House Majority Leader on Terror Bill, Midterm Elections, Foley Scandal

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," October 17, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: President Bush signing that terror detainee bill into law today, the law, he says, crucial to keeping America safe.

But not everybody voted for it. And with elections three weeks away, the president was quick to remind Americans who did not.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some voted to support this bill, even when the majority of their party voted the other way. I thank the legislators who brought this bill to my desk for their conviction, for their vision, and for their resolve.


CAVUTO: The party he was talking about, the Democrats, so, why are they getting the edge on terror? The latest USA Today poll putting them ahead of the Republican Party on this issue.

Reaction now from House Majority leader John Boehner of Ohio.

Mr. Majority Leader, good to have you.


CAVUTO: Usually, I’m seeing you remote. This is nice.

BOEHNER: I know. It really is nice, after about 10 years of seeing each other through a box.

CAVUTO: That’s right.

BOEHNER: It’s nice to be here.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, sir, about this whole notion that, on terror, and dealing with detainee legislation today, like you did, oddly enough, your party is on the defensive on that issue.

BOEHNER: Well, I think that is mostly driven by people’s concerns about Iraq and where Iraq is going. And, frankly, it’s discoloring all of the numbers.

But if you look at the — the terrorist tribunal bill that the president signed today, if you look at the NSA terrorist surveillance program, the Patriot Act, the creation of the Homeland Security Department, all these tools, we have given the president to help fight terrorism and — and protect the American people before we are attacked.

And, by and large, Republicans supported all of those. And a majority of Democrats, on all — every one of those, voted no. And, so, elections are about choices. And I think we want to make it clear that, when it comes to being willing to take on the terrorists and to fight them, Republicans are there to support the president and to protect Americans before we’re attacked.

CAVUTO: You say support the president, or these days, given the polls, run away from him?

BOEHNER: No. We ought to be very happy that George Bush is our president.

You think about what he has dealt with over the last five-and-a-half years, a recession he inherited the day he took office, the attacks of 9/11, and what it did to America’s psyche, what it did to our economy, our need for more intelligence, homeland security, a war in Afghanistan, a war in Iraq, and, on top of all of that, the largest natural disaster to ever hit our country, and, through all of this, the president remained tall, strong, and positive.

I have known George Bush a long time. I have watched him in some of the most difficult circumstances, always doing what he thought was in the best interests of our country...

CAVUTO: Well, you — you — you say that.

BOEHNER: ... regardless of the political consequences.

CAVUTO: But — no, no, no, no. Well, you say that. And — and there are a lot of your colleagues who love to get his money, get the fund- raising, but not like to be seen with him.

BOEHNER: Neil, that’s really — I have not found one of those members.

CAVUTO: Really?

BOEHNER: Now, I’m sure there’s a member...

CAVUTO: Not a one?

BOEHNER: There might be a member or two out there.

But I have got to tell you, I have — I work closely with all of our members, frankly in the House and Senate.


BOEHNER: I have not seen members run away from the president. They like the president. They trust the president. And they know that he will do what he thinks is in the nation’s best interests.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you about the Foley scandal, Majority Leader, that this is just getting bigger and bigger. That’s the impression out there. Is it?

BOEHNER: The ethics committee is doing an investigation of how the House dealt with it. The FBI is doing an investigation to see if any laws were broken. I think it is being investigated, and everything that can be said at this point in time has been said.

But the real issue in this election are the issues that the American people care about: keeping the economy prosperous, making sure that we have a sensible immigration policy that begins with enforcing our border, and, then, thirdly, supporting the president, giving him the tools that he needs to take on the terrorists, and to defeat them.

CAVUTO: There appeared to be — your knee-jerk reaction, when you heard about the Foley scandal, sir, was not exactly overwhelming support for the speaker.

BOEHNER: Listen, the speaker is a wonderful guy. I was not trying to distance myself from him in any way, shape, or form.

CAVUTO: You still support him?

BOEHNER: What I — absolutely. What I was trying to do was to clarify what I knew and when I knew it.

Denny Hastert and I have been friends for 16 years. He has done a marvelous job leading House Republicans, under, frankly, very difficult circumstances and a narrow majority. If he had had any clue of these instant messages or the behavior that Foley was engaged in, I have no doubts that he would have drug him out of there by his tie the instant he knew about it.

CAVUTO: If you get an indication that he did — and we don’t know that — should he step down?

BOEHNER: I’m not going to speculate on this. I — it is pretty clear to me that the speaker had no knowledge of these instant messages.

But the real key here is, who did? I have — I have talked to my Republican colleagues. I don’t think — and I have read their comments in the paper.

CAVUTO: Right.

BOEHNER: They didn’t know.


BOEHNER: But these messages go back two, three, four, five years. Someone knew about them. Someone was out shopping them around to the media.


CAVUTO: So, you think it was a trap?

BOEHNER: Who was it?


BOEHNER: And why did it show up on the last legislative day we were in session?

CAVUTO: All right.

Three weeks from today is the election. And almost every poll says you are in deep trouble in the House, and you are going to not be majority leader anymore.

Are you worried?

BOEHNER: Can’t be the majority leader if you are not in the majority.

CAVUTO: That’s right.

Are you worried?


You’re looking at national polls, giving a national mood. These are not national elections. There are 465...

CAVUTO: So, this doesn’t feel like `94 to you?

BOEHNER: No way — no way, shape, or form.


BOEHNER: This is 465 separately run campaigns, mostly about local issues.

In 1994, the Democrats woke up after Labor Day in 1994, and realized they may have a — may have a problem. We have known since the day that George Bush was reelected that a second-term president, midterm in their second term, their party loses a significant number of seats in the House.

CAVUTO: And you don’t think you are going to lose the House?

BOEHNER: We’re not.

CAVUTO: You don’t think you are going to lose the Senate?

BOEHNER: I don’t.

CAVUTO: If — if it were to happen that you do, many conservatives have said it would be, actually, better, because you could regroup and focus on `08.

BOEHNER: I am not — I am not a believer in the strategy of, it takes a loss to bring us back to our principles. I know why...

CAVUTO: Do you think some members have lost those principles, though?

BOEHNER: Clearly, some need a little more help than others.

I know what I went to Congress. I grew up in a big family. And my dad owned a tavern. And, if it were not for the free enterprise system, I would not be here.

And, so, going to Washington to make sure that we watch taxpayer dollars closely, that we keep the economy prosperous, make sure that we’re — we have got a border protection plan that works, these are the kind of things that Republicans want to do.

And what I have tried to do all year is to bring our party back to doing the basics.


BOEHNER: Cutting taxes, holding the line on spending, that is what we need to do.

CAVUTO: Real quickly, are you surprised there has not been any positive follow-through, with the market hitting records, the economy still doing pretty well, no quid pro quo for Republicans?

BOEHNER: All being discolored by what...


BOEHNER: ... people see with regard to Iraq. But the war on terror is a real serious war. Iraq is part of it. And we have no choice but to win it.

CAVUTO: John Boehner, always good seeing you — in the flesh.

BOEHNER: Nice seeing you.

CAVUTO: But in the flesh. All right.

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