House minority whip candidate, Roy Blunt.
HH: Joined now by the current majority whip of the United States Congress, and hoping to be the minority whip after the voting on Friday, Congressman Roy Blunt from Missouri. Congressman, welcome back. What’s the case you’re making to your colleagues?
RB: Hugh, first of all, it’s great to talk to you again, and I don’t want to be the minority whip for very long. I want to get us back into the majority. I think the last time you and I talked, I was at the Minnesota State Fair with Michele Bachmann.
HH: Yes, you were, and you spent a lot of time getting people elected.
RB: Who did get elected. She’s one of that hearty class of 13 freshmen, that if they could win in this environment, they’re going to be strong members of Congress for a long time. And we had a great discussion that day. I’m relatively optimistic about what’s happened now in 2006. I think it gives us the chance to retouch who we are, to refresh our message, to get back to the fundamentals of why we got into politics. 12 years in the majority, you develop a few bad habits. This is a great time to shake loose of those. I think our members need to look at the whip race, the Republican whip’s race, as the opportunity really define our party, and more importantly, to help define the Democrats. We have 60 Democrats coming to Congress next year from districts that George W. Bush carried in 2004. 60 fo them. By contrast, there’ll either be 8 or 9 Republicans in districts that Kerry carried. So there’s a target rich environment. These 60 folks, almost all of them, ran as conservatives. We’ll see if you can be part of the Nancy Pelosi agenda and be a conservative. But to do that, we have to hold our team together, we have to come up with the right kind of amendments, and the right kind of alternatives, and try to make good policy on the days we can. And the days we can’t, try to force those Democrats who ran as Republicans to decide whether they’re really Republicans or Democrats.
HH: Congressman Blunt, why rush to this decision? It’s Friday, and when Congressman Campbell was in my studio last week, he told me you guys would be doing it this Friday. I was astonished. I don’t think there’s any other organization in the world after a significant, strategic defeat, that would do this in ten days time.
RB: Well, you know, the Senate just…it is the way the Congress does it. We actually put these elections off a couple of days. The Senate also having gone into the minority, just elected their leaders today. Members even today are saying gee, couldn’t we just go ahead and get this over with? We know all the individuals involved, we’ve got the information we need. Let’s get this over with. Nobody likes a leadership race, because a leadership race means your friends are competing against you, and people like to get that over. I mean, John Shadegg is the other person in the whip’s race. I like him. He’s a good guy. We don’t disagree on very many things. And you know, I just hope our members decide that the way to get back into the majority is to have a whip team that knows our members, that knows the Democrats that need to help us get things done on some days, and particularly is focused on the Democrats that we need to define and identify, so that we can come right back into the majority in two years. The Democrats ran this place essentially for 70 straight years. During that 70 years, they lost the majority twice, 1946 and 1952. Both times, they came back at the end of one term. If you don’t come back at the end of one term, the other side begins to get the advantages of incumbency, and it gets harder and harder and harder. And so being fully focuses on this moment, and knowing that it can mean good things for us, is a good thing.
HH: Now Congressman Blunt, you went out and you worked very hard for a lot of Republicans…
RB: I did.
HH: You kept the losses to the minimum that they are. At the same time, in the Truth Laid Bear forum that you participated in, in the blogosphere, and my callers’ e-mails and phone calls, there’s anxiety about anyone from the old sticking around into the new, and it’s heightened by the impression that whereas in December, in 1944, we waited until December to do this, but that the old guard really wants to hang on. So what do you say to them, to tell them that that’s not the case, you’re running on the merits?
RB: Right. We are running on the merits. I’m not defending everything we’ve done in the past. You know, I’ve run institutions, I was a university president one time. It’s not the job of the leader to defend everything you do. The job of the leader is to figure out how to make everything you do better. We did have an extended conference call with our members, kind of put the options out there. Overwhelmingly, the members were in favor of giving a couple of more days, but getting this over with, because we need to get our new leaders in place, so we can get our new leaders of the committees in place, so they can hold onto the best staff that they have. You know, the difference in ’94 is that we have the staff that’s leaving now.
HH: Okay, well, that’s not a bad argument, actually.
RB: Now we have the opportunity to save the best staff, to do what we can to make the best case to the American people over the next two years of what we’re for, and why we’re different than them. We’re not for business as usual, we’re not for big government, we’re not for a values agenda, just because we’re checking a box, but because we believe in it. And this is a chance to get back to that touchstone, and be better than we ever were before.
HH: Congressman Roy Blunt, thanks. I look forward to talking to you early and often throughout the next two years.
End of interview.