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By Casey Christie / The Californian
BY CHRISTINE BEDELL, Californian government editor firstname.lastname@example.org
The Californian talked to Rep. Kevin McCarthy about the book "Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders" in his Bakersfield office last week. Some questions and answers are lightly edited for conciseness.
Q: Why should people pick this up and what will they get out of it?
A: One, it gives them a little more insight into some of the battles we had last year and this year. But it also gives them a future look. (It should appeal to) anybody who likes politics, is interested in Congress' work and what the future holds.
Q: There's a bit of self-promotion in it.
A: For those that haven't seen how this was created, you have to read the foreword. (The name) Young Guns didn't get created by us. (Weekly Standard Executive Editor) Fred Barnes at one point put it together and took this picture (that's on the cover of the book)... He's the one who picked up on that we each had different strengths and that the three together would create some synergy.
Q: Any calls from Oprah to join her book club?
A: No, as you notice it's straight to paperback. Last weekend they said it was No. 1 on Amazon for political (books).
Q: The most consistent criticism I've heard is that it's thin on policy detail, something Democrats are criticizing Republicans for. Did you miss an opportunity here?
A: Well, I don't know that it's a missed opportunity.
... At the very beginning you have the whole discussion on the day we do something about the earmark process. Then you go through Eric's section and he first talks about the stimulus. Most people didn't hear of our full stimulus plan that created twice as many jobs at half the cost.
In Paul's section he'll talk about the looming debt out there, and most people don't understand how big that is.
So to really solve those major problems, people have to understand what the problem is and how big it is before you lay out, "This is the answer." So you've got to start the discussion.
And one thing I would say to those who claim that it's not enough of ideas, here is a process in the name itself of Young Guns that recruits candidates just based upon bringing ideas forward.
So they don't see a one page, here's 10 things to do...you've got a number of ideas all through this book.
Q: Why, then, does this criticism that you don't have ideas persist?
A: Well, you're in the minority, you don't hear (about) them as often. If you watch historically, I can give you quotes from Republicans who were in the majority and they say the Democrats have no ideas. When you're in the majority... you get to control what comes to the floor, you get to control what comes up in committee. So they try to knock the ideas down and not let them have the time of day.
The book will tell you the stories of the ideas that we actually handed to the president personally. Eric tells the story where the president says, "Well, elections have consequences and we won."
Q: There are many parts of the book where you talk about this "Washington way," how messed up it is. How is it any different from when Republicans were in charge?
A: It's different in a lot of different ways. But you've got three guys here and a whole group of candidates that don't care how things were before but they're going to change it. And that's a lot of what they (Cantor and Ryan) lay out. We're in the minority now but if we were to regain the majority, this is how we would run the House and it would be different. You have the debate. If it's a Republican bill up, that doesn't mean it should win.
(McCarthy brings up other ways he and his colleagues are doing things differently).
You look at (the website McCarthy spearheaded) America Speaking Out, and anybody can come to the site, we don't ask for your party affiliation, we just ask you for your idea.
What did we do with earmarks? We put them on the web. I was one of the first.
The other thing you have to look at -- the candidates in (the Young Guns program). I had to name them (early), before we even knew if they'd be the nominee.
Q: You talk about your House race successes in 2008. But put that into context. Of all the races you've had a hand in so far, what's your win/loss percentage?
A: You won't know (fully) until after the election.
I wouldn't take credit for any of them (in 2008). It always goes to the candidate. But it changed the culture. In a year where the Democrats had probably one of their biggest turnouts and biggest outcomes, we still defeated Democrats, whereas two years prior, we did not.
This cycle, if you want a measure, since 1920 there have been 45 elections for Congress. Only six times have Republicans out-recruited Democrats, meaning we have more candidates than they do. Only two of those times did we do it when we were in the minority, in '92 and '94 when we had more candidates than they.
(McCarthy allows that outside factors such as retirements affect the numbers, too).
We have 38 more seats to play in than two years prior. That makes Democrats spend more money, debate more. The only place the parties are able to get unlimited resources is from other members. Well, if a Democrat member is back home fighting, they're not giving their money to the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) to go attack Republicans someplace else.
So this number here is the highest number Republicans have ever had in the history of the Republican Party of candidates running. It's also the highest of any party since Watergate. So we've been successful from that place.
Q: Why isn't Andy Vidak (challenging Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno) a Young Gun?
A: In the Young Gun program we have three tiers. And technically, (Vidak) is in the Young Gun program.
Everybody can enter, even if you're in a primary, and you're given a set of goals. And you work those goals out with the campaign and with the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee). If you meet the first set of goals, you're on the radar. Then you're a contender. And then you're a Young Gun. Not everybody gets to be a Young Gun. That doesn't mean a contender won't win.
But what it does is it improves every campaign, it makes you focus -- What is your path to victory? Here's the first hurdle you have to overcome and it's more than just money. It's organization, it's building in all different ways. Sometimes, some campaigns can jump from here to here, some campaigns can jump from there to there. And campaigns hit at different times.
Q: I know you say you come home every weekend. But say you work 100 hours a week including weekends. How many hours are spent doing the business of the 22nd District versus all this other stuff?
A: Well, I think a lot of it works together.
When I travel to these different districts, I learn about those districts. It helps me (analyze): What are the similarities? What are the similar challenges in that district to our district? So (I can use that) when I’m crafting policy.
The issues of the 22nd District -- If I sat in the back room of the minority, I couldn't solve them. I've always learned that they make the decisions with or without you so you better find a place to get at the table. I've always fought to get to the table so our voices can be heard. And so I always think this work assists the district just as much.
Q: You paint a pretty diabolical picture of Barack Obama and what he's trying to do. Do you agree with (Arizona congressional candidate) Ben Quayle that he's the worst president ever?
A: I think the policies are some of the harshest to the country. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I haven't lived through all the presidents (chuckling).
... If you look at somebody's background, you have a better understanding of what they know and what they experience and what their skills are. From me selling the cars to putting myself through college to running my small business, it instilled in me a much stronger belief in what it takes to create wealth, what it takes to create a job.
If you look at the president's life, he went to law school. He was a community organizer. He was very involved with labor unions, trial lawyers. So there's a thread that goes through all those, and it's a redistributer of wealth. They believe in society not being fair to people. So I don't downgrade what he thinks, he thinks he has to level the playing field, to redistribute wealth. But he has no experience in how wealth is created. So he doesn't understand that if he punishes wealth, you get less of it. He just assumes it's going to be there. That's the disagreement I have with him and his policies.
Editor's note: Frank J. Benenati, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, responded:
"It's sad that Mr. McCarthy believes serving your community and defending the civil rights of your neighbors are a detriment to public service. But maybe what we do know about Mr. McCarthy's 'background,' like when he met with big Wall Street bank lobbyists hours before he voted against Wall Street reform, explains that."
Q: Fred Barnes talks about how Eric Cantor will be House speaker or majority leader if the Republicans take control of the House in November. What would Kevin McCarthy be?
A: I don't know. If we take over, then maybe I get to have a little bigger say for 22nd District issues because we're in the majority. I'll do whatever best helps to move forward.
Q: People also are making hay out of the fact (House Minority Leader) John Boehner isn't mentioned much. He is your boss (in House leadership). And yet he's not part of this?
A: This (book) is about Young Gun candidates.
People who write that want to create differences and create something that's not there. We're all part of the same team.