CNBC "KUDLOW & COMPANY" INTERVIEW WITH REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN) AND REP. ARTUR DAVIS (D-AL) INTERVIEWER: LARRY KUDLOW
SUBJECT: CONGRESSIONAL EARMARKS; CARTER'S CRITICISM OF BUSH ADMINISTRATION; AL GORE; SENATOR OBAMA
MR. KUDLOW: Now we've got two of the most respected House members. In two days, Congress -- they're going to go and guide us through some of these tricky political controversies. Joining me, Congressman Mike Pence, Republican from Indiana and Congressman Artur Davis, Democrat from Alabama.
Gentlemen, welcome. I want to get to this Carter-Gore business. But first, just update me.
Artur Davis, it's a great pleasure to see you again.
REP. DAVIS: Thank you, Larry.
MR. KUDLOW: Jack the Stripper -- Jack the Stripper is the editorial in The Wall Street Journal. Jack Murtha -- is he going to be reprimanded for bullying House members who wanted to removed Mr. Murtha's earmarks?
REP. DAVIS: You know, Larry, the simplest thing I can say about this, I don't think my friends on the other side of the aisle want to open up a conversation about chairmen bullying members about earmarks, because there's no statute of limitations that applies to these things, and we had Republican chairs until very recently. So I'm not sure this is going to be a very productive conversation for my friends on the other side of the aisle.
MR. KUDLOW: Mike Pence, I thought, as did some others, that there was going to be a new leaf in Congress.
REP. PENCE: Well, that was the hope. We heard an awful lot about a chance in the ethical climate and, you know, millions of Americans were disappointed with a long litany of scandals on Capitol Hill and an earmarking culture that had developed under prior management. But you know, what we saw last week and what was the subject of controversy on the floor today was just kind of more of the same, Larry. And I think it's a disappointment to millions of Americans who see that the same old kind of bullying politics of the past are still alive and well on Capitol Hill. It was ultimately tabled today. I expect Artur's probably right that there's enough, you know, fingers to be pointed all the way around if you look into the past. But at the end of the day, I think today's activity on the floor was a disappointment to millions of Americans who had hoped after last year's elections that we had turned the corner on a new era of ethics on Capitol Hill.
MR. KUDLOW: Yeah, yeah.
Artur, let me move on if I may. With all due respect to the retired President Jimmy Carter, if I were he, I wouldn't go around blasting other foreign policies. Many people, for example, blame Carter for an absolute low in American strength around the world and, in particular, regarding the Middle East. With his behavior towards Iran, deposing the shah and allowing Khatami to come in, that may have triggered the entire global terrorist movement on Jimmy Carter's watch. How in heck can he blast George Bush or anybody?
REP. DAVIS: Well, Larry, let me agree with my friend here from Indiana. People are really tired of re-litigating the past. So I'm not happy about seeing a former president get into a back-and-forth with the current president. Frankly, most people are not terribly interested in this. I have a lot of respect for Jimmy Carter, and Jimmy Carter's been a very good ex-president. But this argument over Carter's record, what does Carter think of Bush, what does Bush think of Carter, why wasn't Carter invited to the (Pope's ?) funeral, I just don't think people really care about any of this. And obviously, this is good fodder for people to talk about in Washington, D.C.
Let me tie it back to your question about Jack Murtha. If the only thing people hear us debating in Washington, D.C. is what people that most of them have never heard of are doing, what someone who was president 27 years ago did and what he thinks or what he says, that is what contributes to a very high frustration level in politics.
MR. KUDLOW: Well, you know, the Carter thing I just don't understand. It has to be dealt with, because it is a news item. But the other issue on earmarks, Artur, I think that is still a very hot issue in both sides of the aisle in American politics.
REP. DAVIS: It works both ways, though, Larry.
MR. KUDLOW: Well, I appreciate that. Anyway, you fellas are going to come right back. I want to talk about Mr. Al Gore, and I want to talk about Senator Barack Obama. Artur Davis an adviser.
"Kudlow & Company" straight ahead after this.
MR. KUDLOW: All right, we're back. Congressman Mike Pence, Republican from Indiana; Congressman Artur Davis, Democrat from Alabama.
