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GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman on Foley and the impact on the elections.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

HH: Joined now by Republican National Committee Chairman, Ken Mehlman. Ken, good to have you back.

KM: Greetings from Boise, Idaho.

HH: Well, it’s always fun to talk to you in good times. But it’s much more interesting to talk to you in very difficult and controversial times. Your reaction to Foleygate?

KM: Well, first of all, I’m disgusted, and I’m appalled by it. If you think about it, when kids come to be pages, they’re hopefully, and what they should be, is learning about our government, and how it works, and then being encouraged to be in public service. They ought to be protected, not exploited. I think every parent has that expectation. I think that what the Speaker did in taking extraordinary steps in this case is exactly right. He says that Mr. Foley was either told he had to resign, or he was going to be expelled from Congress, something that hasn’t happened in more than 30 years. That was the right step. This is being investigated, as it should be, by both federal law enforcement and by the Ethics Committee, which investigates Congressional rules. And I also think it’s incredibly important these pages are still working there, to make sure they’re protected for the future. It requires action. And appointing Mr. Freeh, and hopefully Mr. Freeh will be able to do this, to look into it, to make sure that program is immediately changed, as it obviously didn’t work, is critically important. I support all those steps. I think extraordinary steps are necessary, because 16 and 17 year olds ought to be protected, not exploited.

HH: Have you seen any evidence that any Republican Congressional leadership covered up these IM’s?

KM: Not at all. I think that my understanding, and it’s based on the information that you have as well, that as soon as they found about anything that involved these kind of messages, and the nature of these messages, they immediately went to Congressman. What they say is they went to the Congressman, and they said to him, either you leave, or we’re expelling you from Congress, something that hasn’t happened in 30 years. They were right to do that, and rather than covering it up, as soon as they determined it, they took the kind of drastic action that I think is exactly appropriate.

HH: Ken, there are stories on the internet,, Mark Steyn mentioned this as well, that the Republican caucus was briefed today, and warned of a fifty seat loss in the House because of Foleygate. Your reaction?

KM: That is inaccurate. Two thoughts on that. First of all, there was not a caucus briefing…there was not a caucus meeting today that occurred. But second of all, I see literally every single public poll, and every single private poll that is taken. And there is no such briefing. Any pollster that suggests that there is would be someone who’s either A) trying to extrapolate from national numbers in individual districts, which you can’t do, or more likely, somebody that spends more of their time in green rooms, trying to get on television, than they spend actually looking and analyzing polling data. Obviously, this is a very serious situation, needs to be taken very seriously. I think that the Speaker stepping up today and saying the buck stops there, and the steps he’s taken are critically important. We need to get to the bottom…they need to get to the bottom of the investigation. When I say they, I mean the authorities. And they need to have a system to make sure this never happens again.

HH: Do you sense dirty tricks at work here, Ken Mehlman, in the way that the information is being parceled out? Because it appears as though Mark Foley was…A) he’s responsible for his own actions, and they were disgusting. But B) he as punk’d by some teenagers into doing this, who were just…and then laughing at his expense. And it’s a good laughter, because he did get punk’d. But the question is, do you see it being manipulated by media and Democratic activists?

KM: Look I don’t know. I think the bottom line is…most important to me, is focusing on figuring out who knew what when, getting to the bottom of that, making sure that justice is done, and most importantly, is protecting kids. Again, these are 16 and 17 year olds. I mean, this is a program that you talk to people that have participated in, and they say it’s an incredible experience which inspired them to be involved in public service. If you have a 16 or 17 year old that goes to camp, or the next year goes to college, the college or the camp assumes what’s called in loco parentis. That means they’re responsible as a parent would be. Congress ought to do no less, and I think it’s really…I appreciate the fact the Speaker said to make sure this happens, we need to have Louis Freeh, the former head of the FBI, in charge of this program. But that’s what we ought to be focusing on, absolutely. But we…absolutely, I think the authorities are going to figure out who knew what when.

HH: Now Ken Mehlman, Bill Kristol is on Special Report with Brit reviewing the Pew numbers and the AP numbers on the generic ballot, and he’s saying it’s a total con, that there is in fact no slippage, or any significant slippage whatsoever in the generic ballot between Democrat and Republican. Does that conform with what you know?

