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Arizona Senator Jon Kyl on the big win against the defeatist Democrats today.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

HH: Joined now by our favorite Senator, Jon Kyl of the great state of Arizona. Senator Kyl, congratulations to you, to Senator McConnell, to Senator Lott. The leadership brought around, I think, a huge victory for victory today.

JK: Hugh, thanks. I agree, and give credit to Trent Lott, our whip, to Mitch McConnell, our leader, and frankly, to the Republicans who stuck together. We lost one of our colleagues. Other than that, everybody stuck together on this vote. It was a devastating defeat for the Democrat leader who had been calling for a vote, you know, for about three weeks. Well, okay, we said we’ll give you the vote, and lo and behold, he lost it big.

HH: Now I see that Norm Coleman voted with the Republicans, which is an enormous relief to me…

JK: Yeah.

HH: …because I love Norm, and I’m glad that he’s, along with Tim Pawlenty, looking at the surge and seeing that it’s worked. What’s going on with the three Democrats, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, of course, Joe Lieberman’s strong on the war. Is Pryor looking over his shoulder?

JK: Mark Pryor, first of all, is up for reelection this time in a pretty conservative state of Arkansas, and Mark is not a real liberal guy. So I’m sure he was looking over his shoulder. Ben Nelson used to be a Republican. He’s a very conservative guy…I shouldn’t say very. He’s a relatively conservative guy from Nebraska, who voted with us, and then Joe Lieberman as you say. So…but bear in mind also what this vote was about. This vote was about setting timetables and deadlines. Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman, I mean Joe Biden, Harry Reid, all of these folks had previously said what is true, which is the worst thing you can do is to set deadlines or timetables. All you do…it’s like a memo to the opposition saying here’s how long you have to hang around before we’re gone and you can take over again. So they used to be against deadlines and timetables. That’s what this resolution was. It was a…probably a pretty hard for some of them to actually vote for it.

HH: Senator Kyl, you were a Constitutional lawyer before you entered the Senate, and now you’re on the Judiciary Committee. Senator McConnell made an argument, I’m sure you did as well, but I don’t have the tape. This was a direct attack on the commander in chief power explicitly assigned to the president in Article II. Do they just on the other side of the aisle not care what the Constitution says?

JK: Some of them probably would try to fashion an argument that somehow or other, it’s not an attack on Article II powers of the president. But they are so myopically dedicated to hurting George Bush, to get out of Iraq at any cost, that frankly, a little argument like a Constitutional argument is not going to stand in their way.

HH: Was the success that the surge has been meeting a factor in this vote?

JK: I wonder. I don’t…I made that argument. I argued that today, I argued it a few days ago, and I was just in Iraq a couple of weeks ago, and the signs of some success were already beginning to become apparent. And it’s only been manifested in many other ways since I came back from Iraq. And the administration has wanted to really downplay this, because sure enough, there’s going to be some bad days, and then they’d be accused of gilding the lily. But the truth is, every day there are very positive signs that this Petraeus plan is working. So we have been making that argument. I don’t know whether that might have been one of the reasons we won today or not. I suspect it might have had some influence on Republicans that might otherwise have thought about voting the other way, but were willing to give the plan a chance.

HH: Yes, today is one of those bad days, as late breaking news brings word of the suicide bomber killing eight, including five U.S. troops. And the surge is not going to be without enormous sacrifice, obviously. But the level of violence has dropped so dramatically in one month. When you were in Iraq, were you able to meet with General Petraeus, Senator Kyl?

