House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was on Meet The Press this week, and while he did say that he believes President Obama is a U.S. citizen, he refused to denounce the far right birthers. When David Gregory asked Cantor why he would not criticize birthers, the Majority Leader asked, “Why, why is it that you want me to go and engage in name-calling?”
Here is the video:
Here is the transcript from NBC News:
MR. GREGORY: There’s been a lot of talk about discourse, about how you all can get along a little bit better and do it a little bit more civilly. And I wonder, this is the leadership moment here, OK? There are elements of this country who question the president’s citizenship, who think that it–his birth certificate is inauthentic. Will you call that what it is, which is crazy talk?
REP. CANTOR: David, you know, I mean, a lot of that has been an, an issue sort of generated by not only the media, but others in the country. Most Americans really are beyond that, and they want us to focus…
MR. GREGORY: Right. Is somebody brings that up just engaging in crazy talk?
REP. CANTOR: Well, David, I, I don’t think it’s, it’s nice to call anyone crazy, OK?
MR. GREGORY: All right. Is it a legitimate or an illegitimate issue?
REP. CANTOR: And–so I don’t think it’s an issue that we need to address at all. I think we need to focus on…
MR. GREGORY: All right. His citizenship should never be questioned, in your judgment. Is that what you’re saying?
REP. CANTOR: It is, it is not an issue that even needs to be on the policy-making table right now whatsoever.
MR. GREGORY: Right. Because it’s illegitimate? I mean, why won’t you just call it what it is?
REP. CANTOR: I–because, again…
MR. GREGORY: I mean, I feel like there’s a lot of Republican leaders who don’t want to go as far as to criticize those folks.
REP. CANTOR: No. I think the president’s a citizen of the United States.
MR. GREGORY: Period.
REP. CANTOR: So what–yes. Why, why is it that you want me to go and engage in name-calling?
MR. GREGORY: No, I’m just…
REP. CANTOR: I think he’s a citizen of the United States.
MR. GREGORY: Because, because I think a lot of people, Leader, would say that a leader’s job is to shut some of this down. You know as well as I do, there are some elements on the right who believe two things about this president: He actively is trying to undermine the American way and wants to deny individuals their freedom. Do you reject those beliefs?
REP. CANTOR: I…
MR. GREGORY: As a leader in our Congress.
REP. CANTOR: Let me tell you, David, I believe this president wants what’s best for this country. It’s just how he feels we should get there, that there are honest policy differences.
This is the kind of leadership that the Republican Party provides. They are not willing to take on even the radical fringes in their own party. Notice how Cantor tried to turn David Gregory’s question into a defense of the birthers? In essence, Cantor was saying, I think Obama is a citizen, but those who don’t are free to have their opinion, or in this case their own facts. It is interesting that David Gregory had to point out to Cantor how a leader should behave.
The Republican leadership is not only lazy and intellectually empty, but they are also cowards who kow-tow to the extremist elements in their own party. The consequences of not steering clear of the birthers and the Tea Party have been made abundantly clear to every Republican in Washington. Cantor knows that if he doesn’t want to face a primary challenger in 2012, then he better not call out the birthers, or the Tea Party. Eric Cantor put on a disgraceful display today. He did not have to openly criticize anyone. He could have simply said, it is a fact that President Obama is a United States citizen.
One of the main reasons why our political discourse will not improve is because people in positions of authority within the Republican Party, like Eric Cantor, refuse to clean up the sewage of extremism and lies that comes from their party. Cowardice, fear, and selfishly putting your own political future ahead of the good of your country are not leadership traits. The GOP’s inability and disinterest in controlling their own extremists cost them the Senate in 2010, may cost them the House, and will definitely get President Obama reelected in 2012.