Schoolyard Politics ... or Blackmail?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Is this dirty? Is Arizona senator Jon Kyl getting blackmailed by members of President Obama's cabinet? Moments ago, Senator Kyl went "On the Record."


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

SEN. JON KYL, R - ARIZ.: Thank you very much, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so you're in a little bit of a dust-up. You have said or -- correct me if I'm wrong -- that you think we should stop the stimulus, and that has sort of created a series of events. What happened?

KYL: Well, I opposed the stimulus, and it turns out that those of us who were opposed to it were right about what we said. It wouldn't do what it was advertised to do. It wouldn't create the four million jobs, for example. The money wouldn't get spent out very rapidly. There'd be a lot of fraud and a lot of waste. And in the end, it really wouldn't help with unemployment. That's what's happened.

So what several of us have said is after the money that's in the pipeline now has been spent, about the first half of the money, let's cut it off and use the other half of the money for something else that we do need. For example, spending for health care, putting the money back into the transportation trust fund, where -- because we do need to fund the highway construction projects, or just apply it to reducing the deficit -- in any event, alternative ideas for doing more good with that money than continuing to spend it out over the next eight years.

VAN SUSTEREN: You made that statements, and that has sort of started a series of -- a chain of events. In fact, the secretary of transportation wrote your governor a letter.

KYL: Yes, in fact, four secretaries wrote to the governor of Arizona and said, Gee, if you agree with Kyl, then do you really still want the money, or should we just not send it to you? It was a thinly veiled threat. But frankly, it was silly. And they combined that with some ads that the Democrat campaign committee ran on their Web site, and so on. Obviously, the effort is to shut us up, but we're not going to -- those of us who oppose the stimulus are going to continue to oppose it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So you made a -- I think on Sunday is when you first made the statement about, you know, backing off the stimulus. When did the letters go out from the cabinet secretaries to your governor?

KYL: I believe -- well, just within a matter of days. We first learned about it yesterday.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's retaliation, a little bit.

KYL: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's a little bit -- it's sort of schoolyard-ish, for lack of a better...

KYL: That's the -- it's silly. It is schoolyard-ish. It's -- it's not big leagues, let's put it that way.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has your governor of Arizona received any other letters from any of these secretaries with regard to the stimulus, other than this one that says, If you don't want the money, we'll take it back?

KYL: Not to my knowledge.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you spoken to your governor?

KYL: I have spoken to her not about -- not since this little dust-up, but she was nice enough to issue a statement saying, Get off of Kyl's back.


VAN SUSTEREN: So -- so now, did you respond back?

KYL: We just put out a statement yesterday that said this is rather unfortunate. If they want to engage in the debate on the stimulus, I would love to have that debate with them, but don't resort to silly tactics like this. That's pretty much what our statement said.

VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) trying to take your money away.

KYL: Well, they are, but they're not -- first of all, they can't do that. It was all for show. There's no reality to it. It's the political game in Washington and it's why our constituents get tired of the politics and the sort of "gotcha" kind of things that are not serious. And I'm a little surprised at this administration, though not totally, but there's so much going on that's so important, why resort to political games like this?

VAN SUSTEREN: How is it that the four secretaries sort of got together and sent sort of a letter to your governor? I mean, is there -- I mean, do you think they got it from the White House, you know -- you know, Lean on Kyl or put some pressure on him, threaten to take his money?

KYL: I know two of these secretaries very well, and while I don't know, I suspect somebody from the White House said, We've written a letter. We want you to sign it. The mayor of Phoenix was -- had the same thing. The reason I know this is there were -- there was misinformation in the letter. It was just a put-up job, I'm sure, from the White House, but it's not the way to do business here.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about your colleague in the U.S. Senate from Arizona? What's Senator McCain -- has he joined in on this (INAUDIBLE)

KYL: Oh, yes. Yes. John and I, of course, both opposed the stimulus, and Senator McCain had a couple of really good alternatives to the stimulus that he offered on the floor of the Senate at the time, which, of course, I supported. And so when he heard about this, he obviously fired off a calm letter for John McCain and -- in support of my position, of course.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I don't mean to exaggerate this (INAUDIBLE) but it does sound a little bit like blackmail. I mean, you know, unless Kyl shuts up, we're going to -- we're going to pull some money from his state so that he looks bad with his constituents, and the best way to do that is to fire off a letter to the governor and sort of put him in the corner. Is it blackmail?

KYL: If I were susceptible to that, I might reach that conclusion. I'm not. I just attribute it to very silly, ill-considered decisions, probably by fairly lower-level people who didn't explain it to their higher-level bosses who I don't think, had it been properly explained, would have signed the letters.

VAN SUSTEREN: You going to make a call to any of these, at least the cabinet officers you know?

KYL: No. I mean, I'll talk to them about it at some point.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the president?

KYL: There's no reason to talk to him about it. He's probably not even aware of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, second issue I'm talking about is that we may have a new Supreme Court Justice, Sotomayor. Are you going to vote for her?

KYL: I don't know yet. I made a pledge that I wouldn't decide prematurely. We ask her to approach cases based on the law and the facts and not decide cases with preconceived notions, so I think it's only fair that I make my decision based on what I hear her say. And I do want to also listen to the other witnesses who are going to testify, probably on Thursday. Sometime after that, I'll make up my mind.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you define your job in voting on a Supreme Court Justice, whether it's a Democratic president appointed or a Republican? I mean, what is -- what's the standard?

KYL: You are a good lawyer and you know all of the complications involved in this. It's a serious proposition. The president has the right to nominate because he won. My colleague, Democratic colleague, Senator Durbin, said that the nominee has the burden of proof. This nominee prima facie -- that is to say, on the face -- meets the test. She's a qualified judge. She's tried cases, all of those kinds of things.

So then the question is, What is her approach to judging? Do we think she would be fair? And on that, the record is mixed. You're aware of all the things that she's written and had published, in which she seems to suggest, for example, that it's fine to use foreign law, that it's fine for gender and ethnicity to have a role in judging.

And when she's been asked about that, she's superficially done what she needs to do in the hearing. That is to say, she's tried to put it to rest by saying, Oh, I was misunderstood, or, It was a bad choice of words, but I've not heard her really repudiate the clear themes in those speeches.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. One final question. It's two parts. What's her weakest qualification for the Supreme Court and what's her strongest qualification, in your mind?

KYL: Her strongest qualification is the fact that she has an extensive background. She's been a district court judge, a circuit court judge, rendered a lot of opinions. Now, eight out of 10 have been vacated or reversed by the Supreme Court. That's not good. But she's at least had a lot of experience.

I think that the biggest question that people have about her is how she will approach judging, the issue that's raised by her speeches and some of her writings. And it's just a question mark because you don't know until she actually sits on the Court. As a member of the court of appeals, she could always be reviewed by the Supreme Court. But once she's there on a lifetime appointment, there is no more check and balance on her decisions.

So you just have to decide that what she said in the hearings is the way she'll approach it, or that what she said back when she was giving speeches and writing about it is what she really believes, and that wouldn't be so good.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

KYL: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you.

KYL: Thank you.


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