Lou Dobbs.” How so?
Because I’ve had time to reflect on the combativeness that I’ve brought to public debate and now I want to work on constructiveness and a constructive approach to some of these public policy issues. And I think I’ll enjoy this approach just as much as I did the former.
Last question. Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen?
Bruce Springsteen, without hesitation. He’s a good guy, despite his politics.