OTR Interviews

Boehner: Ryan a 'brave choice, a wise choice'

House speaker reacts to Romney choosing Wis. congressman as his running mate, sounds off on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and more


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 13, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now to the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Congressman Paul Ryan's colleague. They go way back. And tonight, Speaker Boehner talks about the first time he crossed paths with the now vice presidential candidate. We caught up with Speaker Boehner here in Wisconsin.


VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, nice to see you.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Greta, good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I like it. We're not in the Capitol, but I have you on my territory.

BOEHNER: I know. It's so nice to be outside of Washington.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I understand that you've leaned how to do some Wisconsin fishing?

BOEHNER: I did. I caught a few walleyes today.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's good. All right, the big news, Congressman Paul Ryan from the state of Wisconsin -- he is one of your colleagues in the House. What's your thought on this pick?

BOEHNER: Well, I couldn't be happier for Paul, and I think Mitt Romney made a brave choice and a wise choice. Paul Ryan understands that the central issue that we have to deal with is our economy. There's nobody that knows more about pro-growth economic policies than Paul Ryan. And then when it comes to dealing with our debt crisis, probably nobody worked harder to develop policies to deal with our debt crisis than Paul Ryan.

So I think he brings the kind of experience and background and leadership to this race that Mitt Romney will find very helpful.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why is that brave?

BOEHNER: Well, you know, there were safer choices. You read all the noise over the last couple of weeks. And because Paul Ryan has carried the House Republican budget over the last couple of years, we've taken some brave positions. And it would have been easy for Governor Romney to just go somewhere else and not have to deal with it.

But he didn't do that. That's because the issues that Paul Ryan has carried on behalf of our team are issues that are important to this election and important to the future of our country.

VAN SUSTEREN: As you might imagine, there have been statements from the other side of the aisle. And let me -- Senator -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this...

BOEHNER: Well, this ought to be real interesting.

VAN SUSTEREN: Get ready.

BOEHNER: Yes, I'm ready.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ready? You OK? You ready?

BOEHNER: I'm ready.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. "By picking Representative Paul Ryan, Governor Romney has doubled down on his commitment to gut Social Security and Medicare as we know it."

BOEHNER: What would you expect? You know, Republicans on Capitol Hill have out outlined ways to save Medicare, to save Social Security and to save Medicaid. Where are the plans from the Democrats? They have none.

We know that if we don't address these programs and address them soon, they're not sustainable in the current form. So what are we going to do? Do nothing? Let them go bankrupt? That's the Democrat plan, do nothing, let them go bankrupt.

I think outlining how we would fix those programs is an important dialogue to have. It's an honest dialogue to have. And it's about time the Democrats come to the table with their ideas.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you realize it's a political weapon of mass destruction. I mean, that -- you know, they -- a lot of people think that you just -- that the Republicans are just coming in and -- and -- and it may not be true, but that's what you've got to deal with in the political arena.

BOEHNER: I think that being honest with the American people, being forthright with them is the best way to earn their support and to earn their vote.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think that it's so -- I mean, the statement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- and he's had a couple in the past couple weeks. I mean, why is he so aggressive and -- I mean, in -- he's been painfully aggressive to the Republican Party lately.

BOEHNER: Oh, I don't know, Greta. You'll have to ask him. You know, I'm -- I've got to work with him every day. I actually get along with Harry. We have some different views. But you'll have to ask Harry why he makes some of the statements that he makes.

VAN SUSTEREN: But in those off times, don't you say to him, like, you know, Harry, I...

BOEHNER: No, no, no.

VAN SUSTEREN: You never say anything to him?

BOEHNER: No, I never say anything to him. Listen, Ted Kennedy and I used to be friends, too, close friends, and worked very closely together. But I never asked Ted about why he said some of the things that he said. And he said some -- he said some pretty interesting things.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do statements -- do politicians remember these statements that are said about each other, I mean, whether it's someone pushing someone off a cliff in an ad or -- I mean, do...

BOEHNER: Well, I don't know about anybody else, but I certainly don't ever remember those statements. You know, people in this business from time to time are going to say things that are bit over the top. I try to avoid it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, here's what President Obama says about the choice, among -- I mean, he says, He's a decent man, a family man, but he says he's an ideological leader of the Republicans in Congress, that he's an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney's vision, but it's a vision I fundamentally disagree with. So sounds like he's staying a little bit out of the mud wrestling.

BOEHNER: A bit. But what is it that he disagrees with when it comes to our economic policies? You know, the president -- he doesn't want to talk about his record because his economic policies have failed. They've actually made things worse. As a result, he's turned to the politics of envy and division, trying divide Americans.

And the American people want to know how we're going to fix the economy and how we're going to put the American people back to work. Mitt Romney is a proven job creator. He understands the private sector. He understands the heavy weight of government that gets in the way of private sector job creation. And so does Paul Ryan.

