SUN CITY CENTER — Just days after the presidential election, political commentator and author Oliver North called for the Republican Party to re-establish its voter base and do a better job of connecting with the Hispanic community.
"We really have to push for these elections and win these races so let's use our experience from this past election," North said. "We need to work harder and get out the vote and reach people. The Hispanic heritage speaks GOP. They support pro life and a free enterprise system so why aren't they voting Republican?"
North came to the Sun City Center Fall Business Expo at the Sun City Center Community Hall on Thursday to promote his new novel, Heroes Proved.
He pointed to rising Hispanic leaders Marco Rubio, Florida's junior U.S. senator, and Texas U.S. Sen.-elect Ted Cruz as an indication the GOP can successfully court Hispanic voters.
A combat-decorated Marine veteran who served under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, North became a controversial figure during the Reagan era because of his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, a clandestine plan to sell weapons to Iran and use the proceeds to support Contra rebel groups in Nicaragua.
Looking back on the Reagan era, he said the president showed how to rise above partisanship and get things done.
"He was not all fearful of doing what had to be done to protect our country, our economy and our military from years of defense cuts," North said. "He could convince the American people what he wanted was the right thing to do and he went after it, above and beyond Congress."
As to Republican criticism of President Barack Obama and his handling of the deadly terrorist attack on Sept. 11 of the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, North said the president and his administration have to come clean to a congressional committee holding hearings into the deadly slaying of four Americans, including the ambassador.
"It's important to know what happened so it won't happen again and our enemies won't take advantage of us," North warned. "Our credibility has been seriously damaged and that's got to be fixed. We won't apologize. That doesn't protect the American people. We need to obtain credibility through strength and deterrence."
Now a nationally syndicated columnist for townhall.com and a commentator and host of the Fox News Channel documentary series War Stories, North received a warm welcome from the retirement community.
"I think he should have run for president," World War II naval veteran Paul Bandelier said of North.
North's book, Heroes Proved, combines his extensive experience as a Marine and a counterterrorism expert with a fictional account of the future set in 2032, where the president declares the United States is safe from terror and free of nuclear attack.
North says it's a fictionalized parallel based on the past and what's currently taking place.
"It's very realistic because I've been there," North said. "I've experienced the people and the places in the book. I've got advantages to draw from."
The Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce hosted the event and executive director Dana Ditmar credited North with helping the event draw its largest crowd ever.