Eric Cantor appeared as Leslie Stahl’s guest on 60 Minutes and did his best to whitewash, downplay, revise history, deny history, appear reasonable and “humanize” his image . . . all in vain, I might add, for anyone who knows Cantor’s record and what appears to be his rabidly personal animosity toward the President, despite his sincerely delivered statements otherwise.
Here’s the video:
“Humanizing” his image? All Eric Cantor is missing are the bolts in his neck to channel Frankenstein – personality and all. Doesn’t matter that Cantor’s son says he’s “cool” and likes rap music, including, Cantor noted, “Jay-Z, Lil Wayne.” Doesn’t matter that both his mother-in-law, who lives with them, and his wife, Diana – a former employee of Goldman Sachs – were liberal Democrats who “converted” to the Republican Party, and are pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. Doesn’t matter that he has a sincere one-on-one manner, and presents as a kindly southern gentleman – lacking only the mimosa with mint on the patio – to complete the picture of a misunderstood man who just wants what’s best for the country. Desperate to be portrayed as anything but the cold man he truly is, at heart, Cantor implored Stahl that, as to his personal image, “We’re counting on you to help us to get the reality out to address that.”
As to his image, none of the folksy down-home charm matters – his image is carved in stone. What matters is that, when asked by Leslie Stahl whether he was proud of President Obama, he clearly hesitated, saying only, “Uh, he’s my commander in chief.” Apparently recalling that this new, improved, reasonable, cooperative and earnest image required clear-eyed sincerity in respecting our President, he added, “I respect the President, I like the man . . . he’s got a lot on his plate, I respect that. And I want to continue trying to work with him.”
“Continue” trying to work with him – did we miss the start? Unlike what he’s saying now, in August Cantor maintained that the different “worldviews” are so disparate that there’s room for little save some form of armistice. He didn’t seem to include trying to work with the President in the list, then.
Tepidly and meekly answering Stahl’s questions, playing the role of soft-spoken southern gent to the hilt, Cantor contended that “there’s no games” in Washington, and, “What we’re trying to do is trying to do what’s good for this country . . . Ultimately this is part of the legislative process . . . .”
It’s “just political rhetoric,” Cantor alleged, when Democrats accuse Republicans of simply trying to prevent President Obama from serving a second term. Hmm – earlier this year, Cantor engaged in just that “political rhetoric,” saying that the GOP is “pit against a White House, a president and a party that just doesn’t share the same worldview . . . the real fight is going to be making sure that President Obama doesn’t have a second term . . . yes, we need to change and take the country away from President Obama.” When Stahl noted that Cantor is “the face of Republican inflexibility” – including being the leading voice in opposition to President Obama, and even using his authority as House Majority Leader to prevent a vote on President Obama’s jobs bill – she wasn’t just whistling Dixie.
Things aren’t going well, though, for leader Cantor: Many seem to share the view that he’s Frankenstein without the bolts. He’s been picketed, he’s been heckled, he, personally, along with his party, have fallen in the polls – and Americans blame this bespectacled leader of the Tea Party-endorsed Republican freshmen in the House for the “gridlock” in Washington. To the House tea partiers, Cantor is their “inspirational leader and father figure” – in fact, the House Tea Party freshmen boldly stated, “A 2-month extension to the payroll tax bill and to unemployment is a non-starter” (delivered with the boldness of ideology, and before the Republican cave by Boehner to pass the extension.). To the rest of the planet, Cantor has been, in conjunction with John Boehner, the single most visible and vocal obstruction to any and all of President Obama’s proposals.
If Cantor doesn’t want to be seen as unreasonable – and he pointed to his budget talks with Vice President Joe Biden as proof that he endorsed revenues and a reduction in loopholes, such as the tax breaks for oil, gas and corporate jets – an explanation is probably in order as to why every bit of self-proclaimed reasonableness is offset with a condition: For example, Cantor insisted that every dollar of new revenue be offset by equal cuts in taxes. “Revenue neutral at the end,” is Cantor’s battle cry – when it comes to help for the middle class, that is. He claims that his “broader goal” is to lower tax rates for everyone – but the test pilot is rich corporations. Guess he’ll see how that works out for the ol’ deficit, and if there’s any room in there anywhere he’ll address the middle class’ suffering down the road. Or, never.
Stahl noted that Cantor wanted $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in increased revenues, and asked Cantor why – when the President said repeatedly that he wouldn’t agree to it without more revenues – Cantor refused to compromise. Cantor flipped the script, accusing the President of the one doing no compromising.
Cantor: “Who’s not compromising there?”
Stahl: “They would say you, because you just wanted spending cuts. And I’m just trying to figure out where’s the compromise coming from?”
Cantor: “Incremental progress is a good thing.”
Stahl noted the President’s refusal to accept a 10-1 ratio, believing it to be unfair and “too imbalanced.” Would Cantor, Stahl asked, “apply his idea of making ‘incremental progress’” to the Bush tax cuts that expire at the end of this year? Why not, Stahl challenged, keep rates down for the middle class?
Cantor: “The goal is to reduce the deficit . . . .”
Stahl: “Revenues reduces the deficit.”
Cantor: “You can’t tax your way out of that . . . .”
Noting that Cantor’s image is one of an intractable and stubborn foe, Stahl asked Cantor, “Are you ready to compromise?”
“I have always been ready to cooperate [emphasis added] . . . cooperate is let’s look to where we can move things forward to where we agree. Compromising principles, you don’t want to ask anybody to do that, that’s who they are as their core being.” Cantor claimed that his idol, former President Reagan, “never compromised his principles” – mainly that of raising taxes. Stahl, however, noted that Reagan did in fact compromise by raising taxes, prompting Cantor’s press secretary to yell from off-camera that what Stahl was saying wasn’t true. Facts don’t lie; people – particularly Eric Cantor’s people, apparently – lie. Roll the clip, boys, of former President Reagan, in 1982 – while agreeing to tax increases in the middle of a recession – explaining: “Make no mistake about it: This whole package is a compromise.”
Oh, well – guess Ronnie wasn’t that much of an idol. Cantor, on the other hand, has taken the hallowed Republican pledge: “We as Republicans are not going to support tax increases.” Fact is, he may as well have said, “We as Republicans are not going to support anything the President proposes.” It was Cantor who whipped all 187 members of Congress into voting against the stimulus. It was Cantor who has accused the President of being incapable of hearing opposing opinions. It was Cantor who walked out on the debt talks, refusing to compromise, er, cooperate. It was Cantor who refused to allow the House to even vote on the President’s American Jobs Act.
Could be, though, that Cantor is still stinging from the President’s pointed rebuke in October, in the midst of Cantor’s fierce opposition to the President’s jobs bill: “I would like Mr. Cantor to come here to Dallas and explain what exactly in this jobs bill does he not believe in, what exactly he is opposed to . . . Does he not believe in rebuilding America’s roads and bridges? Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses or efforts to help our veterans?”
And, even more stinging, mere days after his inauguration, President Obama made it clear to Cantor where matters stood. “Elections have consequences . . . and Eric, I won.”
Oh, and, Eric? With the President’s approval rating nearing 50%, and you and your Republican brethren at about half that . . . he’s still winning.