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Transcript: Rep. John Boehner on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the Nov. 5, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: And we're back now at Fox News election headquarters in New York. And joining us here, the House majority leader, Republican John Boehner.

Congressman, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday".

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER: Chris, good to be with you.

WALLACE: I have a theory in the final days of campaigns: Pay attention to what politicians do, not what they say. This week Republicans are pouring money in to defend seats that were formerly, even last week, considered safe Republican seats, in such areas as Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska.

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Meanwhile, Democrats are expanding the number of Republican districts in which they are now advertising to include Kansas and Nebraska. Aren't they playing offense in these final days, and aren't you being forced to play more and more defense to hold on to Republican seats?

BOEHNER: There's no question, Chris, that we're in a tough political environment. But I've been on the road for these last five weeks. I've been in all these tough districts. And our candidates are doing what they need to be doing. They're running their grassroots operation, their get-out-the-vote effort, and talking about the issues the American people care about, whether it's keeping taxes low, securing our borders or making sure the president has the tools to fight the terrorists.

And if we continue to mobilize our voters here over the next two days, we're going to be fine on Election Night.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that, because the smart money in Washington — these are guys who do nothing — of course, you look at polls and try to project races for a living, but, you know, a lot of the pundits, if you will, the experts say the smart money is you're going to lose 20 seats, 30 seats, 40 seats.

One top Republican pollster says it's the toughest political environment for Republicans since Watergate. How tough is it and where do you put the House — the battle for control of the House right now?

BOEHNER: Well, it is tough. And when you begin to look at all of these races, understand that we don't have a national election. We have 435 individual elections. When you get into each of these elections, there are different issues in each of these different districts.

But at the end of the day — there is a new national poll out today, by the way, ABC Washington Post poll that came out and showed the generic ballot down to six. There is some tightening that's going on out there.

WALLACE: That's right, and we should say 10 days ago it was 15 points.

BOEHNER: That's correct. And as an example, yesterday, Indiana 2, Chris Chocola, the incumbent locked in a tight race — his campaign made 33,000 phone calls in that congressional district. They knocked on 6,000 doors.

My own campaign yesterday made 27,000 phone calls in my congressional district. There's a ground game out there that we know how to run. And at the end of the day, it's going to make a big difference in a lot of these tight races.

WALLACE: But you and Tip O'Neill to the contrary, all politics is not local. There are some national issues, and obviously the biggest one is the war in Iraq.

Today we got what I think every American would consider the very good news that Saddam Hussein has been found guilty and sentenced to death. I know you think it's a good thing. Politically, how does that cut?

BOEHNER: I think it's too early to tell. I think it's good news. Saddam...

WALLACE: But does that energize Republicans? Does that add some support to the president's policy in Iraq?

BOEHNER: I think so. And I think defeating the terrorists is the only option that we have. Democrats just want to give up in Iraq. They just want to pull out the troops.

We're in a very serious war with people who want to kill us. And if we don't win in Iraq, we're going to embolden terrorists all over the world. And today's victory is a victory for the Iraqi people.

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who killed his own people, tortured his own people, and today I think the Iraqi people — really, it's a victory for them and it's another milestone in a stable and democratically elected government in Iraq.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about another aspect of the war in Iraq. Last week you said — and let's put it up on the screen — "I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best thing that's happened to the Pentagon in 25 years."

Now, you were asked about the war more recently, later in the week, a couple days later, and you had this to say. Let's put it up. "Let's not blame what's happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld." Question, "But he's in charge of the military." Answer, "But the fact is the generals on the ground are in charge and he works closely with them and the president."

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says that you were blaming failures of the war in Iraq on the troops and you should apologize.

BOEHNER: Listen. Good try, Harry. It's not going to work. I was out there in a strong way trying to make sure that John Kerryapologized for the remarks that he did, and he finally did. It's no surprise to me that Senate Democrats and others came after me for my treatment of Senator Kerry.

But at the end of the day, there's not a living, breathing soul who knows me that knows that I don't support our troops. Donald Rumsfeld is the secretary of defense. It's a tough job.

The transformation he's brought about at the Pentagon is a good thing, and he is working closely with the generals, and I hope that he continues to listen to the generals on the ground.

WALLACE: But if I may, Majority Leader, several books that have been written about the war in recent months, including one by retired Marine Corps General Bernard Trainor, say that Rumsfeld badgered, even bullied the troops to go to war in Iraq with fewer troops.

BOEHNER: Well, we have a system where we have civilian leadership at the Pentagon who works closely with the military. In a lot of Rumsfeld's decisions in terms of transforming the military to a lighter, more effective force, really a force for the 21st century, has certainly had some success and certainly met some resistance with the generals.

