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Interview with Minority Leader John Boehner

Interview with Minority Leader John Boehner

By The Situation Room - October 22, 2009

BLITZER: Let's bring in the top Republican in the House of Representatives, the minority leader, John Boehner of Ohio, who's joining us.

Mr. Leader, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Wolf, it's good to be with you.

BLITZER: Certainly an earthquake in Afghanistan. Given the enormous problems they already have, it's the last thing they need right now. But I'm sure the U.S. troops will do whatever they can to help in this kind of humanitarian emergency situation.

Let's talk about Afghanistan for a moment. I also want to talk about some other issues.

But what's wrong with the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief, spending some quality time with the military, the intelligence community, members of Congress, the top leadership, experts outside the government, and trying to figure out what to do now given the fact that if he deploys additional troops, you're putting a lot more young men and women in harm's way?

BOEHNER: Well, Wolf, this is a difficult decision. And I told the president that himself when I was at the White House several weeks ago. But this deliberation has been going on since Labor Day.

And my concern is that the troops that we have there today are in greater jeopardy as a result of the uncertainty that is being caused by the delay in this decision. And so I think there's enough information in the president's hands. And I do believe that the quicker he makes this decision, the quicker General McChrystal can get on with the task at hand and bring more safety to those troops who are on the ground today.

BLITZER: Because, as you remember, and I certainly remember, when President Bush was deciding whether to send additional troops in for the so-called surge in Iraq, he was deliberating not just for weeks, but for months before he came up with that final decision as well. He wanted to make sure he had it right. And it seems, at least as of now, to be paying off somewhat, that surge in Iraq.

So, isn't the president, the current president, doing what the former president did?

BOEHNER: Well, listen, I understand the deliberations. I just think they've gone on awfully long.

And secondly, the Hill's been asking for General McChrystal to come to the Hill and testify. This has been a bipartisan request in both chambers of the Congress, to have General McChrystal come up so members of Congress and the American people can understand the challenges we're facing in Afghanistan, and really understand the strategy that he's proposing. It has been unusual that the president has not allowed General McChrystal, our commander in the theater, to come and testify.

BLITZER: Have you asked for General Petraeus?

BOEHNER: We've asked...

BLITZER: McChrystal's boss, the central commander.

BOEHNER: We've asked for one or both. But at the end of the day, it's General McChrystal who's on the ground in Afghanistan. He's the one out in the villages talking to the troops every day. And it's his strategy that the president is considering.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the economy right now. It's a sensitive subject.

Christina Romer, the White House economic adviser, saying today that the economic stimulus package that the Congress passed without a whole lot of Republican support, she says has saved or created between 600,000 and 1.5 million jobs, which is a pretty good number if you think about 600,000 people or 1.5 million people.

BOEHNER: Well, I don't know where these numbers come from. All I know is this -- the president said that if the stimulus bill were to pass, that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent. It's now nearly 10 percent. And secondly, three million Americans have lost their jobs since this bill was signed into law. And it's pretty clear that the bill is not working. And that's because it's all about a bunch of government spending and not enough about allowing money to stay in the hands of American families and small businesses.

BLITZER: Well, she makes the point that instead of three million people losing their jobs, it would have been four million people potentially losing their jobs if there had been no economic stimulus package. Let me rephrase the question. Is it time for a new economic stimulus package? Because this one, at least according to Christina Romer, seems to have run its course and it's not necessarily going to do much in the next year.

BOEHNER: Well, I'm really concerned about the talk about another stimulus bill. It sounds like more spending, more taxes and more debt. Exactly what the American people don't want.

If we're serious about getting the economy going again, the president ought to consider some of the ideas that we sent to him and sent to speaker Pelosi outlining ways to allow the American people to keep more of what they earn. Because until the American people begin to start spending more and small businesses begin to start creating jobs, I don't think that we're going to get out of this.

BLITZER: Let me ask you a very political question based on a story that was posted today at Politico.com by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen. They write this -- and I'll read you the lead and then we'll get your reaction. "Many top Republicans are growing worried that the party's chances for reversing its electoral routs of 2006 and 2008 are being wounded by the flamboyant rhetoric and angry tone of conservative activists and media personalities, according to interviews with GOP officials and operatives."

Are you among those GOP officials and operatives who are worried about some of the so-called flamboyant rhetoric that we're hearing against the Democrats and against the president?

BOEHNER: Listen, Wolf, I think we're going to have a very good year next year. And Republicans have to do two things.

We've got to continue to stand on principle here in Washington. And whether it's against some of the proposals like this health care proposal, or higher taxes, or more spending. But in addition to that, we have to be the party of better solutions.

When I handed Nancy Pelosi the gavel in January, I said that if we had to oppose our new president, or oppose our Democratic colleagues in Congress, it was our obligation to say how we would do it better. And I thought we had a better solution on the stimulus plan, a better solution on the budget, a better solution on cap and trade, their national energy tax. And I think our ideas about making the current health care system work better are much better solutions than their big government-run health care plan.

BLITZER: So, is the flamboyant rhetoric, the angry rhetoric, helping or hurting Republicans?

BOEHNER: Listen, I know what I have to do here in the Congress. And I know what my colleagues have to do. We've got to continue to engage the American people, communicate with them about what's happening here in Washington, what the Democrat majority is doing, but what our better solutions are. And we're going to continue to do that.

BLITZER: John Boehner is the top Republican in the House.

Mr. Leader, thanks for coming in.

BOEHNER: Wolf, good to be with you.

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