Transcript: Frist, Hastert on 'FOX News Sunday'

Sunday , August 29, 2004



The following is a transcribed excerpt from 'FOX News Sunday,' August 29, 2004:

CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now is the chairman of the Republican Convention. His day job is speaker of the house, Congressman Dennis Hastert. And the chairman of the platform committee, who's better known as the Senate majority leader, Senator Bill Frist.

Gentlemen, good morning. And we should note that this is a bit of television history, your first joint TV interview ever. So thank you for honoring us with that. And welcome.

U.S. SENATOR BILL FRIST, R-TN: Good to be with you, Chris.


WALLACE: We keep hearing that the president is going to lay out his agenda for a second term in his speech Thursday night. What does he need to say about where he intends to take this country, Senator?

FRIST: Chris, he, I predict, will lay out a future, a vision, an agenda that's based on the past four years of performance. Strong on the war on terror, strong on the economy, a man of action, delivering in health care, clearly delivering in education, looking to the past briefly but then setting that vision for the future.

Thematically it will be that we are secure, safer now, a more hopeful tomorrow. That is the theme that will be developed.

WALLACE: Speaker Hastert, can you put a little more meat on those bones in terms of specific proposals you think?

HASTERT: Well, I think, you know, one of the things — whining that we hear from the other side is this whole issue on outsourcing. I think he's going to talk about how we attack those problems, how we — you know, it's not the wages that we have to compete with, it's the regulation and the litigation and the taxation that we have to deal with in this country. And I think he'll touch on that, as well.

WALLACE: Let's talk about a couple of issues that are out there that we think he's going to touch on.

One is intelligence reform. The president signed several executive orders this week. Congress is holding a lot of hearings on the subject. Do either one of you worry that there is a rush to jump on the 9/11 Commission bandwagon?

FRIST: Chris, the speaker and I were just talking. We have a short legislative period after the convention. We have very aggressively worked over the last month with multiple hearings on the speaker's side, multiple hearings in the United States Senate, a lot of oversight, in response to the 9/11 recommendations.

We are going to progress over the next 30 days. The president of the United States has delivered a directive to us and to the Congress yesterday, to the American people. It will be much more specific, we predict, in about 10 days.

With that, we will be deliberate, we will be aggressive, we will be focused. It's not going to be a knee-jerk reaction. This is too big. This is too important. We'll do it in a very careful and thoughtful and aggressive way.

WALLACE: But, Mr. Speaker, I mean, you've got the idea of the national intelligence director, which you know a lot of very serious people think is a very terrible idea. Now you've got Senator Roberts's idea, which would just sort of split the whole thing up and rebuild it.

Do you worry that we're going a little fast here?

HASTERT: Well, we're not going to — as the senator said, we're not going to knee-jerk. We have to look at this. We're going to analyze it and we're going to put this thing back together.

There are, you know, four or five groups of ideas out there, and I think we need to take a very serious study on all those ideas.

First of all, we have to have some redundancy in our intelligence so we don't make mistakes and not have somebody to follow up. We need to have a funding source so that people control this, that we don't duplicate things that we don't have to duplicate. And I think we need some serious people at the head.

And so we have to put those concepts together and coordinate all this intelligence. And, you know, whether you're trying to stop drugs coming across the border or terrorists or, you know, intelligence or your just everyday military intelligence, they all have their pockets that they have to be looked at and analyzed.

WALLACE: Do you feel bound to pass something by Election Day?

HASTERT: I think we need to do a serious attempt at it. I would like to pass something by Election Day. I think we need to do it. We just can't let this sit foul.

WALLACE: Whether it's tax reform or establishing private savings accounts for Social Security, Senator Frist, Democrats say, "Look, you guys have had control of the House, of the Senate, of the White House for the last two years. If you have a great idea, why didn't you already do it?"

FRIST: Well, I think if you look at the record, we'll say we have. Democrats for years have talked education, thrown more money at it. This president acted, delivered on education.

Health care, prescription drugs, something I care passionately about, as most people do — for eight years, Democrats talked about helping seniors who need it; prescription drugs, the most powerful tool in American medicine today, they talked about it, but they never did it. They did it under a Republican president, Republican House and Republican United States Senate.

The war on terror, the recession. Right now, two-thirds of Al Qaida now eliminated, a tremendous response to the past. Again, this is a president of action.

You look on education, you look on health care, you look on fighting the recession and coming out now with the fastest growing economy in 20 years in response to the tax cuts, really unprecedented- size tax cuts. That is action.

Again, that's going to be important, and I think it's looking to the future. What is this president going to do? And that's going to be what we're going to hear about this week.

WALLACE: But, Speaker Hastert, let me take another example, reform of Social Security and the ideas of private savings accounts. I remember George W. Bush campaigning on that in 2000. Nothing's happened. Why not?

HASTERT: Well, we want to give people more control over their lives and control over their money. The health savings accounts that we passed starts to do that, especially in health care.

And, you know, I think this has to be considered a very serious debate over what we are going to do on Social Security in the future. And people want more control over it. And I think we need to find the ways to be able to do that without hurting the system that we have today.

WALLACE: Senator Frist, as we mentioned, you're chairman of the platform committee to this convention, which this last week, I guess Thursday, passed a document that endorses the president's position on every major issue.

