Vicious Congressional Rhetoric

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 26, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: The election is still five months away, but congressional rhetoric is getting vicious. Congressman Sam Johnson (search) of Texas was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He didn't like John Kerry at all.


REP. SAM JOHNSON (R), TEXAS: What he did was nothing short of aiding and abetting he enemy. A person like John Kerry does not belong in the White House (search). Is it any wonder my comrades from Vietnam and I have a nickname for him similar to Hanoi Jane? He's called Hanoi John.

O'REILLY: And Congressman Jim McDermott replied by throwing mud at President Bush.


REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON CONGRESSMAN: Now if you served and showed up for drills at your local national guard, I think those would be acceptable credentials. But if you were in the National Guard, and you didn't show up, you were AWOL (search) for a whole year, you've got real nerve to start an attack on John Kerry's character.

O'REILLY: Now I think both those statements are irresponsible. Joining us now from Columbus, Ohio, is former Republican congressman John Kasich, who now anchors the Fox News program "Heartland" on the weekends.

What do you think, John? I mean, both of those guys -- McDermott, we know, is a long-time nut. And the people of Seattle who vote him in should be ashamed of themselves. He's irresponsible. He shouldn't be in the Congress. He shouldn't even be working at - Well, anyway, he's just awful.

Johnson, I'm a little bit surprised with. How do you see it?

JOHN KASICH, "HEARTLAND" HOST: Well, Bill, the rhetoric has been escalating now. It's been going on for about 10 years. And I can remember at one point when I was talking to a Democrat on the House floor. And these young Republicans grabbed a hold of me, other members of Congress, and said how can you ever talk to that person? I could see it beginning to unravel. And it's gotten nastier and nastier and more and more personal. It used to be you could have a good old-fashioned debate. You don't have to sell out your principles, but you don't hate the other side. You don't demean or question their character.

And it's been increasingly happening, Bill. And the consequence of it is these big issues that we have that affect our children, things like Social Security, Medicare, the healthcare that affects us. None of them can be fixed because all the pawns have been poisoned in Washington. And this partisanship and nastiness, it's dragging us down. Rules against defamatory attacks, I mean, what McDermott did to Bush was defamation. Across the board.

Bush wasn't AWOL, all right? He has an honorable discharge from the Guard. That's defamatory, all right? What Johnson did to Kerry, I believe, was insulting because Kerry almost gave his life for his country there. Now you can disagree with the way he handled it post-war, post service. And I respect that. But you know, to put him in the category of Jane Fonda. Now aren't there rules that these guys can be sanctioned in some way?

KASICH: Basically, what used to happen is if you said something that demeaned or personally attacked another member or the president or a presumptive presidential nominee, somebody would say that your words ought to be taken down, which basically means that you're reprimanded and you could be in a position of where you would not be permitted to speak on the floor of the House for an entire day.

It's a total embarrassment, Bill, but the problem is that the level of insult has gotten so high, nobody -- the referees never know when to blow the whistle.

And -- but I've got to tell you, you know Jim McDermott served on the budget committee with me. He lost every time he fought. He is very far to the left. But I didn't have problems with the man. I just said look, we don't agree, and don't mess with me. And we'll have no problem.

You know, Sam, I think if he had to go back and do it all over again, Sam Johnson wouldn't have done it. He's emotional. He's got reason to be emotional.

O'REILLY: Yes, but he read it. I mean, this wasn't like an off the top thing. He had the script.

KASICH: Look, there's no excuse - Bill, there's no excuse for it.

O'REILLY: No, I agree.

KASICH: When I was there, you fight like crazy. You look for things in the other person that you think are good. But right now, we spend all of our time savaging one another. It's going on in the presidential campaign. It goes on in congressional campaigns. And Bill, you know you could be a victim of vicious personal attacks.


KASICH: That's where we've gone.


KASICH: And it's not acceptable.

O'REILLY: I could be a victim? No.

Look, now here's the problem with this, that you basically have this kind of activity on the congressional floor accepted, because nothing happened to either of those guys, all right? They just went their merry way. Nobody said anything about. Didn't even get a lot of ink in the press. That's why I'm doing the story here to show you.

Now what happens is that you...

KASICH: They need to be reined in, Bill.

O'REILLY: Yes, they need to be sanctioned. They need to be sanctioned. This is unacceptable. We're leaders of the country. We don't hurl defamatory charges. That's for the bomb throwers who are trying to exploit, you know, make money in the media or buy books or something like that.

Because we don't have any dignity now. You know, if you're going to allow somebody to call the president of the United States a deserter, which is what McDermott did, and then you're going to allow another guy to say this is Jane Fonda when the guy got wounded three times, all right, there's no dignity to any of that, is there?

KASICH: No, there isn't, Bill. And not only should the rules apply, but let me tell you the informal rules. You know, when I saw behavior that I thought was unbecoming one of my colleagues, because you've got to respect the other people, I would call them on the carpet. I'd say I'm not going to put up with that. You know, I ran a committee, a very contentious budget committee.

O'REILLY: Now you could do that. Right.

KASICH: Now I tell you...

O'REILLY: You could do that because you were the community head.

KASICH: Well, and I would tell my colleagues. But I didn't have any power over him actually. But I would tell them you were not raised this way. This is not the way to behave.

O'REILLY: Yes, you try to shame him.

KASICH: Is this the way you want your children to behave? And that's missing today. It's a lack of leadership. Well, there's a lack of leadership in so many things in our country today.

O'REILLY: Right, there is. All right, real fast, John.

KASICH: And it's exemplified right there.

O'REILLY: I only have 40 seconds. You were on the Armed Forces Committee for a long time. Iraq -- we have a chance there? What do you think?

KASICH: Well, I think we went to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. It would just be wonderful if they wanted democracy. But frankly, I think the situation needs to be stabilized and the Iraqis need to run it. We can't run out of there. It would be a disaster. But the idea that we're going to stay until we create some great democracy is not what I think our purpose should be there. We can't be a policeman of the world. We have to go where our direct interests are threatened.

O'REILLY: All right. John, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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