House GOP Leader on Background

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Over lunch on the Hill, a few reporters gathered to hear a high-ranking Republican Congressman talk about the issues of the day. They included Alberto Gonzales, Alberto Gonzales, the war, and Albert Gonzales. Some highlights:

On Gonzales stepping down: “You guys have been in Washington longer than I have — a leaked list of replacements? A phone call from the President? He’s not going to make it through this.”

On why Gonzales isn’t getting political cover: The revelations about improper use of national security letters; “those of us who have taken the heat for supporting effective but controversial tools [in the war on terror] expected effective safeguards.” Also, the way the White House handled the Rumsfeld resignation, “did irreparable harm,” though he seemed to admit that the House should have been tougher on Rummy itself.

On calling Rove to testify: “Just because you’re at sub-30 approval doesn’t mean you lose executive privilege.”

On the supplemental appropriations bill:
“People have come out and said, ‘even though I was against the surge, I cannot tie the hands of the troops.'” He expects R crossovers to be in the “single digits.”

On the Democratic leadership: “Democrats have overreached in handling the supplemental… [though] the Administration has overreached in thinking we’d march in lock step for ever and ever.” Dem leadership have been strictly enforcing amendment deadlines, leading to pointless legislative hassles. However, “The Pelosi-Hoyer show is the gift that keeps on giving.”

On the surge: “For many people, it was considered the last vote they’d have to give this war.” He said Congress might “revisit” the surge at the end of the year.

On the war on terror: “Americans like to keep score, and [in Iraq/war on terror] there’s no sense of winning and losing… There’s been no sense of shared sacrifice since 9/11.. no sense that we’re at war.” The most it effects people’s lives in “grumbling at the airport, ‘This is ridiculous, I’m throwing out my $45 mascara.'” Under pointed questioning, he admitted that Bush had a chance to instill that “sense of shared sacrifice” after 9/11, though he refused to actually say the president failed to do it. He cautioned that it’s difficult to communicate exactly where the public should be on this issue — it’s “not a cold war,” but it’s not a “hot” one either.

On the 08 field: “Unsatisfactory. Unsatisfied.” Asked to elaborate, he said, there was no single candidate who had both solid conservative background, charisma, and “depth.” Had perhaps the kindest words for Romney who has “charisma,” and is “fresh face… unsullied by serving in Congress.”

On his dream 08 candidate: “If Florida’s former governor was named ‘Jeb Smith,’ he’d bring that [background, charisma, depth] all together.”

On lessons of 06:
“We lost because of incompetence and corruption, with emphasis on incompetence… the BRAND of Republican leadership is businesslike — the trains run on time.” [I assume the representative is unfamiliar with the origin of this cliche.] “It was very debilitating to the national brand.”

The question that loomed over all his comments: So what is that brand now? The congressman seemed to imply that the Republican plan to take back the House is to let the Democrats lose it. Americans say they don’t see a difference in the parties, he said, the Democrats “might solve that problem for us in their first nine months.”