Last week, as ThinkProgress first reported, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told conservative radio host Bill Bennett, “I don’t think [Republicans] have to lay out a complete agenda” for the Fall elections. An embarrassing performance by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Pete Sessions (R-TX) on Meet the Press Sunday suggested that the Republican congressional campaign chiefs were taking King’s advice, as they failed to detail any substantive GOP policy ideas.
King appeared on Fox and Friends today to defend his comments on Bennett’s show, but instead of offering any specific ideas of his own, he attacked the left for supposedly taking his remarks “entirely out of context.” He explained that he simply meant every GOP candidate shouldn’t have the “exact same platform”:
KILMEADE: Congressman, welcome. Do you regret saying that Republicans should not have a formal program, an agenda?
KING: First of all, if anyone saw, all that I said — this is taken entirely out of context. It’s classic what the liberals do. What I’ve said is we should have general principles, such as we did in 1994 with the Contract With America. Make our position clear as far as repealing health care, as far as cutting back spending, as far as standing with our security forces in the war against Islamic terrorism. But we have 435 or 420-something candidates running for office, and you can’t have a one national agenda that fits all 435 districts. Let each congressional candidate go out, argue what they believe is best within the overall Republican platform. … People will know where we stand, but you can’t have every candidate around the country bound to the exact same platform.
King’s defense of his comments is ridiculous in light of what he actually said. Bennett asked him a very straightforward question about whether it was was “enough” for Republicans to oppose Obama, or if they need to present their own “positive proposals.” King’s response could not have been more clear:
BENNETT: Is it enough for Republicans to say we are opposed to what [Obama's] doing — stimulus, health care, we don’t like what he’s doing with the government, and look at the job situation — or do we need to have meat on the bones? And say, this is what we are for? Do we have to have positive proposals? [...]
KING: So, It’s a combination of being against what Obama is for, and also giving certain specifics of what we are for. Having said that, I don’t think we have to lay out a complete agenda, from top to bottom, because then we would have the national mainstream media jumping on every point trying to make that a campaign issue.
Nowhere in the Bennett interview did King say anything about making sure 435 candidates are not “bound to the exact same platform.” King said Republicans shouldn’t have a detailed agenda because it would be subject to media scrutiny and could become a “campaign issue.”