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Arizona Senator on the Calderon address to Congress, and the Elena Kagan nomination

Friday, May 21, 2010
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Joined now by United States Senator Jon Kyl from the great state of Arizona. Senator Kyl, always a pleasure to have you here. What did you make of Mexican President Calderon’s statement today?

JK: I was not too pleased with it. He’s been very cooperative with the United States, and we’ve helped him a lot on the big drug cartel problem they have in Mexico. And in that respect, I think he’s done a great job, but I do not appreciate his criticism of the Arizona law. If you want to see a draconian law, read the law of the country of Mexico, which I suspect he thinks is just fine. And it’s a lot more draconian than the Arizona law.

HH: You have been in the House and the Senate a while, Senator Kyl. Has a foreign leader ever presumed before to lecture an American state on what not to, or what they should legislate on, and also to instruct the chamber on how they ought to be arranging their priorities?

JK: Not as directly as he did today. I didn’t appreciate it. I didn’t think it was seemly. And I also didn’t appreciate all my Democratic colleagues standing up and cheering when he said it, none of whom, I suspect, have read the bill.

HH: Now I talked to you last week about the boycott L.A. was running, and you said it’s a silly thing, and it should go away. But there are a lot of forces that want to turn Arizona into a political issue, Jon Kyl. How is the state handling this?

JK: Well, last time I checked, California was broke, so I’m not sure that its boycott of Arizona is going to be too painful. But the reality is each state could retaliate against the other. We’re sending some water over to California. I haven’t heard anybody…and power. We generate electrical power that goes to California. Should we just turn that off? No. I mean, this is silly. It’s just not the right thing to do. If folks from California would like to come over and live in my state and see how bad the problem of illegal immigration is, my guess is they’d be a little bit more sympathetic to the fact that our state legislature decided it had to try to help do something about the problem since the federal government wasn’t.

HH: Now Senator Kyl, I want to move on to Elena Kagan. You appeared on Meet The Press on Sunday. A lot of people were surprised by your remarks there. Did they get the whole story?

JK: Well, they didn’t, but I could have been more clear. I mean, I spent the first 95% of the interview raising questions about her ability to be a fair judge. And as far as I’m concerned, the jury is not only still out on that, but we haven’t even had the trial yet. I mean, all of the documents that pertain to her time at the White House, we have not received. We haven’t gone over them. We just barely got the first part of her questionnaire. So there is a huge amount of material we need to go through and begin to try to come to conclusions. But there were a couple of things we knew when she kicked the military recruiters off of the campus there at Harvard, and another comment she had about a bill that Lindsey Graham and I drafted, which, and I didn’t appreciate her thoughts on that. So I was pretty critical, but I’m not declaring myself either for or against her at this point. That would be premature. But the final question was did I think there would be a filibuster, and I said no. And the way I answered that question has led many to believe, I think, that I would be supportive of her, and that’s simply not true. I don’t know yet, and I’m not going to make up my mind until I have all the facts.

HH: Today, the Los Angeles Times has a story, Senator Kyl, that the Clinton Library administrator says meeting the deadline of June 28th for the Senate committee’s request would be very difficult. She says that both President Clinton and President Obama have the right to read and review each document. There’s just too many things here, she said. These are legal documents, they are presidential records. They have to be read by an archivist, and vetted for any legal restrictions, and they have to be read line by line. Sounds like some stonewalling going on, Senator Kyl.

JK: Well, maybe that’s the standard. But it was the standard for John Roberts then as well. He had the same position, and one way or another, they found a way to get the records that pertained to his time as one of the attorneys in the White House. So I would assume they can do it for Elena Kagan. If it takes time, then it takes time. And I think that was a premature date for the hearing in any event. So maybe we have to do it in July sometime. There’s still plenty of time to get her confirmed before the beginning of August, if that’s the goal.

HH: Now Senator, let’s turn to elections on Tuesday night. How did you read those results that cost your longtime colleague, Arlen Specter, now across the aisle, his job. It put Blanche Lincoln into a runoff. That doesn’t happen to many Senators. How are you reading the results on Tuesday?

JK: Well, it’s hard to generalize from them. In the first place, Arlen Specter changed parties in a most unseemly way. And I think that finally caught up with him. People saw him as an opportunist, and they didn’t like it. I hardly think it’s a big vote, or claim for the fellow who beat him there, who I think is not, well, let me put it this way. I think the Republican, Pat Toomey, can beat Congressman Sestak, and I certainly hope that he does in Pennsylvania. Blanche Lincoln was in trouble. She’s behind in every public opinion survey, behind the Republican who won the primary. And I think he will beat her. But the liberal Democrats just couldn’t bide her relative conservatism, or moderation, so they ran a hard left liberal against her, and now she’s in a runoff with him, because they put a lot of money into it and she’s not all that popular. So we’ll see. I think the Republican Congressman, Boozman, wins that race either way. I just don’t think you can generalize much about the few races that existed, I mean that took place Tuesday.

HH: Rand Paul has quickly discovered that the mainstream media is not your friend, Jon Kyl.

JK: (laughing)

HH: Do you think that is a lesson that you only have to learn once? Or is he, are we going to see Rand Paul’s philosophical musings again and again and again on the front page?

JK: Well, I don’t know, but I think he wants to win the race, and I think this is a lesson you do have to learn. Philosophical musings are great. I was asked about it today, and I said you know, I saw a little bit of that debate he had with Rachel Maddow. First, I wonder why he went on her program. But second, it looked like two college kids that are staying up until 2:00 in the morning, having a great philosophical debate about absolutely nothing of relevance to modern day life. They’re talking about the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And it’s law. It’s not going to change. He doesn’t need to muse about what he thinks is wrong with it, and he shouldn’t. And so I suspect he will learn that lesson, I guess is the short answer.

HH: Now I want to conclude by talking about the headline of the day. The head of the National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, Admiral Blair, is either fired or resigning, don’t know the details yet. Your response to that, Senator Kyl?

JK: I don’t know. It just came across my desk about thirty minutes ago, and I don’t know what to make of it. There will be a lot of talk about it. And all is not well in our intelligence community right now. I want to tell you, in retrospect, if I had it to do over, I think I’m not sure I would have voted for the reorganization of the intelligence community the way we did it. It was kind of just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It hasn’t worked well, the difference between the DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, and the CIA. They never like the fact that somebody was put in over the top of them. There are problems within the CIA itself. It’s just not a good situation, and I hope that whatever the reason for his departure, that we can get things cleaned up and all be moving together in the same direction.

HH: There will be a confirmation hearing for his successor.

JK: Yes.

HH: Will that be the opportunity to find out about Abdulmutallab, about the Times Square bomber, about all these things? Or is that just going to be too sensitive to discuss in public?

JK: Parts of it are pretty public. I mean, it looks like every time they get something that they think might make them look good, the administration people go out and blab to the press about it. So a lot of that is public. I’m not sure. I suspect a lot of the details about what happened over there will come out before his successor is nominated. And with respect to the issues of how we take care of these terrorists, every opportunity we have to question the relevant officials, I think we will take to try to not just flush out what they are thinking, but also to make points of our own as to how we think that they ought to be handled.

HH: Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, always a pleasure, Senator. Thanks for joining us.

End of interview.

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