JK: Yes, General Petraeus, General Odierno, and many others, as well as the troops and Iraqi leaders. And it was interesting, the Iraqi leaders said that they had been walking the streets, and they said you know, we’ve sort of taken the temperature of the normal every day Iraqis, and they believe that this time, it’s different. There’s something different. And the reason there is, is that it’s not just the troop surge, it’s the way that the Iraqis and the Americans are actually conducting the operations. Once they clear an area, they’re staying. And before, they hadn’t done that. It’s almost like the sort of community policing, where the cop is on the beat, walking the street everyday, and gets to know all the shopkeepers and so on, and they see these change in tactics, and realize that it is different this time, and it apparently is having a very positive effect. Now they’re cautiously optimistic. Again, they’re not declaring victory by any means. It’s going to be several months before we know for sure how well it’s doing. But I guess the argument was as long as there are good signs of success, why would you want to pull the rug out from under the mission now?

HH: Will they relent, your Democratic colleagues, Senator Kyl?

JK: No.

HH: Because they just haven’t stopped since coming back.

JK: No, no. I was just on the Jim Lehrer program with Jack Reed from Rhode Island, and he said well, this wasn’t even a loss, because actually, we got a few more votes than we did on the last resolution that we had, and we won’t quit or give up until we’ve prevailed. And by prevailed, he means until we get the troops out of Iraq. So no, they’re not going to give up. They’re going to keep going at it. The next battle will be on the supplemental appropriation bill, which provides the funding for the war effort. And Harry Reid said he would put the same resolution in that supplemental appropriation bill. Well, I wonder now whether he’ll do it, because he’s probably not going to win the vote.

HH: I hope he does.

JK: So for that to be in the supplemental, the President would have to veto it, and he said so.

HH: I’m not sure if the House is even going to get it to you in the form that it’s coming out of the House. Senator Kyl, while we’ve got a couple of minutes, I want to switch to the U.S. attorneys issue. Again, I’m going to your Constitutional expertise. Karl Rove today made the argument that the President has the Constitutional authority to fire United States attorneys. There is no doubt about this. What is going on?

JK: It’s pure politics. Yes, the president has the right to fire without cause. I mean, these are political appointees. They are confirmed by the Senate. And by the way, a U.S. attorney has a…as an officer of the court, as you know, has an obligation to defend the Constitution, uphold the law. If he felt that he needed to engage in a prosecution, for example, of a friend of the Attorney General, he’d be duty bound to do that. But by the same token, the Attorney General, except in cases like that, can remove a U.S. attorney, essentially without cause. The Democrats are contending here that there was something nefarious going on. I remember when Bill Clinton asked all 43…excuse me, 93 U.S. attorneys to step down in ten days. I don’t remember any Democrat saying oh my gosh, this is horrible. But here, the Attorney General asked seven U.S. attorneys to step down, all Republicans, and you’d think, well, they made a federal case out of it, so to speak.

HH: But it’s silly, because I remember that they took Jay Stephens out of the District of Columbia U.S. attorney in the middle of the prosecution of Rostenkowski, and the Post said oh, but he was convicted anyway. That’s not the point. The point is it’s the same thing, and I don’t understand why weren’t not throwing down…

JK: Right. Well, there’s a great double standard among our Democratic colleagues, as you know, of course. I mean, one of the U.S. attorneys was in Arkansas. He had a big case going against Clinton at the time, and he was removed, and that case never proceeded against Bill Clinton. But those are situations where you shouldn’t get rid of the U.S. attorney. There’s no evidence that that was the case with any of these individuals.

HH: Right, right. Now I’ve got one last question before we run out of time.

JK: Yeah.

HH: Does…do you believe that a subpoena to Karl Rove must be complied with? Or do you agree with me that that is an intrusion upon the Executive Branch’s inherent authority?

JK: It…I agree with you. They may try to find some other way, because obviously, they don’t want to…well, they’d like to provide the information in a way that didn’t test the limits of the Article II authority to resist such a subpoena. So I suspect maybe Karl Rove will find a way to discuss the information with the Senate, but I’m not sure.

HH: I certainly hope he doesn’t. I think it’s time to re-delineate that we have three branches here, even though you’re in one of them, and the first one, Senator. Jon Kyl, always a great pleasure to speak with you. Thank you, Senator.

JK: Hugh, thank you.

End of interview.

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