Greg Walden, Chair of the NRCC, On Negotiating With An Incompetent President
Congressman Greg Walden was one of the 18 GOPers who met with the president on Thursday. He joined me today, after it had become apparent that the president had reneged on his promise to work with the House GOP because the president sensed a better deal with the Senate GOP.
Lucy and the football, again. The president’s manifest incompetence, so obviously on display for the world to see in the Syrian fiasco, is back in operation, partially obscured this time by the MSM’s love of beating up onRepublicans but no less destructive of the country’s best interests.
Listen to or read the exchange with Walden when it is posted later tonight, but understand that it is dawning on the GOP that Nate Silver is right (see the post below on Paul Ryan) and the polls of today won’t matter a bit a year from now, but the memory of the president’s serial failures will.
HH: I’m joined now by the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Greg Walden of Oregon. Congressman, welcome, you were in the room yesterday with the President. I’m wondering, given press reports this afternoon, if you feel like he sucker punched you?
GW: Well, Hugh, thank you. It’s good to be on. I hope not. I hope not. You know, it shouldn’t have taken what America’s going through today, and up to today, to just get into the room with the President and be able to at least have a conversation that one hopes would lead to negotiation. I mean, I can think of interacting with several prior presidents, and watching others back to Ronald Reagan or George Herbert Walker Bush, you know, Bill Clinton, George Bush. I mean, you just felt like there was a better understanding of how Congress operated, and the need to kind of eventually put the partisan weapons aside for the good of the country and fix the problems, and to be willing to admit some of your own programs may have some problems, and maybe Republicans in this case have some fixes. And I thought we had made some progress. I’m not ready to throw in the towel, but you know, we’re standing strong.
HH: Well, it appears to me that the GOP Senators went up there, and he liked the deal they were offering better, although his aide, then, is quoted by the New York Times as saying that the repeal of the medical device tax is “now off the table.” And he worked you. I think he got a better offer, and he left you guys at the altar, and he’s going to go talk to the…it’s not good strategy by the Senate Republicans, either, but you must be feeling like you got worked over.
GW: Well, we’ll see. I mean, I guess you’ve got to see what the negotiators that are still in conversations with the President are getting. I’m not, you know, my job is to try and get more Republicans back here, and both, specifically in the House, because the last thing America needs is what he had in his first two years, which was Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, and get anything you want, which is how America ended up getting Obamacare and everything else. But it’s tough. I’ll tell you, Hugh.
HH: But last night in the White House, didn’t he commit to the medical device tax repeal?
GW: Excuse me?
HH: Last night when you were talking about the medical device tax repeal, my understanding was it looked like he’d go for that.
GW: You know, I wouldn’t characterize it that way. And I was in the room. There were a lot of things that were put out for possible discussion, and I won’t get into the specifics, because we all sort of agreed we wouldn’t do that and negotiate publicly. But certainly, there are a lot of these issues that were on the table, and nothing was taken off the table last night. So I actually left there feeling slight optimism, but we’ve seen this before play out, so we were all cautious. I mean, look, we know the medical device tax is going to cost 44,000 American jobs, and the innovation and new technology that goes with it, and every American that gets a pacemaker or a new knee, or some joint replacement, or other items that are considered medical devices, is going to pay that tax. And I don’t see how that makes health care more affordable, nor creates U.S. jobs, nor spurs new innovation in technology. We’re already seeing the jobs go away. But you know, we could go through a long list of things Obamacare is going to be doing to America.
HH: But Greg Walden, you’re a businessman.
GW: Yes, sir.
HH: You know how to negotiate. And you know, because you were in my business, the radio business, very successful.
HH: And this is the same thing he did on Syria. He said A, then he said not A, then he said B, then he said not B, and it ended up Syria immune and Russia running the show. And last night, he says come along, let’s walk along. Today, he basically slams the door on the House and starts and to deal with the Senate. The Senate’s going to get double-crossed. It’s Lucy and the football. I mean, the guy doesn’t, he’s incompetent.
GW: You know, a commander-in-chief is clear and direct, and takes the lead, and understands who he is communicating with and negotiating with. I didn’t feel like in the first hour he really understood even what we were putting on the table, which we were meeting him halfway. We were saying look, we’ll extend the debt ceiling for a short period so America doesn’t get into a debate over default. And in exchange for that, we want serious discussions on the budget so we can reach an agreement for the long term salvation of this country to get us out of this spiral of unending deficits and debt. And that’s part of it. And then we need to see some movement from the White House when it comes to the spending on the continuing resolution and some other things. And I won’t get into the detail, because we agreed not to. But suffice it to say, we left there thinking he didn’t say yes, didn’t say no, we got a better understanding after 75 minutes or however long it was, the guy, Hugh, you know, when we actually sold our business, a colleague of mine in the radio business, I wasn’t sure if we were getting a good deal or not. And I asked him, I said how do we know, because we were a pretty small market, and he said you know, when the plate comes around and there’s a cookie on the plate, you better take the cookie, because the plate might not come around again. And I felt sitting in that meeting, he didn’t understand that we were willing to meet halfway. And he didn’t understand, he doesn’t have a good relationship on the Hill. He doesn’t understand that Class of 2010 that came in not to be career politicians, to change the bad ways of Washington spending.
