Interviews

Rep. Cantor on Obama's foreign policy, VA scandal

House majority leader speaks out

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 28, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: President Obama is telling West Point graduates today that America must always lead.

House Majority Eric Cantor agrees and wonders why the president is not doing it.

Congressman, very good to have you.

So you were disappointed in the speech?

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-VA., HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: No question about it, Neil.

I found the speech very disappointing. America does need to lead. We have got global interests, and calling on this president to actually step up and match the rhetoric. But what I heard today was, in essence, a Goldilocks speech. You know, the president, he really doesn't want to lead over here. He really doesn't want to lead over there.

You listen to them and when he talked about Asia, he mentioned climate change. He did not even refer to the maniacal, tyrannical dictator in North Korea that has a nuclear bomb. When he talked about the Middle East, he didn't even mention Israel's security.

You know, it is very, very troubling when we have a president who I think when he talks, he wants to say the right thing, but instead, this -- this speech fell, I believe, short in terms of the kinds of things we need to do, is to reassure our allies and to allay their concerns and then to put fear in our foes that America means what it says.

CAVUTO: You know, Congressman, there are a lot of Americans who are war- weary. The president kind of addressed that today at West Point. And he might be responding to this growing sort of pessimistic view of the U.S. taking a leadership role in everything, getting involved in everyone's crisis, that we should do it if we do it, but with others, and that it shouldn't be us being the lone ranger or the lone cowboy.

What do you say to that?

CANTOR: Well, first of all, it is a false choice for the president to even suggest that it is either war or nothing.

American can lead. Our allies want to see America engaged globally. It doesn't mean we have to pay the bills, carry the burden for everyone. We have allies willing to step up to the plate. Our ally in Japan is actually increasing defense spending. We have other allies in other parts of the world willing to increase their commitment.

But what they would like to see is an America that leads, an America that leads from the front, not behind, an America that leads with certainty.

CAVUTO: All right, so what if, beyond Crimea, which the president did not really go into, Vladimir Putin feels fit, despite the election of a pro- European president, to go ahead and take the rest of Ukraine? What do we do?

CANTOR: Well, I mean, it is a very troubling situation, and we have got time now that we ought to be talking with our allies and demonstrating a real commitment to stand up for our allies in Eastern Europe.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But what if they're not standing up, Congressman? What if they're doing squat? And why should it all be on us to do what they should be upset about? After all, it's in their neighborhood.

(CROSSTALK)

CANTOR: There's no question they need to join us. But, again, this is where true leadership comes in.

The president needs to engage our allies. He needs to be serious about the sanctions that we placed on Russia. He needs to be serious about making sure that it is unacceptable to act like Mr. Putin has been acting. He's been acting as an adversary, not an ally. And we need to treat him as such.

We need to garner the support of our allies and demonstrate that America will be out there and will lead.

CAVUTO: Congressman, we had Montel Williams on the show a little earlier, saying it's a waste of time to talk about whether the guy running the VA should get fired or, you know, drawn and quartered.

The bottom line is, we got to fix the mess at the VA. And he's calling for a surge in care, much as we had the troop surge that turned around things in the war.

What do you think of that? Because it also sounds like it could be a lot of money.

CANTOR: Well, first of all, this is about our veterans. This is about our living up to the obligation that we have made, the promise that we have made to them after their service to us.

And the -- the -- the recent report that has come out exposing the horrible, horrible mismanagement, and in fact even worse, treating sick veterans the way that they have, is unacceptable. We have got to get to the bottom of it.

But, listen, you know, Mr. Shinseki, he reports to the president. It's time for this president to take ownership in this problem. You know, I had said last week it was very disappointing to me. I was disturbed by the fact that this president said or his spokesman in fact had said at the White House that the president just heard about these reports in the news.

This again says, why isn't the president owning this problem? Why isn't he taking control, showing leadership, getting to the bottom of it? We have to be there for our veterans?

CAVUTO: Do we need a VA? Do you think we need a VA? There are many who have argued on this show, sir, that maybe we need to privatize this or maybe we need to just give soldiers, present and retired, immediate access to any care anywhere they want, but this hullabaloo they have to put up with and craziness at the VA for some is just not worth it; we do not need it.