A group of Republican moderates offered what they called a party unity plank that said the following. Take a look. It said, "Republicans of good faith may not agree with all the planks on the party's platform, including abortion, family planning and gay and lesbian issues."

Senator, why was that unacceptable?

FRIST: Well, you know, we talked a lot about it. And, in fact, what we did adopt, which will be ratified right behind me on the floor behind me tomorrow morning at around noon, is the following, is that we are the party of the open door, which essentially says the same thing.

We are the party where diversity is a source of strength and not a sign of weakness. We are the party who will have differing views, will show respect for those views, and such differences will be discussed with trust, with civility and with mutual respect.

To me, that is a unity plank. That is a party. And we added those words, an "open-door party."

WALLACE: Speaker Hastert, you made a bit of the fuss in the New York papers this past week with quotes from your new book, "Speaker."

Take a look at this. The New York Post, which is a kinder and gentler newspaper, denounced you in a banner headline as "Speaker of the Louse," which will, I'm sure, will just help your book sales.

They're upset about a passage in your book in which you talk about politicians looking for federal funding in the aftermath of 9/11. And you said the following: "The unseemly scramble for money had begun."

Now that you're here in New York City, do you want to take any of that back?

HASTERT: No, what we really did is pass $21 billion for New York. That was our agenda. We worked hard to do it. But there were a lot of pressures. Lobbyists were coming and seeing this as opportunities to open the doors for other types of spending.

And, you know, it was just amazing, what all the things that — here we were trying to take care of victims, we were trying to rebuild New York. And there's just a scramble for other types of funding that would kind of go along with this.


HASTERT: So I think probably the New York Post misinterpreted what I said. I wish they would have read the whole book and the whole context, because we literally spent nine weeks putting things together so New York could come together. I worked with Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Giuliani at that point, and we did put together a real strong package.

You know, as a matter of fact, I spent a lot of time in New York in the last couple of years. I like New York. And, you know, I just wish they would have read the rest of the book.

WALLACE: Let me switch subjects. You both had very deep reservations about McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform before it was passed. In fact, I think you say in your book, Mr. Speaker, that you thought it was the worst piece of legislation that had been passed by a Republican Congress since you've come to Washington.

Now that everyone seems upset with these so-called independent 527 groups, whether it's on the liberal side of the spectrum or Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on the conservative side, do you feel like saying, "I told you so"?

HASTERT: Well, you know, that doesn't do any good. You know, but look behind us at this convention. I remember when I was a kid watching my first convention in 1992, when both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party laid out their platform, laid out their philosophy, and that's what they followed.

Here in this campaign, quote, unquote, "reform," you take party power away from the party, you take the philosophical ideas away from the party, and give them to these independent groups.

You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where — if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from. And I...

WALLACE: Excuse me?

HASTERT: Well, that's what he's been for a number years — George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there.

WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?

HASTERT: I'm saying I don't know where groups — could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know. The fact is we don't know where this money comes from.

Before, transparency — and what we're talking about in transparency in election reform is you know where the money comes from. You get a $25 check or a $2,500 check or $25,000 check, put it up on the Internet. You know where it comes from, and there it is.

FRIST: Chris, the other thing is that the candidates, unlike four years ago before the law, right now you don't have their voice. The outside groups have the voice. The candidate no longer can speak. In the past, the money had to go through the party, through the candidate. You knew where it came from, you knew where it was going.

Right now we don't know who the outside groups are. We don't know where the information is. And the poor candidates who's out there running — I'm speak for all the Senate races and the House races — right now are losing their voice under the current law.

We need to go after the 527s.

WALLACE: Let me just say I think Senator McCain is down at the podium right at this moment practicing for his speech tomorrow night. In fact, you can see him right there.

Do you think that the Democratic and Republican 527s are equally guilty in this whole thing?

HASTERT: Well, if we look at equality, there's certainly no equality in the money that's pouring in. And, you know, the Swift Boat veterans — that's who we hear from — these are a group of guys who have something to say. And I would guess George Soros has something to say. And maybe

But the fact is, the party doesn't have anything to do with it. It's isolated. As a matter of fact, it's against the law, in this new law, to have any contact with these people at all.

FRIST: And the best estimates, to answer your question even more directly, is that for every $1 that's gone into a so-called Republican 527, $5 have gone into a Democratic 527.

In truth, we ought to do what the president has called for, and that is to address 527s to get them off the table, out of the system. That would give candidates voice. That would give the parties the voice. You'd know where money is coming from and where it's going.

WALLACE: And finally and briefly, Speaker Hastert, protest groups are planning major demonstrations across New York City this week. Do you worry at all that the action in the streets could steal attention away from what goes on here in the hall?

HASTERT: Well, it's always a possibility. But, you know, that's one of the things, the freedom to demonstrate is part as our Constitution. People are going to do it.

I just hope it doesn't — what happened in San Francisco or Seattle when they had the trade talks there. I think there needs to be some control of it.

And I hope that, you know, first of all, we respect those people that have something to say. But I think they — I hope they would respect what this convention's about also.

WALLACE: Speaker Hastert, Senator Frist, we want to thank you both for joining us today. I think you've got a pretty good team going on here. Please come back again and see us together soon.

FRIST: Thank you.

HASTERT: Thank you. My pleasure.

WALLACE: Appreciate it.