But at the end of the day, I think Rummy is listening to the generals on the ground. I hope he continues to listen to them. It's the president's choice, and the president's made it clear that Rumsfeld is his choice to be the secretary of defense.

WALLACE: Let's switch topics here. While we're always delighted to see you, I have to say that where is Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert?

BOEHNER: Well, the speaker has been on the road this past week. I talked to him the other day. He was in Texas, Arizona, Florida. I think the bigger question, Chris, is where's Nancy Pelosi?

WALLACE: Well, she was in Pennsylvania this weekend.

BOEHNER: She's been AWOL for weeks. Why? Because she doesn't want to get out there and talk about any of the issues that the American people care about.

WALLACE: Well, but let me ask you, because you have been in New York much of this week, and you've been doing national interviews, and we're very grateful to have you here.

Dennis Hastert has — you know, it hasn't been easy to find him, and he hasn't done any national interviews, and I guess the question a lot of people ask is is he hiding because of his involvement in the Mark Foley congressional page scandal.

BOEHNER: Well, the speaker never does much T.V. You know that. Over the course of the eight years — almost eight years that he's been speaker, rarely does T.V. interviews. He's been out there doing his work in his own district and helping other candidates.

But the bigger issue here is Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid. Where are they? They don't want to talk about their agenda of bigger government, more spending and raising the American people's taxes. They're weak on national security.

If it was up to them, I think they'd be on the border welcoming people as they come across. They don't want to talk about it. So you've not heard — you've not heard the Democrat leadership nor Democrat candidates ever really talk about where they are. They've spent the whole campaign criticizing Republicans.

WALLACE: I want to push back a little bit on this same issue, though. Are you disappointed that the House Ethics Committee is apparently not going to come out with its report until after the election and so, therefore, voters won't know as they go to the polls what the Republican leadership either did or failed to do?

BOEHNER: The House Ethics Committee is the only committee in the Congress that has equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. And they've worked well together on this investigation, and this has been a very serious investigation.

They're going to have to take their time to get their report right. I don't know that it makes any difference whether they came out before the election or after the election.

WALLACE: Don't you think voters would like to know?

BOEHNER: I think the most important thing is that they do a god job and present a fair case of what happened and what didn't happen.

WALLACE: You know, you talk about Nancy Pelosi and her extreme — I don't know if that's the word you used, but I'm sure it's one you would use — extreme agenda. They have put out what they call six for '06, which are, I think most people would say, fairly moderate ideas — raise the minimum wage, enact all the recommendations of the 9/1l Commission, make it easier for people to pay for college tuition. That doesn't sound so radical.

BOEHNER: Oh, it's not so radical, although they voted against many of the 9/11 Commission's — which one of them was creating the Department of Homeland Security. They voted against it. A number of others they voted against. So it's somewhat hypocritical to say they want to come out and enact all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

The bigger issues are the American people want to know who's going to keep our economy prosperous. Republicans have cut taxes each of the last 12 years we've been in the majority. The Democrats want to raise taxes.

When it comes to spending people's money wisely, we've done a good job of going back to the basics of why Republicans — why the American people want Republicans there. They want us to clean up earmarks so we don't have wasteful spending. They want us to give the line item veto to the president, which we did this year.

And so it's all of these issues — securing the border. But most importantly, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

WALLACE: All right. I want to talk to you about feelings within the Republican Party. Some people would say look, you've had 12 years to clean up earmarks and you haven't done it. In fact, they've gotten worse, not better.

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, one of the architects of the 1994 Republican revolution, wrote an article last week in which he said the following, and let's put it up on the screen.

This is a Republican. "Republican lawmakers forgot the party's principles, became enamored with power and position and began putting politics over policy. Now the Democrats are reaping the rewards of our neglect and we have no one to blame but ourselves."

Congressman Boehner, a lot of your own members are saying win or lose, you should postpone the November leadership elections and take a clean look at whether you should have a new team in place to lead Republicans going forward.

BOEHNER: Well, that is a possibility, and the speaker and I have talked about it — no decisions yet on when those leadership elections will occur. They're scheduled for November 15th. We'll see how Tuesday goes and then we'll make some decisions.

But Dick Armey's comments really aren't all that far off the mark. And a lot of what he talked about in his article I talked about in my campaign to be the majority leader. Republican voters want Republicans in Washington to get back to the principles of who we are as a party and to renew the spirit of 1994.

And over the course of this year, I've tried to do that. We heard the message loud and clear from the American people and Republican voters, and I can tell you that when we win our majority back on Tuesday, they're going to see more of our renewing our effort to go back to '94. They'll never see it if the Democrats are elected the majority.

WALLACE: Congressman Boehner, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for coming in today and sharing your Sunday with us.

BOEHNER: Nice to see you.

WALLACE: Good to see you, sir.

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