CANTOR: Well -- well, one of things that I believe we ought to do quickly is to provide our veterans with the option, if they can't receive the kind of care that they need under the VA, an option to go to a civilian provider.

This is just something that we need to do for our veterans if they are not seeing what they -- they should under the care of the Veterans Administration.

Again, I know that our committee in the House under Chairman Jeff Miller from Florida is hard at work on the issues of trying to get to the bottom of how we can fix this horrific problem that is affecting those who have served the ultimate honor for us, which is served our country in uniform.

CAVUTO: I want to switch gears, if you don't mind, sir, to this United States Marine who is still holed up in Mexico.

Do you know what really happened there? Do you know why he is still held? This has happened to soldiers on both sides who have ended up or gotten -- wandered into the other's border, with no incident. It's been resolved quickly. Not in this guy's case. Is there something we're missing?

CANTOR: Neil, I don't really know enough that could -- I could comment on that.

CAVUTO: So, if you were president, I'm just saying, and wondering why it's lasting so long, any ideas what our president should do to resolve it?

CANTOR: Again, I want to hesitate to comment on that, not knowing what the details are in the president's mind and the kinds of things he needs to undertake in order to resolve this situation.

CAVUTO: All right, fair enough, but if you will indulge me again, at the risk of being obnoxious, there are many in your party who are calling for locking the border down completely, sealing it up, getting really tough with Mexico, maybe stopping aid until this is resolved. You say what?

CANTOR: Listen, this brings up the larger question about the border.

The law starts at the border. We have got to we have got to make sure that this is the case. And it's one of things in the larger issue of immigration debate that we actually agree on, which is why I have been telling the president, why can't we do the things we agree on, rather than to bring up this whole amnesty bill that the Senate is proposing, which I'm against, and just do the things like border security, so that this kind of incident doesn't happen?

CAVUTO: Well, that's unlikely, which prompted I guess Speaker Boehner to say the chances of -- of addressing this whole issue with this Congress is not happening.

What do you think of that?

CANTOR: Well, listen, not until the president restores the trust that has been so utterly lacking between him and this Congress and frankly the people that we represent.

You know, you can, I believe, approach this situation by saying all or nothing, my way or the highway. There are some things in common that we agree on. I have always said I believe in doing something for the kids who have been brought here, unbeknownst to them in most instances.

I have always said, we need to do something on the border, to make sure that our law starts right there at the border. And this is part of the reason why people want to be in the United States, is because of our laws and their equal application and the ability to afford people opportunity in this country.

We cannot allow the law to be frayed. It's the very fabric of our country. So, I say to this president, let's do these things, rather than fixate on this comprehensive fix that includes an amnesty measure in the Senate. We don't want to do that. The American people, I don't believe, want to see that. They want to see Congress working on the things that we can agree on.

CAVUTO: A lot of Tea Partiers are still upset, feeling that Speaker Boehner has given them short shrift. They don't feel loved anymore. Do you love them?

(LAUGHTER)

CANTOR: So, listen, you remember what the acronym means, taxed enough already.

All of us conservatives, we believe that that is the case. This government has gotten entirely too big. And remember what happened when the Tea Party arose. It was back in response to the extreme overreach of the Obama administration, the explosion of government spending and regulation.

And it involved grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads that had never been involved in politics before brought into the debate. They have been a force for good. We have cut spending when -- since they have come in. We have fought to reduce the size of government. We voted, all of us, against the stimulus bill.

We have stopped any more of the statutory changes this administration has been trying to make.

CAVUTO: All right. So, everything is going to be hunky-dory?

CANTOR: Well, listen, I mean, the -- let -- there -- there is -- there is certainly...

CAVUTO: OK.

CANTOR: ... leading up to election, a lot of divide.

CAVUTO: I hear you.

CANTOR: But those -- that -- the differences between conservatives pale in comparison...

CAVUTO: All right.

CANTOR: ... to the differences we have with the left.

CAVUTO: Congressman, thank you very much.

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