This morning in a taped interview on NPR, Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep repeatedly asked Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) if “there needs to be some significant change in the way that the United States approaches Iraq.”
Each time, Reynolds refused to give a straight answer, stating only that “‘the commander in chief is the president,’ and that Congress has a responsibility for ‘oversight.’ Pressed for details of what should be done, he blamed ‘national media people like you’ for focusing on Iraq.”
After Inskeep’s fifth attempt to get Reynolds to comment on President Bush’s stay-the-course policy, Reynolds abruptly ended the conversation, stating, “Is there any more you have? Because I’m about to walk into another meeting.”
The Iraq war is not an issue that is important to just “national media people” in Washington. In the latest CBS/NYTimes poll, voters identified Iraq as the single-most important issue. It garnered four times as much interest as immigration, the second most important issue.
Full transcript below:
REYNOLDS: Do I wish the approval rating in Congress was higher? Sure — for my own self esteem. I’m a Member of Congress. But all politics is local. Local races about the local issues. The issues in my district are jobs, taxes, and Social Security. Some it may be transportation and infrastructure, some may be border security, some may be other issues. But —
REYNOLDS: There’s only one race that I’m aware of that has Iraq has a center theme and that is Chris Shays’s seat in Connecticut, and that’s because he wants it to be the centerpiece of his campaign.
INSKEEP: Do you anticipate that after this election, there needs to be some significant change in the way that the United States approaches Iraq?
REYNOLDS: Steve, the commander in chief is the president and I believe that the generals who run the war will look to see what type of course corrections the President, his ambassador, and the generals that he summoned a few weeks ago will continue to look at where the President puts that — But as I said, the number one issue in my district is jobs, the number two is taxes, the number three issue Social Security.
INSKEEP: Does Congress have a responsibility to push the commander in chief at this time to change direction somewhat?
REYNOLDS: Congress always has a responsibility for oversight.
INSKEEP: I’m asking a much more specific answer though. Do you —
REYNOLDS: Steve, I’ve given you a specific answer. The commander in chief is the person that runs the military and is the point on a war on Iraq or any other war. Congress has oversight responsibilities, and to my knowledge, it’s doing that.
INSKEEP: Let me try to put that in my own words, so that I understand it. Are you saying you trust the President to do what he will in Iraq, you’ll look afterward, but you’re not pushing him to change direction?
REYNOLDS: Now Steve, you can draw whatever conclusion. I stand by what I said. I said it twice and I want the listeners to hear what I just said twice. You’re drawing whatever conclusion you want out of it. I’ve set the discussion on Iraq. You’ve asked if in politics — I said there’s one race in the country. Many national media people like you would like to see one issue they can cover out of Washington, and it just isn’t happening that way this year. Each race has its own issues, and it’s a choice between two candidates.
INSKEEP: Congressman, with all due respect, I was asking about your substantive position on an issue that the President of the United States considers one of the most important issues of our time.
REYNOLDS: You asked a question Steve, I gave you an answer. Is there any more you have? Because I’m about to walk into another meeting.
INSKEEP: That’ll do. Congressman Reynolds, thanks for taking the time.