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Republican Whip in the House, Roy Blunt on the number of Republicans that might side with the Democrats on the House Iraq war resolution.

Thursday, February 15, 2007
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HH: We begin today with the Republican Whip in the House of Representatives, Congressman Roy Blunt. Congressman, welcome back. Good to have you.

RB: Hey, Hugh, how are you? It’s good to be with you. Thanks for what you’re doing every day. You know, I’m never on your show when I don’t think about the great conversation we had from the Minnesota State Fair, and no matter how many times I’ve been on there, I continue to remember that day, and my new colleague, Michele Bachmann is with us, one of our members of the Whip team now. And we’ve got our work cut out for us, I’ll tell you that, but we’re glad you’re doing what you’re doing.

HH: Well, thank you, Congressman. Now you are the Whip, which means you’ve got to count heads. How many Republicans are we going to lose on this House resolution so damaging to the war effort?

RB: Well, I think…we decided with the original Iraq resolution, and with this vote, that you know, war is a matter of conscience, and we’re not whipping our members like we normally would, but we’re certainly talking and providing information, hoping they listen to the debate, and you know, the Democrats have suggested fifty or sixty Republicans may be voting with them. I don’t think that’ll be the number at all.

HH: Will it be more than 20?

RB: It might be, but it probably will be more than 20, but it’s going to be a fairly low number.

HH: And Congressman, the impact on the Senate side was devastating to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, when grass roots by the tens of thousands said we’re not giving you any more money if you guys vote for the Warner resolution. Have you got concerns that your Republican base will desert the NRCC if in fact a number of your members go over to the defeatist resolution?

RB: You know, if one out of ten of our members or so are there, I don’t think so. I really hope that our friends are listening to the debate this week, and as we’re fighting to earn our way back to the majority, it’s a time for us to define again who we really are, and frankly, I listened to our members on this debate today, and it seemed like to me there is a huge difference between what Republican are saying on the floor, and what Democrats are saying on the floor of the House, and I hope the American people hear that. I think if they do, actually, it’ll be helpful to us, but most importantly, it’s the right thing to do. You know, this is a case where the right thing is above politics, and realizing as you do, in that great effort you’re leading, the Victory Caucus, that we don’t have any real choice if we want to protect future generations of Americans, than to win this war against these Islamic totalitarians, and you know, the Congress of the United States should not be making tactical decisions as to how many troops are in which place on what day.

HH: Now I know you and I agree on that. And I have been listening to the debate. We’ll play some of it a little bit later in the program. I mean, Congressman Rangel’s just out of control here. But I come back to, I’ve asked Leader Boehner, I’ve asked Deputy Whip Cantor, I’ve asked Rules Ranking Member Dreier, I’ll ask you. A Republican listening right now hears twenty, maybe thirty members are going to vote with this resolution, which we consider to be encouraging to the enemy, and destructive of military morale. How can we actually support a group umbrella effort that’s going to support them in their reelection?

RB: Well, I think you have to first of all believe that those members are trying to do what they think is the right thing, but maybe even more importantly to your question, you’ve got to look at virtually 100% of the Democrats are on the side of this resolution that is prepared to be the first step in cutting support for our troops, I’m convinced, and if the numbers you and I are talking about are right, you know, 85 or 90% of the Republicans are agreeing with you and me. Now I think that’s a pretty easy decision to make between which team’s the team that has the right vision for the security and future of America.

HH: Well, I know which team does, but you’ve got some bozos on that team, Congressman, and I mean they’re getting the most important thing wrong. Have the conversations inside of the caucus been that blunt, Congressman Blunt?