Just a quick one, Mike Pence. Al Gore is now attempting to blame or pin the blame on President Bush for 9/11. It's outrageous, but do you have a quick thought on it?
REP. PENCE: Well, it's very disappointing. I mean, the Bush administration basically came to the same conclusions about al Qaeda and the need for regime change in Iraq that the Clinton-Gore administration came to. You know, there wasn't a significant change, as the 9/11 report found, in administration policy relative to al Qaeda and relative to Iraq in the run-up to 9/11. And you know, my view -- Larry, I'm just wondering if Artur is going to, you know, go ahead and admit to us that Al Gore's going to get in this field. And you know, it's just a matter of time, I think, before Al Gore becomes a candidate for president of the United States, and then we'll probably have the full field on the Democrat side for '08.
MR. KUDLOW: Is he going to run, Artur? Is he going to run?
REP. DAVIS: Oh, I don't think he's going to run. He hasn't picked up the phone and called me and asked me my advice. I'm an Obama guy, so I'd tell him not to. But you know, Al Gore is a very smart man. He's a very opinionated man. And I think, frankly, he's been very helpful to public debate in the last several years. And the last time I checked, he got 500,000 more votes than George Bush got.
MR. KUDLOW: That is true, but as Mike Pence has said, that doesn't justify his cheap shot. But let me talk about Senator Obama.
REP. DAVIS: Well, I don't think he said, in all fairness, that President Bush caused 9/11. He said there were Bush policies that could have had something to do with --
MR. KUDLOW: All right.
REP. DAVIS: -- without agreeing with them. Let's not say that he said that Bush caused 9/11. Gore didn't say that.
REP. PENCE: You know, what bothers me the most, though, Larry, is that here you have the Clinton-Gore administration whose express policy was regime change in Iraq. And after going through 16 different U.N. resolutions, President Bush made good on that. We brought about regime change militarily in Iraq and now it's as though the Clinton-Gore administration policy never existed.
REP. DAVIS: Larry, another dirty little secret -- the Clinton policy worked. The Clinton policy of containing Saddam Hussein caused him to give up his weapons of mass destruction. Clinton-Gore policy worked.
MR. KUDLOW: All right. Let's leave that.
I want to ask you about Senator Obama and, in particular, I know you're an adviser and you speak to him, is he a capitalist? Is he pro stock market? Is he pro economic growth? Real simple.
REP. DAVIS: Yes to all of the above. I wish all questions were that simple. Barack Obama understands the challenges of this new economy. He gets that our answer to globalization is not just what you think about this trade agreement or that trade agreement but having a comprehensive strategy to close the skills gap between American workers. It's about having a comprehensive plan for lifting up communities in this country who have not adjusted well to globalization. It's about having reasonable enforcement provisions in place. Barack Obama gets that. He is going to be, if he becomes president of the United States -- hope and pray that he will -- a very mature and sophisticated president when it comes to globalization and our national economic policies.
MR. KUDLOW: Mike Pence, in terms of Senator Obama's record on taxes, on free trade, for example, do you think he's pro growth and pro market? He did vote against all the tax cuts so far as I know.
REP. PENCE: Yeah, well he did, Larry. And I think Barack Obama is almost as good on television as Artur Davis. Not quite there, but he's close. And I think the man is an extraordinary communicator. And evidence of that is the fact that millions of Americans see Barack Obama as a moderate voice, as someone who reaches out to the other side when on a whole range of issues, whether it be tax cuts, whether it be economic policy, whether it be social issues, the right to life and family, he is on the extreme left of even the Democratic Party. And I think that will come out in this presidential contest. But I give him a lot of credit for being very articulate and very effective.
MR. KUDLOW: Congressman Davis, give you the last word. I don't regard you, sir, as on the extreme left. Why are you backing Obama?
REP. DAVIS: Larry, ideology is not going to mean a lot in this field. You've got Rudy Giuliani, who's pro gay rights, pro gun control. You've got John McCain, who voted against both of the Bush tax cuts. Where are McCain and Giuliani?
MR. KUDLOW: We are out of time. I love this. I wish we could get in an hour. You guys are terrific.
Mike Pence, thank you so much.
Artur Davis, thank you, again.