OTR Interviews

House Minority Whip Cantor: I Fear We're Making the Same Mistakes Prior to 9/11

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 4, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The breaking news about the failed terror attack has us all asking is our nation getting stronger or weaker? Just a few hours ago House Minority Whip Eric Cantor gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation, and he's pulling no punches.

In his speech Congressman Cantor calls President Obama's foreign policy naive. Why? Congressman Cantor "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R - HOUSE REPUBLICAN WHIP: Good to be with you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: I read your speech you gave this morning. Reading is different than hearing it be delivered, but what I took away from it is thank you are saying the Obama administration is weak on national security and making us weak -- wrong or right?

CANTOR: I'm concerned about the direction of our national security strategy. And the point of my speech was really that American success in foreign policy and our strength comes from the notion we do promote peace through strength.

And secondly that we stand by our allies. And we treat friends as friends and enemies as enemies. If we get the latter confused we'll have less friends.

VAN SUSTEREN: I take it you wouldn't have given the speech if you thought we weren't standing by our allies and if we did have peace through strength. I don't have the sense you would have spontaneously give the speech, but something provoked it.

CANTOR: And there's clearly a question if you look at the level of defense spending the core function of the Pentagon and the descent of that in terms of percentage of GDP.

If you look at the commitment this administration has or lack thereof for missile defense systems, which I think is the ultimate deterrent for the forces of evil that are going against what we as Americans stand for.

And frankly, I'm concerned about this administration's penchant for going out to the world and apologizing for America. We've done nothing wrong. We should stand by our allies in the defense of freedom.

VAN SUSTEREN: You talk about apology and mentioned the speech in Cairo which we were there in person watching. How do you see that as the apology speech? What was it about it to you?

CANTOR: What the president said in that speech was that he hoped to return to the days when we had a partnership with the Muslim world. That America 20-30 years ago enjoyed some type of good relationship that now has gone awry.

I don't see it that way. I don't see that somehow we need apologize for anything that America has done. Are we a perfect nation? By no means. Are we better than anyone else because of the exceptional nature of who we are? Yes.

We don't go out seeking territory, seeking to conquer people. We are about freedom, human progress, human rights. That's what America has given to the world. And I for the life of me don't understand how this administration can apologize for that, can treat our allies to pick bogus fights with countries like Israel when we know that country stands with us.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is interesting you give the speech today because we are in the midst of this terrorism investigation. It appears, and I realize it is an ongoing investigation, but Pakistan is being very cooperative and actually making some arrests.

Is that a sign that at least some of president's policies are working, that at least we are engaging a country that while an ally of ours doesn't always like us?

CANTOR: There's no question that we all owe a debt of gratitude to law enforcement officials, the administration, civilians that were involve surrounding this failed terrorist attack in Times Square. It is a difficult job that our law enforcement, public safety officials have.

If you think about it, terrorists can get it right one time. We've got to get it right 100 percent of the time. And that's the equation. That's why we really need to have the vigilance that I talked about earlier today.

And somehow it seems that the White House, others perhaps in this town, can focus on terrorism and the threat as long as perhaps you and your colleagues in the media want to cover it, and then return to some type of other priority.

Obviously, we have a lot of priorities, but first and foremost should be our national security as well as then allow this country to return to its economic leadership that we're having so much difficulty with.

VAN SUSTEREN: A topic that everyone sort of dances around is political correctness. You mentioned it today. You say we can't be politically correct. How do you see the administration being politically correct? And where is that a danger?

CANTOR: The administration the president himself has -- they've indicated we don't want to use the words "terrorism," or "war on terror," we don't want to use the words "radical Islam."

Let's face it, the United States and our allies are in an ideological struggle against the spread of radical Islam. Terrorists operate with the support of countries that believe in a radical ideology that is antithetical to our own. And that's just the way it is.

And I believe somehow the political correctness can take over, which we have seen in the words of this administration that somehow will cause us to miss the point here, which is to try and do everything we can to keep Americans safe.

VAN SUSTEREN: We sure got lucky on Christmas day and we got lucky on Saturday night in Times Square which is a relief to all of us but serves as a wake-up call that we need to be very vigilant.

CANTOR: There's no question. There were a lot of critics who said that perhaps the federal government didn't do its job in connecting the dots prior to 9/11.

I'm fearful we are doing the same, repeating the same mistakes now, and that's why the call for renewed vigilance and focus on the fact that we do have a very real threat out there with these terrorist organizations and their state sponsors.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are we getting stronger or weaker?

CANTOR: I'm worried. Obviously I wouldn't have given the speech today that I gave if I were not concerned that the current trend line would indicate that we would get weaker.

That's why it is imperative we re-instill our commitment to make sure we are strong. We have to demonstrate that through our policies in missile defense, through the renewed commitment of the core defense operations in the Pentagon. We have to make sure intelligence officials and law enforcement have the tools they need.

And we need to set political correctness aside in the pursuit of that end.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think President Obama would sigh if you told him that? If he were standing here, would he say you are flat-out wrong?

CANTOR: I think knowing the president in a limited way as I do I think he would probably say we all want peace. And Eric, the way that the prior administration conducted itself didn't work so we're going to try another way.

And that seems to be a response that echoes not only in this arena, but certainly in the domestic arena as the policies this administration is pushing somehow are deemed correct, accurate, or valid just because they are different than what the prior administration's were.

It is just not that black and white. There were certainly a lot of good that was done. Our nation did not incur a terrorist attack while the Bush administration was in office post-9/11. We should learn from some of those experiences and remember the lessons that we were taught.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir.

CANTOR: Thank you.


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