RB: Well, you know, Congressman Blunt likes blunt conversations, and we’ve had some blunt discussions about this, both one on one discussions, and in our conference. But again, this is an issue like that original decision to go to war, that I know what I believe is the right thing. I’m not prepared to define that for everybody, but I’m prepared to try to help everybody get all the facts, and I believe if you’ll take the time to get all the facts, they wind up where Roy Blunt and Hugh Hewitt are, which is understanding that we have real enemies in the world, that anytime we do this kind of action, it encourages our enemies. In 1983, long before I went to Congress, there was a vote on the House floor to leave Lebanon after the Beirut barracks bombing. The vote failed, but the message was sent, and in one of his few really bad decisions, President Reagan decided to leave Lebanon right after that. That was the, in my view, one of the early messages to al Qaeda, that they began to develop this false impression of an America that was unwilling to fight back.

HH: Now Congressman, I want to switch subjects on you just a bit to what would the aftermath be of a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq of American troops? I have not heard that discussed much on the floor of the House as the debate has unfolded. What do you think would be the aftermath of a withdrawal of Americans from Iraq in the near term?

RB: Well, a precipitous withdrawal, I hope we can withdraw, and withdraw after the Iraqis step up and do what needs to be done to secure their own freedom, but there’s no question that a precipitous withdrawal produces two results. One is chaos in Iraq, and two, and frankly more important to us, is it paints a bigger target on the United States of America. We just have to understand these people aren’t joking when they say we want to kill all Americans, because they stand for a society that’s flawed and corrupt and decadent and not religious. And you know, they’re not going to tolerate the diversity of our society. This religious totalitarianism, Islamic totalitarianism is our enemy, because as long as we’re right, as long as we continue to lead the world in prosperity and competition, it proves that they’re wrong, and they can’t allow us to prove that they’re wrong, and their movement be allowed to continue.

HH: Now let me ask you, though, in terms of the number that would be killed, and the violence that would follow, do you folks think it’s a potential genocidal situation?

RB: I think there’s no question in Iraq that you fall into a social chaos that would result in lots of death, and I think you can assume that you’d also have increased the probability of attacks on the United States, and on Americans in other places in the world, and in fact on those who believe, who adhere to a Western style of society, generally, would be in endangered by us showing the weakness that a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would show.

HH: All right, one more subject, Congressman Blunt. I believe you’re acquainted with the governor of Missouri.

RB: (laughing) I am acquainted with the governor. My son, Matt Blunt, is a great and brave guy.

HH: And he’s a Naval Academy graduate?

RB: And by the way, he’s a Lt. Commander in the Navy Reserves, still, as a Naval Academy graduate, and a guy who’s spent a lot of years wearing that uniform every day. He still wears it every few days as he drills as a Lt. Commander.

HH: So he has endorsed Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, correct?

RB: He has, yeah.

HH: So has he brought Dad with him?

RB: Well, you know, I like Mitt Romney. I think he has a lot be said for his leadership and his ability. I’m not there yet. I will tell you that you know, Matt Blunt also was the only governor that the Cato Institute gave an A rating in his conservative efforts to govern the state in a fiscally responsible way. So I don’t want to debate Matt Blunt’s choice here, but I’m waiting a while to make mine, and I think we’re lucky to have Mitt Romney run, but I think we’re lucky to have a number of the candidates out there this time, and I’m going to let the process sort itself out a little. I hope that Mitt Romney comes to Southwest Missouri again, and Newt Gingrich comes to Southwest Missouri again, and I’d like to see Rudy Giuliani come in as a great campaigner to get our troops charged up. We’ll see if any, which of these guys is the best candidate.

HH: And in terms of recruiting people to carry the banner of the party in the next election, has the NRCC found any yet who are both veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan, and willing to take on the duty and the burden of running for Congress?

RB: You know, I’m not sure how that recruiting is going as it relates to people who’ve served in Iraq or Afghanistan, but I think those candidates are going to be emerging from the e-mails that we’re getting today from troops in the field, e-mailing Republicans in the House, they’re not at all satisfied with where the other side is on this issue.

HH: Congressman Roy Blunt, always a pleasure. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll look forward to the vote. I hope you can keep as many Republicans there as possible.

RB: We’re doing our best, Hugh, and again, thanks for the Victory Caucus, and for your efforts every day.

HH: I appreciate it, Congressman.

End of interview.

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