This election is going to be about economics, our economy, because the American people are still asking the question, Where are the jobs?

VAN SUSTEREN: It's about the economy, but foreign policy is always something that's looming out there, and it's an important element of the job, of your job, the president's, anybody who's in leadership. Congressman Paul Ryan and Governor Romney have virtually no foreign policy experience. What's the answer to that when -- when the Democratic Party comes after you on that one?

BOEHNER: Well, President Obama had had absolutely no foreign policy experience. And while Joe Biden used to be chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, all of his prescriptions that I've listened to over the last 20 years were all wrong.

And so I do believe that Governor Romney and Mr. Ryan can handle the foreign policy issues. But that's not going to decide this election. It's going to be about our economy and putting the American people back to work and saving the future for our kids and our grandkids. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney can deliver this message much better than any two Republicans I know.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the relationship between Congressman Paul Ryan and the president? I mean, we've seen some sort of -- it appears to be sort of a testy exchange, at least the little video clips we see. And we know that he was invited to G.W. by the president and placed in the front row, and then his budget was pretty much eviscerated, perhaps insulting the congressman.

BOEHNER: I think President Obama respects Paul Ryan. I assume President Obama likes Paul Ryan. And while there may be a little back and forth from time to time, I think we have two people that have a lot of respect for each other.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did you find out that he was chosen?

BOEHNER: Listening to the news, like everybody else.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't get the inside track?

BOEHNER: No, no, no, no, no. You know, 22 years ago, I was running for Congress first time, in 1990, and I was locked in a really difficult primary. And I had a young student from Miami of Ohio putting yard signs up for me, Paul Ryan.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you remember him?

BOEHNER: I've known him for a long time.

VAN SUSTEREN: He sleeps in his office.

BOEHNER: Well, more...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, not during business hours, at night. At night, I should say.

BOEHNER: More members do this than you probably realize. You know, it's expensive having your family at home and trying to raise your family and afford your mortgage, and then to be able to have to rent an apartment in Washington. You know, to do that is probably another 20 grand a year -- after taxes. And so more members than you would realize just camp out in the office.

VAN SUSTEREN: People think of him as hawkish on the budget, on expenses, but he voted for TARP. He voted for the auto bailout, voted for two stimulus in '08, voted against the '09 -- February '09 President Obama stimulus. How does -- I mean, how does he explain those, or I mean, how does -- politically, how does he sell that?

BOEHNER: I mean, I think that he's a practical conservative. He's got a very conservative voting record, but he's not a knuckle-dragger, all right? He understood that TARP, while none of us wanted to do it, if we were going to save -- save our economy, save the world economy, it had to happen. I wish we didn't have to do it, either, but he understood that.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what -- give me the outlook on the economy. How're we doing?

BOEHNER: Not going well. You know, U.S. economy is pretty much flat. The European economy is worse. It's going to affect our growth. And the president's policies have not made things better, and they've actually made things worse. Between not dealing with our debt, a tax system where nobody knows what their taxes are going to be in January, and then a regulatory environment that is scaring every employer to death, it's a wonder that anybody's hiring.

It's time to get all of these under control. Those are the three big points in our package, if you will, to get the economy going and to save the future for our kids and our grandkids.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why does it always take almost a crisis, though, to finally get a decision? Because you take the taxes issue. We all know they're going to expire by the end of the year. And a lot of business people are sort of sitting on the sidelines. Whatever happens, they can deal with, but they don't know if they're going up, they're going down -- or they're staying the same, rather. They -- and so they're -- they're on hold. And so the economy is on hold until we have a decision, fishing or cut-baiting on these taxes.

It would speed up the economy, I think, a little bit if the tax decision were made now.

BOEHNER: Yes. If people knew what their tax rates were going to be next year, they could plan. That's why the House moved several weeks ago to extend all of the current tax rates for one year to give us time to reform the tax code from top to bottom, both the corporate tax code and the personal tax code.

But you know, we'll see what the Senate does. But there's no indication that the Senate will act before the election.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you ever get a call from the president, Let's deal with this tax, let's get this done?




VAN SUSTEREN: Because...

BOEHNER: He's been out campaigning since last Labor Day, 49 weeks. That's all he's done is campaign nonstop. He doesn't engage us. He's not leading. He's out there trying to save his own rear end and trying to save his own reelection.

VAN SUSTEREN: So but -- I mean, is there any way to sort of put fire under this tax thing? Just (INAUDIBLE) one thing, this tax thing, to get a decision...

BOEHNER: Voters. Voters.

VAN SUSTEREN: But that's not until November.

BOEHNER: Well, no, no. Well, let me tell you what. Politicians read polls. And if the voters want these taxes dealt with now, they can put fire under politicians. Trust me, I know how this works.