HH: But this…
GW: That’s why they’re here, and he misses that moment.
HH: It must be like Speaker Boehner having déjà vu. The same thing happened to him two years ago.
GW: You know, and I know the Speaker takes a lot of abuse in the public and the press. And I’ll tell you, he is rock solid. And he has had to sit through those meetings. That’s why I think it’s instructive to have 17 more of us around the table to see what he puts up with one on one, and trying to get to something where you…remember, every day we go to work here, we’re outnumbered two to one, between the White House and Harry Reid and the Senate. We need to turn the heat up on the Senate. We need to light the switchboard up at the White House, and push back and pressure them to help us get America on a track that’s sustainable, not a track toward bankruptcy.
HH: Well, if you’ll take a suggestion, I think the message ought to be from every Republican, how can you deal with an incompetent president? But let me ask you very quickly, I also figured out that Paul Ryan did most of the talking last night. Does personal animus between the President and Paul Ryan prevent this from moving forward? Or did the President put that aside?
GW: No, and I didn’t see that happening. And I’ll tell you, Paul didn’t do most of the talking in the meeting I was in. There were several members, led by the Speaker and the Leader, Eric Cantor. Paul weighed in, frankly, at a crucial time, and made, I think, a very pivotal comment, which I won’t quote, but he really helped get this headed in a better direction by getting the President’s attention.
HH: That’s what I gathered, but now he’s doing the old, 30 seconds, he sent Jay Carney out late today to basically say I’m done with the House. I mean, that’s how I translate it.
GW: Well, I wish Jay Carney would not go out as often as he does. I wish the President would engage in real negotiations. And why do they have Joe Biden boxed up? I mean, Joe Biden at least understood Congress. He’s been in the middle of trying to find some common ground. And Harry Reid doesn’t want, and Nancy Pelosi, by the press accounts, doesn’t want Joe Biden anywhere in the room.
HH: Congressman, thanks, we’re out of time, unless you want to stick around.
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HH: Congressman, what is the deal with the Republican Senate? Why would they do this to you?
GW: Well, I don’t know, and I haven’t talked to them. So I will hold my comment until I get some direct communication there. But the President had planned, remember, to meet with each of the caucuses and conferences – the Democrat House, the Republican House, Democrat Senate, Republican Senate. And we chose a different path in the House. Rather than send all 232 members down to the White House, which seemed to us to be less of a conversation or negotiation, and perhaps more of a lecture opportunity, we went down to actually sit down and try and figure out if we could make progress here on what we believe is very important. And that’s why there were fewer than 20, or 18 of us – the elected leadership and some committee chairs. And we engage in serious, one on one conservations for the better part of an hour and a half trying to move the ball forward in a direction that works for all of the country. And remember, I know we’re getting pummeled in the press. I know the poll numbers are in the tank. But we’re fighting for an important principle here, to try and keep this country from turning out to look like Greece, from having total government takeover of everything in our lives with a price tag that our grandkids will look back and say what in the heck happened on your watch.
HH: Well, I agree. I think you’ve got to go borrow Hillary Clinton’s reset button and push it, and say sorry that you botched this, Mr. President, but you need to take negotiation lessons. Call us when you’re ready to deal again. And then if we get up to October 17th, we’re not going to default. You know that. I know that. The markets know that. And the government can stay shut for a couple more weeks, and the polls are up or down. He’s down to 37% as well. He’s getting pummeled. But if the message is his incompetence did this again, I think that sinks in.
GW: You know, I hope so. I’ll tell you, but you’ve got to light up his phone lines. They’ve got to start getting some push back, as does Harry Reid. I mean, keep in mind, Hugh, how many bills we’ve sent to the Senate to fund crucial services in the government, and he won’t even take them up. And you know, simple things we’ve added on, like the fairness of a one year delay of the individual mandate, my gosh, you know, the President just says he won’t enforce the mandate on business, and then says oh, you folks that are just on your own, hey, we’re going to sick the IRS on you if you don’t sign up for Obamacare, which by the way, we know is a failure in its rollout. I mean, if this were a new Apple product, you’d have a new CEO at Apple. I mean, Kathleen Sebelius, where was she, in Pennsylvania at Heinz Field, and they couldn’t even get that show to work and the wireless didn’t work or whatever?
HH: It was a disaster yesterday.
GW: Bottom line is it’s a mess.
HH: Well, I don’t believe this is the only red line he won’t erase, and that’s what he wants us to believe. I hope you guys have a productive weekend. Are you staying in town? We’ve got 30 seconds.
GW: Absolutely. You bet. We’re ready to work this out, but we’ve got to get the right thing for America.
HH: Good luck in that, Congressman Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
End of interview.