KM: It is. It’s consistent with the polling I’ve seen, public and private. I’ve not seen slippage, literally, in any race in the country. Again…but as I said, this…taking strong action on this is not about politics. It’s about what’s right, and what’s decent, and what’s appropriate. But again, when people come out here and say there was a fifty state analysis, that is somebody that likes to get on television, it strikes me, as opposed to actually spends time looking at data. Because I spend a heck of a lot of time looking at data, and I have seen no change anywhere.

HH: Now let me talk about a different race in which dirty tricks did play a part, the George Allen Senate race. I don’t particularly like Zogby’s numbers. But this one shows he has surged. I think it’s in response to below the belt attempts to link him with a variety of distasteful stories. What’s your assessment of George Allen’s race?

KM: Look, George Allen is someone I know very well. He’s a good friend of mine. He is an incredibly decent guy. And the attempt to attack him on the basis of saying this is a guy that has a bigoted bone in his body is outrageous and ridiculous. And so I think that voters have heard from him, they know who he is. I think his statement this past weekend was a good one, and when voters look at the issues, there’s no doubt in my mind that George Allen will beat Jim Webb. There’s a reason that George Allen has for years been one of the most popular officials in this state. And the reason for that is those people know his heart. They know his character. He was a fantastic governor, he is a great Senator, and he is somebody…I mean, think about this. Here’s a guy that was raised by a dad who was in the most democratic, small d, meritocratic business you can be, other than the military, sports, where all that matters is your talent. It doesn’t matter your background or anything. He was raised by a mom who understood in a way that you or I could never understand, and almost none of our listeners could, the evils of bigotry. Imagine that woman was raised by a father who was involved with the Nazis, and fighting the Nazis, who was Jewish, and who suffered under a concentration camp. If you don’t think that mom and dad are going to teach their son the importance of treating everybody fairly, and that’s frankly reflected in George Allen’s career, it’s why as governor, he increased significantly funding for historically black colleges. It’s why he was an original sponsor of the Voting Rights Act. It’s why he also works, and continues to champion efforts to expand opportunity for everybody. So I think the attacks on his character will backfire. People are going to remember who he is, and they’re going to vote to re-elect him.

HH: Now Ken Mehlman, Michele Bachmann began the program with me…actually, the segment before you came on…

KM: She’s going to be a great Congresswoman.

HH: She is, and she’s…I’m calling her Joshua Chamberlain Bachmann, because Patty Wetterling went up with a disgusting ad, accusing Republican leadership in Congress of covering up child molestation. And she’s charging down the hill, and scattering them. Is that right for every candidate to do?

KM: I certainly think that what Ms. Wetterling did is outrageous. And to run that kind of an ad is outrageous, and is wrong. The fact is, look. Ms. Wetterling ran before in the district, and lost. And after the election, said I couldn’t win there, because I was too liberal. The district hasn’t all of a sudden become more liberal. And so what she’s trying to do is she’s trying to say you know what? I don’t want to talk about my liberal record. I don’t want to talk about where I stand on the war on terror, or taxes, or other issues. And so I’m going to try to attack on other bases and other issues. I think the reponse of Michele Bachmann was right, and I think those kind of attacks are wrong. This ought not be about politics. This ought to be about whether 16 and 17 year olds are protected.

HH: Now last week, 160 Democrats voted against the military tribunals, and the treatment of terrorist bill. And they voted in the Senate, 35, against building a fence along the Southern border, and many of them voted, as well, against the military tribunals bill. Ken, the gap between Democrat and Republican is enormous on national security.

KM: Yeah.

HH: Is that the issue for the next 35 days?

KM: I think it is. I can’t think of a more important issue. I mean, again, if you think about what happened last week, it’s pretty clear the difference between the parties. Again, you had the next chairman of the tax writing committee in the House say I will give you across the board tax increased if I’m elected, and…

HH: Only if they get the majority. You’re not predicting…

KM: If they…excuse me. If they get the majority. He’s also promised potentially to cut off funding for our troops when they’re in the middle of this war in Iraq. And a majority of Democrats vote against surveillance, and they vote against interrogation. The fact is, if you care about having the tools we need, that have kept us safe since September 11th, in 33 days, I think in most cases, your choice is pretty clear. It’s to vote for people that have provided those tools, which is a big reason America hasn’t been attacked, and is obviously going to be critically important to continue to protect America.

HH: Ken Mehlman, always a pleasure. Ken, we’ll check back with you in a week or so and find out how the election’s going. I always like guests that confirm exactly what I sense is in fact the case, because I’m data driven. By the way, Michele Bachmann needs your help, because they’re pouring dollars into her district.

End of interview.

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