National Examiner’s Byron York On How Congress Is Coming Down On The AUMF 2.0 In Syria
HH: I landed after a redeye in Cleveland on Friday morning, and so I’m finally able to listen from 6-9 in the morning, and there is, I’m expecting to hear Bennett, and there’s Byron, Byron York, the Washington Examiner’s ace political reporter. And I say to myself, you know, I’ve got to break the Bennett monopoly. I feel like I’m a trustbuster. I feel like Teddy Roosevelt, that all of us in radio have to call up and break the Bennett monopoly over Byron York. Byron, is there, are you going to get fired by Bennett and no longer be his guest host if people like me start calling for your enormous amounts of wisdom?
BY: This could be dangerous, but it’s fun to be liked. How about that?
HH: Well, you are in the middle of an epicenter. You’re on Ground Zero of the crackup of the Republican Party, though I think it’s overstated. I think this is going to pass, AUMF 2.0, I’m calling it, in both the Senate and the House Republican caucuses. But what do you sense is the lay of the land in this battle for support for the President’s bizarre move last week?
BY: Yeah, well, I think you’re right about the Senate. I do see this passing in the Senate. I’m not entirely sure about the House. It was interesting, we have John Boehner, Eric Cantor going to the White House today, coming out afterwards and saying that they support this, and they’re going to vote for it, and they would encourage other Republicans. At the very same time that Boehner was speaking outside the White House, his office was releasing a statement which basically said I’m not going to lift a finger after this. I’m not going to be a whip, I’m not going to do anything to try to get the President votes. He’s on his own. I think the real question is how many Democrats are going to be with him? You know, I was just talking to a former Congressman, but definitely on the left end of the Democratic Party in the House, who basically said he could see a hundred Democrats defect from the President on this.
BY: Now there’s 200 Democrats in the House. If half of them didn’t vote for him, of course, then you’d have to get 118 Republicans to vote with those other 100 to get you there. All I’m saying is it could be kind of close in the House.
HH: Now have they made the decision, this is a little inside baseball, inside Beltway, but that’s why Byron York exists, to whip the vote? Do they know if they’re going to put the full power of the Republican caucus behind it?
BY: They specifically made the decision not to whip the vote.
HH: So it’s an open vote. It’s a free vote. All right.
BY: It’s a vote of conscience, as they say. And there have been authorizations in the past that have gone the same way. So you’re not going to get John Boehner or anybody twisting anybody’s arms. It’s also a way, by the way, for Boehner to just kind of wash his hands of this and say that this is the President’s show entirely, and whichever way it goes, John Boehner does not get blamed for this.
HH: Now tell me the most important person in the House on this, and it really is Paul Ryan, because Paul Ryan is a national leader, he is an internationalist. He was going to be the vice president, and thus was nominated to be one beat away from the presidency. This matters, what Paul Ryan says. I’ll be deeply disappointed if he votes against this. What do you think?
BY: I don’t know which way he’s going. He’s made the sort of requisite cautionary statements very early on saying that you know, there’s lots of questions we need answers from the administration, et cetera, et cetera. Just on a kind of an establishment sort of viewpoint, I would think that Ryan would in fact end up voting for the authorization.
HH: There are three in the Senate who matter to me, men who would also be leaders of the party down the road, and maybe four. I think Ayotte will obviously vote for it, Senator Ayotte from New Hampshire. But John Thune, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz are also Senators who would someday seek to lead the Republicans into national battle. What about those three?
BY: First of all, Rubio, at the hearing today in the Senate, made a lot of, he sounded a lot like a man who’s going to vote for this, okay? So I think you’re absolutely right about Rubio. Thune, I can’t say, but here again, I think this is something that his vote would be somewhat like Kelly Ayotte’s, that he would vote yes. So I think Thune, Ayotte, Rubio all would be yeses. Cruz, to me, is a wildcard. I don’t know.
HH: You know, it’s interesting, he could, he has national ambitions, obviously, whether now or in the future. And he should, because he’s talented and extremely, extremely gifted in politics. But I think this could be one of those votes that define you the wrong way, Byron York. What do you think?
BY: Well, Cruz has shown no desire to be approved and defined by the conventional methods of moving up in Washington. And he is intensely aware, I think, of his constituency, not just in Texas, but around the country. And my guess is if you polled whatever the Ted Cruz constituency is nationwide, they would be against this. They would vote no. So I’m curious to see what he does, but I think he is the wildcard, because he is not the guy who in the end thinks you know, this is the way a Senator should vote.
HH: Right. Now I have been besieged all the last five days, because I am an advocate for rescuing the President here just to save the presidency and to send the message necessary to Khamenei and the other crazy people around the world, and I’ve been besieged by negative comments. And so I came up with the term Smaerls. These are social media-amplified extremists of the right and left. And the snarls coming from the Smaerls are amazing, Byron. They overwhelm your Twitter feed, they overwhelm comment things, and I think they’re sort of the Paulistas, who used to show up with the signs in front of every Republican convention. But they have social media to amplify their voices. Are they moving the Republican Party isolationists?
BY: Well, you know, I would, listening to what you said, on the one hand, it’s easy to dismiss that as a noisy minority. But if we look at the polls, we see nationally, significant opposition to this. Maybe not opposition as passionate enough to call up somebody and yell at them, but we do see majorities. I mean, Republicans, Democrats, independents, men, women, conservative, liberal, I mean, across the demographics, we see majorities opposed to this right now. So think that the people who are against it, who are, you know, maybe getting on your nerves, are extreme versions of pretty much the majority opinion in this.
HH: You know, they don’t get on my nerves, because I’ve been doing this for so long. But I do think they influence freshmen Republicans in the House. I think they do…
BY: You know, it’s a really interesting thing you mentioned that. I just saw a Tweet by Representative Andy Harris, who’s a Republican in Maryland, and he said the calls in my office on this, I’m saying the numbers out of memory, but he said the calls in my office today were against 524-3.
BY: Okay, so you think well, it’s only the people who are against it who are calling. I mean, all the people who would be for it are not compelled to pick up the phone and call Representative Harris’ office. But on the other hand, that still has an effect.
HH: Oh, absolutely. And the social medial amplified extremes of the right and the left, they can make themselves appear to be legion. It’s sort of like, are you a Civil War buff, Byron York?
BY: Not so much.
HH: Okay, out on the Peninsular Campaign, the Confederates marched back and forth all day long, and McClellan ran away, because he thought there were millions of them. And that’s what I think this is, but I honestly think our party’s still the party of Reagan. And this argument is fascinating from an inter…is there a similar argument underway in the Democratic Party? 30 seconds.
BY: Well, there is, and the question is, theirs is a more practical thing, because you have to remember, they’ve got at least, out of those 200 Democrats in the House, they’ve got at least a hundred who would like to vote against it, maybe more who would like to vote against it. But they are conflicted by the desire to stick with their team and their president. And the argument that you are not going to cripple your president, are you, is going to be very, very strong at the end. That doesn’t apply in the Republican Party, just as it didn’t apply among Democrats in the Bush years. But that’s going to be really strong among Democrats in the House.
HH: I’m telling you, Byron, you’ve got an e-book here. This is a fascinating episode in American history.
End of interview.